Eating With The Season
Sick of tomatoes? Try root vegetables -- and the joys of eating seasonally.
I have a confession to make. Every fall, right around the start of the Packers season, I can’t stand the idea of eating another bite of zucchini. Bell peppers? No, thank you. Sweet corn? Hell, no.
I am officially finished with summer. And just when I think I’ve had it with vegetables, local farmers hit me with another palette of tastes. Root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, radishes, and carrots appear for pot roasts and casseroles. Piles of pears and apples get me thinking about baking. Winter squashes sing to me, asking to be split in half and roasted in the oven with brown sugar and a pat of butter.
This is how our grandparents used to eat. In their day, what was available at their grocery store in November was completely different than in July. They couldn’t get Chilean Brussels sprouts in April or Israeli asparagus in September. They ate what was coming out of the ground in Wisconsin. When corn came in, they ate corn. When strawberries ripened, they enjoyed strawberries. When they got tired of strawberries, they “preserved” summer by making jams and jellies. It was a diet of savoring and living in the moment.
It’s no coincidence that our grandparents weren’t as chubby as we are today. A growing body of research indicates that seasonal fruits and vegetables give our bodies exactly the kinds of nutrients that we need at that time of year. Eating with the seasons instead of the same 12 vegetables all year round means that we end up with a bigger range of nutrients in our body. But I don’t need research to tell me that. If I go for a walk on a nippy autumn Wisconsin afternoon and think about what I want to make for dinner, a hearty pot roast with carrots, potatoes and turnips sounds a lot more appetizing than a Cobb salad.
So go to your local farmers market this week! There’s still a ton of food coming in from the fields.
Urban Foodie Starter Recipe: Potato Soup
Fall and winter means soup. Lots of people are intimidated by the prospect of making it, but it’s incredibly easy. This is a “base” recipe, meaning you can liberally substitute the vegetables (except for the potatoes) and still end up with a tasty soup.
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½” cubes
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped AND THEN RINSED to remove sand.
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped into ½” chunks
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably warmed
Salt and pepper to taste
½ to 1 cup milk, cream, or half-and-half
Place butter or olive oil in a soup pot and heat over medium heat. When melted, toss in the leeks. They should sizzle. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are translucent.
Add potatoes and carrots and cook for 5-8 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the warmed stock and simmer (don’t boil!) for about 20 minutes or until the root vegetables are tender and pierced easily with a knife. You can stop at this point and refrigerate. Reheat before continuing.
Remove soup from burner. Add milk, cream or half-and-half. Return to a simmer, season with salt and pepper.
You can stop here and serve it chunky. Some people use a blender to puree some or all of the soup. And if you don’t have a blender, a potato masher works almost as well. Some parents puree the soup to hide the vegetables from their children.
If you use a blender, do it in batches and remember to hold down the blender lid. You don’t want a mess on your hands. You also don’t want to burn yourself.
Omit the milk or cream if you’re lactose intolerant.
If you don’t have leeks, use an onion or two.
If you like garlic, mince it and add it with the onions.
Broccoli or cauliflower would make good additions. Add them about 10 minutes after throwing in the potatoes and carrots.
Want more protein? Add chunks of tofu or a drained and rinsed can of garbanzo beans.
Do the Wisconsin thing and add ½ to 1 cup of grated cheddar when adding the milk or cream. Add a handful at a time and stir well to make sure it’s melted before adding more.
Don’t have time to make your own stock? Use the low salt varieties that you can buy at the store.
Try adding soy or Worcestershire sauce instead of the salt. They impart a different flavor.
Do you have any leftover rice from last night’s Chinese takeout? Add it to the soup at the end.