Aug 26

Trying to cook with what’s in season.

in Uncategorized

Yes, I will admit that I am a bit of a bread snob and baking snob: I prefer to make my bread and baked goods from scratch–no mixes thank you very much! However, to be honest, I’m also guilty of not being snobby enough in other areas of my “kitchen life.” Until relatively recently I didn’t give much thought to things being “in season.” I would just go to to one of my local chain supermarkets, load up on whatever looked good or was called for in a recipe, pay, and leave. Living abroad, in France and then Japan, opened my eyes to another world of cooking and eating, and helped me to become more aware of my own bad habits. I learned to anticipate and then savor certain vegetables and fruits that were in season and were only sold in the markets for brief amounts of time. I also began to realize that I enjoyed these things even more. If we had Christmas, or some other wonderful holiday, occurring on a constant basis, I venture to say that we wouldn’t appreciate and anticipate the holiday as much, or gain as much joy from it. I think the same can be said for food. I think the anticipation and the knowledge that our time with a certain item is brief, helps us enjoy it more.
In addition, produce just tastes better when it is in season–tomatoes are more tomatoey and oranges more orangey. Upon returning to the US after living abroad each time, I would slowly fall back into my bad habits, this past time being no exception.

I wrote recently about a brand new Farmer’s Market in my city. I’ve been using that market as a way to motivate myself to be better about using what’s in season, rather than running to the supermarket and grabbing whatever I see. Flour Girl (a wonderful blog), recently put out a challenge for fellow bloggers to join her in being more creative in using what they get in their weekly CSA boxes.
Unfortunately, our city does not have a CSA (yet!)–I would love to pick up a box of produce every week and be challenged to use up whatever comes in it. So I devised a way to mimic a CSA. This past Saturday I went to our Farmer’s Market, went to the stall of my favorite farm, handed them $15 and asked them to choose for me. I came home with a wonderful variety of food: tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapenos, kabocha squash (woot!!), beets, sweet corn, and Swiss chard. Then I faced the challenge of using everything I had come home with. Although I have yet to use everything, I have used a good portion of it.
I have not eaten a lot of Swiss chard in my lifetime, so I put out a call on Twitter for help, and got some wonderful responses.
One of those responses was a fabulous recipe from Recipe Girl for a dish called Roasted Garbanzo Beans and Garlic with Swiss Chard.
I made the dish as is, but added a few dried chilies when cooking the chard because I love a bit of added heat (discard the peppers when you discard the bay leaves). I LOVED the hint of licorice that the fennel seeds in this dish add. We didn’t have any leftovers because everyone went back for at least seconds.

This week I also came across a recipe for Zucchini and Tomato Casserole on one of my new favorite blogs called Almost Slow Food.
In this dish veggies are layered like a casserole, topped with cheese and bread crumbs, and baked. Sliced tomatoes make up the last layer of veggies. If you think about it, this is genius as the juices from the tomatoes drip down and bake into the other ingredients and replace the need for oil making this a very healthy dish.
The only changes I made in this dish were to accommodate what I already had in my kitchen (instead of running to the store)! I used the small heirloom tomatoes and baby zucchini I got at the market–enough to create each layer in my casserole dish. For the cheese, I used grated mozzarella, because that’s what I had on hand, and then instead of whole wheat bread crumbs, I used Panko bread crumbs. DELISH!

Although it’s a wonderful goal to try and cook with what’s in season, you also have to cook what your family will eat, and let’s face it, sometimes kids just want a bowl of macaroni and cheese. I do try and introduce Squirrel to a variety of foods. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times. Luckily I caught her on good days for both of these dishes. She loved both of them. I wasn’t surprised that she liked the Zucchini and Tomato Casserole because she’s a huge fan of tomatoes (she thinks cherry tomatoes are candy), but I was curious to see how she would react to the Roasted Garbanzo Beans and Garlic with Swiss Chard. She liked the garbanzo beans, but she went crazy over the Swiss chard! I was trying not to laugh as she picked up piece after piece and dangled it into her open mouth as if she was eating chocolate bon bons (yeah, we’re still working on trying to get her to use her fork and spoon). Way too funny!
I’m looking forward to using the seasons as the building blocks of my meals, and hopefully increase my creativity in cooking for my family. If you have any favorite recipes that feature produce that’s currently in season, please share!

