Fresh & Seasonal

cookbookcover_web.jpgI found a real treasure when I discovered “Flavors of the Arboretum: 101 Tastes of the Season” as I browsed through the gift shop during a recent visit to the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.

Recipes in the book include signature classics that you might find on the menu in the Arboretum Restaurant, treasures from the old Tea Room, as well as recipes from cooking classes taught in the “Harvest Kitchen” at the Marion Andrus Learning Center on the Arboretum grounds and guest chefs who are invited to share their knowledge and skills as they teach classes.

Turn to page 29 in “Flavors of the Arboretum: 101 Tastes of the Season,” and you will be in the Summer/In Bloom section. That’s where you will find suggested summer menus from Twin Cities area chefs with all of the recipes needed to do some “Dining Al Fresco” and enjoy a “Summer Solstice Dinner,” as well as several other recipes.

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visualfood.jpgThe Visual Food Lover's Guide is a terrific resource that I can't stop leafing through. In fact, it has taken up residence next to my bed along with a few other treasured tomes. It has the basic information on how to buy, prepare, cook, serve and store over 1,000 types of food. It also gives you the rundown on nutritional information. It's nowhere near as personal or opinionated as "Jane Grigon's Vegetable Book", but with hundreds of entries it is much more comprehensive.

I really like that there's a color illustration of each item and some photos for techniques like how to make bread or pry open oyster shells. The entry for anise has an illustration of the flowering plant, star anise seeds and pods. That level of detail is what makes it so worthwhile. They've also done a great job making sure that produce and seafood from different geographic locations are included. My only complaint is that the mushroom section is a bit thin. I would have loved to have seen mushrooms such as hedgehog, lobster and lion's mane included.

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ImageThere were a lot of "farm to table" cookbooks this year, but this is the only one I am keeping. It balances the voice of farmers, chefs and artisans. The book is filled with contemporary American recipes that are genuinely appealing and unique.

Bookmarked recipes: Angel hair pasta with oyster butter cream sauce and caviar, Creme fraiche galette with heirloom tomatoes, Goat cheese panna cotta with caramelized figs

Why?
I always get nervous with "chef" recipes. But in this case seasoned test kitchen director from Saveur, Kelly Kochendorfer has clearly made sure these recipes will WORK in a home kitchen. They are straight-forward and don't have a million ingredients.

Who?
This is for creative cooks looking for new flavors and excited to use the best ingredients but who don't see the point of torturing them.

Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables

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If the sun-drenched yellow of summer sweet corn or the regal purple of ripe blackberries makes you flutter with anticipation, then the stunning new book, Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables, by Cheryl Sternman Rule, is for you.

Arranged by color, Ripe takes you on a dazzling visual journey of produce, in all its natural glory. The book begins boldly with audacious red and pink (beets, rhubarb, strawberries) and ends serenely with calming white (cauliflower, coconut, turnips). In between it travels through orange and yellow (corn, pineapple, nectarines), green (broccoli, edamame, fava beans) and purple and blue (bluberries, eggplant, plums).

Each fruit and vegetable is beautifully photographed by Paulette Phlipot. Some like the exposed heart-shaped red strawberry, the water-dappled kale leaf and the once-bitten green apple remind us what real food porn looks like. Phlipot does the impossible: she makes celery look sexy.

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Imagine a chef who spends six months a year in a restaurant making food for the fussiest guests and six months in a tiny galley kitchen with a rickety stove and barely any counter space. Meet David Tanis of Chez Panisse. His recipes are mostly pretty easy, but rely on the best quality ingredients.

Bookmarked recipes: Celery, radish and watercress salad with walnut oil, Buckwheat galettes with ham and cheese, Black sticky rice pudding with coconut cream.

Why?
It's fascinating to see the way a restaurant chef cooks at home, when he wants to, to please himself and his friends.

Who?
Anyone who has access to fantastic quality ingredients and wants to learn how to make them shine.

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