Last week I introduced you to two authors of new food books that celebrate the joys of preparing and eating fresh farm food in season.
In that column I wrote about Andrea Reusing’s “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes,” which, as the title suggests, is organized by season, and “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen,” which uses a more traditional cookbook approach of groups of related dishes.
This week we feature Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook,” with groups of recipes organized into chapters on each of about 40 vegetables and fruits. Finally, we introduce Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh,” which organizes its information by the geographic location of the farms, markets, and other places to get fresh food.
Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.”
Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase.
Castle entertains her readers with stories about her mountain family and even a song or two. Because I love tomatoes, here are lines she shares from a song by Guy Clark: “Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”
But tomatoes are not the only stars in Castle’s catalogue of fresh foods. For instance, she gives great advice to overcome two different contradictory ideas about how long to cook snap beans. “At one time, most snap beans were sturdy pole beans with thick, tough pods that required extensive cooking to become edible. However, subjecting the newer stringless varieties to long cooking would dissolve them into a tasteless mess. … If a bean pod is delicate and tender enough to eat raw, it needs quick, gentle cooking. If a bean pod is thick and has strings…, it needs long slow cooking. When you know your bean, you know your cooking method.”
Assuming that you now are sold on the idea of doing anything you can to get fresh seasonal food on your table and in your tummy, where can you get the your raw materials?
There are good answers in Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh North Carolina: The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.”
Daniel, a nationally known travel writer who lives in Durham, tracked down farms, farm stores, markets, and other agricultural related places that welcome visitors. She organized her finding by region and wrote them up in travel guide fashion.
As a result, you can find detailed information about farm related places to visit near where you live or travel. For instance, you learn that you can visit the Millstone Meadows Farm near Morganton and purchase daylilies without appointment from May to July. Or, at other times for visits or meals, you need to call in advance.
Daniel includes favorite recipes from farm kitchens. Anticipating my love for fresh summer tomatoes, she included a recipe from Millstone’s co-owner, Sara Hord, for an heirloom tomato cobbler. It combines a pastry with tomatoes, a sweet onion, basil, parsley, and fontina and white cheddar cheeses. I can’t wait.
Should I rush up to Morganton or preheat my oven to 350 degrees and try to make my own tomato cobbler?