Take inspiration from these Earth Dinner menus from five outstanding members of Chefs Collaborative. They've even shared a few of their proprietary recipes. Specializing in the foods of five different regions of America, these culinary artists offer tips to bring local seasonal flavor to your Earth Dinner meal.
North Pond Restaurant
By Terese Allen, Food Editor
Years of travel and a solid training in French technique have influenced Bruce Sherman's refined, contemporary cooking style, but when it comes to good eating nothing's more important to him than seasonality. The chef-partner of Chicago's celebrated North Pond restaurant features peak-of-the-harvest ingredients on his menus not just for their unparalleled flavor, but to help local farmers and create a more sustainable future.
Honored by Food & Wine magazine in 2003 as one of the nation's "Best New Chefs," Sherman has traveled and cooked in Paris, Southeast Asia and London, worked in Boston restaurants and operated a catering company in Washington. After a stint at the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise in Paris and several years living in India, he returned to his native Chicago. Since 1999 he has been captivating North Pond diners with such creations as roasted breast of wild partridge with black trumpet mushroom risotto and rosemary-basted lamb saddle with Parmesan flan and pancetta Brussels sprouts.
This is conscious cooking at its finest, but it's still not enough for Sherman, who is a member of the board of overseers for Chefs Collaborative. He goes a step further by asking wine-drinking guests to pay one dollar extra per bottle, which he matches and then donates to non-profit organizations like Illinois Farm Beginnings, a farmer training program that focuses on sustainable and organic practices.
Terese Allen: You've worked with a world of ingredients, but what are some Midwestern foods--from any season--that you couldn't live without?
Bruce Sherman: Sweet corn, horseradish, ramps, beets, cranberries, wild rice, squash....and tomatoes.
T: Why should we know where our food comes from and when it's in season?
B: It tastes better when you know about it and want it to be the best. When we broaden our understanding of our food, we enjoy, appreciate and value it more.
T: Tell us about a family food tradition of yours.
B: We always got to have a special dish prepared for our birthdays, one we could choose for ourselves. Most kids want pizza or ribs, but I wanted potato-stuffed veal breast or braised lamb shank.
T: You have two daughters. Do they cook?
B: My five-year-old will pull out the ladder, climb up and try things out.
T: What did she choose for her birthday meal?
B: Ribs. She's a carnivore right now.
T: Have you got any "warnings or wisdoms" for home cooks?
B: Don't fear salt and fat. There's an American reluctance to use salt and fat based on the idea that they're not good for you. But you need to use them, you just need to moderate it. The other thing is, keep your knives sharp.
Chilled snap pea soup
Roast beet salad with sweet young spring greens
Spring: new-season maple syrup; rhubarb; radishes; asparagus, fresh-dug or "wintered-over" root crops, including Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips; wild things like ramps, morels and wild onions; greenhouse spinach and lettuce; peas; cultivated sorrel; farmed rainbow trout; last fall's hickory nuts (hand-shucked over the winter)
Summer: strawberries; sweet corn; tomatoes; summer squash; cucumbers; Hmong vegetables like bitter melon and Thai eggplants; sweet peppers; Swiss chard; edible flowers; sweet onions; grilled chicken, steaks, hot dogs and bratwurst; cantaloupe; sour cherries; blueberries; blackberries; plums; homemade ice cream
Fall: wild rice; cranberries; heirloom apples like Golden Russet and Black Willow Twig; cabbage; pears; kohlrabi; cooked greens (like collards, kale, mustard greens); shiitake mushrooms; fall raspberries; pork chops; smoked whitefish and chubs; seasonal microbrewed beers; apple cider
Winter: potatoes; pie pumpkins and winter squash (think acorn, butternut, buttercup, etc.); brussels sprouts; burdock roots; celeriac; sauerkraut; dried apples; dried cherries and cranberries; Wisconsin artisanal cheeses; sausages; organic turkey; hardwood-smoked bacon; butter cookies and egg nog for the holidays