Packed with 101 enticing and accessible recipes, Peak Season showcases how to make the most of seasonal Ontario produce when it’s freshest!
In Peak Season, Deirdre Buryk explores this simple idea and celebrates Ontario’s seasonal bounty as she guides you through each month of the year. While cooking your way through this beautiful collection of 101 recipes, you’ll learn how to perfectly prepare fiddleheads in April, to then add to a Garlic Mushroom Fiddlehead Frittata; or peel what looks to be an intimidating, knobby celeriac on the coldest December evening, which will transform into a dish of Creamed Celeriac & Potatoes.
Deirdre gives you the chance to explore local ingredients without intimidation. After all, cooking with peak produce means simple ingredients shine when effortlessly prepared. Dishes like Roasted Delicata Squash with Sage Salsa Verde and Strawberry Shortcake Scones taste better because they’re made with the freshest fruits and vegetables. The simplest recipe cooked with peak produce—think roasted radishes or garlic scape pesto—will excite your taste buds, turning something basic into something remarkable.
Peak Season upholds the importance of cooking with ethically raised meat, poultry, fish, and eggs with dishes like Apricot BBQ Sticky Ribs, Baking-Sheet Coq au Vin, and Crispy Salmon on Cantaloupe Ribbons & Salty Potato Crisps. Filled with stunning photography and charming illustrations, this book will inspire you to cook with fresh ingredients available right outside your door and leave you feeling confident that it will all work out deliciously.
About the author
DEIRDRE BURYK is a recipe and content developer who writes, styles, photographs, and films for various organizations, including Fresh City Farms, The Healthy Butcher, and The Leslieville Farmers’ Market. Her background is in clinical nutrition and she takes most of her inspiration from nature and Ontario’s seasons. She has been selected by Fjällräven North America to be Toronto’s local guide in sustainability and leads their major events surrounding food accessibility and healthy eating. Deirdre lives in Toronto.
Find Deirdre on Instagram @deeburyk
Excerpt: Peak Season: 12 Months of Recipes Celebrating Ontario's Freshest Ingredients (by (author) Deirdre Buryk)
Peak Season is a story about what I’ve learned as my relationship to this land has deepened. Through my years of cooking, I have learned a lot about the food that grows in Ontario. Paying closer attention, I now realize how vibrant these fruits and vegetables are. This is a book—in fact, a love letter—about these gifts and the home that has provided it to me. Ontario is a province with wildly diverse flavours and people, with an ever-changing balance of seasons—a place that I believe should be a culinary destination. Sure, we are young when it comes to documenting our food history—maybe even a toddler stumbling in a world of grown-up regions like Oaxaca, Hong Kong, or Bologna—but Ontario is par- ticularly special. From my experience visiting farms, we have twelve distinct growing sea- sons—each with its own identity. Categorizing our climate into spring, summer, fall, and winter doesn’t seem to fit the bill when each month bears new ingredients at their freshest in, well, peak season. It’s like having your very own culinary muse in your backyard (or bal- cony garden in my case). Take a tomato, for example—so simple—plucked off the vine and eaten with just a sprinkle of sea salt. Or perhaps, drizzled with an herb oil and placed on a hunk of warm baguette in August—not November, not April—under the hot summer sun. By the time an ingredient goes out of season, something else, like a rich, nutty sun- choke—ready to relax into a velvety autumn soup—is in season, and the spirit of that August tomato will be a pleasant memory for next year.
Instead of tethering myself to a particular recipe and hunting down each specific ingredient, I prefer to cook by the season. It is a magic trick, really. Whatever may be in peak season is also going to be full of flavour and that vegetable fortitude is hard to mess up. Though, there is creativity needed for this. This type of cooking requires adapting to what is available and will always buoy a playful side to my cooking. I didn’t always cook with such intimacy. I spent much of my career teaching, counselling, and learning how to eat “optimally,” using the precision of numbers as a nutritionist. When I started devel- oping recipes in my test kitchen, years ago, at Fresh City Farms and in my more recent years coordinating the Leslieville Farmers’ Market, I began to broaden my relationships with food grown in Ontario and with those who grow it. The farmers I know have always been my greatest culinary teachers. I began to understand food a little more with everyfarmer I visited. A rooted carrot would be plucked out of the soil and urged to try. They would show me how a radish isn’t just a radish, but comes in many forms and spectrums of spice. How a new spring turnip is delicate and sweet, flavours best preserved by steam- ing instead of roasting. You may think you know what spinach tastes like, but nothing can be as healing as this verdant green picked straight from the field. If I could give you that perfect bunch of spinach that looks and feels alive, you would experience the mean- ing and wholesomeness of peak flavour—not even the most exotic superfood can com- pete with that. This is the foundation of cooking simply, connecting to home, eating with intent, and developing a deeper appreciation of how food gets to your plate. When I stopped trying to control the ingredients I wanted to use and let the repeating cycles of monthly vegetables and fruits inspire me, the more intuitive I became in the kitchen, and I hope the same happens for you.
