Keeping the menu seasonal is something any great chef will work towards. There are some dishes that work particularly well in summer, such as chilled soups, that wouldn’t do so well in winter. Flavors like cinnamon and apple are associated with the winter and holidays. But beyond these simple, common sense associations, we can look at seasonal produce and preserved foods as a great way to guide menus and even keep your costs down.
Visit A Local Farmer’s Market
In this globalized economy, nearly every sort of vegetable and fruit is available year round, but prices and quality do tend to fluctuate. One great way to get in touch with variations in seasonally available produce is to visit the local farmer’s market and see what’s around, you’ll be able to get the freshest food and help local farmers out as well. But not everyone has the opportunity to buy locally, so you can still make some general seasonal choices even at the supermarket.
In winter, try to focus on squash and zucchini as a vegetable option. In the past, carrots and parsnips and other root vegetables would be kept in a root cellar after harvest where they would last out the winter, so root vegetables are also a great winter accompaniment to any dish. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts can also be great for a hearty winter meal. Canned vegetables, especially roasted red peppers, are a favourite of mine for winter meals, the warmth and sweetness they bring is great in colder temperatures. You can also look towards hearty herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, savory, and sage during the winter, there’s a reason that sage and thyme are associated with Thanksgiving! These hearty herbs stick around for some time into the colder months and in the right climate will grow as perennials with no problem.
Spring & Summer Vegetables
In the spring and summer, look to bright green vegetables that can do with light cooking like asparagus, spinach, green beans, corn and snap peas. You can also change your cooking methods seasonally as well. Even summer vegetables can be made hearty enough for the winter by changing up your cooking style. For example – creamed corn or spinach for the winter, as opposed to a saute of corn and fresh peppers or wilted spinach with bacon vinaigrette for the summer.
This is a great opportunity to play around with recipes and reinvent them a bit!