Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Simply In Season: 12 Months of Wine Country Cooking

First...I have a confession to make... even though I am truly a Big City girl, who has never grown more than a few pots of herbs as a "garden", I've always fantasized about living in the country, growing my own fruit and veg, spending the summer outdoors and the fall and winter, pickling and preserving my bounty. It is a very romanticized notion of life in the country, I know. It's one that does not include mosquitoes, excessively hot days irrigating the land or exceedingly rainy ones, somehow trying to protect my crops...

And naturally, after my day in the country is done... I go home to the city and ... live vicariously through books like Tony de Luca's Simply In Season, and when I'm lucky enough to visit Toronto, I can drive out to eat at either of his restaurants - The Old Winery Restaurant and de Luca's Wine Country Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Given that doesn't happen too much, since moving to Halifax, I'm glad he decided to write a second cookbook and share his recipes that follow the seasons and, naturally, all the local bounty.

A number of cookbooks now organize their dishes, not so much by which course they belong to, but rather which season. So it's no surprise that Tony who lives in the heart of Ontario's wine country and fruit belt does just that. Naturally, I'm a rebel and decided to make one of his August dish just last week.
The Barbecued Chicken with Honey-Apricot Glaze would be perfect for a late summer BBQ, served with his Watermelon & Watercress Salad, following some Roasted Tomato Bisque with Onion Confit and Tomato Jam (I've yet to make that dish, but it sounds spectacular) or his August Corn Chowder.
Instead I chose to serve it with some roasted cauliflower & carrots, following his droolingly delicious Pumpkin Soup with Wild Mushrooms. It's really in the October section, but both pumpkins and mushrooms are already hitting the local farmers markets. Which means I might not make it to November to prepare his Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Butter Sauce that has me moaning just thinking about it. Or the Turkey Stew in Grainy Mustard Sauce with Glazed Brussels Sprouts or the Beef Short Ribs and Pancetta Braised in Red Wine that will get me through any month in our overly long winter.

From the introduction "...There is beauty in simplicity. There is beauty in the seasons. It's really not that difficult to put the two together....Let the recipes write themselves... meaning that no one can improve on Mother Nature"....the essence of the book and Tony's philosophy .... get to know your local farmers, to share not only their bounty, but their passion.

But I ramble on. Bottom line: it doesn't really matter whether you live in Ontario or anywhere else; whether your region harvests asparagus in April, May or June; this is a wonderful book to help you get in touch with the best that is grown close to home and share recipes we would normally have to visit a five star restaurant to enjoy.

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