"Seasonal Recipes from the Garden" by P. Allen Smith
Reviewed by David Marshall James
With all the produce from summer gardens (as well as fields and orchards) coming in en masse (Southern translation: In big messes), this handsome cookbook-- the first by TV host and gardener/landscaper extraordinaire P. Allen Smith-- seems like a natural what-all and how-to guide.
You'll even find multiple ideas for the dreaded zucchini-- that garden gift that keeps on giving-- that's probably spirited away in your fridge crisper. Smith's recipe for Zucchini Greek Pie looks truly mouth-watering.
Indeed, the food photography for this volume earns a blue ribbon with gold braiding, in and of itself.
And Smith includes much more than the tempting salad, soup, and side-dish recipes that you would expect, given the title.
The author, being a Southerner, places a decided emphasis on family heritage, on heirloom recipes ranging from Cornbread Dressing to Sweet Potato Pie, from Blueberry Muffins to a truly old-fashioned Blackberry Jam Cake.
Other such traditional dishes abound, with desserts aplenty, from Apple and Apricot Cakes to a Citrus Honey Cheesecake, to Smith's best estimation of a Lemon Meringue Pie once served by a restaurant back in McMinnville, Tennessee, near his childhood home.
The author thoughtfully supplies a standard pie-crust recipe that can be used with many of the preparations. Still, he advises cooks not to turn off to something because it requires a pie crust-- feel free to purchase ready-to-bake pastry.
You can entertain in style with dozens of these dishes, from the New Orleans favorite Grillades and Grits to Shrimp Creole to multiple variations on poultry, pork, fish, and beef.
Smith takes you to the grill for both meats and vegetables, and, since he has access to clutch upon clutch of fresh brown eggs-- even supplying them to a local restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas-- he has abundant suggestions for savory tarts and frittatas.
Because this is literally a guide for all seasons-- with soup-to-nut course suggestions and some wonderful-looking adult beverages-- it will take you pretty much wherever you want to go-- breakfast, lunch, or dinner-- any day of the week.
Smith enjoys discussing the history of various foods, their etymologies, how to preserve their freshness, what varieties work best with what dishes, and naturally how to grow fresh produce.
If you can't nurture a pot of fresh basil, mint, thyme, or rosemary-- makes sense with the cents, though-- Smith's credo is to buy what is fresh and locally grown.
As for all those friendly gifts of zucchini-- try Smith's Zucchini Bread, which makes two loaves. You can freeze it, or better yet, give back to your thoughtful friends.
Maybe then they'll part with some fresh tomatoes.
SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an