You’re standing in an orchard, reach up and pluck an apple from its stem. You rub it against your shirt and take a big bite. As the flavor hits your taste buds, you close your eyes, nod in appreciation and maybe even let out an audible, “Mmm ... .” In that moment you are reminded of this simple fact: Fresh food tastes best. At its heart, the farm-to-table restaurant movement seeks to reconnect us to this essential eating experience. Chefs work with farmers and create their menus based on what’s in season locally. This not only makes the food taste better, it also shortens the distance your meal’s ingredients have to travel to reach your plate (fewer food miles equal a smaller eco-footprint) and boosts the amount of nutrients you get as well. Research has found that the vitamin and mineral content in vegetables decreases with every passing hour after harvest. Thankfully, a growing number of farm-to-table restaurants means you don’t have to travel far to experience these chefs’ vine-fresh, nutrientdense, flavor-packed creations. Better still, the proliferation of farmers markets means all of us can follow their lead, meet some farmers, get the inside dirt on all the season has to offer and bring home farm-fresh food. Here, chefs from the country’s trendiest farm-to-table restaurants share recipes to help you turn “picked today” into “delicious tonight.”
Owner and chef Jason Kim’s goal in creating the restaurant Forage was to deliver farmers market food quality without the expense. “We thought it would be cool to reach out to local growers and see if people would bring us stuff in exchange for meals at the restaurant,” says Kim. The idea took off. The Home Growers Circle, a group of urban farmers, now supply much of Forage’s ingredients on a barter system. Customers respond to Forage’s ever-changing menu—and to the parade of home growers who come into the restaurant daily with bags of vegetables from their own backyards. “Our Home Growers Circle grows amazing stuff,” says Kim, “sometimes even better than what I can find at the farmers market.”
Ratatouille with Slow- Stewed Squash, Eggplant & Cherry Tomatoes
PREP: 12 min. COOK: 25 min. SERVES: 4
8 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for serving
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
1∕2 pound yellow onion, thinly sliced
1∕2 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1∕2 pound zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1∕2 pound cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat in each of four individual small pans. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic to each pan, along with one vegetable per pan.
2. Sauté vegetables, stirring regularly. Onions will take about 20 minutes, and should be lightly caramelized. Eggplant and zucchini will take approximately 15 minutes, and should be soft. The cherry tomatoes will take approximately 10 minutes, and should be wrinkled but still hold their shape.
3. When all the vegetables are ready, season with salt and pepper and toss together in a single large pan. Cook gently another 5 minutes. Platter and drizzle with olive oil to serve.
Per serving: 141 calories, 9.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 2.5 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 12 mg sodium