Garden to Table: How the Nation’s Best Chefs Used August’s Bounty

An Ode to Autumn

Growing up in rural Western Pennsylvania in the 60’s and 70’s, our neighbor, Ernie, grew a summer garden that put everyone else’s to shame. Ernie raised corn, tomatoes, lettuce, and string beans.  My favorite was the zucchini – the size of bowling balls. This August, there was an abundance of flawless produce.  Some of the nation’s best chefs took advantage of the cornucopia. These chefs went full throttle “garden to grill,” created vegetable-based sauces, and pickled their way to culinary magic. 

What The Chefs Are Doing

Chis Morocco of Bon Appetit Kitchen showcased (August issue) miso butter topped Skillet-Charred Summer Beans, garnished with sesame seeds and freshly squeezed lime.  Chef Kai Damon of New York’s Lalito added Chayote squash to summer salads to give extra “texture and juiciness.”  Chef Thai Dang of Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen in Chicago served okra with grilled rabbit, marinated in fermented tofu, ginger, chili, garlic and palm sugar.  Chef Jerimiah Langhorne from Danby in Washington, D.C. married crab meat to charred broccoli served in garlic cream, topped with lemon verbena and fresh chives. And what would summer be without freshly made jam?  Chef Genevieve Gergis, of Bavel in L.A. told Food & Wine about a jam made with preserved Persian mulberries. The berries are “cooked just enough” so they don’t completely break down.

Fresh is Best

The common thread that all the featured chefs seemed to agree upon was – when you’ve got the freshest produce available, you’ve got to let the produce shine.  These great chefs also agreed that using local farm produce not only is a deliciously innovative option but it can help to make local communities stronger.  

It’s too bad old Ernie isn’t around to share his summer garden bounty.  I still remember what he said when he brought a big brown bag full of the bowling ball-sized zucchini to our screen door.  “You won’t ever get anything that tastes this good from a grocery store.” 

Ernie knew it then.  These great chefs know it now. 

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Eat well.

Tony

Tony Lagana