Peak Season comes out May 17, 2022 and I am very excited to share with you the 101 recipes celebrating Ontario's bounty guided by the month (not just our 4 seasons) that lay behind this cover.
Fresh City Farms holds a special place in the making of this book. The idea behind Peak Season began while I was working in my Fresh City Farms test kitchen, tucked between our head office and our commercial kitchen at the Fresh City headquarters. This is where I spent many years tempting my hardworking colleagues with scents wafting through the hallway of local organic foods getting transformed into what you know on the market as our 'Prepared Meals'. I would often have my door open with dishes ready to be evaluated and there was always a flock happy to try!
Fresh City Farms encouraged me and helped me foster my wild recipe concepts - some more successful than others*- which led me to this book. A book made of dishes like Kohlrabi, Fennel, Cherry & Toasted Walnut Salad (in July), Pancetta Parsnip Gnocchi with Toasted Pecans and Radicchio (in February), or Pear Custard Tart with Toasted Chestnuts (in December). Do not let the long complicated names fool you, these are all simple dishes with little effort needed. It is a form of casual cooking that not many know exists.
The magic behind a good easy meal is cooking with food grown close to home and of course, in Peak Season. A tomato in August does not need much more than a herbed oil with a few slices of garlic crisped in a pan. In the coldest months like a frosty December evening, I will show you how to transform the gnarly rooted celeriac into a perfectly Creamed Celeriac and Potato side dish. Peak Season also upholds - and aligns with - the values of Fresh City Farms' importance to cook ethnically. I use, and encourage choosing ethically raised meat, poultry, fish, and eggs when making dishes like Apricot BBQ Sticky Ribs, Baking Sheet Coq au Vin, and Crispy Salmon on Cantaloupe Ribbons & Salty Potato Crisps.
Our CEO, Ran Goel, once referred to me as a 'culinary architect' but I have always thought I was more of a 'farmer superfan'. I had plenty of opportunities to meet the farmers supplying us with their produce so I would get curious, ask as many questions about each ingredient as possible. I wanted to learn every detail before I cooked with it. What variety of radish was I holding? Did last week's heat wave affect how sweet the strawberries would taste? Why are carrots so much sweeter in January than in August? The answer to that question is nature's 'anti-freeze' - along with other winter root vegetables, carrots develop more sugar as a way to not freeze in the ground when temperatures begin to drop. How cool is that?! This kind of edible education changed the way I prepared food.
I learned how to cook from how farmers described their food. Each with their own charming personalities (both the farmers and the vegetables), I would be inspired to rush back to the test kitchen with new ideas on how to turn basic ingredients into something remarkable. Something that excites your taste buds and I did it in a way without too much fuss. Eating is one of the best joys in this life and to be able to be connected in such a way to the animals, the earth, and the people around me is a true blessing. My hope in writing this book is now you get a chance to explore local ingredients every month, the way I have with my Fresh City team, without feeling intimidated in the kitchen to create something special in your own home.
Peak Season is my love letter to the region I grew up in. These recipes are ones I hold near and dear to my heart. I trialed them all like I would in our test kitchen but I have written them in a more relaxed form that will give you the opportunity to fine tune each dish to meet your own needs. There is something for every taste bud and with fresh ingredients, you will need little effort or time before taking your next bite into Curly Corn Ribs with Fresh Zhoug & Shishito Peppers.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I have enjoyed making it. You can pre-order a copy of Peak Season now!
*A many thanks to our active member community for always keeping me on my toes and letting us know what you want.