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Their new book, The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook, takes us from seed catalog to the garden and into the kitchen. The first half of the book is devoted to growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and the second half focuses on how to turn your crops into delicious meals.
I know I sound like a broken record, but I love the designers at Workman Publishing, and the visual appeal of the Gardener's Cookbook meets my expectations. The earthy colors and fun (but clear) fonts make the book a joy to read, and the scrumptious photographs of gardens, vegetables, and completed recipes are so inviting that you'll be inspired to either get weeding or get cooking or both! You'll also find useful and pretty garden drawings, fun lists, and practical charts.
I want to say very quickly that you do not have to be a gardener to love this book. Although Damrosch and Coleman make a good case for all the reasons you might want to grow your own food, you can take their ideas and recipes to the farmer's market, local farm stand, and even the grocery store. They stress the emotional connection we make to the food we grow and harvest, not to mention the startling full flavors of just picked produce.
As I mentioned, the first half of the book concentrates on gardening. Damrosch and Coleman talk about soil, help us with garden planning and figuring out what to grow, and tell us how to make our gardens flourish. They even share their tips and hints and favorite tools to make the job easier. Newbies will appreciate their casual style and sane advice, and veteran gardeners are sure to learn some new ticks. I love their reassuring attitude:
It isn't about having a green thumb. In fact, it isn't even about you. It's about the generosity of the natural world. Given a few basic skills, there is very little you can't accomplish in the garden if you trust the systems that are already in place. Plants want to grow, and despite what you might have heard, there are not armies of pests, plagues, and other misfortunes lying wait, poised to thwart your efforts. (p. 5)The second half the book is all about making delicious fresh meals for your loved ones. Although many of the recipes are meat free, this is not a vegetarian cookbook. The principal philosophy behind the Gardener's Cookbook is to eat seasonally fresh foods. This is just the type of cookbook a gardener or member of a CSA needs. The key is first to harvest (or buy) produce that is at its peak and only then plan your meals. This can be a difficult mental switch for those of you who are used to planning meals and then going shopping.
Yet no matter how you go about putting meals on the table, you'll love the recipes Damrosch provides. From appetizers to desserts, the flavors are varied but not extreme. There are a couple of dishes geared for the home gardener (like stuffed squash blossoms), but all the rest will work for those of us who rely on others to grow our food.
Here's a recipe from each chapter that calls to me or that has already inspired me in the kitchen:
- Roasted Pepper and Tomato Dip
- Fish Soup with Tomatoes and Fennel*
- Chicken Salad with Spiced Peaches
- Broccoli Bread Pudding
- Couscous with Pine Nuts and Raisins*
- Summer Tart with Roasted Tomatoes
- Cabbage with Caraway Butter
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Onions and Bacon
- Sesame Chicken Breasts with Vegetables*
- Plum Custard
The directions are all straightforward, the ingredients are readily available, and the tips and recommended substitutions help you find success. Furthermore, you'll be able to use this book all year round, because there are plenty of cold-weather dishes and the gardening section gives you advice on how best to store summer's bounty.
At the back of the book you'll find helpful charts and resources for both gardeners and cooks. Plus the index is excellent, meaning you'll quickly be able to find whatever it is your looking for.
Whether you harvest your own veggies, shop for locally grown produce, or hit the supermarket, Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman's The Four Seasons Farm Gardener's Cookbook will inspire you throughout the year.
We love cooking greens, and I make them at least twice a week. Here's a dish from Gardener's Cookbook that we both loved, although I'd cut the maple syrup in half the next time. The recipe calls for beet greens, but a tip tells us we can use any strong-flavored green. We used mustard greens.
Beet Greens and Scallions
Serves 4 as a side dish
- 2 ounces slab bacon or salt pork, cut into ¼-inch cubes (¼ cup)
- 1 pound beet greens, leaves sliced into ribbons and stems cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 bunch scallions (about 6 ounces), both white and green parts, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
- Salt and pepper to taste
Add the beet greens, beet stems, and scallions to the skillet, cover and cook over low heat, stirring from time to time, until the beet stems are tender and the scallions have turned slightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and age of the greens.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the maple syrup and the reserved bacon. Season with salt (if needed—the bacon might be salty enough) and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Buy The Four Season Gardener's Cookbook at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Source: Review (see review policy)