WELLBEING: Seasons 52, a Winning Concept

By Chef Judi Gallagher & Marsha Fottler

The two of us eat at restaurants all over the country all the time, since it’s part of our job and because we are just unrepentant foodies. Consequently, we have the opportunity to evaluate a lot of restaurant concepts that come and go. We love Seasons 52, which is part of the Darden chain of casual dining restaurants, probably best known for Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Darden is headquartered in the Orlando, Florida area and the first Seasons 52 debuted in that part of the state. Seasons 52, which adheres to a seasonally-driven menu, pioneered and popularized the idea of eating small-plate-sharing style, eating lighter and eating more sensibly without sacrificing any of the social enjoyment or gastronomic satisfaction of going out to dinner. The menu is global, inventive, intriguing yet nothing on the menu is over 475 calories. The portions are adequate and the desserts are mini.

For so many years it has seemed to nutritionists and food writers that restaurants were contributing to the battle of the bulge by offering enormous portions loaded down with sour cream, mounds of cheese and an overall fat contents that led to the description of some foods as “heart attack on a plate.” Seasons 52 challenges that with creative foods that are fresh and flavorful.

Seasons 52 restaurants are now located in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas. Upcoming new locations are Naples, Florida, Indianapolis, Indiana and Bethesda, Maryland. If you’re traveling and see a Seasons 52, you can confidently stop in for a delicious meal in warm and welcoming surroundings. If you can’t find a Seasons 52 in your neighborhood yet, here are two recipes that the executive chef shares with our Flavors And More readers.

Grilled Turkey Skewers

4 servings

2 pounds turkey breast, no skin

2 onions, medium-size

2 yellow bell pepper, medium-size

2 red bell pepper, medium-size

4 tablespoons ginger, fresh ground

¼ cup soy sauce, low sodium

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cut peppers and onions into 1½” squares. Sauté on medium-high for 30 seconds with extra virgin olive oil. Let cool. Cut turkey into 1½” cubes and place in shallow dish. Mix rice vinegar, ginger, soy, and honey. Pour over turkey and let marinate for one hour. With a skewer, place turkey cube, yellow bell pepper and red bell pepper and then repeat 4 times with turkey, yellow and red bell pepper. Repeat procedure on three more skewers. Prepare grill. Sprinkle turkey skewers with salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high heat 6-7 minutes per side. Baste turkey with BBQ sauce halfway. Cook turkey to 165°. Keep warm.

Sauce Options:

Take favorite store BBQ for basting (optional, add ¼ cup lime juice, 1 bunch chopped cilantro) Or maple-bourbon glaze at holiday time.

Shiner Bock Buffalo Chili

1½ tablespoons chili powder

1½ tablespoons paprika

1½ tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

2 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1½ pounds buffalo leg or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into ½” cubes

1 onion, finely chopped

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced small

2 poblano peppers seeded and diced small

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced fine

4 tablespoons oregano chopped fresh

1 tablespoon chipotle Tabasco

2 bottles Shiner Bock beer

2 cups tomato sauce

3 cups black beans, canned, drained and rinsed

4 ounce fresh lime juice

¼ cup cilantro chopped fresh

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Cornbread and low-fat sour cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a shallow bowl, stir together chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper and flour. Rub buffalo with spice mixture. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for one hour or overnight. In a heavy braising pot, heat canola oil over medium-high heat.Add buffalo cubes and sear until crispy and browned on all sides. Remove and reserve. To ensure browning, sear buffalo in 2 to 3 batches. Reduce heat to medium and add onions, peppers and garlic, stirring until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add jalapeño and oregano; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add Shiner Bock beer and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomato sauce and chipotle Tabasco and bring to a simmer. Add reserved buffalo. Cover, transfer to the oven and bake to 1 to 1¼ hours, or until buffalo is very tender. When buffalo is tender, add black beans to pot. Bake chili for 15 minutes longer. Remove chili from oven. Stir in lime juice, chopped cilantro and chopped parsley. Serve chili in bowls, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro and parsley sprigs and cornbread.

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