Reading in the Kitchen: a cookbook club held it's inaugural meeting on Monday, August 17, 2015. I chose Local Flavors: Cooking & Eating From America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison because the timing seemed just right for the end of summer.
Cookbook club members selected recipes from the book and brought in the prepared dish which we served buffet style in two courses. Followed by comments from each member, and of course, lots of delicious food and conversation. My plate was overflowing with fresh food which many had purchased the ingredients from their local farmers' market, or a nearby farm stand, or grew in their own garden.
For me, I discovered a new herb, anise hyssop which a club member explained is in the mint family. Also, a member made a corn pudding, which I wasn't sure what to expect with a name like that. It ended up being my favorite recipe of the night, followed by the peach kuchen. All three desserts we sampled were very lightly sweetened which resulted in letting the natural sweetness of the fruit shine through.
Club Rating: 4.0
"The seasonal aspects. Combinations were new to me ie: melon and thai basil; radicchio, beans and pasta."
"Focus on local foods, stories about farmers' markets and specific types of vegetables, beans, etc. Beautiful photographs."
"Beautiful, enticing, easy-to-read and follow. Seasonal and flavorful".
"Interesting recipes from many cultures. Book needs more visuals to catch my attention, but great recipes!"
Many commented they would have liked more photographs. While the book does have stunning color photography of farmers' markets and fresh produce, it does not have very many photos of what was created using that fresh produce. Since, many of the recipes use ingredients that are new to some people (think anise hyssop or fresh marjoram, even prickly pear!) it would have been helpful to see what the final dish is supposed to look like.
The book is organized not by appetizer, salad, pasta, meat, poultry, fish, dessert, etc. or even by season, but by the ingredient family. So you bought tomatoes, well then turn to the chapter titled "The Vegetable Fruits of Summer: Eggplants, Tomatoes, and Peppers" and you will find a recipe for these sun-worshipping veggies. Maybe your friend gave you some meyer lemons off of her dwarf citrus tree, then turn to the chapter titled "Winter Fruits: Citrus and Subtropicals" and you'll stay warm this February.
Deborah takes careful attention to introduce the reader to farmers' markets, sharing a lot she's learned from managing her local Santa Fe farmers' market and serving as a board member. The book was published in 2002 when there were 3,137 farmers' markets in America. Compare that to the 2014 National Count of Farmers' Market Directory Listings published by the USDA, and there are now 8,268.
Deborah's love for farmers might be rooted in her genes. She grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and then in a walnut orchard in Davis, California. Her first cooking job was at the San Francisco Zen Center also known as Tassajara, where she was a student for 18 years.
In 1977, she ate her first meal at Alice Water’s restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. She immedietley went to work there until she opened up her restaurant Greens in 1979. It was one of the Bay Area’s first restaurants to have a farm to table style menu. After leaving Greens, she opened Cafe Escalera with Chez Panisse chef David Tanis in Santa Fe.
She is a chef, writer, teacher and home gardener who has also been active in the Slow Food movement and other groups involved with local food issues. She has won many awards, including the James Beard award for Local Flavors and her latest cookbook Vegetable Literacy.
Pasta with Radicchio, White Beans, & Rosemary p. 25
Salsa Verde with Basil, Cilantro, & Mint with Pita Chips p. 65
Red & Golden Beets with Anise Hyssop p. 68
Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Mushrooms p. 154
Melon Salad with Thai Basil p. 161
Crostini with Roasted Eggplant & Pine Nut Puree p. 168
Roasted Eggplant & Chickpea Stew p. 173
Tomato & Avocado Salad with Lime Herb Dressing p. 184
Three-Beet Caviar with Endive & Goat Cheese p. 201
Zucchini Frittata with Ricotta & Marjoram p. 236
Raspberry Cream Tart p. 259
Cherry Almond Loaf Cake p. 283
We sampled 14 dishes that evening.