What's Your SIGNATURE?

We all have a signature. In many ways, it’s what distinguishes us to the rest of the world. But our signatures aren’t just something that is found at the end of a letter, or at the bottom of a legal agreement. In fact, our signatures aren’t just something we put in writing. For example, we develop our own “signature” areas. They are seen in the styles we adopt: the garden . . . even the recipes we cook. Because I am a Chef, I guess that’s where my signature is the most highly developed – the most obvious.

Several recipes have become more important in my culinary repertoire than others. They are the ones I seem to enjoy preparing the most. The ones I serve most frequently. The ones my guests have come to expect – and sometimes even request. In every case, they are the recipes I have spent the most time developing and perfecting. These are my Signature!

Garden Fresh Bolognese Sauce. Roasted Ratatouille. Strawberry Lavender Jam. Chicken Picatta and Chicken Marsala. Green Olive Tapenade. Cocktail Biscuits. Roasted French Breakfast Radishes. Braised Lamb Shanks and Shepherds Kitchen Lamb Meatballs. These are just a few of my Signature recipes.

I get excited to make these dishes. For example, I look forward to Labor Day weekend every year. Not because it is the official start of the football season, but because for me it’s the start of Ratatouille Season! I find myself counting down the days until I can harvest the ingredients from the garden (or buy them at the Farm Market). I relish the exercise of chopping the ingredients. And I am like a kid on Christmas morning when I take the roasting pot out of the oven and serve the fresh ratatouille for the first time. I know, I’m a nerd! But for me, the only appropriate response to that first bite is, “Ahhhhh!!!!”

I guess that’s what every signature recipe is about. They are the recipes that draw “Ahhhhhs” from your guests. Some of them are seasonal – like my Ramp and Pea Pesto in the spring; my Savory Sausage and Pumpkin Lasagna in the fall; and my Independence Day Ribs in the summer. Others are ‘perennial,’ meaning that we make them to have on hand throughout the year. For me, that includes things like several versions of Tapenade; or Pot Roast, which I am bound to make anytime except during the extreme heat of July and August. At those times, Espresso Grilled Lamb Chops or Asian Slaw are the Signatures I tend to put on my menus.

The most important thing about Signature recipes is not so much that you love them (although that is certainly important). It’s that you love them enough to use only the best ingredients available and taken the time to perfect the recipes. That’s when you can expect to draw “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhhs” from the guests at your table.

I encourage you to begin to develop your own Signature in the kitchen. For some of you, that may be something as basic as Lasagna, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, or Chicken Noodle Soup. For others, it may be something more exotic like Osso Bucco or Ahi Tuna. Whatever it is, make it something that you love, and that your guests will grow to love (and look forward to) too.

For our recipe for Roasted Ratatouille and other Signature dishes, visit us online at: www.morningstarkitchen.com

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