Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing

As far as cookbooks go, Andrea Reusing‘s Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, is the cream of the crop. Rather than containing an overwhelming number of recipes that require lots of advanced technique and special tools, Reusing approaches cooking in much the same way I do—cooking is about enhancing the experience of eating fresh, quality ingredients, not masking the taste of vegetables in a mess of spices and sauces. In a lot of ways, this cookbook can be read as a carefully crafted food journal, with dates, stories, and incredible photographs; however, it contains a lot of good advice and technique tips as well.

Some of the things I found particularly interesting included the “Icebox Pickles” section (dated September 15) covers everything from vinegar-pickled pumpkins, to salt-cured chiles, to sauerkraut. I am completely fascinated by canning foods. (I am also kind of obsessed with my dehydrator.) I have yet to try these recipes, but I’m a big fan of salt-marinating cucumbers and onions, and I am really looking forward to trying something similar with chiles. Also, one of my friends is rather enamored with sauerkraut and I’ve promised to share Reusing’s recipe for that too.

Cooking in the Moment also contains plenty of fantastic fall recipes that I am extremely excited about. I’m in the process of planning an apple-picking outing and can’t wait to make the “skillet apples and onions” recipe and pairing it with the “hard cider-braised pork shoulder.” I’ve recently been experimenting with apples, onions and pork chops cooked with hard cider and that recipe has converted even my pork chop-hating boyfriend so I have high hopes for the pork shoulder.

What truly struck me about this cookbook,however, even more than the awesomely simple techniques and ingredient minimalism, is that food became a community experience. The meals are built around locally-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables and the meats are often raised and butchered locally too. This is certainly not the only way to get these ingredients, but supporting the local food production often results in tastier and often less expensive ingredients. Also, getting to know the local farmers, butchers, and fishmongers is an excellent way to get a handle on a new area. The farmer’s markets that I’ve been loving here have given me ample opportunity to meet these people and start building relationships that will hopefully expand my food horizons. To put it simply, I’m thrilled with this community-based approach to food.

While Reusing’s seasonal approach to a menu is modeled after the crops that are local to the Carolina’s, with a little tweaking of the dates, it is largely applicable elsewhere too. If you are convinced that you won’t find anything comparable to your region, think again. Tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, lettuce, pork, beef, peppers and apples grow just about everywhere in the continental U.S. and furthermore, even in the big cities of this country you are not terribly far away from the farms producing artisan cheeses, locally pressed cider, and even local micro-breweries. I would highly recommend looking into farm shares, farmers markets, and restaurants that support local agriculture too. You’ll be rewarded with the best food and the incredibly interesting, passionate people.

I’d highly recommend checking this book out at a library or buying it immediately (see the link above to Amazon) but I loved everything about this. I have read it twice from cover to cover and shared excerpts of it with everyone who has dropped by my apartment and brought up food in any way. It’s an awesome approach to food, and I cannot get enough of it. Even now, I am dreaming up a scheme that will convince my boyfriend to take me to Lantern, Reusing’s restaurant in North Carolina. Believe me, when it happens there will be pictures and a blow-by-blow review of the meal. Until then, however, I will content myself with these recipes and relish the fall colors and flavors that are in my future.

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