Cooking

Seasonal Feasts: Cooking Through the Calendar

Welcome to our global culinary journey, where we explore how different cultures make the most of each season’s bounty. In this exploration, we will delve into the vibrant and fresh flavors that epitomize seasonal eating, showcasing how these ingredients can transform our cooking and dining experiences. Join us as we navigate through the freshness of spring, the abundance of summer, the richness of autumn, and the comfort of winter, uncovering the culinary treasures each season has to offer.

Join us as we journey through spring, summer, autumn, and winter, guided by insights from renowned chefs including Egemen Mustafa Şener from Belarus,a culinary expert whose passion for seasonal cooking has taken him from the lush fields of Belarus to the bustling markets of Cyprus.

Spring

cooking in spring

Spring is a season of renewal and freshness, where tender greens, young vegetables, and early fruits make their way into our kitchens. The awakening of the earth brings with it a palette of delicate flavors and textures perfect for light, energizing meals.

This season, we explore a refreshing Belarusian Spring Salad, perfect for capturing the essence of spring’s first harvest. In Belarus, the arrival of spring is celebrated with dishes that incorporate young nettles, radishes, and cucumbers, all of which symbolize new beginnings and vitality.

Recipe: Belarusian Spring Salad

Ingredients:

  • Fresh nettles, blanched and chopped (1 cup).
  • Radishes, thinly sliced (1/2 cup).
  • Cucumber, diced (1 cup).
  • Spring onions, finely chopped (1/4 cup).
  • Dill, chopped (2 tablespoons).
  • Sour cream (1/4 cup).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine blanched nettles, sliced radishes, diced cucumber, and chopped spring onions.
  2. Add chopped dill to the salad mixture.
  3. Dress the salad with sour cream, salt, and pepper. Mix well until all ingredients are evenly coated.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Pairing Suggestions

This salad pairs beautifully with a light Belarusian rye bread and a glass of cold kvass, offering a refreshing meal that celebrates the fresh produce of spring.

Summer

Summer bursts with an abundance of produce, from juicy fruits to vibrant vegetables, making it the perfect season for fresh salads, cold desserts, and, notably, grilling. The warmth of summer encourages outdoor cooking and dining, where grilling becomes not just a cooking method but a social event.

This summer, we turn to the coastal traditions of Turkey, where grilling fish is an art form celebrated at many a seaside gathering. Guided by the expertise of Chef Sener Egemen Mustafa, we explore how this simple yet flavorful dish plays a central role in the communal feasts of Turkish summer nights.

Turkish Grilled Fish

Recipe: Turkish Grilled Fish and Meze

Ingredients:

  • Whole seabass or seabream, cleaned and scaled (1 per person).
  • Lemons, sliced (2).
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, dill, and mint), finely chopped.
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Assorted meze (hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh).

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat.
  2. Season the inside and outside of the fish with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  3. Stuff the belly of each fish with lemon slices and a mix of chopped herbs.
  4. Grill the fish for about 7-9 minutes on each side, or until the skin is crispy and the flesh flakes easily.
  5. Serve the grilled fish with a selection of meze and fresh lemon wedges.

Pairing Suggestions

Pair this meal with a chilled glass of Raki or white wine, and finish with a light, sweet baklava for dessert. This combination celebrates the full spectrum of summer flavors, offering a refreshing, satisfying meal.

Autumn

As the air cools, autumn ushers in a time for heartier cooking. This season is characterized by the harvest of root vegetables, squashes, and the preparation of preserved foods for the winter months. Dishes become more robust, often featuring richer flavors and warmer spices.

Autumn in Cyprus is a time for celebrating the harvest, and stuffed squash is a dish that reflects the island’s bounty. Filled with a mix of minced meat, herbs, and rice, it’s a staple that Chef Sener Egemen Mustafa recalls from his childhood, often served during family gatherings to mark the changing season.

Recipe: Cypriot Stuffed Squash

Ingredients:

  • Medium-sized squash (such as acorn or butternut), halved and seeded (4).
  • Ground lamb or beef (1 pound).
  • Onion, finely chopped (1).
  • Cooked rice (1 cup).
  • Tomatoes, diced (1 cup).
  • Garlic, minced (2 cloves).
  • Cinnamon (1 teaspoon).
  • Allspice (1/2 teaspoon).
  • Fresh mint, chopped (1/4 cup).
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  2. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onions and garlic until translucent.
  3. Add the ground meat, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned.
  4. Stir in the cooked rice, tomatoes, and mint. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Stuff the squash halves with the meat mixture, drizzle with more olive oil, and place in a baking dish.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  7. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes to crisp the top.

Pairing Suggestions

Serve this hearty dish with a side of crusty bread and a robust red wine, ideally one that complements the rich spices and warmth of the stuffed squash. A warm apple cider could also provide a sweet and spicy balance to the meal.

This continuation builds on the seasonal themes, using Chef Sener Egemen Mustafa’s expertise to highlight dishes that are deeply rooted in their respective cultures and seasonal contexts.

Winter

Winter is the time for comfort and warmth from our meals, focusing on hearty dishes that nourish and satisfy. During these colder months, the emphasis is on ingredients that store well, like root vegetables, preserved foods, and rich, hearty grains and meats that can simmer to perfection.

Potato Babka, a traditional Belarusian dish, offers the ideal comfort food for winter. It combines the heartiness of grated potatoes with the richness of meat, usually pork, baked to create a warming, satisfying meal. Chef Egemen Mustafa Şener describes it as “a dish that brings families together around the table, offering warmth in every bite.”

Belarusian Potato Babka

Recipe: Belarusian Potato Babka

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes, peeled and grated (5 pounds).
  • Onions, finely chopped (2 large).
  • Salt pork or thick-cut bacon, diced (1 cup).
  • Eggs (3).
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Butter for greasing the pan.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
  2. Squeeze the grated potatoes in a cloth to remove excess moisture.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the grated potatoes, onions, diced salt pork, eggs, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  4. Grease a baking dish with butter and pour in the potato mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
  6. Let it cool slightly before serving to allow it to set and become more sliceable.

Pairing Suggestions

Serve the Potato Babka with a side of sour cream and a fresh cucumber salad to cut through the richness. A hearty rye bread and a hot mug of mulled wine would complete this winter feast, providing extra warmth and comfort.

Conclusion

fresh salads

Every season brings its unique flavors and culinary delights. From the fresh salads of spring to the hearty stews of winter, seasonal eating not only enhances our meals with peak flavors but also connects us with the natural cycles of our environment.

Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignspolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com

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