Twelve Seasons Cookbook: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Best There Is to Eatby Alfred Portale, Andrew Friedman
"When it comes to cooking, there are twelve seasons," says Alfred Portale, the world-renowned chef of the Gotham Bar and Grill restaurant. To him, each month is a season unto itselfnot just because crucial ingredients peak at different points during the traditional four seasons, but also because each month carries with it a unique set of emotions and… See more details below
"When it comes to cooking, there are twelve seasons," says Alfred Portale, the world-renowned chef of the Gotham Bar and Grill restaurant. To him, each month is a season unto itselfnot just because crucial ingredients peak at different points during the traditional four seasons, but also because each month carries with it a unique set of emotions and associations.
Alfred Portale's 12 Seasons Cookbook takes the home cook on a deeply personal journey through the year in food. Many chapters are ingredient-driven, such as May, which Portale dubs "The Big Bang of the Culinary Year," because of the proliferation of vegetables such as fava beans, asparagus, and morel mushrooms. August, entitled "Seize the Day," presents recipes that lend themselves to late-summer entertaining. "NovemberGiving Thanks" is devoted entirely to Portale's interpretations of Thanksgiving standards while "DecemberCelebrations" shares elegant holiday dishes as well as a selection of canapés and food to give as gifts. Portale also offers his unique approach to months like September in which he responds to the post-Labor Day return to work and school with "Recipes for Busy Times."
As in his award-winning Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, Portale provides instructions for planning ahead and for how to vary or expand recipes to accommodate ingredient availability and seasonality. He also includes essays on favorite foods and techniques, tips on preserving, advice on what to drink, and suggestions for thematic menus. Brought to breathtaking life with more than one hundred full-color photographs, Alfred Portale's 12 Seasons Cookbook captures the glory and possibilityof every month of the year.
- Broadway Books
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Read an Excerpt
The Big Bang of the Culinary Year
If a chef rather than an astronomer had devised the calendar, the year would begin not in January but in May, when the vegetables that appear are a cook's dream come true. May is the time of life beginning anew, of optimism and promise, and this spirit is revealed in the fragile shade of green that infuses the entire landscapea pale, expectant hue that announces tender young buds and shoots as they sprout into being. Not coincidentally, this color also defines many of the foods of May, such as pea shoots, fava beans, and asparagusmany of which rank among my favorites of any month.
These vegetables share a similarity of spirit, a vulnerability if you will, that is wonderfully appropriate to the time of year. This month is also cherished a bit more than the others because many of its culinary gifts are as fleeting as daffodils. Ramps (sweet, wild leeks) and fiddleheads, for instance, truly flourish only during these few short weeks, a rare instance where nature prevails over the blurring of the seasons brought on by the year-round availability of most produce in supermarkets. Personally, I don't mind the limitation; while it would be tempting to have these divine ingredients all the time, part of their charm is the anticipation created by this strict seasonality.
When cooking in May, try to find some quiet time in your routine to relax and give yourself over to the tenderness of the season. When I think of this month, I envision recipes that use several of these ingredients on the same plate, often juxtaposing them against one dominating element to emphasize their endearing fragility. A good example is AtlanticSalmon with Morels, Ramps, Sweet Peas, and Chervil (page 000), in which the accompaniments are rather poignant compared to the fillet, an effect that is echoed in Veal Chops with Spring Leeks and Soft Polenta (page 000).
May is also the time to avail yourself of vegetables so flavorful they can stand as a course by themselves. A superb illustration of this is Warm Asparagus and Oregon Morels with Fava Beans, Chervil, and Mushroom Jus (page 000), in which plump stalks of asparagus act as a perfect foil to the meaty, woodsy mushroomsa fully rounded dish that doesn't seem to be lacking a thing despite the fact that there's no fish, poultry, or meat on the plate. Similarly, I've held off on garnishing the Asparagus Soup (page 000), permitting its sylvan grace to speak for itself.
