"I've been working in some facet of the restaurant business since I was 14 years old," says Stacy Murphy.
You know Stacy: She's the one serving up bites of killer recipes made from our farmshare produce each week. It's no wonder her recipes are so good. After years in front-of-house positions, Stacy finally went to culinary school in early twenties. Upon graduation, she trained in New Orleans, where she worked for Emeril Lagasse for a year-and-a-half. She returned to her native northeast to focus on regional Italian cuisine, but then a desire to round out her expertise led her to work under fusion restaurateur and TV personality Ming Tsai. With a solid skill set in place, "I wanted to focus on working with farms and being a responsible consumer," Stacy says, so she worked at a locavore comfort food haunt in Worcester, Mass. She and her husband Nate moved to historic Oakwood two years ago, and now Stacy's days are full of their 2-year-old son, Jeremiah.
At Farmers' Collective, Stacy combines her professional experience with busy-mom practicality to inspire CSA customers to get creative in how they utilize their weekly produce shares. Here are a few tips to get you going:
- Don't fret over recipes. Really. "My greatest mentor, Chef Tony Bettencourt [of Tomasso Trattoria in Massachusetts], taught me to cook using my senses," Stacy says. "We ran an award-winning restaurant based on sound, touch, taste, and smell." So view recipes as a launchpad and feel free to digress, tweak, and go with the flow. "Anyone can follow a recipe, but until you connect with the food, it's impossible to really create perfection." Knowing who grew your produce is a great way to connect.
- ... But think ahead when you can. Stacy says the fun — and the peril — of cooking with in-season produce is that, sometimes, "you have to change plans or menus based on the weather and the environment." You can use that to your advantage, too: Learn how to pickle (or quick-pickle!) summer vegetables to enjoy long into the fall; make a simple homemade tomato sauce, load it into cans, and freeze it to dig out in the dead of winter; try your hand at garnishes like leek preserves and red pepper jam.
- Stock up on the essentials. Good home cooking requires nothing fancy, y'all. Stacy says as long as you have "a sharp knife," you can conquer anything. An open mind and a sense of humor are helpful, too.
- Season, season, season! The key to seasonal cooking is seasoning. "When you use fresh ingredients, there is a lot less work involved, because the flavors are already there," Stacy says. All you really need is SALT. Pepper, fresh herbs, and your favorite spices are good, too; but salt is necessary. "Salt is the difference between a professional and a home cook."
Hungry yet? Stacy is usually at our weekly farmshare pick-ups, so stop on by to pick her brain for advice, tips, or ideas. And let us know what yummy combinations you come up with — we'd love to share them!