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Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables
I Didn't Kill Anyone Up Here
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Raves & Reviews on Farmer John's Cookbook
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Playing with seasons of recipes
Victoria Times
Sat 03 Jun 2006
Byline: Helen Chesnut
Column: Garden Notes

"Whenever I want to eat something I shouldn't, I take my clothes off and look in the mirror. I just stand there looking at myself. Then I decide not to eat it."

I found this gem in one of the outlined boxes marked "Overheard" in the newly published Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics (Gibbs Smith, 360 pages, paperback, $29.95). The realization that I was not alone in employing this useful tool to curb a food lust gone wild sent me into fits of gleeful giggling.

This magazine-size book is filled with 225 seasonal recipes using more than 35 fresh vegetables.

Around the recipes are stories and observations from Angelic Organics, a Community Supported Agriculture farm that provides more than 1,200 families in the Chicago area with weekly deliveries of vegetables and herbs.

The quirky humour in the book is reflected in a front cover photo of Farmer John in the traditional straw hat, overalls, and upended pitchfork and a decidedly untraditional orange feather boa wound round his neck.

The book flowed naturally out of the farm's weekly newsletters to customers (called shareholders). The newsletters included tips and recipes for using the Vegetable of the Week.

The book has a newsletter-like informality, with ample feedback from shareholders and notations by workers on the farm.

Farmer John's Cookbook also reveals the farm's practical and philosophical direction with articles on bio-dynamic growing methods and comments by Farmer John such as the one introducing the early season vegetables: "Our farm feeds a lot of people without chemicals. Feeding people well is not about chemicals. It's about paradigms."

The early season section emphasizes leafy vegetables -- cooking and salad greens, scallions, bok choy, chicories and herbs along with cucumbers, beets, radishes and zucchini.

Sweet Zucchini Crumble is an enticing combination of a spiced lemon and zucchini mixture on a flour, sugar and butter base, baked with some of the reserved base crumbled on top.

The herbs section describes the best uses for 12 herbs and offers tips on storing and preserving them. Among the recipes are Sage and Butter Sauce, Cilantro-Ginger Spread, Rosemary Lemonade, and Basil Cheesecake.

I was thrilled to see in the beets section a Chocolate Beet Cake recipe much like one I wheedled out of the owner of a local cafe a few years ago.

The pureed cooked beets, eggs, and dark Belgian chocolate I use puts slicing into its glistening substance and savouring its richness into the rarified realm of the celestially sublime.

For an easy icing that is not sugary I simply use whipping cream with melted chocolate added.

Mid-season recipes bring such delights as Spiced Carrot Salad with fresh parsley, mint and cilantro, cumin and cinnamon, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. There are recipes for Watermelon Soup and Provencal Tomato and Cheese Tart.

Among the late season offerings are Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette, Cauliflower Pie with Potatoes, Spinach and Basil, Spiced Parsnip Cake with Pecans, and Acorn Squash Salad flavoured with cilantro, candied ginger, maple syrup and orange juice.

For families wanting to eat well with fresh and vital basic foods, Farmer John's Cookbook is a fun and funky guide. It is also a book to consider as a Father's Day gift for dads who cook and like to laugh.

 
 


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