Look Local For Freshness

Jun 21, 2013

By Executive Chef John Zehnder, CEC, ACE, HGT, AAC

As an “old school” chef I firmly believe that the foods we eat should be seasonal, fresh and local.

Here at Zehnder’s Restaurant we buy locally as much as we can. As a family owned business we have a loyalty to the farm families in our area. Forty tons of Hubbard squash, fifteen tons of apples, thirty tons of cabbage plus potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and all kinds of other local produce are used in our restaurant – all produced in and around Frankenmuth.

In-season should be important to all of us. A firm bouncy winter tomato really isn’t the same tomato as the sun warmed succulent Brandywines grown locally. The hollow, tasteless and white inside January strawberries from California – I can take them or leave them.

The way I think is that God made fruits and vegetables seasonal so we can truly enjoy them. Waiting for Michigan corn, tomatoes and June strawberries should be like a small child waiting for Christmas morning.  It’s the anticipation that makes them so good!

So…here we are again – the 2013 growing season in Michigan.

For me it’s a sensory experience!  The perfume-like aroma of locally grown strawberries, the feel of a naturally ripened tomato and the crisp sound corn makes as you pull on the husk. I hope that you all feel the same!

Speaking of things that I like, here’s a summer squash and zucchini sauté recipe.

Even though I’m a chef and love to cook, there are those hot summer days when I just don’t want to make anything that takes a lot “stove time”. Plus, if you grow summer squash and zucchini you know they seem to magically grow overnight. A zucchini growing friend once told me that he would bag up his excess zucchinis and put them anonymously on neighbor’s porches in hopes that they’d be used rather then wasted. I don’t think he was as anonymous as he thought – the neighbors had to know!

3 small summer squash
3 small zucchini – if you only have big zucchini and summer squash you can cut them in ½” circles and quarter them.
4 to 6 green onions – cut into ½” sections – cut halfway up into the green stalk
2 oz. butter or extra virgin olive oil
3 strips cooked bacon – diced
Salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste

  1. Wash the squash and cut of the stem tips.
  2. Cut the squash into ½” circles
  3. In a large skillet, heat the butter until medium hot – reduce heat.
  4. Toss in the green onions and sauté for 10-15 seconds.
  5. Add the squash circles and sauté for 2-3 minutes at medium heat. There still should be a bit of a “crunch” to them.
  6. Lightly pepper the sautéed squash. NO SALT AT THIS POINT.
  7. Add the bacon and toss until well mixed.
  8. Now taste and add salt – if you add salt at step 6 you may make your final product too salty.
  9. I sometimes add a few more raw sliced green onions on top for color.

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