Whether I’m constructing a new dessert or thinking of what to make for dinner, the options can become overwhelming. It’s hard to even know where to begin. Do I try a crazy flavor combination, a new cooking technique, or something completely unheard of? All I know is I want it to taste amazing.
Before the stresses of endless options takes over, I take a step back and always ask myself. “What’s in season right now, and how do I highlight that.” Because by keeping it simple, with no more than 3 flavors, and keeping it fresh by using local and in-season produce. The end product will taste amazing with little to no effort by you. Can you feel the stress subsiding already?
I’m currently in the NYC metro area in the peak of fall produce. And as a pastry chef that means, various apples, pears and pumpkins are in prime time for desserts. My mind always goes first to a warm apple dessert. Just lightly sweetened and seasoned with a little bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, butter and a hint of lemon. I know that all the apples need. My second thought is always what kind dessert option is the best to showcase it? Pie, cake or tart? What’s two more flavors to add and the texture of both. Ice cream, or sauce. I write a short list and start the trial and error of recipe development. Keeping always with the same structure of thought. 1. The desired produce. 2. The type of dessert. 3. The added flavors and textures. Keeping it simple and substituting and changing as I go.
I decided on a warm apple tart with a walnut filling and bourbon vanilla ice cream. Hitting all the desired structures. And all the fall cravings. As the seasons change so does the fruit, followed by filling then ice cream. Keeping it simple and still fresh. It may not be as flashy as the over the top milkshakes with more cake on top, or the other crazy overly sugared desserts but it will be the most flavorful and satisfying.
The same can be said about a simple dinner at home. After a long day at work I push the thought of a take-out dinner out of my mind and think. “What protein am I using?” “What vegetable is in season. “and “What kind of carb, grain or rice do I have”. When using fresh vegetables, they most need only some oil, salt and pepper and any other flavor in line with the protein. Then heat till tender. Once again keeping it simple.
Shopping, cooking and baking based off a seasonality is a great way to try various produce and flavors throughout the whole year. It’s also a way to know the foods you are eating are not just in peak flavor but also in its peak for nutrients. A tomato in the winter won’t have the same amount of nutrients as a fresh one in July from the farm a town or two over. On the other hand, out of season fruits and vegetables are usually picked before its peak and artificially ripened from another part of the country or world before arrive at our grocery stores. This is also another small way to support local farmers!
So, when deciding on the next dinner or dessert at home. Keep it simple, keep it fresh and it will always come out delicious!
Written by Fēst's Chef Denise. Take a cooking class with Chef Denise here.