Labor Day is upon us, and that means autumn isn’t too far behind. It’s time to make the most of these last summer days — and the exceptional bounty of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
To offer some culinary inspiration in the kitchen, I’ve rounded up a few new cookbooks that celebrate fresh, seasonal ingredients. Farm-to-plate seasonal eating is a welcome trend on bookshelves right now — so you’re better able to maintain that trim beach body even when fall’s cool, crisp weather hits.
The following books would be excellent take-alongs for your last few weekends at the beach, on the lake, or in the mountains.
Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking
In this book, chef and restaurateur Mario Batali presents his take on healthy Italian dishes, seasonal ingredients, and simple, delicious food that’s clearly meant to be shared with family and friends. Recipes are often organized by season and are heavily vegetable-driven; chapters include seafood antipasti, pizzas, fresh pasta, and homey, light desserts.
Batali brings restaurant-quality Italian cooking into your kitchen with ease and healthfulness. Among the mouthwatering recipes (perfect for finishing out the summer) are Fresh Fava Beans with Ricotta; Fregula with Corn; Cherry Tomatoes with Crème Fraîche and Chives; Summer Salad Caprese; Linguine with Mussels and Saffron; Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta; Aglio, Olio, and Peperoncino Pizza; Cantaloupe Sorbetto; and Sweet Corn Coppetta with Blackberry Sauce. Yes, I’m hungry just reading it as well!
Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh
New Orleans charmer Emeril Lagasse has done it again, with a nod to farm-fresh cooking translated into a gorgeously photographed series of vegetable-and-fruit-focused recipes. He’s thoughtfully structured the book’s contents into sensible groupings that help the reader appreciate the seasonality of food.
Farm to Fork features such categories as the herb garden; milk, eggs, and cheese; leafy greens; nightshades; berries, figs, and melons; the orchard; cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower); roots, shoots, tubers, and bulbs; and winter fruits. It keeps your mind and taste buds jumping from page to page.
Lagasse makes a point of encouraging readers to take advantage of local, seasonal ingredients and to support farmers and small producers when possible. His book combines environmentally conscious eating with a love of delicious food.
Healthful recipes abound, among them Turnip and Radish Slaw with Lump Crabmeat and Chive Oil, Grass-Fed Beef Carpaccio with Shaved Celery in a White Wine Vinaigrette, Tomato Tartare and Micro Greens with Shallot Vinaigrette, Spanish-Style Braised Squid, Watermelon Limeade, and Apple Tarragon Granita. Simple, approachable, and delightful.
The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual
Straight from Brooklyn’s notable Frankies Spuntino restaurant, this book encompasses 100 Italian-American recipes for classic comfort dishes tricked out with seasonal ingredients and greenmarket sides.
Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo make a serious case for bringing gourmet-quality dishes to the home cook’s repertoire, with ease and simplicity. And I can confidently say, having eaten at Frankies numerous times, these chefs know their stuff.
The duo of Franks takes the book beyond just recipes, sharing stories and useful kitchen insights on how to stock a kitchen with essential equipment and ingredients, as well as step-by-step illustrations of how to properly tie meat, make fresh pasta, and identify different lettuce varieties and herbs. (The book’s tagline, “Grandma never broke a sweat. Neither should you,” gives an idea of their approach.)
A sampling of stand-out recipes includes Escarole and Cannellini Bean Soup; Watercress with Fresh Figs and Gorgonzola; Linguine with Fava Beans, Garlic, Tomato, and Bread Crumbs; Sweet and Sour Baked Eggplant with Mint and Ricotta Salata; and Red Wine Prunes with Mascarpone.
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