I'm grateful to have a sunny piece of land to plant a garden in, and I'm delighted by the arrival of ready crops: multiple kinds of summer squash, crisp cucumbers, heavy tomatoes, home-grown potatoes, red radishes, tiny eggplants, beets and their greens, basil in pots, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, bush and pole beans, even a pepper or two. And if these cultivated plants aren't enough, we can forage the wild for blueberries and blackberries in their season.
Indeed, Summer is a time of abundance, with almost infinite sweet and savory possibilities.
So that's why I was so happy to get a copy of "The Broad Fork." Hugh Acheson is a two-time James Beard Award winning chef, who has a serious love for fresh produce, and his new book releases right in the middle of garden season? Count me in.
"The Broad Fork" provides ideas for every one of the vegetables and fruits I mentioned, as well as almost three dozen more varieties of produce- from tatsoi to garlic to asparagus to morels to melons to corn.
The best part of this book for me was Hugh's evident delight in his topic. (The guy has a radish tattooed on his arm to remind him of the first thing he ever grew, his introduction to the farm/food/table cycle.)
He has a profound respect and admiration for the men and women who till the earth and bring us its bounty. That's why his cookbook includes profiles of his favorite local farms, and encouragement for you and I to find out what's growing in our own area. "Making friends with farmers" would have been an apt subtitle for this volume, and I mean that in the very best of ways.
I'm blessed with a garden, but if you don't have that then Hugh points to the opportunities found at farmer's markets and CSAs.
Now, about the recipes themselves.
On rare occasions I'll follow a recipe exactly, but I typically use cookbooks for inspiration. I get the basic idea, and then I take off in my own direction.
(Yeah... I know what you're thinking. Sometimes my results *are* admittedly interesting.) I've been marking all the recipes I plan to follow. One of them is "duxelle," a mushroom paste that sounds like a delicious complement for roast. Another is corn spoonbread... sounds great. Another is roasted beet soup with hard-boiled eggs. Then there's fried okra with remoulade. Or creamy cauliflower gratin. Or eggplant with tahini and yogurt.
Doesn't this all sound so good?
Now, some of the ingredients I have never seen before. (This is a restaurant chef's book, after all!) I don't have fresh thyme, sherry vinegar, pancetta, or speck- just found out that the latter is an Italian ham. BUT- I do think that these recipes can be a fabulous jumping-off point for the home cook. I hate to use the dreaded word "substitution," but I'm sure there's a way to make this work. I will use cream cheese in place of fromage blanc on my radish cucumber sandwich, and I think it will be fine. :-D
In short, I was sitting here reading this cookbook, and another family member came along and grabbed it, looked at the pictures, and began making requests. This is a cookbook worth studying and learning from. And reading it is a pleasure, too.
Thank you to Clarkson Potter Publishers for providing my review copy through Blogging for Books.