Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers

Eating Local Cookbook
Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share can be both exciting and overwhelming. There’s something thrilling about the anticipation that builds all week, leading up to delivery day when you lift the lid of your box to discover what combination of fresh-off-the-farm produce your farmer has brought: Perhaps gnarled heirloom tomatoes in Crayola-vivid yellows, oranges, and reds; or crisp carrots tied in bunches and with feathery tops still attached; or juicy cantaloupe with its gentle, sweet perfume. But it can be a challenge to find new ways to use up all of that produce, especially vegetables you’ve never seen before (like celeriac, or Harukai japanese turnips) or vegetables you’ve seen before and dislike (kale or black radish, for example). The newly released cookbook Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers, by Sur La Table with Janet Fletcher [304 pages, jacketed hardcover, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, $35.00] strives to help you “make the most of the fresh ingredients from your CSA box or farmers’ market and celebrate the goods grown in your community.”

Not merely a cookbook, Eating Local also profiles 10 CSA farms that “are a representative cross section of the movement,” including Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm in Harris, MN, which both cultivates produce and raises livestock, and Morning Song Farm in southern California, which claims to be the nation’s only rare-fruit CSA. Collectively, the 10 profiles sketch out for us the life of a CSA farmer, from starting the farm, to selecting crops, to packing the boxes each week. Of Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm, the authors write, “Empty cardboard boxes stand ready in the shade of the hoop house, waiting to be filled according to [farmer] Robin’s posted diagram: heavy stuff on the bottom, shapes juxtaposed artfully, a riot of color on top. She wants shareholders to open the box and be stirred by the beauty.” Each profile contains snippets of insight, from kitchen tips such as “Take pesto beyond basil. Substitute spinach, kale, or garlic scape for some or all of the basil” to a listing of the farmers’ favorite crops, to a sentence or two discussing the farm’s philosophy.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm contributed three recipes: Pickled Yellow Wax Beans with Fresh Dill; Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm’s Slaw; and Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm Ketchup.

Recipes — 150 of them — are divided among three major sections, vegetables; fruits; and poultry, meat, and eggs; and then organized alphabetically for easy reference by primary ingredient within each section, from artichokes to turnips; apples to pomegranates; and beef to pork. Many of the recipes, such as Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich with Asian Pears and Prosciutto or Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Tahini Sauce, require the use of a grill, so, if you do not enjoy grilling, this might not be the book for you. Because two of the three sections are produce-focused, many of the recipes are vegetarian; however, even in the vegetables section, some of the recipes call for anchovies, a bit of bacon, or slices of sausage. Storage and gardening tips appear at the back of the book.

Sprinkled throughout the book are creative suggestions for using parts of the vegetables one might normally discard: Use “bok choy ribs as a celery substitute, or as low-calorie dippers in place of chips for guacamole”; or tender, young radish greens to make pesto; or carrot tops to make soup or sparingly in juicing and in salads. One recipe, Warm Chard Ribs with Yogurt, Toasted Walnuts, and Dill, centers entirely around the chard rib, which more commonly ends up in compost heaps.