Chef Luella Semmes “Cooking in the Moment” for Canvas LI

Spending a weekend morning at a local farmer’s market is a visit I always look forward to. It’s not just a chore to buy the week’s groceries, but it’s an ongoing learning experience and social connection with farmers, food vendors, avid cooks, and neighborhood families. Each week always brings some element of surprise, whether it’s finding a vegetable that I’ve never eaten before, sampling a variety of pickles, smelling different herbs, or exchanging recipes. It never fails. I come home with an overflowing bounty of vegetables, homemade baked-goods, and other ingredients that weren’t on my original shopping list. Maybe it was a certain variety of a vegetable I’ve never tried before, or it could have just looked so fresh and delicious sitting there on the farm stand. In any event, now I’ve cornered myself into figuring out what to do with these extra groceries.

For frequent visitors of farmer’s markets or CSA members, the availability of wonderful vegetables is continuous but individuals may find themselves ill-equipped with recipes for the “unknown.” Even if it’s not in the “unknown” category, it may be an ingredient that is not used frequently in one’s weekly diet. So instead of adding these vegetables to a mystery stew where it would briefly surface, why not try to highlight the flavor of the vegetable or herb by cooking it on its own or with very few condiments. Don’t feel like you have to create an elaborate concoction. Let the fresh goodness of the vegetable come out with few ingredients and use the cooking method to heighten the flavor.

Now that summer is winding down, bringing in the fall produce, here is just a list of common items that you might find at your local farm stand or CSA share. This selection seems to be a rarity on most tables because of its odd appearance, variety, or unique taste; but it’s very much part of the season’s harvest of the northeastern region. The idea is to become more familiar with the flavor and texture of these vegetables, then apply it to cooking techniques and recipes that you are familiar. You’ll find that an elaborate recipe is not a necessity.

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 Chef Luella Semmes is the feature writer for Canvas Long Island.

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