Fresh and Local Food for Seasonal Plates
Photograph by Peter Kaskons, Food Styling by Natasha Taylor
“Buy fresh, buy local” is a slogan we hear and see over and over again. Myriad reasons exist as to why we should opt to purchase from our local farmers rather than supermarkets sourcing from Florida, California, and even as far away as South America and China. Purchasing our produce locally supports the North Shore economy, helps protect the environment, preserves our cultural heritage, and conserves our agricultural landscapes, and, frankly, locally grown vegetables and fruits just taste better. The North Shore is teeming with farms producing fresh organic vegetables year-round; and as the harvest comes to a close, late-season veggies become the mainstays on our autumn menus and delicious showstoppers on our Thanksgiving tables.
I spoke to two chefs recently who also appreciate the importance of buying local and fresh. Chef Carolyn Grieco of Carolyn’s Farm Kitchen was drawn to the simplicity of fresh local foods and the beauty of the farms in the area. She ended up working on a local farm, using the fruits and vegetables from the fields to create her signature recipes. She loves the fall harvest season and says it is all about slow cooking. “During the summer we are either quickly grilling burgers or making salads for our families,” she says. “November is a time for slow roasting, stews, and braising. Lazy Sunday afternoons are a perfect time to slow down and relax.” The autumn harvest is what Grieco refers to as the “big boy” veggies—pumpkins, winter squash, and root crops. Thanksgiving is by far her favorite meal of the year. For her holiday ingredients, she sources from many different local farms: Cider Hill Farm, Smolak Farms, and Long Hill Orchard, to name a few.
Chef Patrick Soucy award-winning chef of the new Applecrest Farm Bistro in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, says sourcing local food means everything to him. He lives, eats, and breathes the farm-to-table concept. Although he grew up in an inner city on Wonder Bread and government cheese, he wanted to raise his children in the country, where they could learn about growing their own food and living more sustainably. In fact, he has a 14,000-square-foot kitchen garden at his home in New Hampshire. His wife and kids participate in planting seeds, tending the vegetables, and harvesting crops throughout the season. “We grow everything organically, which means we also lose a lot [of produce], too. When you grow your own food, Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning—it’s more personal,” he notes. He is hoping for a little blanket of snow before pulling November’s carrots, which will yield a sweeter veggie. To Brine or Not to Brine
Brining moisturizes the turkey by soaking it in a mixture of salt and water for a few hours or even days before cooking. Some recipes call for adding ingredients to the brine, such as sugar, herbs, and spices for flavor. What do these farm-to-table chefs think about brining?
Carolyn Grieco tends to stay with slow roasting without the brine bath, and she is careful not to overcook the turkey. “Instead of brining, I have a well-seasoned bird and an instant-read thermometer at the ready,” she notes. “Test the thickest part of the thigh, which should read 170 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the meat is cooked all the way through.”
Chef Patrick Soucy says he always brines his turkey, but he cautions not to over-brine. He suggests brining the turkey for four hours with juniper, garlic, and aromatic spices.