Friday, May 15, 2009

What Seasons Tastes Like

by Andrea Scalici

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall Seasonal Eating...  

What tastes like Spring
Vegetables like artichoke, spinach, kale, watercress, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, new potatoes, onion, rhubarb, bamboo shoots and asparagus, garnished with bountiful parsley. A great drink to enjoy outside, mojitos are back with fresh mint to wash down that big bowl of guacamole. We can also enjoy the beginnings of fruit harvests for strawberries, great to replace the end of blood oranges. On the protein side of things, nothing says Easter like Spring Lamb but it’s also great to fire up the pot for the last of the mussels or the incoming crabs. Now is also the time to experiment with grouse, and hare, or maybe some salty sardines.

Summer Grilling
The fresh produce really explodes onto the scene from June to August with all the varieties of crisp beans, sweet Summer peas, buttery chanterelles, and earthy eggplant, peppers, Swiss chard and turnips. Accompanying dinner every night can be a bright salad of lettuce or arugula, cucumbers and tomatoes, all ingredient at their peak to refresh us in these hot months. My favorite fruits find the stands again, like sweet and tart cherries, juicy nectarines, exotic mangos, dark plums, cool melons, and all the brightly flavored berries hitting their strides. And of course, it wouldn’t be summer without corn on the cob! Pair it all up with lamb chops, salmon, soft shall crabs, bass, trout, tuna, John Dory, or late summer lobster on the grill. Or make a Southern-style dish of crayfish and orka. Don’t forget to serve everything with fragrant and colorful basil, a staple in the summertime.

Autumn Beauty
In that time when the leaves are changing and the sun seems to be golden all day with the light of dusk, we can start to see the change in our dinner plates too. Fall tastes like pumpkin for sure, but also like chestnut, fig, sweet potato, squash, beet, mushroom, and apples, pears, and cranberries. Fall also brings back the months with R's in them which means oyster season (and clams)! If that weren’t enough, big game hunting goes into full swing, with deer, elk and moose in the spotlight.

Cozy Winter Warmers
I know for me, the only thing that can warm my weary winter bones is comfort food, slow cooked with rich flavors, like stews featuring seasonal carrot, turnip, daikon, parsnip and rutabaga. Other great sides to a nice roast may be brussels sprouts sautéed with shallots, braised red cabbage, beetroot, sunchoke, or potato leek soup. This is also the time of year for great citrus and winter pears. Duck and goose are the tradition winter players on the main stage with great seafood options like sea bass, scallops, Pacific yellowtail, Pacific cod, halibut, monkfish, skate, mussels and the wondrous treat that is Stone Crab.

But for now, we can put the cold weather behind us and those ingredients on a shelf, and get outside to buy vibrant fruits and vegetables to last us all season long. Nothing tastes more like Spring than fresh produce.

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