In preparation for the New Year, I keep getting so excited about all of the food I'm going to cook each season. I have a hard time deciding what my favorite time of year is, at least when it comes to fruits and veggies. I love hearty, rich Winter and Fall vegetables roasted with rosemary and olive oil, but bright, new asparagus and artichokes in the Spring are really exciting to cook with. Still, I'm not sure if there's anything better than colorful, vitamin-rich Summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, melons and stone fruit. I'm curious as to what you prefer. What's your favorite season for cooking fresh fruits and vegetables at home, and why?
The other day my best friend asked me if I had a good butternut squash macaroni and cheese recipe. I was a little surprised because it's practically Summer, and I've got nothing but apricots, tomatoes, and corn on the brain. However, the squash came from her parents garden, so she wanted to make good use of it. Then I remembered looking at a seasonal restaurant's menu recently; I noticed a couple of butternut squash dishes. While I only use butternut squash in the Fall and Winter months, I'm wondering if it's becoming more of a year-round thing, like strawberries. Do you cook with butternut squash all year round?
Source: Flickr User missmeng
Thanks to Spring, I am seriously in love with my farmers market and CSA box. There are so many fruits and veggies to choose from, and the variety is astounding! I am always amazed at all the new items I see and often find myself not knowing what something is. How about you — are you a pro when it comes to identifying fresh Spring produce? Take my quiz and find out.
With local and organic food having such a high price tag, it can be hard to eat in a sustainable way. One way I've gotten around the high costs is by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The idea of a CSA is pretty simple — consumers pay farmers directly for a portion of their crop. It's a huge benefit to my health, and my money goes directly to a small, family-owned farm.
To give you an idea of how a CSA works, I'll use mine as an example. I pay $23 each week for enough produce to feed two people. My last box contained four Braeburn apples, four oranges, two pounds of heirloom tomatoes, one bunch of broccoli, two pounds of red potatoes, one pound of zucchini, one pound of green beans, one bunch of basil, and one head of red lettuce. All of the produce was grown on an organic farm located 90 miles from my home in San Francisco. For an additional fee I can also request organic dairy products, grass-fed meat, and Fair Trade coffee.
For tips on choosing a CSA, read more
Although many of you believe produce should only be consumed if it's in season, would you feel the same way about meat? In their regular food column for The Atlantic, sustainable agriculture pioneers Bill and Nicolette Niman claim that meat should be treated with the same seasonal sensitivity. The couple makes this argument:
If we are seeking something better from our food and our food system, we must begin regarding meat and other foods derived from animals as among foods that have a season. Environmentally sustainable, humane animal farming is based on grass. All animals — cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys — benefit from being on pasture. Like other vegetation, grass has a season of plenty, a time of growth, reproduction, and then retreat.
While I think there's a great deal of validity to the Nimans' perspective, I also think it would be a drastic and impractical measure given the economic environment we face today. How do you feel about it?
Sheila Lukins is one of America's most prolific cookbook authors. More than 25 years ago, she published The Silver Palate Cookbook, which introduced the boomer generation to upscale at-home cuisine. In addition to publishing other blockbuster cookbooks, Lukins has edited the food pages of Parade magazine for over 20 years.
I had a chance to enjoy breakfast with Sheila on a sunny Saturday morning, while she was on tour for Ten, her latest (and seventh!) cookbook. Over coffee, she offered her best tips for home cooks, and talked about the ever-so-controversial seasonality issue. To see more of what she had to say, read more