You might wonder where one would find such idyllic inspiration in the rigid, grid-patterned arena of New York City. For me, and for many other chefs, the answer is the Union Square Green Marketa diverse gathering of farmers who brave the urban jungle several times a week to set up camp on a plaza of sorts between Fourteenth and Seventeenth streets. As soon as the market is up and running each year, my cooks and I drop by every day that it's open, roaming the stands, smelling the herbs, handling the produce, and catching up with the farmers. After months of winter, this is a very effective and enjoyable way for us to reconnect with the earth.
My wife, Helen, and I do our own, cosmopolitan brand of cultivating this month as well. In March, we germinate a variety of heirloom seeds twenty-three stories above the city on the terrace of our apartment. There, in a cold frame I've fashioned out of Plexiglas and wood, young vegetable plants soak up the first rays of spring. In May, we load them into the back of our Jeep and drive them out to our country home, where we carefully transplant them into our garden, which we refer to affectionately as our "edible landscape." Our daughters, Olympia and Victoria, take great pleasure in watching tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers make their annual debut, and we all reap the bounty of this shared endeavor throughout the summer.
For my family, this month is an especially meaningful one, since it brings Helen's birthday and, of course, Mother's Day. We don't offer brunch at the Gotham Bar and Grill, soin the name of a Mother's Day Brunch (page 000)I'm delighted to have this opportunity to share some of our personal, favorite breakfast recipes. These include Pancakes with Honey-Almond Butter (page 000) and Citrus Salad with Lemongrass, Toasted Almonds, and Mint (page 000). And, if you've ever wondered how to make doughnuts, here's your chancethis chapter includes a primer as well as my recipe for Jelly-Filled Doughnuts (page 000).
Finally, to help you make something unexpected and special for Memorial Day, you'll find a recipe putting that great American cooking machine, the outdoor grill, to surprisingly sophisticated use. Delight your first guests of the season by making Grilled Soft-Shell Crabs with Asparagus, New Potatoes, and a Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette (page 000) the centerpiece of your holiday feast. It perfectly complements a cold beer under the hot sun, the ideal way to welcome the summer days ahead.
Citrus Salad with Lemongrass, Toasted Almonds, and Mint
Makes 4 servings
When I was a kid, my mother would often purchase glass jars of orange and grapefruit sections from our local supermarket. Swimming in a tart citrus juice, along with maraschino cherries, this "salad" wasn't very good; my mouth still curls when I think of its too-bitter quality and chemical taste. Not only that, but suspended in their cloudy juice, the citrus sections looked to me and my sister like something that belonged on a shelf in our school's science classroom rather than in our refrigerator at home.
Nevertheless, I have fond memories of the times this salad evokes. So, for Mother's Day one year, I thought it would be fun to make my version of this dish part of a buffet brunch for my family. I was surprised at how well it came out. In fact, I now make it in large batches so I have leftovers for days to comemy own version of my mother's tradition.
Thinking Ahead: The salad can be made two or three days in advance of its first serving.
4 clementines 4 tangerines 4 blood oranges 2 pink grapefruit 1 lime 6 kumquats Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 cup chopped lemongrass (1 stalk) 2 medium Kaffir lime leaves 4 tablespoons sliced almonds 1 tablespoon gently packed fresh mint, cut into chiffonade
Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, cut off and discard the peel and white pith from the clementines, tangerines, oranges, grapefruit, and lime. Working over a small bowl to catch the juices, cut between the membranes to remove the segments. Put the segments in the bowl and squeeze any juice from the membranes. Discard any seeds. Pour 3/4 cup of the juice into a measuring cup and set it aside.
Thinly slice the kumquats and discard any seeds. Combine the kumquat slices with the citrus fruit segments. Cover and refrigerate.
In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, reserved citrus juice, lemongrass, and lime leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and remove from the heat. Set aside for about 30 minutes to infuse with flavor. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until lightly and evenly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool and halt the cooking.
Divide the fruit sections among 4 rimmed soup bowls. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce over each serving, and garnish with the mint leaves and almonds.
Variations: Don't be discouraged if you don't have lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves; the salad will still be delicious without them.
If you'd like to make enough for a large group, or to have planned leftovers, the recipe multiplies very well.
Substitute oranges for the tangerines or clementines, if necessary.
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