Pros: Very simple, delicious recipes that will encourage you to make use of seasonal, local foods
Cons: Make very sure to read a recipe fully before starting
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book (published 20011) provided by Random House.
Andrea Reusing’s Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes encourages readers to take advantage of local, seasonal ingredients using simple, flavorful recipes. There’s been a recent surge of interest in eating locally, rather than trucking in tons of out-of-season produce and meats from other areas. Not only do you support your local community and small-scale producers, but you reduce emissions, packaging, and so on. While her recipes are built around ingredients local to her own area in North Carolina, many of the ideas will port well to similar types of produce from your own region. The book includes many essays on local foods and small-scale community suppliers; these are fun to read one at a time when you’re making a nearby recipe. But the recipes are definitely my favorite part of the book.
Most of the recipes require little effort and few ingredients, yet they come together in an alchemy of flavors. Ms. Reusing has a talent for finding just the right combination of ingredients to transform something simple into something divine. A recipe for Mustard and Turnip Greens with Smoked Bacon and Vinegar helped me make the best use of a local produce program that started up this year, while a Turnip Soup with Rosemary and Black Pepper provided a very satisfying accompaniment. Her Asparagus with Butter and Soy surprised and delighted me—I hadn’t expected the soy to complement the asparagus so perfectly, and the recipe was quick and easy.
The book is organized by season, including recipes for fish (mackerel, catfish), shellfish (clams, crab, shrimp), ham, peas, radicchio, shiitake mushrooms, rhubarb, cabbage, melons of various kinds, fresh herbs of all types, more greens than I previously knew existed, squab, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, apples, cherries, peppers, potatoes and sweet potatoes, onions, chicken, carrots, pumpkin… I could go on and on. Even if the specific items aren’t seasonally grown near you, odds are you’ll be able to find a functional equivalent for most ingredients. There are recipes for fresh salads, sauteed greens, soups, stews, roasts, ice creams, and everything in between.
I do have one reservation, and this is that you’re going to have to make sure you read recipes very carefully before starting them. There are many people who skim recipes and dive in, and it would not be good to miss instructions like the following, which can be found partway through a recipe for Cherry Stone Panna Cotta:
Like apple seeds, cherry pits contain very small amounts of cyanide, which is toxic only in large quantities. However, heating the cherry pits will release fumes that you should not breathe in, so do this in a well-ventilated area and do not stick your head directly over the pan while the pits are simmering.
This is the sort of note that really should be made more obvious—bolded, set apart in a side bar with an obvious heading, or something similar.
To change gears for a moment to my favorite part of this book, you’ll have to indulge me for a moment. Years ago I lived in Boston. Some friends and I knew of this tiny little shop in an alley in Chinatown (you had to know it was there in order to find it) that had the best strawberry ice cream. Yes, it was so good we’d go that far out of our way for it, and fifteen years later I still remember the taste—which I’d never found anywhere else. Recently I got my hands on some gorgeous very ripe strawberries from a local farm. When I checked Cooking in the Moment, I found a strawberry ice cream recipe. It had buttermilk in it in addition to cream, the thought of which didn’t entirely appeal to me, but since we had some in the house I decided to give it a try. My husband took one taste and immediately turned to me, exclaiming that we’d finally found it—which prompted me to realize that this was why the ice cream had tasted so familiar! So yes, in years of tasting and making strawberry ice creams, only Ms. Reusing has managed to equal that incredibly delicious ice cream of years ago. As I said earlier, she has a true talent for figuring out which ingredients will perfectly complement each other—and because of that, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Cooking in the Moment.