The Challenge Starts Tomorrow

October 1, 2008 at 9:06 am

Rob Gardner

My wife has been doing a bit of work in the kitchen at Mado.  She related to me a good point.  [Chef]“Rob is using too many roots and squashes.”  She meant that Chef Levitt had plenty of time to use these products, but why start now.  Or more apt, what’s he going to do when there is nothing else.  Tomorrow we can and will talk about the challenges faced in eating local in Chicago come Fall, Winter and Spring.  The advice today, wait.

In the Local Bungalow we closed most of the windows yesterday.  We appreciate the chill’s affect on the ever-present fruit flies though.  It seems a lot like Fall out there.  Eat still, however, like it is summer.  For one thing, the market teems with products considered summer, just think about last week’s cucumber fix; sweet corn is still there.  For another thing, it takes until almost fall to get certain summer crops.  Bright red peppers just came into bloom a few weeks ago.  Sure, you can find in the markets now, all of the end of year produce: rutabagas the size of Chicago softballs, brussel sprouts, many colors of hard squash.  Just walk by those things.  Buy as it is August (for as long as you can).

The cooler weather gives an opportunity to work with the summer crops in different ways.  The oven can be turned on with impunity.  The oven on, tomatoes can be slow cooked like confit, or now is the time to give a tomato tart tartin a try.  Peppers and zucchini can be stuffed and baked.  Roast eggplants and combine the soft flesh into a variety of dips and salads.  The season of Caprese and endless platter salads has passed.  The same produce is there, just use it differently.

Eating seasonal means getting your fix of something then moving on to the next.  Asparagus, peas, cherries, strawberries, at least in their fresh forms, last a short time.  Their pleasures are fleeting.  Other crops stick around.  There are endless recipes for eggplants and summer squashes and tomatoes to keep them from boring.  Then, there are the crops that stay from necessity.  In many months, the pleasures of eating local will only come from what can be stored and preserved (augmented slightly with the little indoor crops for sale).  The longer we wait for that stage, the easier it will be.  It will be a challenge.  Start the challenge tomorrow.



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