Farm Direct
Farm Direct

Less is More: Cooking with Farm-Fresh Foods

If the prime directive in medicine is "Do no harm," the equivalent in cooking, when you are using fresh, local foods is "Do as little as possible." You don't want or need to disguise farm-fresh flavors under cheese sauces or canned mushroom soup. And as an added bonus, when you eat fresh local foods with great flavor, you end up with a healthier diet because you don't need to heap on sugar, salt, and fatty sauces to make up for the bland, disappointing flavors of foods from thousands of miles away.

At the Evanston Farmers Market where I sell vegetables, my answer to nearly every customer's cooking query, whether they are holding up Tuscan kale or bok choi, is simply, "saute it in a little olive oil with salt and pepper." Of course there are many other things to do with vegetables, but a light saute, maybe starting with a little onion or garlic and finishing with some fresh herbs, is just about the quickest, easiest, tastiest thing you can do with freshly-harvested vegetables.

If you want to go beyond the simple saute, there are many great cookbooks that celebrate fresh produce. Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking and Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking have great vegetable recipes. We have described other cookbooks throughout Farm Direct.

Recipes from America's Small Farms: Fresh Ideas for the Season's Bounty by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Lori Stein
This is my new favorite cookbook for local foods. It is as perfect for new subscribers to a CSA as for longtime farmers market habituees. Hayes and Stein interviewed CSA farmers and CSA members across the United States and used their favorite recipes. In addition to the simple and delicious recipes, there are "Meet the Farmer" features and detailed information on eternal questions such as what's a scallion and how to boil corn in its husk.
Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
Alice Waters, and her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, have been synonymous for decades with fresh local foods prepared in ways that let the flavors shine. Try Grilled Radicchio Risotto with Balsamic Vinegar or Pizza with Red and Yellow Peppers this summer.
Chez Panisse Fruits by Alice Waters
Arranged alphabetically from apples to strawberries, this book follows the winning pattern established in Chez Panisse Vegetables, with informative introductions to each fruit, followed by wonderful, mostly simple, recipes. Waters whets your appetitie with everything from Mulberry Sherbet to Grilled Cured Duck Breasts with Pickled Peaches.
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers Markets by Deborah Madison
In researching this book, Madison went to farmers markets around the country to shop for truly local foods and discover their quality, taste, and diversity. She then devised recipes based on the seasonally available bounty. The book is arranged by fruit and vegetable families as they appear in the markets. Recipes include Spinach and Green Garlic Soufflé, Melon Salad with Thai Basil, and White Peaches in Lemon Verbena Syrup.
Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book by Jane Grigson
This was the first cookbook I purchased as an adult, not even knowing what I was after, but beginner's luck has served me well for over two decades now. Jane Grigson is not only a wonderful cook, she is a great writer, with a strong and distinctive voice. As she walks you through the Cabbage Soups of Southern France or Russian Cucumber and Sorrel soup, you feel that you have a wonderful friend at your side.
Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider
This beautiful and comprehensive book is for the true vegetable enthusiast. In addition to recipes for vegetables from ordinary to exotic, it suggests the best cooking methods for each vegetable, expert advice on how to select produce at its peak of flavor and nutrition, and "Pros Propose" for each vegetable, where we learn what chefs and other cookbook authors like to do best. The book is large (and expensive) but a true treasure trove.

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