Seasonal cooking - is it just me?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by koukouvagia, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I got into a discussion recently with a friend who asked me for cooking advice.  She is hosting a dinner party next weekend and wants to serve a maple glazed ham with roasted potatoes and asparagus.  I advised her on what herbs would be best to use on the potatoes but I also mentioned to her that asparagus would not be a great choice for this dinner party.  Asparagus are not in season right now, why not cook something that celebrates winter?

    She disagreed and it sparked a whole debate about seasonal cooking.  Sometimes it feels like just a fad.  Most times it feels impossible to do.  The variety of foods available in supermarkets is very confusing.  There are certain seasonal items I wouldn't dream of going without all year round like onions, potatoes, carrots, etc.  But there are certain seasonal items I steer clear of like tomatoes, asparagus, figs, berries, artichokes.  Ok, let's put it this way.  If I was hankering for a BLT in february I'd definitely buy a nice ripe tomato and enjoy it in the privacy of my home.  But if I were hosting a dinner party in February you wouldn't see me serving a tomato salad. 

    And then there's peas and corn and other beautifully frozen veggies that I enjoy on my own but wouldn't serve unless they were in season. 

    Where do you fall in the spectrum of seasonal cooking?
     
  2. ishbel

    ishbel

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    I certainly try to cook, seasonally.  Hoever the climate in the UK means  that for more than half the year, our diets would consist of root veggies, a few brassicas and some orchard fruits. 

    If i was serving that ham, i'd serve it with a parsley sauce, roasted potatoes, small whole, peppery turnips abd honey glazed carrots.
     
  3. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Seasonality in US big cities is more a matter of dos than don'ts.  It's a good thing to enjoy fresh, local produce at seasonal peaks but the way modern foods are grown and shipped there's usually a wide variety of perfectly good "unseasonal" choices -- not to mention frozen.

    Personally, I don't have any problem using hot-house, imported or frozen produce for entertaining as long as I know it's good stuff.  But I can understand setting a higher threshold too. 

    You can usually tell if asparagus is good by looking and feeling.  And just as there's plenty of dry, woody asparagus in April, there's good (imported or hot house) asparagus to be found in January.  If it's good, why not? 

    Here in SoCal our fields are already producing good berries.  Got shortcake?

    BDL
     
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  4. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Not me!

    ptotally foreign to my world to eat berries so early in the year, and I don't like frozen or tinned berries.  Far too mushy for me.
     
  5. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    At my local grocery store the tomatoes are $1.99 a pound in the summer and $1.99 in the winter.  But in the summer they're advertised as "in season." /img/vbsmilies/smilies/mad.gif
     
  6. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    For dinner parties I try to always serve what is in season. The cost of buying fruit and veg that is out of season just isn't realistic for our budget either. The only way I would agree with your friend KouKou is if the asparagus were picked in season and then canned. I think canning besides being a lost art is one of the best ways to enjoy seasonal veggies that have all the flavor and no hefty price tag.
     
  7. kaneohegirlinaz

    kaneohegirlinaz

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    I agree with Nicko.  Home canned is far and away better than commercial in taste and texture.  My Great-grandmother would 'put up' veg from her small garden out back. 

    Yum, home canned asparagus!   

    I am also in BDL's camp.  (we had fresh strawberries for breakfast today from Cali)

    Fruits and veggies that are flash frozen when they were in season, isn't that to our benefit during the winter, isn't that the point of it?  

    I do that myself with fresh green beans and red bell peppers when they're in season, in expensive and local; buy up a ton of it and IQF a sheet tray in the deep freeze on full tilt. 

    That's be sesonal, IMHO anyways...

    And what's so bad about serving frozen peas or corn or green beans to dinner guests? 

    Don't they eat that at home as well? 

    Why have two standards depending upon who's at your table?
     
  8. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Live in Southern California much?

    BDL
     
  9. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    I have a looser interpretation of "in season" than the localvores I know. I tend to consider seasons based on what is grown on the N. American continent.  If I didn't include Mexico and California in my idea of what is in season in North America, I would be produce starved most of the year. I tend to buy what's on sale--which is roughly "seasonal" here.  We get a lot of produce from Mexico, here in Chicago and it usually looks beautifully fresh. When it doesn't, I don't buy it.

    Like you, I wouldn't buy asparagus in the dead of winter. It usually comes from Peru and it's woody and expensive. To me it is a spring/early summer treat. I wait eagerly for it's season every year. Strawberries and tomatoes from Florida are in the markets here now --so "seasonal" by my lights, but I don't buy either because in my experience, they are never good.  In a few weeks, though, I'm sure I'll be buying and enjoying strawberries from California and Mexico, when they come into season.  I don't buy strawberries or blueberries in the late summer, fall or winter. To me, once their season n the northern tier of states is over and they're coming from god-knows-where, they are just not good. And they are expensive. The last two weeks there have been blackberries and blueberries from Mexico on sale in my local market and they've been good. They've been a nice change from the steady fruit diet of apples, pears, citrus and California grapes that get me through Oct-Jan. I don't live anywhere near where they're grown but I was thrilled when Meyer lemons showed up here a few weeks ago and I'm impatiently awaiting the blood oranges that usually show up here in late winter.  I only buy stone fruits in summer, when they are in season in Georgia, the Midwest, Washington and California. I'd never buy an apple, pear or citrus fruit in the summer. If they're not coming from far away, they've been in storage for a long, long time. 

