Hello. My name is Kim and I am a cookbook-aholic. I’ve flagged more cookbook recipes than would be humanly possible to make in a single lifetime. Yet my obsession with acquiring new and old cookbooks persists unabated. This month I share my compulsive tendencies via the “21 Days” series, featuring some of my favorite cookbooks from local authors and publishers. Please feel free to join me in finding new cookbooks to feed our passion at any of my favorite Triangle indie book sellers: The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh or McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village.
In April 2011, a crowd of cookbook fans and foodies (including myself) filled the event room at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books to hear Andrea Reusing of Lantern Restaurant discuss her new book, “Cooking in the Moment“. A mere month later, Chef Reusing was named Best Chef of the Southeast for 2011 at the James Beard Foundation annual awards. I don’t know if cookbooks appreciate in value over time, or with each accolade the author earns, but I’ve found “Cooking in the Moment” an invaluable resource for inspiration with each change in season.
Each of the four sections within the book focuses on the seasons, not just with recipes, but with journal-like entries such as “Asparagus Feast”, describing the anticipation of a call from a local farmer announcing the arrival of the first spears. I enjoy reading those glimpses into farming life as much as (or maybe more than) preparing the recipes. In fact, I recall one especially cold day this past Winter when I pulled my copy off the shelf just to re-read Summer activities related to corn, crab and cherries although I would have to wait months before I could make any dishes with those ingredients.
If you own a copy of this cookbook you’ve probably flipped through the pages admiring the beautiful photography. The images of whole, raw ingredients, prepared dishes, family, friends and farmers all captured by photographer John Kernick, add a distinct, visual impact and reinforce that this book is more than a collection of recipes. It documents a community, season by season.
The recipes seem simplistic, with ingredients numbering less than ten items in many cases. But the flavors found in those dishes don’t need a lot of extra flourishes, which makes this cookbook feel so accessible, not at all intimidating, to a home cook like me. If you enjoy fish and shellfish, you’ll find many recipes that incorporate seasonal seafood, like Grilled Spanish Mackerel with Green Sauce in Spring and Spicy Crab and Shrimp Boil for Summer. Though the ingredients for each recipe are locally sourced, and therefore Southern in origin, the recipes incorporate global seasonings in some cases. The Fried Okra with Indian Spices and Hot Tomato Relish perfectly blends seasonal produce with flavors from more exotic climates. The Kale Panini sandwich (page 222) is a favorite simple recipe I go to year round. Kale is available most any time of year at our local farmers markets and I like to use a nice crusty sourdough (like that from Loaf) along with a fresh farmers cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery. Plus now’s the perfect time of year to make some red chile pepper pickles that add spice to the sandwich.
There’s also a bit of philosophical meaning to the book’s title. “Cooking in the Moment” allows one to focus on the present meal at the perfect time – now.