Review: 2 Books From Coast to (well, almost) Coast

Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a dual review of regional cookbooks: one from an award-winning food writer from Washington State and another covering the farm foods of Vermont. 


At a time of year when there’s anticipation across the nation for what will next appear at the local farmer’s market, there are two wonderful books bringing recipes from local farms, restaurants, cheesemongers and more. One doesn’t have to live in either Washington or Vermont to be inspired by the purveyers, their products and the recipes in these books.

Two accomplished women, Jess Thomson and Tracey Medeiros, have traveled their states in pursuit of letting us know first hand why they love it and live it.

Dishing Up Washington:washington-bookcover001
150 Recipes that Capture Authentic Regional Flavors

by Jess Thomson
photos by Lara Ferroni © 2012

Facts: © 2012 by Storey Publishing, LLC, 288 pages, $19.95 (or Amazon $14.66)
One or two on every other page

I have no idea how long it took to travel the state of Washington but Jess Thomson’s book lists four pages of regional contributors and suppliers from the San Juan Islands to Northeast Washington, North Cascade, Walla Walla… suffice it to say the entire state.

The book’s chapters run from Starters thru Endings (including Meatless Mains) followed by a chapter on Breakfast & Brunch. She includes menus for every occasion.

Recipes from around the state include Wild Salmon (of course) with Sweet Corn Salad and Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette, Spaghetti with Guanciale alla Armandino (from the Seattle Batali’s, i.e., Mario’s family), Warm Foraged Mushroom Salad with Arugula, Fingerling Potatoes, and Bacon, Pale Ale Oven-Roasted Clams – all mouth-watering. And then there’s an offering from a Walla Walla chocolatier, Dark Chocolate Cake with Figs, Fennel and Pistachios.

This cherry mojito sounds like fabulous refresher on a hot summer day.


Cherry Mojitos for a Crowd

Recipe from Kathy Casey Food StudiosLiquid Kitchen
Before female star chefs were the norm, and before bartenders were chefs, and before Seattle really blossomed as a food town, there was Kathy Casey. Restaurant owner, cookbook author, TV personality, and food writer, Casey still seems to be all things to the food world here. Today, she’s most well known for making creative cocktails like these cherry mojitos, which are a great way to celebrate Washington’s cherry bounty when you’re done eating them out of hand.

Pick a sweet variety of cherries, such as Bing or Lambert, for this recipe. Garnish the drinks with additional mint sprigs, and cherries with the stem still on.

NOTE: You can make the cherry-rum mixture up to 3 days in advance and keep it refrigerated — the flavors will actually improve.

Makes 8 cocktails

3 cups pitted fresh sweet cherries (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1-1/2 packed cups fresh mint sprigs
2 cups sugar
3 cups Bacardi Limon rum
2 cups fresh lime juice
1/4 cup clear cherry liqueur (such as Maraska maraschino)
Ice, for serving
2 (10-ounce) bottles soda water

1. Combine the cherries, mint, sugar, rum, lime juice, and liqueur in a large nonreactive container, such as a glass pitcher. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. For each serving, fill a large rocks glass or tumbler with ice and measure in 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of the rum mixture, making sure to get a few cherries into each glass. Top with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of the soda. Stir, then garnish with extra mint and a cherry, if desired.

The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook: vermont-bookcover001
150 Home-Grown Recipes from the Green Mountain State

by Tracey Medeiros © 2013 by Tracey Medeiros
photos by Oliver Parini © 2013

Facts: Countryman Press, 256 pages, $19.95 (or Amazon $14.01)
One or two on every other page

Coincidentally, Tracey Medeiros’ first book was Dishing Up Vermont (2008) and apparently she loves taking road trips. This farm-focused book seems more personal with profile stories about each place she visited — and there are many, along with very interesting people.

I counted 107 sources, and found myself smiling at some of the names and totally enjoyed reading the stories. Among them were Farmer Sue, Misery Loves Co., Vermont Cranberry, Eden Ice Cider Company, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, Misty Knoll Farms, and Square Deal Farm. The backstories were better than the names and people photos personalized the stories. The gorgeous landscapes could be in a Visit Vermont pamphlet.

The book is structured by recipe category then contributor with cross-referencing. Information by source includes location, contact info, and recipe(s) contributed so if you want to walk in Tracey’s shoes (or drive in her ruts), the only thing you’re missing is a road map. What a great tour.

Recipes include Pecan and Caramel French Toast Soufflé, Summer Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes, Blueberry Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Rosemary, Penne with Creamy Smugglers’ Notch Vodka Sauce, Sapling Tiramisu, and Raisin Hell Pie (love the name).

Unfortunately I didn’t have red polenta for this recipe but it lacked nothing with my plain yellow variety. Sherry in the broth adds dimension and if you have the time to make your own ricotta, it’ll bring the dish to a new level.


Twin Farms Red Polenta with Wildcrafted Oyster Mushroom Broth

Chef Ted Ask says, “For this recipe we grow the ‘Painted Mountain’ variety of red corn in the Twin Farms garden—it has done very well in this climate. After picking, we dry the ears, then remove the kernels for storage. This allows us to grind polenta to order for our dishes and have the garden featured on our menus throughout the winter months. The caring hands of Les Hook and Nova Kirn, from Wild Gourmet Food, provide the mushrooms, which are always picked with the thought of maintaining the land and preserving ihe wild mushroom patches for years to come.”

Serves 4
For the Polenta
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup coarse-ground or medium-ground polenta

For the Oyster Mushroom Broth
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces wild oyster mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 4 thyme sprigs for garnish
1 bay leaf
1-2 tablespoons dry sherry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Garlic Chips
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 elephant garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup ricotta cheese
Parsley leaves (optional)

1. To make the polenta: Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, add the polenta in a slow, steady stream. Continue stirring until the stock returns to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. The polenta should pull away from the sides of the pan.

2. To make the oyster mushroom broth: Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over
medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and golden, about 6 minutes.
Add the stock, thyme, and bay leaf and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in sherry and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. To make the garlic chips: While the mushroom broth is simmering, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and set aside on paper towels.

4. Spoon the polenta into bowls; top each serving with mushrooms, ricotta cheese, and garlic chips. Drizzle the mushroom broth over the polenta, garnish with thyme sprigs or parsley leaves, if desired, and serve.

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