Greater Lowell chefs make the most of homegrown harvests
Pan seared Scottish Salmon with tomato basil relish and sherry vinaigrette at Fuse Bistro
By Rita Savard
Summer is here and so is the food — the really good, fresh kind.
But the choices can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to shopping for produce outside the grocery store.
Relax, Howl has got you covered. To help you make the most of summer’s bounty, our new locavore series, From Farm to Fork, follows Greater Lowell’s chefs to area farms, farm stands and farmers markets for delicious ideas that go from land — or sea — and straight to your dinner table.
Chefs like Fuse Bistro’s Scott Pelletier have a growing conviction that, by choosing to showcase locally, sustainably and organically grown food, they have the power to change the way we eat — maybe even change the world, by doing things like reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as pesticide and fertilizer use and improving consumers’ health.
“Eating fresh, local food is not only healthy,” says Pelletier, “it provides a deeper connection between the land and the community.”
The local food movement feeds local economies. Shorter shipping distances and less packing materials mean a smaller carbon footprint in the fight against global warming. And, Pelletier adds, buying food from area farms helps preserve biodiversity and a greater agricultural gene pool.
Farmers can concentrate on ripeness and flavor instead of shelf life.
For inspiration in creating his seasonal menus, Pelletier doesn’t travel far. Down Bridge Street, past the strip malls and suburban homes, he heads toward Broadway Street in Dracut, right to a little red farm stand.
Behind 1276 Broadway are the rolling fields of Brox Farm.
Slow the car down and look closely, because in summer, there’s magic on Farmer Dave Dumaresq’s land.
From left to right, Farmer Dave Dumaresq and Chef Scott Pelletier at Brox Farm
Spread out on table stands each morning, you’ll find a large selection of freshly picked tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, several varieties of lettuce, fresh summer berries, fragrant herbs and much more.
“When it comes from local farms, you can smell and taste the difference,” Dumaresq says.
A vine ripened tomato isn’t anything like a store bought tomato. A tomato, he says, shouldn’t be pink.
It should be red. Deep red.
And look for cracks. It’s a sign the flavor is going to be that much more intense.
“Cracks are a good thing, it gives the tomato a pungent beauty when it hits your mouth,” Dumaresq says, “and unless you grow them yourself, that’s hard to find.”
Pelletier has been buying local produce from Farmer Dave for the past five years. Much of the crisp greens, vegetables and savory fruits in Fuse Bistros’ menu are farm picked weekly.
Eating local, Pelletier says, has many benefits, not the least of which is taste.
“I like coming to the farm without preconceived ideas,” he says. “The offerings change every week so I look for what’s fresh, get creative and let the vegetables star on the plate.”
Pickles, relishes, salsas, creamy sauces and infused liquors all have a farm-fresh twist at Fuse.
Pelletier leaves Brox with boxes full of green leaf and red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, basil, shallots, cucumbers, cilantro and more fresh herbs.
Now you’re cooking
Back at Fuse Bistro, Chef Pelletier has prepped his work station and fired up the grill. A sign posted to the kitchen wall reads, “Thou must live and eat.”
His Farm to Fork dish of choice today: pan seared Scottish salmon over fresh greens tossed with a sherry vinaigrette and topped with a savory tomato basil relish.
Tomato basil relish
Two tomatoes, chopped
Half a red onion, chopped
Five large fresh basil leaves, chopped
Two tablespoons of lemon juice
Quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil
Five tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
Mix all ingredients together.
Pelletier uses three parts oil to one part vinegar.
Finely dice half a shallot
Mix with 1 cup of sherry vinegar
Quarter teaspoon of mustard powder
One teaspoon of honey
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
Whisk all ingredients
Add three cups of extra virgin olive oil
Chef Pelletier reminds that recipes are like guidelines, feel free to adjust them to your own tastes. Leftover vinaigrette will keep well in your refrigerator for a while. Just shake the bottle or container when you’re ready to use again.
Salt and pepper your salmon fillet/s and place on a non-stick pan, wok or right on the grill over medium-high heat. Put a little bit of olive oil in the pan first and allow it to warm up for a minute before adding the fish.
Allow salmon to sear for about two to three minutes (depending on thickness) before turning. You want a nice crisp crust with some flesh in the middle.
When finished, place your fillet/s on a bed of fresh greens tossed with the sherry vinaigrette, then garnish with fresh tomato basil relish.
Chef Pelletier with his finished Farm to Fork creation at Fuse Bistro
Take the Eat Local Challenge
Got a favorite summer dish fresh from the farm? Send Howl your recipe, a picture of the dish and the name of your favorite farm, farm stand or farmers market. We’ll post your recommendation and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a gift certificate at Fuse Bistro.