July 13: Book signing from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Southern Season, 201 Estes Drive, Chapel Hill (free)

July 14: Cooking demonstration, 6-7 p.m. at Bridge Club, 105 W. Hargett St., Raleigh ($45), followed by an 8-10 p.m. cocktail party with Q&A led by INDY writer Grayson Currin ($65).

Tickets available from Eventbrite.
To paraphrase a familiar source, to everything there is a season. Grow, shop, cook. And, suggests Steven Satterfield: Eat, enjoy, be healthy.

“I was just reading an article about eating a highly plant-based diet and how it correlates with intestinal health and overall health,” says the chef at Atlanta’s renowned Miller Union, where even protein-based meals are designed around the availability of peak season produce. “All these studies demonstrate that people who eat more fruit and vegetables have a higher rate of good bacteria in their intestines, and they also are more slim and fit.

“It’s important to not blow this out of proportion,” adds Satterfield, who has a new cookbook, Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons. “It’s important to eat a balanced diet. I eat cheeseburgers and all kinds of fried things, but I also eat fresh produce at every meal.”

Satterfield, who recently tweeted about his third anniversary of being cancer-free, believes his diet has a big impact on his good health. The lean chef intends his book to be a source of inspiration for more people to experience the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables.

“The main reason I wrote Root to Leaf is people don’t know how to cook vegetables,” he says. “There’s this mentality that you have to follow a recipe to the T or it won’t come out right. Unless it’s baking, it’s just not true.”

And while it may be comforting to make grandma’s cheesy squash casserole with the breadcrumb topping every summer, why not instead shave it into a raw fennel salad or tuck the plant’s tender blossoms into a frittata?

“My grandmother made that casserole, too, and it’s great,” Satterfield allows. “But there are so many other things to do.”

With a basic understanding of grilling, sautéing, roasting, Satterfield says home cooks “really can cook like chefs do, which is without a lot of recipes.
“Once you get some technique under your belt and develop a sense of not overcooking,” he adds, you can creatively prepare most anything from the garden. “The other bonus is that you can taste as you go, which is how you learn to stop cooking a chanterelle when it’s still springy, or a summer squash when it just begins to sag. You can’t do that when you’re cooking chicken.”

Satterfield’s new book is one of several this summer, including titles by fellow Georgia chef Hugh Acheson and New York-based Brit April Bloomfield, that focus on creative ways to incorporate more plant-based ingredients in your diet. His photo-filled guide is especially appealing in that each chapter is arranged by season, with an introduction that’s as welcoming and revealing as an invitation to a family supper.

Satterfield encourages home cooks to leave shopping lists behind and approach farmers markets with an open mind, selecting what looks best before deciding what to make. His mostly short recipes are generally printed two to a page, a format that recalls old-school community cookbooks.
While several Miller Union dishes are featured, most entries are refreshingly uncomplicated, making them ideal for a novice cook. However, they deliver deep flavors and simple twists on classics that will satisfy those who are confident in the kitchen.

Satterfield’s summer succotash gets an enticing update with the addition of minced country ham, finely diced sweet onion and a sprinkling of fresh tarragon. Push the envelope with baba ghanoush, the smoky eggplant dip, which gets a Southern makeover with roasted peanuts instead of the traditional tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds.

Juicy peaches are now in abundance. While typically the star of sweet desserts, the stone fruit gets flavorful grill marks in this summer salsa.


Grilled Peach Salsa
Reprinted by permission of Steven Satterfield from Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons (Harper Wave).

Makes 3 1/2 cups

4 firm-ripe freestone peaches
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small sweet onion, diced small
1 small serrano or jalapeño chile, minced (seeds removed if desired to tame the heat)
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or 1 Tbsp.each cilantro and basil, chopped
Preheat the grill. Peel the peaches and then cut into halves, removing the pit. Lightly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on the grill, cut side down. Turn over once and allow to warm through on both sides. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Cut the peaches into a rough dice and then place in a bowl and combine with the onion, chile, lime and herbs. Season to taste with additional salt.

Disclosure: INDY music writer Grayson Haver Currin helped organize this event but had no input on the story or the coverage.
Jill Warren Lucas is a Raleigh writer who blogs at Eating My Words. Follow her at @jwlucasnc.