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THE SEPTEMBER SEASONAL FOOD GUIDE

SEPTEMBER SEASONAL FOOD GUIDE

September is an interesting month. We still have nearly all of summer’s bounty, but the cooling weather trends and shorter days lead us towards the starchy comforts of cozy fall foods. This month we’ll bridge that divide by showcasing late summer’s best and brightest in the trappings of fall’s coziest foods. September is also classically regarded as the harvest month, and in that light we’ll be returning to the broader sense of seasonality explored in the early months of the Seasonal Food Guide, with an exploration of seasonal cheeses and the harvesting of sea salt.



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tomatoes

CHERRY TOMATOES: Summer may have peaked, but these lovely little fruits in the guise of a vegetable are still in full swing. They are all that is great about a tomato in condensed, compact form: the tomato flavor comes through more vividly, while the sometimes mealy texture that turns people off of this fruit are absent. And there’s so much to do with them! Try a spicy tomato jam or surprisingly nuanced, simple tomato sauce to preserve their flavor for those dreary late winter nights.

THIS MONTH: BAKED PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES, FRESH CHICKPEAS AND CHEESE



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cheese

SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE: Cheese isn’t seasonal in the same way that, say, a fig is seasonal. On an industrial scale, of course, cheese isn’t seasonal at all. But when you turn to small-scale cheesemakers, a sense of seasonality emerges. Milk production typically ramps up in spring, when mother animals are making milk for their young. Goat cheese peaks at this time, as well as young cheeses that don’t require a great period of aging to mature. I stopped in at Rainbow Grocery, whose cheese department is staffed by a stellar group of people, among them my friend Andy, and Gordon Alton, the man who wrote the awesome memoir Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge. He pointed me to sheep cheeses, which reach their peak at this time of year. The nutty quality of many sheep’s milk cheeses makes them perfect for fall.

THIS MONTH: BAKED PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES, FRESH CHICKPEAS AND CHEESE



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grapes

BLACK GRAPES: Over the years, table grapes have been bred for increased sugar content and decreased tartness. The flavor of many table grapes suffers the consequences, as much of the depth and subtlety and interplay of tart and sweet is bred right out of them. Look for heirloom cultivars to find a more complex grape flavor. This month we’ll infuse black grapes in a puckery vinegar bath to produce a classic, old-school vinegar shrub.

THIS MONTH: BLACK GRAPE VINEGAR SHRUB



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bay laurel

CALIFORNIA BAY LAUREL is stronger both in fragrance and flavor than its Mediterranean cousin. The leaves of both are noted for their pungent, aromatic qualities and essential in many stews, roasts and braises. Typically the leaves are removed before serving a dish. And here’s a case where too much of a good thing isn’t so great: overuse of the leaves can turn a dish bitter.

THIS MONTH: ROASTED CORNISH GAME HENS WITH PRESERVED LEMONS AND BAY LEAF BUTTER



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cornish hen

CORNISH GAME HEN: Smaller than a chicken, cornish game hens are noted for their strong, concentrated chicken flavor. Their small size and higher price make them great for intimate dinners and special occasions. But you can use them in any context that calls for chicken. Contrary to their name, they are not a game animal at all, just a young hybrid chicken breed with a fancy name.

THIS MONTH: ROASTED CORNISH GAME HENS WITH PRESERVED LEMONS AND BAY LEAF BUTTER



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padron

PADRON PEPPERS: The allure of these typically mild, dynamically shaped little peppers is that one in every ten or so packs a surprise punch. And you never know which among them will send you to a capsicum-induced state of euphoria, which makes the consumption of them all the more fun. They’re most frequently prepared simply in a skillet until blistered, and then finished with coarse salt, which is exactly how we’re preparing them here.

THIS MONTH: PAN FRIED PADRON PEPPERS WITH SEA SALT



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salt

SEA SALT: There is no single ingredient more universally necessary or more polarizing than salt. Despite the debate in recent years over salt’s role in various health issues, it’s still an essential element in anchoring and enhancing the flavor of, well, pretty much all food, as well as in its preservation. In Roman times, salt was so highly valued that soldiers were paid with the stuff, hence our word for salary.

THIS MONTH: PAN FRIED PADRON PEPPERS WITH SEA SALT



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chickpeas

FRESH CHICKPEAS are the younger sibling of the legume best known to us in dried form and in hummus. The mature, yellow-beige pea that we’re familiar with is left on the vine to dry, hence the difference in color. When fresh, you can actually eat them raw – they are sweet, crunchy and green with a streak of their characteristic nutty flavor throughout. They only need a few minutes to cook and will retain their green color. You can find these attractive, edamame-like pods at middle eastern groceries, farmer’s markets and specialty produce markets. Chickpeas require a cool growing season, which is probably why they’re relatively easy to find in San Francisco and along California’s mild coast.

