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.
Organic to Go
By Terese Allen, Food Editor
Greg Atkinson knows delicious. He is culinary director of Organic To Go, the Seattle-based take-out company that offers healthy, casual fare to diners with a taste for sustainability. Featuring American regional themes and incorporating organic and seasonal ingredients wherever possible, his menus, you might say, are New American cuisine's answer to fast food.
But Atkinson knows delicious from the "high-end" of the dining spectrum, too. His twenty-plus years as a chef include launching the elegant Friday Harbor House on San Juan Island and revitalizing the menu at Seattle's venerable Canlis restaurant. A prolific, prizewinning food writer for such publications as Food Arts and The Seattle Times, he is also the author of three books about the cooking of the Pacific Northwest, including his latest, Entertaining in the Northwest Style: A Menu Cookbook (Sasquatch Books, 2005). He has served on the cookbook awards committee for the International Association of Culinary Professionals and will be lecturing on the heritage of Pacific Northwest cooking at the Smithsonian Institution this spring.
"Food will taste better to the degree that it is raised and handled and delivered to you with consciousness and care at every step," says this passionate guru of the local and seasonal. He should know.
Terese Allen: Why should we know where our food comes from?
Greg Atkinson: It helps us enjoy it more. Food conjures all sorts of emotional responses and links us to places in ways both real and imagined. It affords us an understanding of the world that promotes good stewardship and conservation of resources. And knowing where our food comes from inevitably leads to knowing who our food comes from, which encourages social justice.
TA: Give us your take on the importance of the family dinner.
GA: Eating together, especially around the family table, is the single most significant act that distinguishes us as human beings and at the same time, it is the activity that connects to all of creation. The more consciousness we bring to the table....the greater opportunity we have to enjoy life and contribute to the well-being of everyone we meet.
TA: Describe a dish that's been passed down through the generations in your family.
GA: I grew up in Florida and there is a wonderful coconut cake made with fresh coconut that my great Aunt Lois taught me to make. "If you don't use fresh coconut," she said, "It isn't worth making."
TA: Would you share a favorite "chef's secret" of yours?
GA: "Mise en place" is a French term that means "set up," which in the professional kitchen involves thinking through every dish you plan to make and putting everything where it needs to be so that the whole process flows smoothly...A home cook will succeed to the degree that he or she is ready—ingredients and tools close at hand—before beginning to cook.
"Single" Spring Green Salad: Watercress, Lamb's Lettuce or Baby Spinach with Ruby Red Grapefruit, Goat Cheese Fritters & Grapefruit Juice Vinaigrette
Rhubarb and Ginger Tart
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My Great Aunt Lois's Fresh Coconut Cake
Spring: wild greens salad (think dandelions, nettles and watercress); edible flowers (try pea, salmonberry or maple blossoms); Pacific halibut; farmed mussels; oysters; fava beans; artichokes; fiddlehead ferns; birch syrup
Summer: blackberries, huckleberries, cherries and black cap raspberries; Shiro and Satsuma plums; razor clams; wild chinook salmon from Alaska; wild sardines; lamb cuts; summer herbs (like savory, dill, marjoram, tarragon); sheep and goat milk cheeses
Fall: apple cider; pears; lentils, split peas and garbanzo beans from eastern Washington; Oregon blue cheese; black cod; farmed caviar; wild mushrooms (like blue chanterelles, fairy rings and matsutake); hazelnuts
Winter: Dungeness crab; petrale sole; farmed steelhead trout; stored apples; apple and pear cider; eggs; brussels sprouts; parsnips; winter squash; mache salad; Olympia oysters; organic Cheddar