Chef at the Market: And We Are Waiting…

August 26, 2009 at 9:26 am

Chef Patrick Sheerin

There is finally an explosion of offerings at the Green City Market! Mother Nature has dealt us a tumultuous growing season and we are just now getting to enjoy the produce in the Midwest. And it’s not only at the markets, but also roadside stands dotting the countryside. This is the time of the year, almost more so than the holidays that I reconnect to my childhood, and the memories brought on by flavors of the past.

Summer to me is all about vegetables. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ home in La Grange. My family owned a large piece of land, and like a lot of folks who had lived through the depression, they had sensibly planted a garden to grow their own foods. This thing was massive. I mean, it was so big that we could have sold to Whole Foods. My summers were spent picking vegetables, weeding the large plot of land and assisting my family members in cooking and canning all of our items. My cousins would come in from all over for the annual pickling party because, as David Hammond mentioned in his article, canning is best as a shared event. There was so much each year that we froze green beans in August and still had them for Christmas dinner. Plus our pickled beets and canned tomatoes lasted until harvest the next season. This may sound odd to some of you – that I spent my childhood in a vegetable garden – but it wasn’t strange back then. Everyone in the neighborhood grew something (as evidenced by the abundance of suburban yards with old apple trees) and it was just as much a family tradition for others as it was for the Sheerins.

Currently on the menu: Hakuri turnips, French breakfast radishes. green tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, pork ribs, honey, maple syrup, corn, fingerling potatoes, pea shoots, Chinese broccoli, tat soi, wax beans, green beans, haricot vert, long beans, beets, baby carrots, garlic, zucchini, shallots, tropea onions, golden zucchini, baby squash, peaches, Bordeaux spinach, blueberries, hot peppers, basil, apricots, salad pickles, Blue Mont bandaged cheddar, Fresh Chevre from Prairie Fruits farm, cherries, Japanese eggplant and Swiss chard.

And to this day the zenith of summer comes to me in the form of tomatoes. I love all of the heirloom varieties, but the only one that transports me back to sunny summer days in La Grange are beefsteak tomatoes freshly plucked from the vine and still warm from the summer sun. We would sit in the dirt and eat them with really crunch bread (later to be discovered as a stale baguette Grandma brought home from the diner), a thin layer of mayonnaise, sprinkle of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Throw in some knob onions, basil and a garlic clove just dug out of the ground, and you have just whipped up my favorite childhood memory. And even when my mouth would sting from the acid in the tomato and my tongue was like sandpaper from the rough bread, I would eat on.

I’m lucky enough to still get to enjoy those flavors with my family because of the great produce we have available to us from local farmers who grow heirloom produce. My wife and I cook at home like Grandma used to, and we have a moment of our day where we connect over a meal; taking great pride in the food on our table and celebrating the individual to put so much love and care into each item. The summer growing season brings many different folks together. It brought the Signature Room and the Local Beet together, and hopefully it brings you to one of our tables in the near future. I hope to see you soon!

Read the previous installment of “Chef at the Market”