Spring Cooking With 'Six Seasons'
I can’t lie. I am such a dork that I love nothing more than to sit on my porch and read cookbooks. Even after having worked in the food and beverage world for many years, I am still looking for new ideas and just love the inspiration of a great cookbook.
This spring I have not strayed far from a book recently gifted to me:
by Joshua McFadden. The subtitle is “A New Way with Vegetables,” and the focus is certainly veggie forward (but definitely not vegetarian). McFadden is a trained chef with a Portland, Oregon restaurant (Ava Gene’s), but he also spent time in coastal Maine working at Four Season Farm. This experience took his love of fresh produce to another level, which is on beautiful display in this cookbook.
Of course, these days cooking seasonally has thankfully become de rigueur for many folks, and that’s not even the most brilliant aspect of this book. The true beauty is in McFadden’s ability to give you the tools to be creative on your own. He is a big fan of little touches like adding toasted nuts, dried fruits, and fresh herbs to salads. And he offers enlightened explanations to help you discover your own way.
“I make sure that every dish has more than just balance – it must have tension, a dance between sweet, sour, spicy, salty, creamy, crunchy.”
He also offers an arsenal of kitchen basics – things to make and keep in your fridge to throw together an amazing meal. Oftentimes these are amazingly easy. Take, for instance, whipped ricotta. This is one of those en vogue restaurant treats that seems far away from the home kitchen. But it’s as simple as putting ricotta in the food processor, seasoning, and adding a bit of olive oil with the machine running. This creamy deliciousness can then be smeared on a plate and topped with roasted veggies or my favorite – on toast.
And this brings me to my quintessential spring moment. I had been longing to make McFadden’s simple ricotta toast with fresh peas, and I finally lucked into green peas at the farmers market. Tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, mint, and basil, this is spring on a plate. His dish ends there, but I added local shrimp (just lightly boiled) for a southern touch.
This dish paired perfectly with an Oregon Pinot Blanc from the esteemed natural winemaker Kelley Fox. Brimming with white flowers and a touch of peach but also plenty of my beloved minerality, it is fresh and pretty and an ideal pairing partner for any spring dish but especially that spring pea toast.
My point? If your kitchen feels a little dull these days then treat yourself to a copy of Six Seasons. Sure to invigorate your inner culinary muse just in time to embrace late spring and summer produce. I would love to hear your favorite dishes along with pairings!