Chef John Foster: Throw a KISS to Thanksgiving — and sit down to a meal all your guests can enjoy

By this time, you’ve probably read a half a dozen articles on how to present the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. You’ve watched countless shows on the best pumpkin pie, or the new improved side dishes to spice up your holiday tables. I don’t need to tell you about basting versus self-basting, the dangers of stuffing the bird or cooking the dressing separately. If you have...

Chef John Foster: Meal planning takes center stage in the kitchen as holiday season approaches

Holiday meals always present the most obvious challenges to cooks. Pre-planning, prep lists that stretch over two or three days. Multiple trips to the grocery store and multiple carts are standard operating procedure this time of year. So many articles on holiday planning, menus and “new” techniques fill the magazines or websites of the cooking world that the rest of the day-to-day planning is...

Chef John Foster: Herbs, an acquired joy of cooking; used fresh or dry, they matter (fresh is best!)

Let’s be honest here, no one expected snow to fall before Halloween. True, there wasn’t much in the way of accumulation, but the fact that it got cold enough to see the flakes fall literally sent shivers up my spine. I’m not ready yet to give up on fall and slog through an early winter, but as is always the case with Mother Nature, it seems she has other plans. Now we may be left with hustling...

Chef John Foster: It’s a good time to turn to the versatile potato — and here are some favorite recipes

Cold and rainy, dark and gloomy, fall has hit the area in the form of chilly temperatures and heavy rain. I liken it to a good wash after a long summer. A little scrubbing, some fresh clothes, and we’re all tidied up for the holidays. Unfortunately, most of us are still in summer mode, cooking away as though the temperatures hadn’t dropped 30 degrees and it wasn’t pitch black at 7 p.m....

Chef Foster: Channel your inner Pilgrim by making creative recipes using seasonal pumpkins

Inevitably, sometime in October I will be pressed to write about pumpkins. I will talk about their history, the origins, the botanical aspects of the various squash, and finally what you can and can’t do with them. It’s not that I mind doing this, pumpkins are after all the focal point of October, and even fall in general. Pumpkin festivals, along with corn mazes and fall hay rides were part of...

Chef Foster: Soup may not be a cure-all, but it can still be a remedy for what’s ailing us

I’ve got the sniffles and a nagging cough. Not sure if it’s allergies or I’ve finally succumbed to a common cold that’s been circulating through school. The good and the bad of fall wrapped up into one condition for which there is no cure, except? Well you can’t really call soup a cure for anything, but it can be a remedy for a lot of what may ail us. A cure would be too easy, would allow...

Chef Foster: Preserving the sanctity of pasta, one of our oldest and most versatile culinary treasures

Mention the word pasta to someone and they may shrug their shoulders slightly. Yeah, they like it alright but it’s a quick dinner, or a snack for a hungry teenager. The era of pasta as king of the menu is past, and with the proliferation of boxed pastas ready to microwave, it’s taken on a fast food mentality that to me is infuriating. This is an art form in other countries, whether it’s...

Chef Foster: A well-stocked pantry will save precious minutes for your weekend cooking projects

When fall rolls around every year, we anticipate that after the kids are back to school and the days start getting shorter, there will be a brief period of time when things will slow down. A break of sorts as we downshift from summer and gear up for the impending holiday seasons (plural) which seem to start up again the month before Halloween. Often, we find quite abruptly that this is not the case....

Chef Foster: Step out of your comfort zone with fall offerings and experience a new level of eating local

The fall season in Kentucky can become a series of culinary acrobatics, twists and turns that jolt us out of our summer reverie and force us into cooking contortions we haven’t experienced in a long time. Many “pulled muscles” result, some of which can be happy accidents on our menus, while others are quickly tossed and hopefully forgotten. In my many years of seasonal adjustments, realizing...

Chef Foster: Food is the gift that truly keeps on giving — especially when it’s your birthday

I have a September birthday, middle of the month in fact. I feel a bit lucky every time it rolls around, not only because that means I made it another year, but that I get to choose my birthday dinner, no ifs ands or buts. That doesn’t happen very often, maybe an anniversary or sometimes a holiday, but going back as far as I can remember each person in my family, parents included got one day when...