THIS MONTH: BAKED PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES, FRESH CHICKPEAS AND CHEESE

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  • SG - September 15, 2011 - 11:22 am

    Everything looks so delicious! I love learning about so many new things from you.ReplyCancel

  • Laurel - September 15, 2011 - 11:24 am

    Thank you! I love looking at season produce…and of course eating it. Thanks for the great ideas for dinner. I’m definitely going to make some tomato jam this year.ReplyCancel

  • Val - September 15, 2011 - 11:32 am

    I just discovered green garbanzos, albeit in frozen form. It was neat seeing them in the pod here. They make a pretty hummus!ReplyCancel

  • la domestique - September 15, 2011 - 1:13 pm

    Hooray for the September food guide! I’m so looking forward to your dishes. I’ve been going crazy for sheep’s milk cheese just recently…now I know why.ReplyCancel

  • Tine - September 15, 2011 - 1:43 pm

    I’m excited!ReplyCancel

  • kickpleat - September 15, 2011 - 7:51 pm

    I so look forward to the padron peppers every year! I always pan fry them in olive oil and sea salt. Simply perfect…though this year, every single pepper was a freakin’ spicy hot one. Only means more beer to wash it down with.ReplyCancel

  • Sasha - September 16, 2011 - 2:51 am

    I love your blog. I recently discovered it and I am totally hooked. The seasonal food guide is brilliant and it makes me look forward to cruising my local markets and all of the meals that will result. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • BohemiaJewellery - September 16, 2011 - 3:28 am

    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it – thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - September 16, 2011 - 6:35 am

    You have confirmed that I am decidedly a fall girl – with a touch of late summer.ReplyCancel

  • Katherine Sacks - September 16, 2011 - 7:11 am

    Love that fresh chickpeas are on your list — lately the canned variety have been an obsession, and I’ll be excited to snatch some up at the farmers market as well. Your guide looks wonderful as always!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane - September 16, 2011 - 8:51 am

    A gorgeous roundup, once again. After a trip to Spain last year, sheep’s milk cheese is high on my list any time of year. I never thought of it but you’re entirely right, the nutty qualities do make them perfect for fall.ReplyCancel

  • jason mcleod - September 16, 2011 - 9:25 am

    Your site is amazing, as always beautiful photo and great reading. Congrats to you. I look forward to my emails with new posts.
    ALl the Best…JasonReplyCancel

  • Season with Reason - September 16, 2011 - 10:26 am

    So excited to see what you do with the sheep’s milk cheese. We just discovered sheep’s milk yogurt from Old Chatham, and I’m a little bit obsessed. Happy fall and happy harvest!ReplyCancel

  • Heather @opgastronomia - September 16, 2011 - 12:38 pm

    Fresh chickpeas?! Get me to San Francisco!ReplyCancel

  • [...] THE SEPTEMBER SEASONAL FOOD GUIDE September is an interesting month.We still have nearly all of summer's bounty, but the cooling weather trends and shorter days lead us towards the starchy comforts (Good stuff here…RT @theyearinfood September's Seasonal Food Guide is up, and it's… Source: theyearinfood.com [...]ReplyCancel

  • kankana - September 16, 2011 - 8:50 pm

    I love the way you start the month. I always wait for this post and it always amazes me :)
    About my trip .. we flew to Vegas and from there kept driving for 3 days and spent about 4 hrs in each park.. it was crazy :)ReplyCancel

  • Kalie - September 17, 2011 - 4:18 pm

    cant wait to read moreReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - September 18, 2011 - 11:47 am

    I have never seen fresh chickpeas before and am so thrilled that you posted that picture. And how interesting about the word “salary” I had no idea! Beautiful post, my friend! September is my favorite month for a variety of reasons (it’s my birthday month, which plays a big role).ReplyCancel

  • Cookie and Kate - September 18, 2011 - 10:04 pm

    I always get so excited when it’s time for a new seasonal food guide! Those grapes look particularly delicious, and I never would have guessed that the last photo is of fresh chickpeas.ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - September 19, 2011 - 3:51 pm

    I’ve never cooked with fresh chickpeas and am excited to see your recipe. Also, pretty much obsessed with padron peppers. Yes, obsessed.ReplyCancel

  • joanne - September 20, 2011 - 4:26 am

    So much delicious food to look forward to! I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for fresh chickpeas.ReplyCancel

  • genevieve - September 21, 2011 - 4:50 pm

    I totally need to try sheep’s milk cheese now. I’ve also never seen a fresh chickpea; they look awesome.

    Super excited about having stumbled on your blog today!ReplyCancel

  • lynn @ the actor's diet - September 28, 2011 - 6:17 pm

    i love black grapes – they taste delicious frozen!ReplyCancel

  • [...] This Padron Peppers with Sea Salt recipe is part of the September Seasonal Food Guide [...]ReplyCancel

  • [...] may have noticed that I quietly put The Seasonal Food Guide on hiatus after last September’s guide. As much as I loved doing it, there just wasn’t enough time left to dedicate to the research, [...]ReplyCancel

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