Seasonal cooking in defense of taste
IMPROVED ACCESS TO FOOD
No longer do America’s chefs and home cooks fall prey to the fickle confines of the Farmer’s Almanac long evidenced by selection provided by big box grocery retailers. It is arguable that there is no such thing as seasonal food now because everything is in season somewhere at any given time. Food can be purchased from halfway around the world, albeit with a higher ticket price, or it’s been in storage for months. I’m not going to buy fish from Peru or use a gassed, hothouse tomato. Fd rather use better-tasting canned San Marzano tomatoes until the local tomatoes come into season. I do think we have a “food clock” that’s tuned to our location. It sometimes happens that something that’s in season here may not be as good as it is in California, so I’ll order the California product. Wherever possible, I do try to support my local community growers and producers; otherwise they will not be around in the future.
THE FOOD CLOCK
That food clock also influences the way food should be prepared. I don’t do any braising in the summer. Instead of oven roasting, I cook on the rotisserie for big flavors. I use lighter salsas, vinaigrettes, and chutneys. As is common in many Southern areas, I cook spicier in the summertime. This is all driven purely by instinct, although people have to discover that in themselves.
I prefer cooking on a wood grill. It is perfect from my perspective. It is primordial. It adds distinctive flavor because of the wood and smoke, but it also produces a beautiful aroma. It’s not a piece of equipment for a restaurant that’s not chef-driven or for a home cook in a hurry. It requires learning to cook in a new way and it’s very high maintenance. Preparing Kobe steak on a charcoal grill or a flat top is a far cry from the spit-fired version. Of course, a sixty inch open wood grill is not practical in the home kitchen, but a Webber kettle will work as a suitable alternative.
I would certainly say that where possible, use organic products; however this is not always practical. Over ten thousand organic farms have erupted in the U.S. over the past ten years. The introduction of the Slow Food Movement in ’91, and the critical reverence to honest ‘salt of the earth’ chefs such as Judy Rogers, Jonathan Waxman, Frank Stitt, Alice Waters has created an educated consumer market. The media has also fueled the fire, so to speak, increasing awareness and educating the consumers. Many grocery stores, as well as local farmers markets and restaurants all over the country are leading the way. The organic food industry is now approaching $25 billion in annual sales. It is the fastest growing segment of the food industry.
Bottom line, cook seasonally and locally whenever possible; you will be presently surprised when you see that the quality is better in terms of flavors, textures and ultimately the whole experience. It has certainly been an eye opener for me for the last twenty years!
Recipe serves 8 to t0 appetizer portions
2/3 lb. side of fresh salmon, skin on, pin bones
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 orange, zest and juice
1/2 lime, zest and juice
1 tbsp. coriander seed
1 tbsp. fennel seed
1. Dry salmon and place on large sheet of plastic
wrap skin side down.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a small stainless
bowl. Generously spread mixture (should
resemble a coarse moist paste) over the flesh of
the salmon filet till completely covered.
4. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place between
two 1/2-sheet pans and weigh down with a
couple of heavy cans or juice bottles.
5. Place in refrigerator. Let cure for 18-24 hours.
Remove from refrigerator, unwrap, rinse in cold
water to remove the cure mixture. Pat dry with
a towel and rewrap tightly in plastic wrap until
ready to slice and serve.
Chef Michael Tuohy has been featured in Wine Spectator, Food & Wine, Gourmet and Bon Appetit. He is the chef at Woodfire Grill. Woodfire Grill, since opening in August 2002, has been a showcase of fire-roasted cuisine. The restaurant features daily changing food and wine menus serving primarily local, organic and seasonal produce, as well as artisan cheeses, meats and eco-conscious seafood from around the country. The restaurant is located at 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, Georgia. www.woodfiregrill.com.
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