Eating for the Seasons
Any premeditated thought given to how and what we eat is, in my opinion, one form of modern day kashrut. The meaning of “kashrut” is “fit,” i.e., that which is fit to eat. I choose to interpret “fit” as providing nourishment for the purpose of sustenance, longevity and overall sense of well-being. Paying attention to what I eat is something that I do to make me “fit.” In addition to how and what we eat, attention is also given to when we eat certain foods — traditionally, we wait a minimum of six hours after eating meat and before eating dairy. Likewise, there are times of the year when certain foods or dishes are naturally more favored than others.
Having lived in Evergreen, Colorado for exactly 8 years now, I’ve noticed that the seasons of the year (when certain foods are grown) heavily influence how I cook and of course what my family eats. You may think this is obvious, but having lived in the southeast for 30 years prior, food variety did not change throughout the year to the extent that it does in Colorado, and what a pleasure to take advantage of the seasonal delights, as well as variation in food preparation.
On those gorgeous Colorado summer evenings, one of my favorite pastimes is to be on the deck in front of the grill. I’ve become the chief griller in our family, taking the job over from my husband. Many vegetables are perfect for grilling, such as zucchini, and a variety of squashes come to mind as a versatile vegetable throughout the seasons. During the summer, it is a staple in our house when prepared with fresh garlic and olive oil, and grilled. During the winter months, when I am just not willing to trek through the snow on the deck to the grill, I use zucchini in baked casseroles or sautéed with other vegetables such as peppers, onions and mushrooms.
Of course our wonderful local farmers markets throughout the state provide the colorful variety of healthy vegetables and fruits usually from early June through October. This produce can be enjoyed year-round by taking time to can and preserve. If you think about it, your eating patterns probably vary throughout the year as well: hearty soups and stews that cook all day in the crock pot during the winter, and cold, fresh salads and grilled meat and vegetables in the summer.
Monthly cooking magazines are great resources for seasonal recipes, and if you don’t already have a subscription to one, you might want to think about signing up. Some of my favorites include Cooking Light magazine and Healthy Cooking magazine. Their recipes offer creative ideas for meal preparation using the particular season’s freshest ingredients and produce. I’ve learned from cooking magazines the importance of using fresh herbs and spices. Last year was the first time that I grew my own rosemary, basil and mint, right in the pot on the deck. The feeling of using your own produce to enrich your meals is like none other.
With a little planning, it is easy to savor our local summer fruits and vegetables to be used long into our winter months for soups, stews and other favorite dishes. To learn more about canning and preserving, be sure to check out the Rocky Mountain Jewish Food Summit on Sunday, April 29 at CU Boulder, where one of the many informative sessions is on Food Preservation and Canning 101. I’d like to leave you with a few recipes to consider trying throughout the year, and you decide when it is best to enjoy them: Beef and Butternut Squash Stew and Grilled Zucchini Rolls with Herbs and Cheese (I can’t wait to try this one!). See you at the Jewish Food Summit!
Susie Speer is a member of Congregation Beth Evergreen and lives in Evergreen, Colorado with her husband, son and two golden retrievers. She has returned to school to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition at Metro State College of Denver and plans to become a Registered Dietitian, specializing in Diabetes Education and Management.