We asked chefs: What’s your favorite summer ingredient?

We asked Tucson chefs and let them answer as briefly or in as much detail as they wanted

Last modified on August 10th, 2018 at 11:12 am

“We Asked Chefs” is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food. 


Adrian Castillo

Cielos at Lodge on the Desert
Executive chef Adrian Castillo at Cielos at Lodge on the Desert (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Adrian Castillo at Cielos at Lodge on the Desert (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Arizona figs are, hands down, my favorite summer ingredient. It reminds me of when I was a kid climbing on my Auntie Stella’s fig tree on Sundays after church. Fast forward many years later, we are using figs for some really cool things here at Lodge on the Desert with our summer menu. We do this really cool fig and blue cheese toast, which uses local honey, fresh figs, blue cheese, pecans, cranberries and crunchy sea salt. We’re making tons of jam, and we are pickling a bunch of stuff for our chef’s boards which include these gorgeous local figs.”

Riley Chandler

Pop-Up Tucson
Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Prickly pear fruit is my favorite summer ingredient and one of the main things I look forward to every summer, second to watermelon Eegee’s. I harvest all my own prickly pear and call it ‘urban foraging’ because I don’t need to go in the desert. I can find beautiful prickly pears on the side of Campbell as well as other Tucson roads and neighborhoods. I use them to make a syrup that can be used for pancakes, margaritas, barbecue sauce, ice cream, et cetera. I can make it in large batches and preserve it all year. I have already harvested 10 pounds this week.”

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Doug Levy

Feast
Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I love them all — tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, clean fresh basil, and plump, juicy stone fruits — but the thing I wait impatiently for every year is without question the squash blossoms.”

View our September 2017 Nine on the Line with Doug Levy.

Kyle Nottingham

Commoner & Co. • Prep & Pastry
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Commoner & Co. and Prep & Pastry partner-chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“MUSHROOMS!

Monsoon season is always one of my favorite times of the year in Tucson, and with rain brings mushrooms. Beautiful, wild, perfect mushrooms that grow in the high altitudes of the mountains stretching from Mount Lemmon to Northern Arizona. I have been obsessed with native ingredients that grow all around us that we have to forage and gather. Mushrooms have always been one of my favorite ingredients to use and now that I can hike through the mountains after a summer rain and find them in the wild, it makes them even more delicious. Oysters have been plentiful lately and in the late summer we should have porcinis, hedgehogs, chanterelles, and many more varieties.

I always go with an expert and make sure we identify each ingredient before harvest. It can be very dangerous but it almost adds to the thrill of the adventure of foraging. There is nothing better than getting your forage basket out, sunrise drives up the mountain to eat wild raspberries for breakfast and searching for your favorite mushrooms.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Brian Smith

Maynards Market & Kitchen
Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Summer is one of my favorite times of the year. I really enjoy stone fruits, in particular, cherries, peaches, apricots. All some of my most favorite things to work with. They’re all so versatile in both savory and sweet applications which make them fun to work with.”

View our May 2017 Tools They Use with Brian Smith.

Marcus van Winden

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge
The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“In the Netherlands, the beginning of summer marks white asparagus season, which only lasts six weeks. The fresh white asparagus you can get over there is incredible and very different from what is sold in stores over here. As soon as the season started, I would create dish after dish using white asparagus.

Here, right now, I love creating salads. It’s too hot for anything heavy, so salads are nice and light but still filling.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Marcus van Winden.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
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