Until I started exploring farmers’ markets and the local food movement, I hardly ever gave a thought to eating foods that were in season. Sure, I knew watermelons are only truly delicious in the summer and that my grandfather’s peaches (oh, those peaches!) only came once a year, but beyond that, I was lost. I planned meals based on what I wanted to eat, not on what was fresh.
Shopping the farmers’ markets opened my eyes to eating with the seasons. Sometimes I feel sad that such-and-such isn’t available, and sometimes that feeling is so overwhelming that I go to the store and buy it anyway. As it turns out, though, there’s a lot of joy in waiting for a food I enjoy. Not only do I experience that exquisite pleasure-pain of anticipation, the special food actually tastes better when it’s in season and has traveled fewer miles to reach my greedy paws.
As I became more and more enthralled with eating seasonally last fall, I realized that I could carry this concept over into my holiday meal planning, whether I was shopping in the grocery store or the farmers’ markets. It was my first year to host Christmas, so I had complete control of the menu. And I made some changes. Although green beans are traditional in my family, I switched them out for in-season broccoli. I found the perfect recipe, Roasted Garlic-Parmigiano Broccoli, in the Thanksgiving issue of Food & Wine. It was an enormous hit. Just as the editors claim, the broccoli is addictive and slightly nutty tasting. No one missed the green beans.
Next, I altered the fruit salad plans. We love fruit salad with our holiday meal, and I didn’t want to delete it from the menu altogether. But I knew I wanted something fresher than berries. I opted for Bon Appetit‘s Citrus Salad with Ginger Yogurt. Again, it couldn’t have been better! It was strikingly beautiful, and the combination of blood oranges, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit with honey, cinnamon, and dried cranberries was perfect. A topping of rich Greek yogurt with candied ginger rounded it out wonderfully. I can’t wait to make this recipe again. I hope to establish it as an Alison and J family tradition.
Finally, I selected a butternut squash soup for our first course. Food & Wine’s Gingered Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Pecan Cream opened our Christmas dinner on a delightful note and kept us talking about it for days. My father-in-law was particularly enthralled with this dish.
As I plan for this year’s Christmas dinner, I will continue the seasonal foods theme. All of the recipes I mentioned above are already on the menu, and I plan to do some more recipe hunting in the next few weeks. I think that what I loved most about going seasonal with my holiday dinner, besides the awesomely fresh food, was the challenge. I really enjoyed hunting up new recipes and brainstorming different ideas.
To learn more about what’s in season when in your region, visit Sustainable Table for a list by state (USA).
What about you? Have you ever given any thought to making your holiday meals seasonal, beyond serving pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce? What are your tips and tricks? Do you have a favorite seasonal recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner?
*This post is a part of Works-for-Me-Wednesday. For more ideas, visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer.