Tis the Season

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My guess is that when you hear this phrase you also hear sleigh bells. Sure, it’s mostly associated with winter holidays but quite frankly, ‘Tis the Season can be applied every 3 months: winter, spring, summer and fall. Each one brings about change of all types. From what we wear to what to do. And I believe this is especially true when it comes to the foods we buy and eat.

Decades ago, staying within the season was exactly how the majority of people bought their produce, prepared and ate their meals. Using only what was available at the time of harvest. Times have changed. Consumer demands. Fed EX and other shipping methods enable foods to arrive at our supermarkets all year round. Yet, I find that everything old is new again with an increase in people going back to more ‘ancient’ ways of eating. There is much value to seasonal eating. First and foremost, it provides you with what is the absolute freshest. Then, it’s about keeping in synch with what our bodies need and crave for at a particular time of the season. Think about it. How many times do you jones for a thick, hearty, hot soup in July? How often do your salivary glands thirst for watermelon in February? ‘Tis the season for reason, my friends.

I try my best to buy seasonally, and also try to provide you with recipes appropriate for the season. Full disclosure, I have been known to purchase strawberries in the dead of winter for a dessert or a smoothie. But overall, my goal is eat what’s hot of the presses. Or should I say, pull directly from the ground.

So what’s in season now? A bounty of goodness.

Peaches & Nectarines

I love stone fruits, especially peaches and nectarines. They are sweet, juicy and refreshing all on their own. But you can grill them and serve with ice cream. Or use them to top a crostini to create a wonderful appetizer that is light and clean, but does it’s part to satisfy the appetite. Or check out the salads below that combine a few other items that are also great right now.

Fresh Ricotta Crostini

Ricotta & Nectarine crostini with mint syrup.

Ricotta & Nectarine crostini with mint syrup.

Peaches or nectarines can be used.

Peaches or nectarines can be used.

Corn on the Cob
Who doesn’t love themselves a corn on the cob during a BBQ? Slathered with butter. Or just a good sprinkle of coarse salt… YUM. But I love salads, so here are two that utilize corn, and one actually using peaches, too. A double hitter.

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Corn Salad: Raw & Roasted

Crunchy by way of the 3c’s: corn, celery and cucumber. Soft bites provided by potatoes and chick peas. Zest and zing offered by red onion and lemon. Perfect.

Corn & Fruit Salad

Sweet and refreshing. This salad is ideal for any BBQ.

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Berries: Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries

Here is a fresh salad that incorporates not just berries but two of the other in season items, nectarines and corn. This salad not only gives a sweet flavor pop in your mouth but an actual physical pop of the fruit and crunchy corn. The other salad has the blueberries playing off the tartness of citrus.

Summer Salad Full of Fruits
I love all the textures in this one. There is so much, it can be a lunch all by itself.

Butter Lettuce with Orange, Blueberries & Crunch

Fruit in a salad for me is way more interesting than the usual suspects like tomatoes. I feel tomatoes have a higher purpose than salad. That’s not to say that fruit is less than. Quite the contrary.

Fresh Fruit Bark

Something sweet but naturally sweet.

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Tomatoes
Bring it on tomato time. How many seasons have you seen me buying boxes upon boxes, pounds upon pounds of these ruby jewels? So this season won’t be any different. Just a reminder of some of the things you can do with these babies.

Yes that is 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes. I was excited until I got them home and realized just how overzealous I was.

Yes that is 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes. I was excited until I got them home and realized just how overzealous I was.

Oven dried tomatoes   can made a placed in a jar in your fridge, then used for various recipes.

Oven dried tomatoes can made a placed in a jar in your fridge, then used for various recipes.

Luscious linguine with earthy notes from the spinach, salty from the olives and a sweetness that the mighty tomato brings.

Luscious linguine with earthy notes from the spinach, salty from the olives and a sweetness that the mighty tomato brings.

This tapenade is perfect as a sauce, or a dip or compliment that brings a powerful flavor addition to meats, cheeses, and more.

This tapenade is perfect as a sauce, or a dip or compliment that brings a powerful flavor addition to meats, cheeses, and more.

Oven roast tomatoes and serve as a side dish with fish and rice or any other grain.

Oven roast tomatoes and serve as a side dish with fish and rice or any other grain.

White Eggplant App - Greek Style

Here the tomatoes are in a supporting role, but an important one. I love this dish. It can be an appetizer or a side dish and has just zest and zing.

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Freshly sliced tomatoes with pesto. You can’t go wrong with simply slicing them and enhancing with salt and good olive oil or a tad of pesto, or the tapenade from above.

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I could make this post go on forever. The recipes and ideas for using what’s fresh and amazing right now are endless but I hope this jump starts your imagination and your kitchen creations.

Ready, Set, Go!

Off to your local farmer’s market. Sniff, pluck and pick the best and the freshest. ‘Tis the season… that is until the next one.

Farmer's Market - A Field of Riches

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It's Farmer's Market season.  And the pickings are not just good, they are great. It's my favorite, and the most glorious way to shop for food.  Buying fresh, locally grown produce, and selecting from what is in season.  I am a firm believer that this is what our bodies crave and how they were meant to be nourished; eating what is available at the moment.  Don't just take my word for it.  Here are a few links about how to eat seasonally and the benefits.

