Ask anyone. Literally anyone! And you will hear from them that this is the best season to eat. It’s one of the things my grandma says the most these days, usually as she’s describing the corn she bought that morning or the tomato she had for lunch: this really is the best time of the year to eat.
My grandma was the first person to ever take me to a farm stand, way back when I was growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. It was before the days that every little town had a farmers’ market, before I knew what CSA stood for, and way, way before I would ever start to consider growing food on my own. She just knew that there was an old family orchard, right over the road from her house, where we could get fresh corn and tomatoes. We went on summer afternoons, picked our fruits and veggies out from the bins that were laid out in the converted garage, and took them home to eat.
Though her cabinets are filled with cookbooks, pages that she’s cut out of magazines, and scraps of paper with friends’ recipes scribbled on them, Mammaw knew to leave all of that aside in the face of this fresh produce.
The truth is, when food is this fresh, there’s very little you can do to it to make it taste better than it does. Save your heavy marinades, dressings, and long roasts for winter—these vegetables don’t need your help. Just look at them! Things are sweeter, more flavorful, ripened by the sun. Celebrate that! Think about the difference between corn in a can during the month of February and corn from your local farm stand in late August. Canned corn is great, don’t get me wrong. But corn on the cob with just a tiny slather of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt? That’s a treat. Sure, you can grill up the perfect piece of meat to go with it or mix up a stunning cocktail to pair, but please, leave the produce alone. Let it shine on its own.
Many of the recipes and meals I make now are inspired by my grandma, but there’s no single dish that makes me think of her more than a plate of sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. During this special season here in the Midwest, take a page from Mammaw’s book and find ways to celebrate produce while doing the least. A sprinkle of salt on a slice of tomato, a pinch of sugar on a fresh peach after dinner—celebrate the season while it lasts by sitting back and letting the produce take center stage.
We are moving into fall menus at The Chopping Block, so don't miss these upcoming seasonal stars:
- Hands-On Autumn Apple Feast on the Patio TOMORROW Friday, October 6 at 6pm
- Hands-On Fireside Feast Friday, October 13 at 6pm
- Hands-On Savory Pies Friday, October 20 at 6pm
- Virtual Chicken Tagine Friday, October 20 at 6pm CST
- Hands-On The Great Pumpkin Thursday, October 26 at 6pm