Chef Foster: Raw?! Unlock the culinary range of your peppers through smoking or roasting

I just spent an evening smoking trays of banana peppers to put away for another menu change, and in doing so I’m reminded as to how much more I love peppers smoked and or roasted. Raw peppers to me miss the point. They’re like a bank robber taking the safe with him, and leaving it unopened, all that potential just sitting there. Peppers are the basis for some of the richest most memorable flavors...

Chef Foster: Sometimes taken for granted, the common potato has a prominent spot at the table

Last week’s column talked about the forgotten vegetables at the market, and in the midst of all the discussion about the weird and wonderful choices I left out one very obvious one: potatoes. While certainly not forgotten, (we eat as a nation, a LOT of potatoes) the potato represents the base of a wide range of cuisines, not only in this country but around the world. A starch, a filler, a carrier...

Chef Foster: Growers can provide knowledge, advice on the subject of forgotten produce of summer

Let’s call them the forgotten produce of the summer. The eggplants and kohlrabi, radishes and kale. Coveted by a few, but overlooked for the sexier and alluring stuff like peppers and tomatoes with their bright shiny colors. You can’t even call them the workhorses of the kitchen, that title is reserved for the local carrots, potatoes and onions that have started to appear. So where do these forgotten...

Chef Foster: Bountiful supply of late summer vegetables leaves chefs with plenty of options

Summer solstice is long gone. Corn that’s knee high by the Fourth of July? Already past. Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat? Not quite to that point yet, but we have reached the peak of Kentucky’s bounty, right here and now. I know that because I have too many choices to make and too little cooler space to fit everything. A sample list of what I could provide would go something like...

Chef Foster: Success in the restaurant business comes when luck is combined with preparation

Luck can manifest itself in many ways. One can stumble upon it — when you least expect it you can pull the winning ticket. Luck can be granted to you, and if you’re “lucky” it will materialize. Or you can work at being lucky, doggedly pursuing your successes, changing things when they don’t work, monitoring your ups and downs until the day that lightning strikes. Farming is very much...

Chef Foster: Elusiveness, local availability of seasonal fruits is all just part of their appeal

It seems like only yesterday that we were enjoying the literal fruits of the land, indulging in big fat strawberries, then blueberries and on to black raspberries and the like. These fruits went by us so fast that unless you were locked into buying them all up you may have missed them entirely as they whizzed by. Melons and cantaloupe and watermelons now rule the day, fruits we identify solely with...

Chef Foster: Beans, whether fresh or dried, are so much more than just a rich source of protein

It has taken me a long time to figure out people’s fascination with beans. Beans in the fresh form and dried beans seem to dominate the market from mid-summer on. Colors, textures and varieties on are full display and there is a recipe or two for each and every type. My previous experience has been the standard stringless green bean, although in culinary school and beyond I was introduced to the...

Chef Foster: Take advantage of living in a region that encourages year-round farm to table eating

There comes a point in every summer season when I look around and think the market can’t get any bigger. Trays and baskets filled with tomatoes and peppers. Whole trucks of corn, baked up into a side street over flowing with ears of corn still with beads of moisture on them. Rows of quart containers filled with peaches, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, blackberries, we really are at the peak of production....

Chef Foster: Corn is an easy target for critics, but in its basic form, can add a lot to your meal

About this time of the year I start to write about corn. Usually I warn about the evils of what I like to call “big corn” and its effect on the modern American diet. I rail about corn being the basis of everything we eat, about how we season with corn, we bind with corn, we preserve with corn, all to our detriment. I’ll admit, it’s an easy column, it’s always easier on the soapbox. Lost...

Chef Foster: Regional restaurant scene no longer dominated by fast food; hometown talent emerging

It sometimes helps with perspective when you visit another city or state and immerse yourself in their version of your world at home. For me, of course, it is restaurants, local food, sustainable systems, and the chef entrepreneur. Any one of those topics takes on a different hue when the city is half the size or the state is in a different time zone. A place out of time, like Edisto Island, or a...