As the local food movement expands and the numbers of small farms, CSA programs, and farmers markets increase, so grows the crop of cookbooks aimed at helping people make the best use of that seasonal bounty. Following in the path of Deborah Madison’s excellent overview of America’s farmers markets. Local Flavors, two new cookbooks share the joys of regional harvests throughout the year.
The first, Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, bases its recipes in the old and new traditions of New England agriculture. This collaboration between dietitian Diane Imrie and chef Richard Jarmusz combines a healthy approach to eating with simple preparations that enhance the fresh flavors of local fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats. While many recipes take old favorites and spruce them up for locavore palates, others offer intriguing pairings, such as Lamb and Pumpkin Quesadilla with Cilantro Sour Cream, or Kale and Fennel Salad with Apples and Cinnamon.
The book is arranged by course and then by season. Recipes are very well-organized and clearly written, and most require fairly simple preparation. “Harvest Hints” following many recipes provide information on basic handling of unfamiliar produce, nutritional information, variations on the recipe, or preparation tips. Though not every recipe has a corresponding photo, those that do appear add a rich, sometimes glamorous but often home-spun flavor to the book.
One bonus to the book is the final chapter, “Filling the Pantry.” Beyond the usual recipes for immediate consumption, these recipes offer a handful of suggestions for keeping some of the seasonal bounty for later use (such as Maple Blackberry Barbecue Sauce). Freezing and canning are represented, and a handy chart at the end of the section indicates which preservation method works well for different kinds of produce.
Overall, Cooking Close to Home is a lovely book with many recipe ideas that I hope to try this year. But for me, it’s lacking a little something. The added information throughout the book is useful, though much is geared toward readers who are new to the reasons and joys of local foods, but I can’t help but miss a more individualized touch. A quote found toward the beginning of the book – “Good food is a story, best told at the dinner table” – highlights that loss for me. The recipes sound wonderful, but I miss the stories behind them.