When someone asks me who or what is my best friend in the kitchen, I don’t even need to think about it. It’s my freezer! Not very romantic, I know. But it’s the truth. Yes, like everyone else, I use it to store leftovers, ice cream, and meats I’ve stocked up on during special sales. But more importantly, my freezer is my “Resource Center.”

I’m passionate about serving farm-fresh, Farmhouse Fusion dishes made of all the wonderful fruits and vegetables available “in season” throughout the year. But living in the north means we have a short growing season. We have about five months – maybe six in a good year – to grow what we’re going to want throughout the year. For Home Chefs, that means we excel at creating “resources” from what we’ve grown or purchased in season at the farm market.

For me, that doesn’t just mean blanching, bagging, and vacuum-packing vegetables, then throwing them into the freezer. It means being creative; making things like Ramp and Pea pesto while the ramps and peas are fresh, dividing it into small portions, sealing with olive oil, and then freezing. It means making compound butters from fresh herbs, rolling them into logs, and freezing them. It means making the dough for cocktail biscuits from fresh onions, garlic, and chives, then rolling them and freezing them for later. And it means roasting fresh beets – you’ve got it, then freezing them for use in the months ahead. So, while we may not be able to get garden-fresh produce all year long, we are certainly able to create dishes that started with those fresh ingredients we love.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m entertaining is to create a meal entirely from my “Resource Center” – i.e. without having to make a dreaded trip to the grocery store. Tonight is going to be one of those nights. I “consulted” my freezer yesterday to see what was available. I’m excited about what I found. (I’m particularly excited because it’s almost the end of April, and my freezer is getting pretty empty!) Here’s the menu I’ve been able to create:

  • Pesto Cocktail Biscuits and Roasted Tomato Tapenade for appetizers.

  • Roasted Farmhouse Onion Soup for the starter course.

  • Garden Fresh Lamb Meatballs – they’ll be “garden fresh” because I’m able to use some of the grated zucchini, carrots, and onions I froze for just such a dish.

  • Pumpkin and Kale Risotto – I’m even using some chicken stock I had made and frozen earlier.

  • Cacio Y Pepi Scones using a little of the parmesan cheese I had frozen after the holidays.

  • Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake. It’s one of my Signature recipes, and my guests love it. I found some beets I had roasted and frozen during the fall harvest, and they’ll be perfect! This, or course, will be the coup d gras!

This sounds to me like a perfect meal – and I’m sure my guests are going to agree. But it didn’t just “happen.” So a word to the wise Home Chef is important here: creating meals like this takes planning and organization. It means taking the time and making the effort to process the wonderful produce we get, when we get it! It means making the pestos and sauces when the herbs and vegetables are in season. It means roasting the pumpkins and beets when they’re fresh from the garden. It even means making stock from turkey bones (or chicken, or beef) when you have them.

Planning and organizing like this should become a habit – and one that will change your culinary life. Once you’ve started the process, you’ll never look back. You’ll never want to have another one of those exhausting days that starts in the morning with a trip to the grocery store, and ends at the dishwasher after your guests have left at night!

Even more important is the fact that you’ll be able to serve your guests those delicious and satisfying meals they’ve come to appreciate (and maybe even expect) from your table – and you’ll be able to do it any time of the year! You’ll have done what you set out to do, and enjoyed yourself in the process.

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