Previously featured recipes the Fujis love using produce currently in season here in Southern California:
Papa’s Potage
FM’s Jerusalem Salad
Baked Stuffed Squash (make using Kabocha Squash)
Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup
Concombres au Beurre (Baked Cucumbers)
Tomates à la Japonaise (Tomatoes Stuffed with Panko, Herbs, and Garlic)

Coming Tomorrow: Daring Bakers Challenge

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction August 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I, too, have a habit of buying things at the grocery store (or even the farmer's market) regardless of the season. Our farmer's market actually has quite a few stands that ship items in from California, Mexico, etc. We signed up for a CSA this summer, which has really forced me to eat what's in season… and I have bought very few additional items. It will be tough again in the winter, though, when I don't get a box of fresh produce each week.


RecipeGirl August 26, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Delicious ideas! We loved the swiss chard dish too- can't believe your daughter ate it & loved it! There's a gratin I make that is very similar to the zucchini-tomato one you have here. Great stuff!


tokyoterrace August 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

What a great idea! The vendors at farmers markets always know the produce best anyway, so what better way to get the freshest selection! The tomato and zucchini casserole looks like it is right up my alley! I love the use of panko for the bread crumbs, too!


eatlivetravelwrite August 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Sigh. If my tomatoes ever get ripe, I might be able to make that casserole….


Sara @ Our Best Bites August 26, 2009 at 2:51 pm

wonderful post!


Miranda August 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm

This looks fab! I love the farmers market too! I just got back, actually. I am lucky, in FL we have a gigantic one at a Fair Grounds. It has hundreds of venders! I love it!!!

Do you have two girls? They are adorable! I have two girls also. One is four and my baby is 20 months.

Take Care


K and S August 26, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Living in Japan has also taught me to eat in season :) great post!


jglee's food musings August 26, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I've done a CSA in the past, and it was sometimes hard because you couldn't choose what you got, and sometimes I got sick of the same thing week after week. This summer I've tried to go to a farmer's market every week to pick up stuff. It's still fun to try to create with what I buy w/o the stress of trying to use up all the CSA stuff before it goes bad!


Peggy Bourjaily August 26, 2009 at 6:43 pm

You're amazing! The zucchini and tomato casserole is a fave of baby girl's too, but she loves the cheesy topping and zucchini!

I'm going to have to try Panko instead of regular breadcrumbs. I bet it will be even better!


Mary August 26, 2009 at 6:53 pm

I really loved your gratin recipe. Your little one is amazing and you are so fortunate that she eats as she does. You might want to consider using whole wheat English muffins to make homemade bread crumbs for the gratin. They are delicious and if you freeze a pack you can always be assured of having the makings of homemade bread crumbs. I hope you are having a great day.


Darina August 26, 2009 at 7:36 pm

These recipes look fantastic! I've never had swiss chard before because I didn't know how I would eat it. I tend to lack imagination in the preparing vegetables department. These tasty dishes will be a great addition to my repertoire.


Amanda August 26, 2009 at 8:07 pm

This is such a fabulous post. i have been doing the same thing around here. My MIL came to visit, she brough zucchini, tons of tomatoes, green peppers, melon and corn. THEN I went to pay the farmer for my beef and he gave me 30 ears of sweet corn straight from his field :) I was busy blanching corn yesterday LOL

I think i will make this tomato zucchini casserole in mini form for her and I for lunch tomorrow, I was listening when you posted about that via email on the list :)


Barbara Bakes August 26, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I'm having a hard time getting past the part in the post where you said you lived in Paris! I visited for a few days, but to have lived there almost seems like cheating!

Great recipes. I especially like the tomato casserole!


Val in the Rose Garden August 26, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Oh I love market shoppers like you! I loved reading your story! We (the people at the market) actually talk about you (the people who want us to pack a bag for them of in season foods) for days after you come. I had one last week come up and say that all he had was $20 and nothing to cook, and I ended up giving him more food than he paid for becuase I was so excited. lol!

If you want seasonal recipes for right now, I have a bunch on my blog to try. :) Getting fresh organic food for free can be a real inspiration. Just click under the 'local living' tag on the left side (the picture is the link) and it will take you to all my market foods recipes.

I hope you do that every week. You will make that farmers market person very very happy. :)



subtletimes August 27, 2009 at 5:28 am

This month we've been doing a $100 pantry challenge (just $100 to spend on food for the month, with the emphasis on using up what you've already got on-hand).

It's been great discovering uses for long-forgotten tins of lentils and stretching everything as far as it goes.

Whatever is in season also tends to be the cheapest, so unconsciously I've also been using the yummiest veggies!


Bob August 27, 2009 at 8:38 am

Man, I haven't been able to get to a farmers market once this year. I miss fresh vegetables..


Bert | September 2, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Fabulous fresh vegetable from the farmers market, yummy and healthy. I love eating fresh veggies with my family.


Kitchen Butterfly September 4, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Lovely bake…I'm a tomato chic. Just enjoyed a chicken caprese millefeuille with roasted tomatoes. Delish!


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