By Chef Brud Holland
Writing about what’s in season in the FLX has generally been an easy and fairly straightforward proposition. As a chef who concentrates on serving both what’s in season and what’s the best quality, it is that intersection between these two fundamental ideas that epitomizes the Farm to Table trend. It’s both an opportunity to support our local economy—the farmers who help create it—and literally having ingredients in hand mere hours from being harvested. I find it hard to disagree with these principles.
Rather than delving into the many hot-button debates centered around eating styles and what’s healthy, healthier or healthiest—such as vegetarian vs. carnivore, omnivore vs. veganism and pescatarian vs. raw food—let’s just start with a simple question: “To cook…or not to cook? ”
If you think about the bounty of ingredients that are grown and harvested during the winter months here in the Finger Lakes, you’ll find that many things can be plucked directly from the soil after a cursory washing or simply right out of the bag if it happens to be hearty winter greens grown in a high tunnel—a popular growing method employed on many farms in the region. Others can be eaten either raw or cooked, and are delicious whichever way you choose to prepare them. Worth noting on the protein side, there are still yet, foods like tofu and tempeh, for example, that could be eaten without cooking but are much more flavorful and appealing when marinated and cooked. Ideally, and with much common sense, items like chicken, pork and beef (all able to be locally sourced) searing or roasting is perfunctory as it not only satisfies the logical food safety issues but equally so, improves the taste, texture and aroma dramatically.
Lastly, portion size is not only important for restaurants trying to turn a profit but it has sound basis in nutrition and health. How much of any given ingredient can not only affect your overall health and nutrition but it also affects the ability to afford high-quality ingredients.
These days, I find myself angling toward ingredients that can be combined into one dish that creates something that checks all the boxes—nutritional, delicious, beautiful and fast, all in one. Generally speaking, it’s a stovetop approach with a maximum of two pans—most often a saucepan and a 10-inch skillet that offers surface area for consistent heat and quick cooking times. Most days, speed is the name of the game whether I’m cooking on an evening off (rare) or at 10pm after a long 14-hour day (often).