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Published July 05, 2010, 01:25 PM

Savvy Seasonal Cooking

What makes produce grown locally in season taste better? Maybe it’s because it’s grown with care and love.

By: Arlene Coco, CCP, Living North

What makes produce grown locally in season taste better? Maybe it’s because it’s grown with care and love.

Because our dinner today from a grocery store originates from no less than five countries, we are starting to take a closer look at just where our food comes from. We are realizing that food grown closer to home, in season, tastes better because it’s a different product than what you buy in the grocery store. Chef Monique Jamet Hooker, from De Soto, Wis., a culinary instructor, cookbook author and expert on local foods explains, “Foods less traveled have a lot more flavor as they are a variety of food

that have not been developed to sustain long-distance travel and long storage – meaning it’s real food!”

Although our region has a short growing season, our dedication to the local foods movement has been around long before it became trendy in other parts of the country. Cool season cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage and

collards thrive in our cool climate. We also produce over 30 food items within 100 miles of the area that are not weather dependent, and food products made with local hands.

We have numerous farmers’ markets bursting at the seams during the late summer and early fall that are gaining popularity. I encourage you to celebrate the fresh, clean taste of farm-grown, juicy tomatoes until the threat of frost, and then move on to sweet fall root vegetables which are so bountiful when the weather turns. You will truly appreciate the different tastes and look forward to them next year. You might even learn to preserve your own foods so you can savor that fresh-from-the-garden

taste in January.

If you look around the world, there are no great local cuisines without great local agriculture. Tasty food comes from producers who love the land and have a commitment to keeping it healthy for generations to come.

Should I be buying organic or local that is sustainable? That’s the big question that crosses most people’s minds when purchasing food at the farmers’ market. Chef Hooker weighs in on this heavily debated topic, “Locally, organic when ever possible as it promotes the health of

the land and the health of our future generations that will be driving the economy. Then, local, as it is supporting the local economy. And for every dollar spent, eighty cents stays in the community verses eighty cents going

out of the community. We know for a fact that a healthy community relates to a healthy economy.”

Arlene Coco is a local food adventurer who can be seen regularly

on WDIO TV’s Good Morning Northland’s food segments.

Summer Bounty Vegetable Salad

This recipe is adapted from “Cooking with the Seasons: A Year in my Kitchen” by Monique Jamet Hooker and Tracie Richardson. The original recipe called for Blue Cheese Crumbles, but I omitted them because, in the

height of the season, I only wanted the flavors of the vegetables to shine.

Monique says, “This is a salad that is truly planned by nature. The vegetables listed are merely suggestions. Take a basket into the garden or to the farmers’ market and pick vegetables according to what is seasonally available. Choose a mixture that complements each other in taste,

color and texture.”

10 Servings

3 cups water

1 cup each, uncooked:

Broccoli florets

Green beans, ends trimmed

Snow peas, ends and strings removed

Carrots, cut into ¼ inch slices

Celery, cut into ¼ inch slices

Zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices

Yellow squash, cut into ¼ inch slices

Cucumber, cut into ¼ inch slices

Green onion, cut into ¼ inch slices

Red pepper, seeded and cut into ¼ inch strips

6 cherry tomatoes

Dressing:

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 Tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

2 Tablespoons honey

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese (optional)

Bring water to a boil. Drop the broccoli, green beans and snow peas into the water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge immediately into the cold running water. Drain. Repeat with carrots. Place the cooked vegetables and the celery, zucchini, squash, cucumber, green onion, red

pepper and tomatoes into a large salad bowl. To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, parsley, mustard and honey in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the olive oil until all the ingredients are well blended. Drizzle the

dressing over the vegetables. Toss the salad gently and let rest for 30 minutes so the flavors blend.

Variations: To turn today’s vegetable salad into tomorrow’s supper, toss any salad left with cooked rotini or mostaccioli pasta. Serve at room

temperature accompanied by a loaf of crusty French Bread.

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