Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

“Local” Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner in the Berkshires

7-Grain, Coconut Pancakes with Wild Blueberry Sauce

Med Mezze Plate with Fresh Corn Fritters

Halibut Puttanesca

Just last week I had the good fortune to escape our intense heat and  play/eat in the more gentle summer climate of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. The mountains were lush and green, the breezes gentle and the local eating was dyn-o-mite!

I learned that the small farms of the Berkshires have become “Local Central” -especially in the past 4 years as one restaurant after another has had to jump on the bandwagon to keep up with the competition of the original eateries which always treasured the abundance from their surrounding artisan growers and producers. A well-educated population and savvy visitors add to the success of much appreciated local culinary efforts.

Since my stay was over a four day period, I sampled healthy “close to the source” meals during all three meals of the day. A cafe for brunch, Haven, offered locally roasted rich coffee, irresistible pastries, dense wholesome breads and arty local eggs-mine were scrambled with smoked salmon and caramelized onions. I poked around and found a well-established very small goat dairy where the single farm maven was happy to chat with me about local foods now and way back when.

Below are some of the shining dishes I feasted on during my journey. (You will see from the food images, that I ate a lot of sweet beets!)

Note: I’m always an advocate for buttermilk and you see it in each of the pancake and fritter batters. It’s is especially healthy for you and it makes the “cakes” light and fluffy.

7-Grain, Coconut Pancakes

No problem developing a craving for this good-for-you dish. I kept tasting the just the pancakes and decided they tasted like a doughnut-even without the sauce. Speaking of wild blueberry sauce, just heat some fresh berries along with pure maple syrup until hot and bubbling.

Dry ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup 7 grain flour or cereal-ground very fine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk (this makes the pancakes so light and tender)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten slightly
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter

Stir together the dry ingredients, and make a well in the center.

Lightly mix the wet ingredients until blended and pour them in the center well of the dry ingredients. gradually mix the dry ingredients in with the wet to form smooth batter, but do not over stir.

Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight to let the ingredients mingle.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add a small amount of butter; when sizzling ladle 1/4 cup of batter on skillet. Flip when golden and brown second side. Serve immediately with sauce or syrup.

Fresh Corn Fritters

Makes about 20

Lucky us! It's the time of year again to enjoy fresh, sweet, crunchy corn in all varieties of concoctions. The flat fritter is especially satisfying as it's crisp on the outside while moist and rich inside. The flat shape enables sauteing in less fat in a skillet rather than deep-frying in all of that oil.

  •  1 1/2 cups / 6 3/4 oz all-purpose (or whole wheat pastry) flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup very soft butter
  • 2 cups raw corn-cut from the cob

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Stir until the ingredients are well mixed.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, and sesame oil. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and stir a few times with a fork to start bringing the ingredients together. At this point add the rice, and stir until the batter is just combined. Try to avoid over mixing.

Heat a large saute pan until medium-hot, and brush with a bit of butter or oil. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup at a time onto the griddle. Cook until the bottoms are deep golden and the tops have set a bit, then use a spatula to flip the pancakes. Cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.

Baked Halibut Puttanesca

Serves 4

Puttanesca is a versatile sauce that serves many foods beautifully. Often I add chick peas as I like it lush and filled with goodies.If you don’t know the interesting derivation of the name...write to me and I’ll tell you!

Haddock, cod or basically any fish fillet can be used in this recipe.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  •  cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 12 Greek olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 6-ounce halibut fillets

Make the Sauce

Heat oil in a skillet over low heat; cook garlic in oil until golden. Add tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Stir in anchovies, tomato paste, capers, olives and red pepper flakes. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Place the halibut in greased baking dish and ladle the sauce over. Bake until done- between 8 and 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

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