It’s coming—that time of year where the weather gets confused. Cider drinking, scarf wearing, pink nose evenings wake up to a 75 degree, eat a peach kind of a summer day. And while our outdoor adventures, wardrobes, thermostats and appetites can take the change in stride, our local gardens cannot. In my little backyard plot, I’ve already seen the first of the brown wilt on my summer squash leaves from the night’s frost and now cover the beds if the overnight temperature drops below 35 degrees. I’m certain I’m not alone in this practice of the tirelessly monitoring the weather and mothering my kale—we are a community determined to squeeze every last drop of goodness from each season.
Like it or not, the food on our tables is determined to change from locally produced and oh-so-fresh to truck ripened and shipped from Chile. This, my friends, is quite the locovore’s dilemma. So as the local farmers’ markets near the end of their seasons (the last People’s Market is September 19th and the last Farmers’ Market is September 22nd), the question becomes: how we can maximize the last of the summer growing season in order to keep our cold weather diets as local and vibrant as possible?
Who better to offer some solutions for the fall dilemma than Wes Hamilton, Executive Chef at Couloir Restaurant and mastermind behind the restaurant’s exceptionally seasonal and local menu. First though, I wanted to know what he simply can’t get enough of while the heat lingers on. The answer? Donut peaches.
What Chef Wes loves most about summer cuisine is its intrinsic perfection; not much is needed to make perfect foods all the more perfect and these donut peaches are just the thing. Tossed into a burrata and arugula salad, churned into an ice cream or sorbet, or simply eaten as is, these little gems do not disappoint. I’d also heard that Chef Wes is quite the canning extraordinaire, so I had to ask: what local and fresh ingredient is he buying in bulk to preserve for the less plentiful months? His answer: long beans, pickling cucumbers and an assortment of berries.
These days, he can be found spending much of his time pickling the beans and cukes in a variety of ways. Eventually, these pickles will make their way onto his winter menu; their acidity helping to balance out the richness of his winter dishes. The berries are heated over low heat, releasing much of the pulp and juice, the seeds are strained and they are frozen into little deli containers for use later in the year. In a pureed form, Chef Wes is able to call on nearly fresh fruit at a moment’s notice for menu items such as sorbets and demi-glaces that are especially delicious with game.
And what to look for at the grocery store when the weather does snap enough for the down jacket to move from the closet to the hook by the front door? Chef Wes recommends hard squashes like pumpkins, acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash as an affordable and seasonably appropriate vegetable. These hearty vegetables are harvested in the fall after the last of the summer squashes and zucchinis are plucked from the vine and we’ll likely see them at the last few farmers’ markets. Transitioning from one variety of squash to another could be nature’s way of easing us into the change of seasons. After all, I’m pretty sure that a hot bowl of Chef Wes’s go-to fall dish of butternut squash soup will help me brace for frost on my windshield and snow on the ground.