Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Stinks (the fruit, that is)

Fruit, even more so than vegetables, I try to eat seasonally and locally as much as possible for one simple reason: it tastes so much better.

Since we are a family that likes fruit, each spring I face a similar conundrum. Long before March, apples and pears have become mealy and tasteless. The height of winter citrus season is over, and strawberries won’t grace my local farmer’s market until June bringing with them the promise of a summer full of berries and stone fruit… that leads to fall’s bounty of apples and pears. But for now – March, April, and May – I’m stuck.

So this time of year I tend to fall back on a couple of strategies that aren’t perfect. First off, we eat more dried fruit, which I love, especially dates, figs, cherries, and apricots.

Secondly, I spring for the imports: grapes, kiwi, mango, and pineapple. They’re bright-tasting and keep color on my daughter’s plate. I know there are many reasons not to eat fruit from abroad, food miles being chief among them, but as I said my solutions aren’t perfect.

This year, I’ve added a third arrow to my quiver: frozen fruit, which has the benefit of being picked and frozen at the height of ripeness, so at least it tastes pretty good. And while nothing will taste as sublime as a local, summer strawberry, in the fruit doldrums of spring a frozen one isn’t half-bad.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kitchen Influences

Who influenced you in the kitchen? Growing up, my mother made our kitchen warm and accessible. She never discouraged me from trying a new recipe or baking, provided I cleaned up afterwards, of course. My friend, writer Dina Cheney, inspired me to go to culinary school. Her infectious enthusiasm for cooking and her ability to cook without recipes made me excited to learn as much about food as I could. My husband influenced me too. His desire for good, home-cooked food most nights led me to develop a similar palate.

I recently wrote about one of my biggest influences in the kitchen, my mother-in-law, Iolanda. Born and raised in Italy Iolanda is an exceptional cook. From her I learned how satisfying cooking for your family can be, as well as numerous helpful tricks and new flavor combinations. In this piece on iVillage I remember the days when we first met and I really couldn’t cook at all. I was so intimidated by her culinary abilities and almost afraid to help for fear she would see just how inexperienced I was.

Click here to read the story.

Today when I visit her, I am usually perched by her side in the kitchen with my notebook in hand, helping out here and there but mostly watching and recording her every move.