The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox marks the high point of local produce enthusiasm and farming commerce
By Chef Peter Botros
SEEDS AND THE CITY
For thousands of years, farmers kept track of the seasons by monitoring the phases of the moon intervals that determined, among other things, the optimal times for harvesting. Today, they still take cues from moon cycles, but, interestingly, so do a number of chefs eager to acquire ingredients at peak quality and freshness. September 22nd is 2019’s Harvest Moon, and one local delicacy found in abundance thereafter is squash, in its wondrously numerous varieties. So, prepare for butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and delicata squash (seen above) each unique taste experiences.
Other September harvested vegetables and herbs making their way into neighborhood eateries include anise (fennel) and cardone (pronounced car DOAN a, a delicious artichoke relative). Increasingly, local fare like this comes from Staten Island growers such as the 2.5 acre Heritage Farm at Snug Harbor and Decker Farm on Richmond Hill Road. Snug’s history as a retirement campus for sailors still informs crops today. Plots there used to grow just about all produce eaten by residents before the land fell into disuse. Left fallow, soil increased in richness until we have the wonder of what it is today property that produced an average of 15,000 pounds of produce in each of the past six harvest seasons, for a total of 45 tons! Doug Bifulco, Chief Operating Officer of Bread & Butter Hospitality, which runs The Stone House, Violette’s Cellar, Sofia’s Taqueria, Corner House BBQ, and Soon to be Sally’s Southern.
SPICE UP YOUR SQUASH
Fall squashes offer tremendous versatility and depth of flavor. They can play a supporting role or be the main attraction of a dish, and have a natural chemistry with warm spices like cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and chilis.
For a fun and unique way to enjoy them, try my Savory Bread Pudding. Start by peeling and dicing one or several varieties of squash, then toss with olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and your choice of warm spices and roast in a 350°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes (or until fork tender). Then, take your favorite Dessert Bread Pudding recipe and omit the sugar and other sweet ingredients like chocolate. Substitute one third of the bread needed with the roasted squash. The result makes a great accompaniment for pork tenderloin, roast turkey, or chicken.
-Chef Peter Botros
An utterly gorgeous way to wind up your palate after a terrific meal, port has been made by Portuguese vintners in the country’s Duoro Valley for centuries a sweet, fortified wine that comes in tawny, ruby, and LBV varieties. Tawny blends are aged in wood, which gives them a caramel color and nutty fl avor. Ruby is aged more simply in cement or steel and as a result is more fruity. LBV (late bottled vintage), which contains premium grapes aged for at least four years, is often the darkest and most complex of the three. Many grapes can be used, but the classic five are Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. W & J Graham’s Tawny 30 Years made by a company that’s been family operated for almost 200 years is a gem, available by the glass at The Stone House. The years allow component wines to concentrate and develop complexity, and the result is rich and nutty, with hints or orange and cinnamon, as well as great balance and a surprising cleansing acidity.
Chef Peter Botros
The Stone House at Clove Lakes/Chef’s Loft, 1150 Clove Road, thestonehousesi.com; Violette’s Cellar, 2271 Hylan Boulevard, violettescellar.com; Sofia’s Taqueria, 977 Bay St., sofi astaquerianyc.com; Corner House BBQ, 100 Lincoln Avenue, cornerhousebbq.com COMING SOON: Sally’s Southern, 427 Forest Avenue