In these pages you will find a collection of my favourite recipes made mostly from plants and inspired by this province’s flourishing seasons. Every season—and every month—presents a diverse ensemble of fruits and vegetables, each with their own charm- ing personalities. I like to keep my cooking simple and casual. When I cook at home, I cook in a relaxed, sensorial way that would probably raise eyebrows in my test kitchen. These recipes are more influenced by my home cooking than they are by my recipe development career. They are not definitive, and I invite you to use each one as a starting point to a new way of eating.
Whether you are looking for a quick, delicious meal or a sensational affair on a plate, there is something for everyone here and for all types of occasions. Most are easy recipes for those whose time is short, though I did sprinkle in some more involved recipes—such as mushroom-garlic pot-stickers for family night, a slow-cooked brisket during the high holidays, or a multi-layered carrot cake filled with Ontario walnuts and ground cherries to celebrate a special someone’s birthday. These recipes take a little extra time because the ritual of making them deserves as much attention as the ingre- dients themselves. These types of traditions create magical moments that I, like many, carry forever.
Some recipes I hold near and dear to my heart are from my grandma, my aunts, my mother, and my father, while many are inspired by friends, teachers, and loved ones who have welcomed me into their kitchens and showed me the heart of their cuisine—and lucky for me, in Toronto, there are many cuisines to taste. As you flip through each month’s recipes, it will become more and more evident that I grew up on the flavours of my home- town, Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Dishes here are influ- enced by Chinese, Italian, French, Jamaican, Japanese, and Mexican cuisines, to name a few. All of these have played a major part in developing my taste buds. Just like the soil thatfosters an astonishing range of fruits and vegetables, Ontario food is also inherently about celebrating an exchange of cultural diversity.
I hope this book offers you many new cooking experiences and inspires you to eat all the wonderful plants that Ontario has to offer. And more than anything, my dream is to give you an opportunity to develop a new relationship to this land, these plants, these animals, and most importantly, to one another. It doesn’t matter where we are from; we all find ourselves making food as a way to live a life deliberately full of love and kindness.
PRAISE FOR PEAK SEASON
“There is a reason why chefs love to cook vegetables—because of the endless possibilities. Deirdre is an amazing culinary architect and tour guide of the seasons showcasing the very best that Ontario harvests have to offer. Peak Season will shift the way you think about good eating and delicious cooking in the most inspiring and informative way.”
—LYNN CRAWFORD, chef and bestselling author of Farm to Chef
“Deirdre Buryk has written a beautiful love story about true Ontario ingredients from soil to plate. This book will find a welcome place in the home of any cook feeding friends and family, from one season to the next.”
—CARL HEINRICH, chef and co-owner of Richmond Station
“Peak Season will inspire you to eat well, celebrate Ontario’s agricultural abundance, and intimately connect with nature and our growing seasons. With Deirdre as your guide, visit your local farmers’ market and start cooking with fresh ingredients!”
—BRIANA KIM, chef and owner of Alice restaurant
“With Deirdre’s wonderful book we now have all the intel we need to deliciously cook along with the calendar, including seasonal grains, fruits, and vegetables. Within these pages, you’ll learn there’s more to eat from your own Ontario backyard than you ever imagined.”
—AMY ROSEN, journalist and cookbook author
“I fell down the seasonal food rabbit hole and found it filled with farmers, foragers, and crazed cooks. Now, we also have Deirdre Buryk, a guide and fabulous documenter of gorgeous ingredients and recipes drawn from our plush multicultural landscape. Peak Season is a loving guide to Ontario’s bounty, filled with dishes that have me hungry and struggling to decide: outside for ingredients or into the kitchen?”
—BRAD LONG, chef and owner of Cafe Belong