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Spring Cooking Upstate

March 27, 2015

Things are finally starting to settle down on the blog front. Other writers are picking up the torch for Josh Rockwood and West Wind Acres. The Go Fund Me campaign is pretty much entirely funded. And hopefully this whole thing can now be cleared up without anyone going to jail or losing their farm.

I love it when other writers take on the subjects I care deeply about. Especially when they do them justice. Josh Rockwood is in good hands.

There are a few blogs writing on other subjects that I’ve been particularly enjoying lately. I Like Food is written by fellow Yelper Steve N. and he and I share some pretty similar perspectives. Traveling Brunch continues to live out my dream of visiting a new diner every week. Chef Dominic as he recovers from surgery has a bit more time to write chefsday, and it’s as delightful as ever.

But it was Greg K. who really hit the nail on the head recently about seasonal cooking in upstate New York, with a list of reasons he gave for resisting the creation of a spring menu.

The following excerpt is from the post entitled Why I Didn’t Debut A Spring Menu This Past Week and A Day In The Life Of A Pastry Chef:

1 – It was snowing on the first day of Spring
2 – The ground is still frozen
3 – I live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5b, and our area farms are located mostly in Zones 5a, 6b, or 6a (conversely, many are located in 4b and 4a…the lower the number the shorter the growing season – Napa, for example, is in Zone 9a – their average extreme low temperature is 20-25 F – 25 F was our high temperature today. Zone 9a’s last frost date is typically in the beginning of March. Ours is typically in mid to late May)
4 – I cannot go to the farmers market and pick up a quart of strawberries
5 – We are still getting in some incredible winter produce
6 – At the restaurant, we cannot leave the side door – located at the end of our kitchen’s line – open all day without being too cold.
7 – Even though our purveyors taunt me with their spring produce (from who knows where) availability, I am trying to have a spine and wait until it is actually in season locally.

Greg works at Peck’s Arcade in Troy. And the more I read his blog, the more I want to go there and eat all the stuff. When I do, you can be sure I’ll Yelp about it. And then there are the wine posts on Facebook like this one.

But I digress.

My point here today is that everyone wants to rush spring. And I don’t blame them. Not after the long and brutal and long winter that we’ve all been through. But the unfortunate truth of it is that we won’t really be in spring produce until June. Ramps and fiddleheads will come before that. If you know how to forage, or have a trustworthy forager, you can get some other good stuff too. However, most of the asparagus you’ll see in the markets is from someplace else.

Spring cooking in upstate New York looks a lot like winter cooking. It’s still carrots and potatoes and onions and cabbages and dried beans. Except when it’s spring, you get to cook these things with the windows open.

Don’t laugh. I can’t wait to get the fresh air blowing through the house again. Especially the kitchen part of the house.

When it’s no longer cold outside, and you don’t need something deep and warming, you can start doing different things with these ingredients. Instead of making bean soups, cold bean purees sound a whole lot more appealing. You may even be able to find some fresh local parsley grown in hoop houses to accompany it.

Carrots don’t need to be roasted to go with stewed meats or braised in honey, orange juice and butter. They can be shredded raw and turned into a light and bright salad. The same goes for cabbages and beets.

And really, as soon as parsley starts coming in, you’re eating spring. Because there are a bunch of fresh parsley sauces that are fantastic. The French have persillade, the Italians have salsa verde, and the Brazilians have chimichurri.

Still, before any of this happens, we remain ankle deep in our winter storage vegetables despite the official change in season. Cooking seasonally now isn’t about getting creative, although that doesn’t hurt. Really, it’s about using those same winter ingredients in ways that feel right on the days when you can turn on your stove and open your windows.

One Comment leave one →
  1. albanylandlord permalink
    March 28, 2015 1:54 pm

    Pleasure meeting you last week at the AOA party!

    Go to Pecks Arcade. Now. I’m not kidding. Its that good.

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