    I tend to buy hard squashes, root vegetables and hearty greens in the winter months-vegetables I never buy in the heat of summer-- but I also buy chilies, broccoli, green beans & lettuces from Mexico and California during the winter months, if they look good and fresh.

    The only frozen vegetables I ever use are petite peas from Trader Joe's and very slender French-style green beans from Aldi or Trader Joe's. I freeze a lot of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and sour cherries in the summer to get me through the winter months. I usually bake with them.

    Tomatoes are a trial. I buy the little grape tomatoes from Mexico for salads  in the winter, because they have a good flavor. For the most part, I avoid regular tomatoes no matter where they come from until they show up at the farmer's market. They're just too disappointing. I use a lot of canned tomatoes in cooking in the winter.
     
  10. ishbel

    ishbel

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  11. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    We all have our own way of rationalizing seasonality. I've lived in the states for a long time and have been caught up with having everything available to me at all times. But I did grow up on a farm, and people there still eat seasonally. Even if an orange was offered to them in July they'd look at you funny like pigs are flying. It is easier to eat seasonally when on a farm because what is available is spectacular and there are many festivities centered around food. August is a time everyone goes around stealing figs from the neighbors' trees and has buckets of tomatoes in every corner of the house. The fall celebrates grapes and there are many parties centered around making raki. The beginning of winter everyone is outside harvesting the olives and tending to the mandarin trees. My parents love foraging for mushrooms in the fall. There are too many activities centered around harvesting to avoid seasonality. Why would I not serve frozen peas? That's a good question. I don't know why I feel like that, it's just my style of entertaining. I like to compose seasonal menus and I like it when others do that too. Frozen peas are fantastic. I'd consider putting them in a pot pie or fried rice dish if you came, but I probably wouldn't serve them plainly as a side.
     
  12. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    I've served peas with pancetta and shallots using frozen petite peas more than once in the past few months.  It's yummy and it smells divine--thanks to the pancetta. But, I agree. I can't imagine serving plain frozen peas.
     
  13. ishbel

    ishbel

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    I use frozen  petit pois.  The only frozen veg I use.
     
  14. thatchairlady

    thatchairlady

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    "Seasonal" veggies to me means... REAL summer tomatoes and sweet corn from SMALL road side stands where the produce comes from THAT place!  When other "farmer's markets" start bragging that they have fresh NJ tomatoes and corn... I get very skeptical.  Any place that says they have tomatoes or corn on the cob before 7/4... I pass them by, cuz it just does NOT happen!
     
  15. kaneohegirlinaz

    kaneohegirlinaz

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    Can't wait to go back to Hawaii for fresh Kahuku corn, not to beat!

     
  16. twyst

    twyst

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    I had what were unquestionably the best blueberries I have ever had in my life a couple of weeks ago.   Imported from chile, but they were seriously amazing berries....right smack in the middle of january.
     
  17. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97

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    Or Florida
     
  18. michaelga

    michaelga

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    I believe that eating seasonal is mostly a fad.  

    It is simply down right impractical if you don't live in one of a select few regions on the planet.

    We have large craniums, opposable thumbs and a mastery of tools for a reason.  

    We got to where we are because we could alter our food and environment or transport it in order to be able to eat it out of season.

    That said crappy food is crappy food no matter what season.  

    If the food is good, nutritious and tasty even if out of season I say eat it!

    Do I eat tomatoes in the dead of winter - sure, but I pay more for them.  They come from a year round hydroponic green house a few hours from where I used to live.  

    I don't buy the junk that is shipped green or go without like a martyr, i'll take mine juicy and tasty please.

    Just because Alice Waters and a few other lucky dozen influential chefs live in the land of plenty doesn't mean that I should go without.    

    Our season for every thing is approximately 19 weeks long!   

    Just because my ancestors lived on potatoes, cabbage, turnips and canned goods doesn't mean that I should have to just because some one living in California or Florida has access to things almost all year around.

    Nope sorry not really interested in the seasonal thing.

    (especially when frozen baby peas win out over fresh 9/10 times - the exception being if you pick them yourself)

    I guess it is just me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2013
  19. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Yup same here - probably the same brand as you.

    It's not like the plane wasn't going to fly if the berries were not on board!

    Might as well make sure the plane is full and get all those carbon foot prints used up in delivering me great tasting berries.

    Our berries won't even be seen for another 6 months if the season is good and early.
     
  20. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Sigh...

    another who did not read MY post.

    for the last time..  I live in the UK.  Weather conditions mean BERRIES ARE UNAVAILABLE UNLESS FLOWN IN.