search
Loading
login |  home | feedback | help          
StarChefs
header

Fall Farm Fresh

by Kathleen Culliton and Jessica Dukes
September 2010

Biographies

Scott Nishiyama of Chez TJ — Mountain View, CA

Masato Nishihara of Kajitsu — New York, NY

Rachael Harriman of Sou'Wester — Washington, DC

Deepak Kaul of Serpentine — San Francisco, CA

Recipes

Sablefish with Pomme Salardaise, Manila Clams, Perigord Truffle, Leek Fondue, Parsley Puree, and Smoky Ocean Broth
Chef Scott Nishiyama of Chez TJ — Mountain View, CA

Winter Vegetable with Bagna Cauda, Mountain Yam with Plum, and Namafu with Black Trumpet Sauce
Chef Masato Nishihara of Kajitsu — New York, NY

Cornmeal–Crusted Idaho Trout, Arrow Leaf Spinach, Red Bliss Potatoes, and Meyer Lemon Emulsion
Chef Rachael Harriman of Sou'Wester — Washington, DC

Chicory Salad with Cara Cara and Blood Oranges, Herbed Goat Cheese, Spiced Pistachios, and Citrus Dressing
Chef Deepak Kaul of Serpentine — San Francisco, CA

 

Temperatures are dropping, nights are getting longer, and right now, seasonality is a hot commodity. Diners are growing increasingly knowledgeable due to the well-known foodie boom, as seen on the blogoshpere, on TV, and in the apparently unstoppable rise in cookbook sales. The resulting landscape is rife with diners looking for curious standouts on the menu: something locally foraged here, something familiar but with an unexpected twist there, a wonder of botany from the late Victorian age, a traditional staple of some exotic clime now available at the neighborhood farm-stand. Heading into fall, restaurant patrons have high expectations.

And that's got chefs scrambling for new menu ideas. But don't sweat it- embrace it! Unleash your inner intrepid spirit. Here you'll find four fall ingredients that you can use to develop your autumn menu, each one chosen because it represents these months of crisp air and turning leaves, and because it can be easily translated into an item on the menu that your patrons will be buzzing about.

Leek

The sturdy pillars providing the foundation of stocks and soups, leeks have been a known staple since ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Leeks are used in cooking from Korea to India to Spain, where the Catalans celebrate the vegetable with the Calçotada, an event in which they char tender baby leeks in pits and serve them in roofing tiles with romesco sauce. They are especially prized in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, the world's leading producers. Leeks in Flanders are cultivated in darkness and are transplanted into prepared holes drilled into the soil to produce exceptionally long, white stems—with a market price to match their extreme delicacy. In the US, short-season King Richards are harvested before the New Year and provide slimmer stems but more delicate flavor, while the Autumn Giants and Autumn Mammoths are hardy varietals with fat stems that are harvested through March. For freshness, choose flat rather than rounded bottoms. Chef Scott Nishiyama of Chez TJ in Mountain View, CA, puts the twist on leeks with a creamy leek fondue to accompany an elegant preparation of sablefish, clams, and Perigord truffle.

Black Trumpet Mushroom

To be fair, the season for black trumpet mushrooms starts in July and runs through November (a little later in warmer climes) but hunting for mushrooms is so closely bound with fall that we couldn't resist. They can be found anywhere within the temperate zone of the Northern hemisphere, as well as in southeast Australia. They are prized in French cooking, where they are known as la viande des pauvres, owing to the sustenance they've often provided during tough economic times. These mushrooms have a spicy, woodsy aroma that is also reminiscent of sweet apricots, and a rich, buttery flavor. A common practice among fans is to infuse white wine with black trumpets, but they are nothing if not versatile. Black trumpets are modestly-sized, reaching no more than one to three inches across and four inches in height. To forage them yourself, take a drive to any area where beech and oak trees grow together in abundance. Be safe (live to cook another day) and check out mushrooming tips first (www.americanmushroom.com). It's said that the hunt for les trompettes de la mort is like trying to spot little black holes in the ground, but that one who spies any will spy many. The black trumpet is frilly and scaly, ranging in color from pearl gray to dusty black on its outer surface. The inner surface of its tubular stem is a velvety deep brown to black. Of course, they can also be bought dried and they are known for reconstituting extremely well. In New York Chef Masato Nishihara applies his vegetarian Kaiseki philosophy to a rich black trumpet mushroom sauce that he serves with an assortment of grilled, steamed, and tempura vegetables. The beauty of his dish is that, with its vegetarian base, it can be adapted to highlight the bounty of any season.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons were first introduced in the United States by Frank Meyer, who imported them from China in 1908. Botanists believe them to be a hybrid of Eureka or Lisbon lemons and either regular or mandarin oranges. Meyer lemons vary from regular lemons in a variety of ways: they have a rounder shape, smoother and thinner skin, a deep yellow, almost orange color, a strong floral aroma, and pulp lower in acid. Their peak season runs between November and January. When shopping for Meyer lemons look for bright, shiny, and firm fruit that's heavy for its size, with a richly colored orange-yellow rind without hard or soft spots, or any green coloration. Refrigerate lemons in a plastic bag for up to one week. Meyer lemons are used best in recipes with a citrus-focused flavor like lemonades and vinaigrettes. Desserts also benefit from the addition of Meyer lemons, but should never be blindly substituted for regular lemons as their low acidity content will alter and possibly hurt the dessert's chemistry. Chef Rachael Harriman of Washington, DC's Sou'Wester highlights this wonder of the Orient, from the days of steamtrunks and parasols, with a Meyer lemon emulsion, to complement cornmeal-crusted trout with fall farm fresh potatoes and spinach.

Chicory

Wild chicory is the blue wildflower and parent plant of endive, radicchio, and all forms of chicory. Chicory comes in many varieties including Belgian endive, red Belgian endive, and puntarelle. Belgian endive is the most common in the US and has curly, bitter-tasting leaves. Select Belgian endive and other chicories with smooth white spears that are tightly closed. Store the chicory unwashed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Belgian endive, red especially, is a welcome addition to salad adding bold color and strong flavor. Puntarelle is a Roman chicory that comes from the Catalogna family. The sharp flavor profile includes pepper, fennel, and undertone of endive. To balance the aggressive flavor of puntarelle either slice the spears lengthwise and soak them in cold water for two hours or pair them with rich ingredients. Italians serve puntarelle as a salad with an anchovy dressing that brings out the sweet quality of the vegetable to balance its bitterness. When the roots of chicory are ground and roasted they are called succory and are often added to coffee. Chef Deepak Kaul of Serpentine in San Francisco evokes Mediterranean hills and valleys with a salad of mixed seasonal chicories, oranges, herbed goat cheese, spiced pistachios, and a pleasantly tart citrus dressing.