This time of year—of carefree, rosé-buzzed days—a tiny whisper threatens to crash the party: Enjoy this golden garden age before winter pummels us all over again. From crisp zucchini to juicy raspberries, there’s no better living metaphor for Boston’s blink-and-you-miss-it summer than local produce. “When I get excited about any food, it’s about celebrating it at the right time,” says Michael Schlow, the chef behind Eataly’s new coastal Italian pop-up, L’Ancora. “And when the food is in season, and Mother Nature’s done its job, and we get to cook with it, as a chef, that’s what gets us up in the morning.” Hoping to savor the sweetest days of summer, four chefs dish on the local ingredients at the heart of their warm-weather culinary treasures.
Ana Sortun, executive chef/owner of Oleana, wants you to rethink eggplant as you savor her imam biyildi, a classic Turkish dish that features twice-baked eggplant from Siena Farms topped with a mixture of olive oil, heirloom tomato, onion, herbs, corn and summer squash and finished with crumbled sujuk and maras pepper. “A lot of eggplant dishes tend to be heavy,” she says. “This turns eggplant into a light, fluffy, creamy vehicle for a lot of other vegetables to soak into.”
$11 at Oleana, 134 Hampshire St., Cambridge (617-661-0505) oleanarestaurant.com
The insalata di zucchine is no exception to Michael Schlow’s seasonal eating ethos as he helms L’Ancora. He focuses salads on of-the-moment veggies—from artichokes to mushrooms—and this time of the year, thinly sliced zucchini is the star, paired with extra-virgin olive oil, capers, lemon, local arugula and cheese. “The Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of it gives it an interesting contrast and a little bit of meatiness,” Schlow says.
$9 at Eataly’s L’Ancora pop-up, 800 Boylston St., Boston (617-807-7300)
Chef Eric Cooper of Forage first discovered cranachan—a traditional Scottish dessert of whipped cream and toasted oats, whiskey, honey and raspberries—as a young chef working in London. His spin combats summer scorchers with frozen whipped cream and combines fresh raspberries from Cooks Valley Farm in Wrentham with Mad River bourbon and local honey for a sweet and woodsy taste. “There is something magical about knowing that the raspberries are from right now,” Cooper says.
$10 at Forage, 5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge (617-576-5444) foragecambridge.com
Jason Bond, chef/owner of Bondir, gets creative with seasonality, serving a wax bean and snap pea salad topped with a vinaigrette made using Australian truffle, which ripens at the same time as the legumes—only a hemisphere away. With bright yellow wax beans sourced from JT’s Herbs and Produce in Newburyport, the salad boasts a brightness often lost to the supermarket shelf. Says Bond: “The flavor of the fresh beans are a little grassier, brighter and more pronounced.”
$12 at Bondir, 279 Broadway, Cambridge (617-661-0009) bondircambridge.com