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Good-bye….and Hello!

Friends, we have come to that all-too-familiar time when we bid farewell to our current cookbook, and begin our exploration of a new one.

I don’t know about you, but I have a freezer chock-full of delicious dinners, thanks to my time spent with Fix, Freeze, Feast. It’s almost too full. I’ll have to cook some meals before I can make any more. This delights me to no end, knowing that I will have some summer afternoons free to enjoy sitting in the garden with my kiddos instead of prepping dinner.

I have been so impressed with the simplicity of the recipes, and with their tastiness. And I think these ladies did an excellent job of pulling together a wide variety of dishes (there is an entire chapter on pork that I didn’t even touch on, because we don’t eat pork).

I plan on keeping these recipes in regular rotation in our house. If I can manage to cook 2-3 dishes each month, then I should always have something on hand for a quick dinner, or for a dinner to deliver to a friend. And so this delightful book is going to sit next to my other favorite friends on my cookbook shelf. I’m so glad I got to know it better.

And now, I’m so excited to introduce you to our newest cookbook, The Art of Real Food by Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny. All of you who said you wanted to explore a cookbook that would use produce from the farmer’s market or from your own garden, this is for you. You’re so going to love it. I have so many things about it that I want to rave about, that I can’t even decide where to start.

Okay, first, the authors:

Now don’t these look like two ladies that you want to spend an evening cooking with?? 20 years ago (yup, 20 years ago, when eating organic, locally, and seasonally was not what the movie stars were doing), Ms. Neft started a farmer’s market in Placer County, California. In order to encourage people to shop at the farmer’s market, she astutely realized that she might provide them with some recipes. And so, Placer County Real Food was born. This first cookbook is also excellent, and I recommend it, but I thought it more timely to focus on their recently released follow-up book, The Art of Real Food.

Ms. Neft and her friends were so kind to send me copies of both books. Here are some of my most favorite things about The Art of Real Food:

This cookbook is a true collaboration. It is so well-thought out and beautifully executed in every facet. It includes the work of an excellent photographer (my own photography will not stand up well next to his, just to warn you), a fabulous sculptor (I’m coveting just about every piece of pottery in this book), and a delightful illustrator (wouldn’t you love these illustrations hanging in your kitchen??). And let’s not forget the chef who whipped up these delightful dishes week after week, Laura Kenny. Altogether, the talents of these artists combine to create a beautiful cookbook that truly transcends being just a collection of recipes.

The book provides recipes for each week of the entire year. Many farmer’s market or garden cookbooks focus on only the summer months when there is a huge bounty of produce to be had. But what about those humble winter crops? The brassicas and the sturdy greens? Don’t they deserve some delicious recipes, too?? Of course they do! And you’ll find them here.

The seasons in the book reflect what’s in season in California for each week, so while they have strawberries in early May, we don’t have them here until mid-June. Even though the dates don’t match up for my location, the order in which the crops turn up in the market is roughly the same and is still applicable.

It’s more than just a raw cookbook. As I was browsing books to consider for our cookbook tour, I was getting annoyed with all the raw salad-like recipes I was finding. Yes, of course you want a dish that will show off the flavor of, say, a fresh Meyer lemon. But really, how often can one appreciate the flavor nuances of a zucchini? Or a cabbage? I love that this book has real recipes that my family will eat–some of it raw, certainly. But also with a hefty portion of casseroles, meat dishes, stews, and baked goods.

Recipes that are elegant, but not fussy. You could easily serve these dishes as company dinner. But most of them do not require a lot of fuss and muss. In fact, the recipes were born from weekly dinner gatherings. Hear Ms. Neft talk about it here.

Any cookbook that can work a recipe for mac and cheese into the blueberry section is all right by me. Yup, mac and cheese in the blueberry section (because it goes so well with a blueberry kuchen for dessert!). And chocolate ganache cake with the green beans. Don’t you love it already?

I hope you’re as excited as I am. I’ve already been cooking up some of the recipes and I know you’re going to love it. It’s a fairly new book, so you may have a hard time finding it in your library. You can purchase a copy here, or if you’re feeling lucky you can stick around for our book giveaway in a few weeks. Don’t be turned off by the fact that you can’t order it at a discount on Amazon with free shipping. I assure you (as you’ll see) this book is so worth the full price and the shipping. Go for it. You won’t regret it.

* If you’re wanting to add another book (or two) to your farmer’s market cooking, I also recommend Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton. Susie sent me a review copy from which I’ve been cooking and I’ve been delighted with the tasty side dishes. I haven’t gotten my hands on her new book The Fresh and Green Table, but it appears to be equally fabulous.

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