My cooking philosophy: Simple, Seasonal, Sustainable
“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.”
– Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food
Simple. Seasonal. Sustainable. Okay, so clearly I’m not the first, only, or even best person to use this as my mantra. That’s okay, cooking is often taking a great idea or recipe and sharing it with others so that they pass it along. You can also take that idea and adapt it and make it your own or take part of the concept and apply it to something completely new. That sharing, the connection, the ability to adapt and change is one of the keys to the way I cook. For me, cooking isn’t some hard and fast rule that cannot be broken, it’s a set of guidelines that serves as inspiration and a basis for innovation.
is Selecting Ingredients
I have always been drawn to great ingredients. I cannot go to the market and pass up something exquisite. Just looking at the options gives me a huge rush and creative boost. The taste ideas and meal starts to fall into place. Being able to see, touch, and smell what is available is all part of the fun.
Just like a muscle, if this is something you don’t do on a regular basis it might take some practice to get stronger. Every time you use it, it grows bigger. Every time you pick something that just wasn’t as good as you expected or was more amazing than you could imagine it grows stronger.
iF you are in doubt about an ingredient or how to go about selecting something, have a conversation. Talk with the seller at the farmer’s market, talk with the grocer stocking the produce, talk with another customer who is nearby. This will build your muscle and create a connection.
at the Peak of the Season
Using the freshest ingredients at the peak of their season is the best secret I can offer. Put simply, the food will speak for itself. The difference between any old carrot from the supermarket and one that was just pulled from the dirt is so vast that it makes them seem like two different ingredients. In fact, they are not the same. The difference in flavor between strawberries, even from the same producer, picked at the beginning, peak, and end of the season is mind boggling, there is no comparison.
Whenever I find an ingredient that is just at the perfect point in its season and dying to be used I can’t help but think of how many ways I could highlight it. Whether it could be in the same meal prepared multiple ways or multiple meals this week. More often than not I even think about how I can include it in a cocktail…
and Cooking them Simply
As Alice Waters states above, once you have the best ingredients you don’t need to do anything fancy, you just need to cook simply and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Speaking of which, I was lucky enough to find some pea tendrils at the farmer’s market this weekend, so I made a simple spring risotto with pea tendrils one day and a pea tendril salad the next!
A Final Thought on Sustainability
Ignorance is bliss, but no longer an option. Food systems are built to supply the food we are demanding. Unfortunately, the majority of food produced today is done in a manner that is neither sustainable nor as healthy as we imagine. Luckily we are living in a time when this tide is starting to shift. More informed, discerning customers and more passionate farmers are producing more and better options for us to select.
I strive to use local, sustainable, and organic ingredients whenever possible. There are now so many ways to get great ingredients it’s a shame not to. You can grow your own, visit the farmer’s market, or try a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. More and more grocery stores are also bringing local farms into their supply chain and often will highlight the farm a particular product comes from. The options are limitless and the benefits are immeasurable.
Join the Conversation:
What’s your cooking philosophy? Is sustainability important in your cooking?