A cookbook offers a cornucopia of organic farming information, stories, recipes, tips, and culinary methods.
Seattle-based book editor and designer Lipe (Tastes From Valley to Bluff, 2008) always considered herself “a far more dedicated eater than a cook of any merit.” But this revised and expanded version of her debut cookbook virtually doubles the amount of food items profiled and delivers more than 300 recipes organized around the four seasons and tailored to please an assortment of palates. She notes that part of the purpose of the work is to present “more than a passing glimpse into what it actually takes to get food from seed to plate” through community-supported agriculture initiatives, a model whereby consumers buy local seasonal items directly from farmers, typically through a subscription. These CSA farms, Lipe writes, supply much more than just food for the communities they serve; they inspire educational, outreach, employment, and fellowship opportunities as well. Fronting each season in the volume is a beautifully written featurette detailing the history, function, and the resourceful, dynamic people of a farm selected by the author for its sustainability and success in the organic arena. Sprinkled throughout are many gray sidebars dispensing practical particulars on topics like nutrition, food politics, organic farming rituals, gardening (for example, “The Journey of an Asparagus Stalk” by Sarah Stone), and many more. Each is written by experienced cultivators who are eager to steer consumers toward achieving the best outcomes when visiting farms for organic produce.
Lipe is also well aware that CSAs are not ideal arrangements for everyone and is happy to extoll their usefulness within communities and how they operate. One sidebar weighs the pros and cons of CSAs, particularly when factoring in the issues of cost, availability, and, perhaps most importantly, what percentage of produce obtained through the food subscription will become stale and discarded before it can be enjoyed. Other useful tidbits include how to cool the burn of peppers, how to safely employ organic pesticides in one’s own garden, how to reduce food waste, and the wonder and increasing popularity of “agrihoods.” Black-and-white photographs and illustrations from various sources; intriguing recipes; and graphics enhance this comprehensive volume and provide easily accessible dinner menus for both classic Americana dishes and those with a more international flair. In addition, the cookbook presents complementary side dishes featuring an endless variety and combination of herbs, spices, and preparatory options. Unusual ingredients like edible flowers (77 varieties) dazzle as much as the sweet recipes for Real Basil Cheesecake, gluten- and dairy-free Dark Chocolate Avocado Cookies, and Cantaloupe Pie. Alongside these delights are more common items like artichokes, mushroom varieties, strawberries, and kale. Lipe has crafted an essential resource for anyone concerned with the origins of their food and how sustainable the items are. Readers simply eager to test fresh cooking techniques, new ideas, unique ingredients, and captivating pieces of agricultural trivia should treasure this inspiring guide as well.
An impeccably produced gastronomic feast for the senses and a pleasure to read.