whats-in-season
Food + Drink

What’s in Season

Look for strawberries, spinach, snow peas and squash at your farmers market as spring turns to summer.

The Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden in Milan has been around for nearly two decades. We asked Jamie Simpson, executive chef at the research-driven, education-based and event-focused facility, for a few ideas on cooking with in-season produce.

Squash: Simpson raves over the seemingly endless uses of this vegetable, but his preference is barely dressing it with salt or olive oil, then cooking it for just a few seconds to brighten it. “Any farmers market shopper or home cook or gardener, [they] know that when you plant zucchini plants, it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Simpson says. “You’re going to grow more squash than you’ll ever eat.” 

Snow Peas: “[I like] gently steamed snow peas,” Simpson says. “Keep it simple with something acidic — they’re just perfect. I don’t mess with peas too much. [They’re] not something to manipulate.”

Spinach: Simpson says spinach is a versatile crop that you could work it into three meals a day: Serve it with seafood, drink it, fry it. “[I like] deep-frying spinach leaves, where they get really crunchy and glassy and beautiful,” he says. 

Strawberries: Everybody loves strawberries, but strawberries don’t love every dish they’re put into. “Don’t try to force a strawberry pie out of a nonflavorful strawberry,” Simpson says. “If it’s really firm, consider it more appropriate in savory applications. Treat them with a vinaigrette, work them into vegetable dishes ... cook them in sauces.”


Dressed Zucchini
Courtesy of The Chef’s Garden

INGREDIENTS
2 zucchini, washed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

DIRECTIONS
Shave the zucchini lengthwise from end to end as thin as possible without breaking or tearing the squash “ribbons” (use a mandoline or meat slicer). In a separate bowl, mix all of the remaining ingredients thoroughly with a whisk and pour over the zucchini. Incorporate the marinade evenly. Store at room temperature until ready to serve (no longer than one hour).

Chef’s Note: This prep can be done ahead but don’t incorporate the zucchini with the dressing until ready to serve.

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Squash Leaf Green Goddess Dressing
Courtesy of The Chef’s Garden

INGREDIENTS
3 mature squash leaves
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
2 ounces cold water
8 ounces sunflower oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
4 ounce sour cream
1 lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS
Blanch the squash leaves in salted water for about a minute and cool. Add the Dijon, garlic and water to a blender with the blanched squash leaves. Blend on high until relatively smooth. With the blender on high, continuously and gently stream in the sunflower oil until fully incorporated and smooth. Finish with the salt, sour cream, and lemon juice. Blend gently until fully incorporated. Adjust seasoning if needed.

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