by Sybil PrattMay, 1999
Tis the SeasonDon't panic, we haven't flipped our calendrical lids. We're not talking turkey or Christmas pudding - we're just being seasonally correcty in our culinary pursuits. Amanda Hesser's debut cookbook The Cook and the Gardener makes that pursuit feasible, fun, and phenomenally rewarding for the cook and the cooked for. Ms. Hesser, a rising food writing star at the New York Times, who has studied, apprenticed, and cooked in some of the best bakeries and restaurants in the U.S. and Europe, spent a year as personal cook at Chateau du Fey in Burgundy. There, dependent on the Chateau's extensive garden and its curmudgeonly creator, curator, and cultivator, Monsieur Milbert, she learned how intensely linked fine cooking is to Mother Nature's fine produce. Hesser offers us a month-by-month account of what was going on in the garden and what was going on in her kitchen at the Chateau an alimentary almanac combined with the charming diary of her hard-won friendship with this quintessentially feisty French farmer. But the core of this cook's chronicle is, of course, the recipes. Each season is introduced with a discussion of basics a special soup stock for each equinox and solstice, rhubarb and ginger preserves for spring, herb salad dressings for summer, fruit preserves for autumn, creme fraiche for winter, and much more. And each month within a season is celebrated with recipes (250 in all) that showcase the fresh ingredients available, accompanied by innovative menu suggestions: Asparagus Risotto in May; Summer Vegetables with Three Sauces in August; Caramelized Chestnuts in October; Duck-and-Sausage Stew with Celery Root and Sage in January. Unfortunately, most of us don't have a resident gardener and must rely on supermarkets and, if we're lucky, local farmers' markets, so Hesser offers help to seasonally challenged cooks with notes on shopping for the appropriate fruits and vegetables. The recipes are as eclectic as Hesser's background, but she's made sure that they all speak to an American palate an American palate that will be much improved and inspired by this wonderfully fresh addition to the cookbook shelf. Sybil Pratt is an avid cook.