In the Bookshed: Two local foods cookbooks

Two great new cookbooks emphasizing food of the Pacific Northwest – quiet different in feel and focus:

Northwest Essentials: Cooking With Ingredients That Define a Region’s Cuisine (2nd edition)
Greg Atkinson
Sasquatch Books, 2010

Right off I’ll let you know – this is one of those food-porn cookbooks. Lots of beautiful photographs of luscious dishes of decadence – this alone will encourage you to try many of the recipes. Take on top of that sections of food focus including: Salmon, Stone Fruits, Oysters, Prawns & Crab, Wild Mushrooms, Berries, Mussels/Clams/Scallops and Hazlenuts – and you will be thanking your lucky morels that local food means all that goodness and more for those of us in coastal BC (and Washington State where this book originates).

Unfortunately for me, I received this book for review just as a lot of the foods in it went out of season – and local eating for me also means eating in season and doing a lot of food storage –  but a couple weeks ago, we did manage to cobble together a little feast of Spot-Prawn Jumbalaya and invite some friends over for a good feed. This turned out to be an incredibly warming dish for mid-winter, full of three kinds of meat, veggies and rice – simple to make (though a little afternoon-consuming) and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Each recipe is introduced with tips about the ingredients or stories about the origin of the food combination – and each section is introduced by Atkinson with personal reflections and anecdotes on cooking and eating locally as well as descriptions in what to look for in purchasing fresh food at the market. Atkinson’s writing style is direct and warm – his food writing is as engaging as the photographs and recipes in this book. Know someone who thinks the whole local food movement is a waste of time? Give them this cookbook and let them discover the abundance that is right out their backdoor and all the tasty ways to prepare it.

Winter Harvest Cookbook (20th Anniversary Edition)
Lane Morgan
New Society Publishers, 2011

In a very different vein, Lane Morgan’s revised Winter Harvest Cookbook is of an earthier bent. Written originally twenty years ago when she was living on a homestead farm, Morgan’s book carries with it the simplicity and stolidity of winter meals made from scratch in a country kitchen. Her focus is on local eating in the winter months, the four-six months between the last greens of fall and the first of spring – think root vegetables, winter squashes, nuts, grains, fennel/kale/chard/cabbage and the like. Oh, and meat. There is a good mix of both meat and vegetarian recipes in the main courses – which in our house we tend to appreciate (being that we eat primarily veggie and have the occasional dish with a little extra animal). Very helpfully at the bottom of each recipe Morgan includes whether it is Vegetarian, Vegan, or Gluten-free for those who need to pay attention.

The recipes in here are of definite interest value and include items like nettle sauce, a chocolate cake made of beets (from experience, make sure the beets are thoroughly pureed and the cake will turn out better than ours did), and hazelnut roca. Obviously many of the ingredients are harvested in summer, but keep through the winter, while some things – like kale and chard – will last right through a coastal winter in the garden as long as it is a mild one (unlike this year which kicked my poor chard’s ass).

Morgan includes menu suggestions, resource lists and a detailed index at the back of the book – all of which make this additionally a keeper for me. Suggested menus being my favourite thing in throwing together dinner parties (takes all the work out of pairing recipes). Included below is a recipe we’ve made from the book and that I am totally in love with – especially as I’ve lately discovered the joys of florence fennel and am on a bit of a cabbage kick lately. Oh, the excitement!

Italian sausage with fennel, carrot, and cabbage

1 cup dry white wine
1.5-2 pounds Italian link sausages
1 medium onion, minced
1 large carrot, julienned
4 cups coarsely chopped cabbage
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced thin
3 tablespoons minced fennel leaves, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

Bring wine to biol in a large, heavy skillet. Prick each sausage in several places with fork and add to skillet. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove cover and continue simmering until wine has evaporated. Then increase heat and brown sausage quickly. Remove sausages and keep warm.

Pour off all but 4 or 5 tablespoons fat from skillet. Turn heat to medium-high. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in cabbage, sliced fennel, 2 tablespoons of the fennel leaves, garlic and water. Cover and cook until vegetables are barely tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove cover and boil off any liquid remaining in skillet. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning.

Make a bed of the vegetables on a serving platter. Arrange sausages on top, sprinkle with remaining fennel leaves, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: