Not only are we excited for the summer, the fruits and vegetables are, too, which you can witness this with a quick jaunt to your local farmers’ market. Knobby potatoes and tired apples have been replaced by succulent early fruits, tender greens and sweeter root vegetables — you never know what you might find. Chef Paul Reilly of Denver’s Beast + Bottle was titillated to discover local cherries peddled around the market in Boulder. “People don’t know Colorado has this fruit basket in the Western Slope where amazing fruits grow on the foothills,” the chef says. “Suddenly you are at the farmers’ market and you see cherries and are like, ‘These are local?’ Yup.” Those beloved fruits are making their way onto his menu, as well as other fresh produce, like Tokyo turnips and a broccoli rabe you’ve never seen before.
Also known as salad or hakurei turnips, these versatile roots are one of Reilly’s favorite ingredients to work with come the beginning of June. “They are prolific in Colorado, and we just got our first batch in the market,” he says. “Every part is edible, and the greens are delicious braised.” As for the bulbs, Reilly recommends gently roasting the turnip to create a creamy texture very much unlike the denser, heartier autumn turnip. He also serves them raw and sliced, which he says produces a water-chestnut-like texture that provides a perfect airy crunch for a salad. And those braised greens? Reilly says they offer a pleasant astringency, almost like mustard greens. Look for the small, smooth white turnips, and make sure the greens aren’t too damaged by sun or bugs.
Because Beast + Bottle makes sausage in-house, broccoli rabe is an effortless first choice for favorite early-summer greens. After all, says Reilly, “Broccoli rabe is sausage’s perfect leafy partner.” But the chef doesn’t just use it as an accompaniment to salty, fatty meat; it’s also the star of flatbread pizzas and fresh pastas. The broccoli rabe that Reilly uses isn’t quiet the same as the normal bitter hearty green you see in the grocery store. “The stuff we get locally in Colorado doesn’t have that thick stalk. It’s more leafy,” he says. “We’re always looking for the next kale, and this has the same green, grassy flavors but with more of a punch.” This type of broccoli rabe has almost none of that bunchy part on the end (like broccoli), and instead of deep green, you’ll see a yellowish-gold color to the outer fringes. Make sure the leaves aren’t wilted, and once you get it home, you can wash and store it wrapped in damp paper towel in the fridge. Fun fact: This green isn’t related to broccoli at all — it’s actually in the turnip family. Hey, we were just talking about turnips!
Most people don’t think of Colorado as a place to grow cherries, but amazing fruits grow about three hours west of Denver in Hotchkiss and Paonia. “I think peaches take most of the acclaim in Colorado, but the cherries coming out of the Western Slope are just as good,” says the chef. As for what to do with the hoard of cherries you pick out of the market? Munch on them straight-up or bake them into a delicious pie, but experiment a little, too. Cherries work wonders with lamb as a chutney or ruby-hued demi-glace. Last year Reilly did a rabbit-liver terrine with pickled cherries on top. At the bar, they preserve and juice them for cocktails. “The bar uses them, pastry uses them and savory uses them,” says Reilly. “Their arrival is anticipated every summer.” Go ahead and make your first summer barbecue cherry-themed.
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