Cooking In The Season

That's right, folks! Another class at Best Health! On Tuesday, June 23 I lead another demonstration class highlighting the best of this season's eatings.

Since I test and formulate my own recipes, it was hard to pick and choose what ingredients I wanted to bring. I looked in my favorite book, Culinary Artistry, to see a list of summer's peak ingredients:

Beans, green
Soft-shell crabs
Frogs’ legs
Ice cream
Litchi nuts
Potatoes, new
Red currants
Summer squashes
Tropical fruits

This list is by no means complete, but these foods are the main ones at their freshest, highest quality during this time of the year. It's cheaper to buy seasonal eats at their peak because there is an over-abundance. It's too bad it's not cheaper to buy a ripe canteloupe in December as it would be to buy a pair of culottes.

I wanted to make soft-shell crabs**, but in my area they are too expensive ($4.99/ea USD) and I wanted 30 of them and the top seafood purveyor in the city couldn't guarantee me that many.

**Soft-shell crabs are only available for about 2-4 weeks out of the year. During that window o time, crabs molt their hard shell and must be harvested quickly before the shell grows back and becomes hard. For culinary purposes, the entire crab can be cooked (steamed and sauteed, are the best methods). Your local fish monger can clean them for you or you can visit this website to learn how to DIY.

Dejected, I went to Whole Foods to check out their daily values. If you buy two or more pounds of tilapia, catfish, or salmon, you get $2 off per pound. I opted for the catfish because the salmon would have been $10.49/lb and as fresh as it was (pale pink, golden, glistening) I couldn't justify buying enough for 50 people on my budget, considering all the other ingredients I had to purchase.

Summer is the best time for salad greens, too. Again, Whole Foods came through with enough greens to make anyone happy. I picked up beets, rainbow chard, arugula, and a prewashed mixed baby green medley (complete with red and green leaf lettuce, frisee, mache, butter lettuces, and spinach leaves). I wanted dandelion or chrysanthemum leaves but the produce guy told me:

"There's a lady who asks us to order some every week and she buys the whole box"

Me: "What day does she or the greens come in?"
Him: "Tuesdays."
Me: "I'll be here Tuesday, then."

I informed my class of this exchange, which was met with a few frowns and disappointed looks.

Me: "I know, I know! I want to know who this lady is, too."
Participant: "Doesn't she know that you need those greens more than she does? So that you can teach us about them?"
Me: "Apparently not. But don't think that I'm above posting up at Whole Foods, to wait for her, so that I can tell her a few things..."

This illicited a few laughs, so I knew what I had picked would suffice for our seasonal cooking purposes.

Sautéed Fish Serves 4

4 (3 ounce) fish fillets (catfish, halibut, tilapia, cod)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Smart Beat buttery spread

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Sprinkle each piece of fish with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl with cayenne and garlic powder. Dredge each piece in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour.
Melt Smart Beat in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to pan, top sides down; cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over; cook an additional 2 minutes. Place fish on lined sheet pan and place in oven to keep warm.

Make a salad bed with various salad greens: dandelion greens, beet greens, parsley, arugula, frisee, watercress. Dress with 2 Tbsp of lemon aioli or other fat free dressing. Season with black pepper.

Lemon Aioli

1/2 cup Kraft fat-free mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Place mayonnaise in small bowl. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon peel, mustard, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving

Question: What's the difference between mayonnaise and aioli?
Answer: About $4

Technically, aioli is mayonnaise made with olive oil instead of regular salad oil. In the restaurant business, when you add herbs, fruits, or spices...magically it becomes aioli. Go figure.
This aioli can also be used as a glaze on your fish. It's great on salmon. Just slather it on each piece, broil it, and it becomes a flavorful, opaque, crusty glaze on top. Delish...

I won't be able to make ice cream for my July classes (it's a shame since it's National Ice Cream Month, and all...) so I got in where I could fit in and created one made from country peaches I got from the farmer's market.

Well, actually, there's a story about the actual peaches I used. I got them at 50 cents a pound! They were soft, decidedly the sweetest peaches I've ever tasted. I was excited because that meant I might not have to use the entire amount of agave the recipe calls for. I left them in the demo kitchen last Thursday to use for Tuesday. I tagged all of my ingredients with my name and the class's date. Don't you know that when I opened the fridge that there were only three piddly, measley peaches in a bowl? Someone had taken the entire bag, left me three peaches and had the audacity to put the tag I made on the front of the bowl. To make a long story short, someone went out and got more peaches from the grocery but my country peaches...were pillaged. Sadness. I know.

Cinnamon Peach Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

2 cups skim milk
12 oz Fat free evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup Organic Blue Agave
2 cups pureed fresh peaches

In a saucepan, heat milks, cinnamon, vanilla, and until boiling. Set aside to cool. Place plastic wrap over the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming. When cooled properly, add agave and peach puree. In an ice cream freezer container, combine all the ingredients; mix well. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze any leftovers.


(Please excuse the dirty dishes in the sink. I don't have a sous chef to take care of that kind of thing. In culinary school, after the chef's demonstration, he/she would always make us wash his dishes on top of our own. We could F#&! UP a kitchen, man...)

Cooking the milks isn't necessary. Actually, to save time (heat energy, pots, pans, my sanity) I didn't cook the milk during class. The mixture tasted raw and fresh and cooking the milk gives the base a creamier texture.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

Leave a reply

  1. Great post. I like to seehow you shop, which is important. I wish you could have gotten those soft shells. Delish.

  2. Ohhhh...cinnamon peach ice cream sounds fantabulous! I can't wait to hear about the showdown at Whole Foods! LOL!

  3. Courtney: Thanks! I do a lot of shopping. I learned at a young age how to shop and where to go (be it food, clothes, or accessories)

    Jenn: Thanks to you, too! There really might be a showdown. I got an email from one of my guests asking about the dandelion greens being incorporated into my next class which is on Tuesday!

  4. You've changed your website - it looks great! Thanks for the cinnamon peach ice cream!! You always hear about peach ice cream, but the cinnamon sounds yummy!

  5. Everything looks really good. Especially that ice cream! ; )

  6. It all looks so good, especially the cinnamon peach ice cream.

  7. Whoooaaa you totally changed everything up. When did this happen? Mama rikey.

    I do a lot of shopping too. I'm not a high-maintenance girl per se, but I loves to git my produce on.

  8. Ooh I love the idea of combining cinnamon and peaches for an ice cream. Sounds like a terrific combination.

    And thanks for the tag. Someday I hopefully will get around to filling out that survey. I loved reading your answers-- it's fun to get to learn more about my blogging friends :o).

  9. Renee: I did! I'm going through a "new leaf" phase and I took a look at everything about me and I started with my blog. You're quite welcome for the ice cream. Mexican cinnamon tastes exotic and different in there. I hope you like!

    Anali: Why, thank you! The ice cream is my crown and glory of the moment.

    Julie: Thanks to you, too. At first, I didn't think the photo was that great. But I couldn't not display the creamy goodness. It really is delicious.

    Heather: Yeah, girl, I thought the place needed a sprucing up. Last week, I think I undertook the mammoth task of changing over to XML. Do you like it?

    I think you have a mind like a professional chef when it comes to ingredients and their quality. I bet it's on and poppin' when it's time for you to go to the grocery!

  10. chocolatecoveredvegan: I look forward to reading your answers! You take your time.


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