5@5 - Chef Jacob Sessoms
June 6th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

The official start of the sweet, sweet summertime is nigh - and when it comes to those culinarily-inclined, the June 21 kick-off is full of all sorts of awesome.

Bring on those peaches, cherries and watermelon! And if you want to add a cold glass of sangria to the spread, we certainly would not object.

Oh summer, how do we love thee? Let Jacob Sessoms from Table Restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, help us count the ways.

Five Thoughts on Spring/Early Summer in the South as a Cook: Jacob Sessoms

1. Asparagus
"Along with strawberries, this is the harbinger of spring. I know everybody loves asparagus but as a professional chef, I REALLY love asparagus. Every cook in every restaurant and professional kitchen cooks asparagus, but what really counts is getting the most out of it in the few short weeks that it grows nearby.

I love to slice it very thin and keep it raw. Dress it with lemon juice, really nice extra virgin olive oil, toss it with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and pine nuts for a simple, healthy salad. Run away with this idea: add different nuts like hazelnuts, then dress it with hazelnut oil, add fresh strawberries.

Maybe make it more filling with buttery croutons and cold poached shrimp. We know asparagus loves to be sautéed, but roasting it and serving it with poached eggs is even better."

2. Strawberries
"As I said, the harbinger of spring! For me strawberries really mean winter is truly over. I love watching my youngest son shoving strawberries in his mouth. He's 11 but strawberries make him like he did when he was two - strawberry juice all over his face and a giant grin as he follows me around the farmers' market. (Note: the only difference in the age seems to be his ability to make fun of me more readily!)

My wife likes to muddle strawberries into a Mint Julep; my buddy and co-chef, Matt, prefers to muddle them with cucumber into a Pimm's Cup for the best Steeplechase cocktail. I like them the best with sugar and cream.

For something a little more intriguing, try strawberries with dill, mint and black olive served with whipped feta with lots of cracked black pepper."

3. Soft-shell Crabs
"On the East Coast, soft-shell crabs are the easiest item as a professional cook to sell to the public. I think very few people like to tackle them at home. Maybe it’s the the fact they like to try to crawl away before you can cook them, maybe it's because you have to cut their face off, and maybe its just that you make such a mess trying to fry them. I'm not sure, but I'll continue to cook them every spring while the moon cycle and weather cooperates to keep them molting.

The easiest is, obviously, battered and deep-fried. However, like everything else, we're always looking for different preparations that work.

My favorite right now: grilled and served with one of the salads mentioned with raw asparagus or strawberries and feta."

4. Rosé
"Oh, I love rosé. As soon as the weather turns nice and I have a night off, my wife and I sit on the front porch and drink the first rosé to arrive stateside. We tend to pre-order all our rosé for the company during the winter months. They arrive as they are bottled and shipped from Europe.

We usually start with a rosé of Pinot noir from Sancerre. Next, the Provençal blends arrive. Then the Tavel from Southern France, and finally (for us) the crazy rosé from Liguria in Italy. This one is awesome with a bright red color and huge strawberry flavors.

However, right now, my favorite is a rosé of Pinot noir from Robert Sinskey in Carneros, California. This rosé has a bright, salmon color with deep herbal flavors, and aroma of fresh berries. It has proven to be perfect with a porch and sunshine."

5. Eating
"As a professional in a kitchen, it is so easy to forget about why I fell for cooking in the first place - I love to eat, I love food, and I really respect the art of the table.

It is usually in the months of May and June, that I am determined to stay at home and make dinner, invite friends over, drink a cocktail, open some wine and make a big, simple, home-cooked meal.

Then, I take the next day off and go visit one of my friends in their restaurant and be served a dinner with all the new vegetables coming in from the South."

What sweet taste of summer are you looking forward to? Share the delicious joy in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Asparagus • Scorpacciata • Southern • Spring Vegetables • Think • Vegetables

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. nickyjane

    Softshell crabs are best served sauteed on a BLT with super fresh tomatoes!!

    June 8, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  2. Carrie Alford of TX

    How funny I went to the grocery store just yesterday due to me wanting a fried softshell crab and I didn't find it. I 1st eaten this at the peachtree in Kansas and it was the bomb and I have been having that taste in my mouth for almost a yr

    June 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  3. deadheadcook

    awww.. no one mentioned rhubarb. Yes, the strawberries are great, but when the rhubarb in the back of the garden starts coming into season, I can't wait to put together pies, cakes, jams and more.. that is a sign of spring here, where winter seems to last forever sometimes...

    June 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Olive Lover

      I love rhubarb! Just made my first strawberry rhubarb pie of the season last weekend.

      June 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  4. Kristin

    This is a late summer favorite but...sweet corn from the farm down the road. Little salt, little (okay, lots) of butter. Nothing better on an August day.

    June 7, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Jerv

      Oh yeah, and I like black pepper on mine.

      June 7, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  5. Bonnie

    Jersey tomatoes are a summer delicacy, so I can't agree with Andrea, but we are in the midst of strawberry season. I've eaten so many, I'm going to sprout seeds soon.

    June 7, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  6. Andrea

    Tomatoes. You forgot tomatoes. A deep red, perfectly ripe, never refrigerated tomato a day or two off the vine from East Texas' acidic soils is a sublime taste and texture. No tomato you can buy in a store or get anywhere else in the USA is comparable. I dream about them when I can't have them! Another two weeks or so and they will be ready, and then I will probably eat 10 a week through September!

    June 6, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Jerv

      Damn, I'm jealous. Enjoy!

      June 7, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  7. Carla Hurst-Chandler

    Have grown "Tribute" strawberries for the past 3 years. They are Everbearings. Picked my first few berries in late May...made Jam on the weekend and they will bear heavily through late October...even into November if the weather is mild (we are zone 6) Smaller than California berries...about the size of your thumb...but packed with flavor.

    June 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  8. Matthew

    I was just commenting on this today, how no matter how hard a day you have had, a serving of strawberry short cake will make you smile.

    June 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  9. moltomuchacho

    Kiwi! lots of it!

    June 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  10. grofys

    i just had a bowl of garden strawberries. for once i got there before the rabbits, birds and squirrels.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  11. Maris (In Good Taste)

    There is nothing better than strawberry season! It's short where I love but oh so good.

    June 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  12. fob

    Homegrown strawberries!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  13. Cole

    Raw asparagus salad? Got to give that a shot.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
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