Savoring Seasonal Produce: Chef Hilary Sullivan

There’s nothing quite like eating something that was ripened on the plant and in the sun. The changes in flavor can be astronomical, not only in sweetness, but also in aroma (think: completely condensed and amplified to 11). Quite often, I meet people who say they hate tomatoes. But when I ask if they have ever tried a sun-ripened heirloom or yellow pear right off the plant in late summer, most haven’t. If this is you, try it this year!

We all know about the carbon footprint that comes with food that’s sourced globally. If you need another reason to eat seasonally and locally, flavor is a really great one. The foodies, chefs, and gardeners I know squeal with delight as the seasons change and they can enjoy the produce they’ve been missing for three long seasons. Summer in particular offers an incredible variety that can’t be beat.

Growing up in California, I was spoiled with fresh seasonal produce (often gifted by overwhelmed home gardeners) and neighborhoods with fruit trees frequented by hungry kids looking for a snack while playing outside. Now that I’m a chef, I know that eating with the seasons is a great way to get creative and change up your cooking. Here are some ideas to boost your summer menus:

  • Boost your meals with lycopene, subtle acidity, and photo-worthiness by topping them with ripe halved cherry tomatoes in assorted colors.
  • Add fresh herbs to your dishes—little bits of fresh basil, cilantro, dill, etc. can transform an otherwise-mundane meal. You can also take a basic green salad and give it a Mediterranean, Vietnamese, or Thai twist by adding some flavorful herbs.
  • Admire—and buy!—fruits as they go on sale. During the summer, when the peaches are ripe, stock up and preserve. There’s no need to pull out your canning equipment; you can easily peel and slice peaches for the freezer for year-round desserts and smoothies.
  • Harness the power of roasted peppers. While they are in season, throw a few on the grill or over your gas stovetop, peel, and add strips of flavor, vitamins, and color to your salads, sandwiches, and wraps. You can also purée them in the blender with a little garlic and oil to make a unique pasta sauce or something fun to sauce grilled beef or chicken.

Chef Hilary Sullivan’s passion is educating and empowering the home cook, which she happily does at the CIA at Copia. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, she maintains her own vegetable garden and chickens when she’s not teaching.

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