Hello, summer! For Hudson Valley chefs and food lovers, there is no more exciting time of year. The valley is verdant, soon to be brimming with the top crops gifted by our three hottest months. Everyone is looking forward to their favorite: fat blackberries that stain fingers bright purple pink; or orange habaneros that makes mouths and eyes water; or the bulbous heirloom tomatoes grown from great-grandfather’s seeds by the newest generation on a family farm.
There’s just no comparing seasonal local produce to the far-flung supermarket stuff. Consider the strawberry: Our farmers are pulling back the low green curtains on small sweet fruits as red as valentine hearts. Those California behemoths have nothing on our strawberries — not even their smell, notes Michelle Silver, pastry chef and co-owner, with chef-husband Marc Propper, of Miss Lucy’s Kitchen in Saugerties. “You need to smell that perfume,” said Silver. “That fragrance is something that you just can’t modify, and the flavor is incredible.”
Strawberries are just the beginning. Right now their friends in the fields are greens — mizuna, arugula, lettuces, microgreens —radishes, peas, baby beets, scallions and cilantro. Zucchini should appear by the end of the month. July brings cucumbers, cherries and raspberries should be ripe for the picking, and sweet corn comes. Following in succession are apricots, early plums and peaches. In August, the nightshade family reins, and tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants will crowd farmer’s markets and stands. Early apples and pears should join in by the month’s end — but it’s been a hard year for fruit, weatherwise, so far. What the orchards yield will be even more precious and coveted.
Four local chefs (and one mixologist) have graciously shared some go-to summer recipes to inspire afternoon barbecues and outdoor dinners. At their restaurants, all abide by the rule of green thumb, favoring sustainable produce grown on local family farms. This is just a taste of what the summer brings. Stop by their restaurants to taste innovative dishes fresh from the fields, and shop your farmers’ market often to ensure you don’t miss one note in summer’s symphony.
Summer Vegetable Salad
Recipe by Kyle Chandler, chef of TuthillHouse at the Mill Restaurant, 20 Gristmill Lane, Gardiner. 255-4151, www.tuthillhouse.com.
Chef Chandler prepares this recipe with produce from Taliaferro Farms in New Paltz and cheese from Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie.
1 bunch baby carrots
1 bunch misato rose radish
6 oz. baby arugula
6 oz. sunflower sprouts
10 medium basil leaves
¼ lb. of Toussaint cheese
1 tbs. honey
½ c. extra virgin olive oil
Vinaigrette: Zest one lemon and squeeze juice of both in a blender, add honey and basil leaves puree. Slowly ad the oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For carrots, bring a small sauce pot to a boil and add 2 oz. of salt. While water is coming to a boil, quarter the baby carrots lengthwise and fill a container with ice water. Once the water boils, add the carrots for a minute. Remove them and immediately shock them in the ice bath.
Salad: Add the greens to a salad bowl with the radish and carrot toss with vinaigrette and thinly sliced radish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top the salad with Toussaint cheese by shaving it using a vegetable peeler.