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.
By Terese Allen, Food Editor
Onion soup au gratin. Roast chicken with lemon and parsley. Sizzling clams with garlic herb butter. Is there any food more deeply satisfying than bistro fare? Meet Gordon Hamersley, the Boston chef who helped popularize such classic French-style "soul food" in America.
Hamersley and his wife Fiona opened his now-famous Hamersley's Bistro in 1987 after a year enjoying the small, family-run restaurants of old Nice, and after Gordon worked, on this side of the Atlantic, with such shining stars as Wolfgang Puck and Lydia Shire. His menus celebrate the casual yet sophisticated fare of traditional bistros but also incorporate New American influences. From hamburgers stuffed with blue cheese to New England bouillabaisse with rouille and croutons, this is food to elate and content you.
Winner in 1995 of the coveted James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef of the Northeast, Hamersley is also author of the prize-winning Bistro Cooking at Home (Broadway Books, 2003). He writes in it, "I'm happiest when sitting down to a good meal with people I know well, where the food is not being worshipped or fawned over, but rather has just simply taken its own natural place in the moment. The message that comes across to the friends gathered at the table is that, yes, delicious food is important, but just as important are the good times involved with the sharing of the food."
Terese Allen: What are some of your favorite ingredients and dishes of the Northeast?
Gordon Hamersley: Clams and oysters come to mind. We do a variety of things with each: fry them, steam them, make them into chowder or simply eat them raw. New England cheeses are very good these days and of course lobsters are not only a staple but also a tourist attraction.
TA: Why should we know where our food comes from?
GH: Knowing where your food come from allows you to focus on your region and the way those foods all seem to go together in each season.
TA: What can cooks do to prepare food as deliciously as possible?
GH: Buy it where it is grown and cook it that day. Food seems to go together very well for me as a cook when I do that, and by contrast food does not seem to go well together when I am buying things from far away and out of season.
TA: Beyond buying fresh, regional crops and products, how can Americans set a more "sustainable table"?
GH: By demanding that supermarkets carry food from small, sustainable producers. Buy from the good guys and criticize the bad guys. Get involved with food co-ops and join organizations that pressure the government to break up big agribusiness.
TA: Have you got any other advice for home cooks?
GH: Be bold. Make mistakes. Experiment. It will make you a better cook in the end.
Spring: dandelion greens; fiddleheads; ramps; spring-dug parsnips; sugar-snap peas; wild onions; wild mushrooms; jonnycakes with maple syrup; maple sugar candy; strawberry rhubarb pie; steamed clams
Summer: blueberries; peaches; wild raspberries; fruit cobblers; scalloped tomatoes; succotash with fresh sweet corn; corn pudding; Harvard beets; new potatoes; fresh herbs; shell beans; crab cakes; lobster every which way (stuffed or whole, steamed or boiled, in lobster rolls and stew)
Fall: apples and cider; concord grapes; cranberries; pumpkins; winter squash; Maine potatoes; turnips and other root vegetables; oysters galore (raw, scalloped, stuffed, on the half-shell, etc.); roast wild duck; apple pie with Vermont cheddar wedges
Winter: baked beans; New England boiled dinner; turkey pot pie; venison; cornbread; Cheddar cheese soup; Yankee pot roast; brown bread; salt cod; Boston clam chowder; shrimp boil; fried clams; sea scallops and bay scallops; dried apples and cranberries