Eating Seasonally and Locally is Better for You

The Health Benefits of Eating Seasonally

I could go off on a rant here about one of the possible 'why's' so many people are having food issues.  The list is long but I think a contributing factor might be eating out of season, and eating the same food over and over again because we like it so much, and it's available... even when it really shouldn't be.  In the good ole days, people ate what farmer's grew, harvested and sold in that season. Period, the end. They didn't have Fed Ex flying food all over the country or world, for that matter.  It's almost like our bodies yearn for the exact foods particular to that time of the year.  Like strawberries in the summer or pumpkin in the fall.  But now with super fast transportation,  you can have strawberries in the winter and pumpkin in the summer.  It's bat shit crazy, I tell ya.  

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I try to eat as seasonally as possible.  It's the reason that I don't really have a desire for salads in the winter. My body pines for warm foods, so I create salads that fit the bill by adding winter items to them.  A good example is my Salads: Hot & Cold.  And it's also why every summer I wait, like a child anticipating Santa's arrival, for our farmer's market to open its stalls.  I jump out of bed on Saturday, drink my java and grab my straw basket to head into town.  I never have a plan. Just $$$ in my pocket, joy in my heart and big, child like enthusiasm. That's all you really need. 

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Me in my local farmer's market get up ready to stuff my bag.

Me in my local farmer's market get up ready to stuff my bag.

I love everything about a Farmer's Market.  I love seeing all the people milling around, some willing to chat over what to make with this or should they buy that.  I love the artisans that come to sell their foods, their handcrafted wares and field flowers. I love the variety, and the natural look of the food.  Oddly shaped beauties made with nature's hand and stirred with love.  Not uniform, genetically duplicated food that looks as if it were pushed out of a mold. 

Carrots with character.

Carrots with character.

Jewel tones of swiss chard.

Jewel tones of swiss chard.

Rows of corn... or corn rows?

Rows of corn... or corn rows?

I love the intimacy of a market, where the producers/owners are beaming with pride to tell you about their products. It's a community, with mutual respect.

The owners of  Beth's Farm Kitchen . They were eager to have me try their Hot Loving Habanero Jelly.

The owners of Beth's Farm Kitchen. They were eager to have me try their Hot Loving Habanero Jelly.

I love it all so much that no matter where we are traveling, I find the farmer's market and make a bee line.

Whether in S.F area, or Aspen, Miami or Florence, Italy, Union Square NYC or my little town, venturing out to mingle among the masses of produce is how I get my jollies.

Have hat will shop, that is my motto. Me buying papaya and mangos at the  Sunday's Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road Mall  in Miami, FL.

Have hat will shop, that is my motto. Me buying papaya and mangos at the Sunday's Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road Mall in Miami, FL.

Artisan bread at the market in Marin County, CA

Artisan bread at the market in Marin County, CA

Have your best friends take you to their favorite markets, as Dominique and Neil did when we visited them in Marin County, CA

Have your best friends take you to their favorite markets, as Dominique and Neil did when we visited them in Marin County, CA

Fruits in Florence, Italy. Shopping in Europe is different than in the U.S. They shop more often, sometimes daily buying what they need for that day's meals. Then go out and get was is fresh for tomorrow.

Fruits in Florence, Italy. Shopping in Europe is different than in the U.S. They shop more often, sometimes daily buying what they need for that day's meals. Then go out and get was is fresh for tomorrow.

And what's not to love.  I have purposefully posted so many photos to show the absolute allure of this art form.  To tempt you. To lure you in and make you want to find the nearest market. Row after row.  Pile after pile. Each item perking up fresher than the next.

Plums and currants at the  market in Hudson, NY

Plums and currants at the market in Hudson, NY

Greens at the market in Hudson, NY

Greens at the market in Hudson, NY

Flowers at the  Aspen Farmer's Market .

Flowers at the Aspen Farmer's Market.

A length of peppers from which to choose at the  Union Square Market in NYC

A length of peppers from which to choose at the Union Square Market in NYC

Another huge plus is that you can discover new and interesting foods that don't usually appear at an ordinary supermarket. This is where the fun really begins, in the "what is that? and how can I use it?"

These Mexican Gherkins are similar to a cucumber

These Mexican Gherkins are similar to a cucumber

These mushrooms look like coral reef. They are earthy and vibrant.

These mushrooms look like coral reef. They are earthy and vibrant.

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It's Farmer's Market season y'all.  Grab a bag, satchel, basket or whatever brings you joy.  Put on sunglasses, grab a hat and mingle with both the food and your fellow shoppers. It's a visual feast in every regard. 

 
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You'll want to buy everything. But try and show better restraint than I do. Often times I over buy out of sheer excitement.

You'll want to buy everything. But try and show better restraint than I do. Often times I over buy out of sheer excitement.

There are goodies of all kinds to indulge and experience.  Snag a baked item, hold onto your coffee and weave your way through.  Get up and get out there. 

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I like to ask the farmer for recommendations, or how it was grown, and why it is special.  Alright, if you don't feel like going that far, just breathe in the glory of buying what you need for the immediate days, then get excited to return the following week.  It's a simple pleasure. Leisurely wander around with a curious set of senses, picking up produce, smelling it and thoroughly reveling in how fortunate we are to have such abundance.  Enjoy the moment.  As I do this time of year.

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Fill your basket, then once home start figuring out all the possibilities. If you need help, here are just a few recipes I made with my finds over the years.

Graped Up Bibb Salad

Tarts of Summer

Swiss Chard, Potato & Eggplant Hash

Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil

Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini

Corn & Fruit Salad

White Eggplant App - Greek Style

Corn Salad - Fresh & Roasted

The Great Tomato Caper

Happy feeling, smelling, tasting and picking.

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