It's Summer, so What's for Dinner?
At its core, cooking is more about understanding and making the most out of ingredients than it is about actual cooking techniques. Some simple techniques, such as knowing how to cut things up so that they cook at the right rates of speed and how to not overcook proteins, are very important. In addition, knowing what foods are in season is important, so that the freshest foods go into the pot or oven. Seasonal and local produce and meats/fish are at their nutritional, flavor, and textural peak when they are ripe for the picking, and because they are local, it takes very little time to get from field to fridge.
It's hot during the summer. Many of the crops in the warmer climates of the country have given way to more heat resistant plants. Corn, eggplant, green beans, okra, peas, peppers, potatoes, , shallots, shelling beans, spinach, summer squash, tomatillos, and tomatoes are all summer crops. They are best consumed, fermented, or preserved by canning or freezing during this time of the year. Preserved in a variety of ways, they can add a ray of sunshine during the blustery months. There are many other vegetables available nearly year-round that are also available in the summer. Some of those produce items include fennel, garlic, endive, cress, collards, chard, celery, cauliflower, herbs, horseradish, kale, leeks, onions, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and turnips.
Certain proteins like fish and shellfish are also in season and available during the summer months. Choosing produce that is fresh and in season can make all the difference for a healthy and satisfying diet. There are few things in the world as good as fresh, freshly shelled, lightly steamed peas or sweet hot buttered corn. They take almost no kitchen knowledge to prepare them properly. Find them in the local farmers market this summer and enjoying eating at least six servings a day.
Having good knife skills, knowing your cooking times, and being keenly aware of the seasons results in food that is tastier, healthier, more economical, and more satisfying.
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