Little do most people realize, but September is one of the best times of year to go all locavore and stock up on seasonal foods. During this month, you have the best of many worlds: end-of-summer produce, the beginning of oyster season and fall vegetables start to make an appearance. “In September we're excited to keep savoring tomatoes, corn, beans and fennel,” says chef Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall in Brooklyn. “We are also looking forward mostly to the return of Delicata squash, apples and Matsutake mushrooms nearer the end of the month.” To start out shopping for this bounty, here are four things to look for over the next couple of weeks, plus a recipe for Hanczor’s Stewed Broad Beans — great as a side dish or spruced up with protein for a complete seasonal meal.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Tomatoes: Yes, across the country we have already had all the epic tomato fights of the season, but that doesn’t mean farmers aren’t still offering sweet gems of the heirloom variety. Buy them by the pound to can for a dead-of-winter treat, or slice them in half and stick them on the grill. Better yet, let the sultry curls of smoke invade the fruit and then puree the tomatoes for a rich, velvety soup that tastes of the fire, perfect for a cool night when paired with grilled cheese.
Leeks: The beginning of September is also the beginning of the fall leek season, and this long, pale-green vegetable is great for adding depth to just about any dish from eggs to soups to grilling up with your burger. Because it’s in the onion and garlic family, you can substitute or add to any dish that calls for those ingredients, though leeks do impart a sweeter, greener flavor. Before cooking with them make sure to clean well since dirt easily gets trapped in the folds, and you only us the white base up to where it starts to turn to dark green.
Broad Beans: You may know this food by its other name, fava beans. And though many think of this green legume as a spring dish, they get harvested all summer long and resurge at this time of year before disappearing mid-September. Often you see them in the farmers market incased in their shells, which makes them look an awful lot like a giant green bean. When choosing your beans, look for pods that are bright and smooth. If the beans are bulging in the pod, chances are they are older and won’t taste as good as their sweeter, more supple brethren.
Peaches: Get these candy-like fruits while you can, peach season never lasts long enough — and once they are plucked they don’t stay good past a few days. The best part about this fruit is that you can use it both in savory and sweet dishes. Slice them in half and throw them on the grill, eat them hot with some vanilla ice cream, or you can mash them up with some chili peppers and turn them into a smoky, spicy chutney. To pick out the best examples of this stone fruit first inspect the outside for tears, bruises, or wrinkly skin. Next, stick your nose near the steam area and take a whiff; if you can smell peaches it’s good to go. However, if you aren’t going to eat them within a day or two, put them in the fridge to help slow down their ripening.
Stewed Broad Beans
By Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall in Brooklyn, NY
This warming dish is perfect for using up some of the seasonal vegetables this week, plus, it can easily be served as a side dish or topped with fried egg or a plump sausage for a main course.
Serving Size: 8
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups sliced leeks
1 large clove of garlic, minced
3 cups broad beans
1 teaspoon salt to taste
1 pinch of black pepper to taste
6 cups tomato, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine, like Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 cup bacon, pancetta or any cured meat, chopped (optional)
Though at first it appears to be more than 8 servings worth of food, this does cook down quite a bit. First, sweat the leeks and garlic in oil until lightly colored. Add white wine, tomatoes, beans and salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until beans are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Plate up and serve on its own with crusty bread, or topped with a protein like grilled shrimp, steak, or even a sweet, succulent pork chop.
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