The Joy of Fresh

This time of the year, I look at my garden, my CSA box, and what's in season at the market to plan my menus. Sometimes it's as simple as making sure I have thick, crusty bread and smoky bacon on hand to showcase vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes and the crispest lettuce the fertile soil can provide in BLTs. Other times, I'm lucky enough to have been given some glorious rib steaks and some black lava sea salt, so I just need a few garden finds to make a meal like this:

A simple seared steak that's been sprinkled with the aforementioned salt takes center stage, but its supporting actors hide the simplicity of the meal. Fresh sweet corn just gets a rinse to clean the husks and spends a mere half hour in the oven and is perfectly ready to be paired with a few fresh sage leaves plucked from the patio garden and fried in the same pan that the onions -- did I forget to mention the fantastic onions that showed up in my CSA box? -- were fried in. Finally, a selection of fresh heirloom tomatoes -- from the same CSA box -- get coarsely chopped and sprinkled from finely chopped basil that was picked from the patio garden along with the sage leaves. Suddenly, my plate looks like the most delicious canvas I've had in a while!

Putting together breakfast, lunch, and dinner this time of the year is an adventure in fresh foods. Whether you are wiping your chin after enjoying juicy melon as part of breakfast or slicing perfect pattypan squash, brushing them lightly with oil, and grilling them for an elegant main dish salad, Mother Nature is providing so much color, flavor, and delicious variety this time of the year that there's simply no excuse not to enjoy it. Every meal I sit down to is packed with a delicious combination of fresh fruits and vegetables that have been paired with meats and grains. Rather than fuss a lot with extra seasonings and involved techniques, a lot of it is served with little preparation, to allow the peak of the season's flavor to shine through. Fresh food loves to be served as simple food and who am I to argue with that?

Mid-August to mid-September is a time of the year when you can literally pick your dinner from the garden. Take advantage of that and showcase the freshness before cooler weather spells the end of the harvest and new culinary challenges involving root cellars and preserved foods. But today, Mother Nature is making sure eating well is easy. Thank her and cease the opportunity!

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