Sunday, January 11, 2009

Inspiration for a Chilly World

It’s that time of year again—that magical time when seed catalogs start appearing in mailboxes everywhere, sporting page after page of jewel-toned produce splayed out in all its glory. It’s almost like a little veggie burlesque show, really—sugar snap peas with their pods bursting open, tomatoes glistening with morning dew…and don’t get me started on the melons. But I digress…

It’s also the time of year when foodies like me (with barely a lick of gardening sense) are tempted to just start buying up a dozen or so seed packets of whatever they wish they were eating right now—my current cravings include fava beans, and New Orchid (orange flesh) watermelon. For me at least, making a wish list of recipes I want to make sure grace my summer table this year is far more productive than going crazy with an online order to Johnny’s.

Finding culinary inspiration for the New Year is easy in Local Flavors by Debora Madison. It is a well-rounded cookbook that highlights the bounty of the farm market. Filled with stories of Madison’s experiences at markets across the country, it includes the kind of recipes that will make you clamor for warm, sun-saturated tomatoes and sweet corn—for example, her recipes for Chilled Sun Gold Tomato Soup or Warm Corn Custard with Berries.

Cookbooks like Local Flavors are great for people who participate in CSA’s and find themselves wondering, “What the hell am I supposed to do with all this kohlrabi?” Better yet, many of the recipes utilize several veggies together to make coherent dishes, which helps keep your palate from getting bored when certain items are in abundance. I picked up the book last summer and fell into the trappings of Madison’s recipes for summer fruit desserts like Plum Kuchen and Apricot-Cherry Crisp. This year I vow to be more nutritionally diplomatic.

Madison also takes care to include winter fruits like citrus and subtropicals, as well as recipes using farm-fresh eggs and cheeses. And given the general year-round availability of many fruits and vegetables, there are plenty of recipes that are relevant to your kitchen no matter how much snow is piling up in your driveway. (This afternoon, it was heaven take a break from building an igloo in our backyard to pop a handful of Florida strawberries. I didn’t care at all that they traveled a thousand miles before reaching my doorstep—and you know what? They were pretty tasty!)


Maggie said...

I'm a huge fan of Johnny's. They have the best cultivation information in their catalogs. However this year's winner in the seed catalog category is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Seeds from them make up most of my wish list now, they're all so tempting.

Shayne said...

makes you wonder how much airbrushing those veggies went through to look that luscious.