Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cookistry Cooks Books: The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook

You might have noticed that most of my recipes have no attributions. They don't usually say "adapted from" and they don't credit books, blogger, or anyone else.

That's because most of the recipes here are original. As in, I go into the kitchen and when the dust (usually flour) clears, there's some kind of edible food.

Some of my recipes are inspired by things I've eaten elsewhere or that people have told me about, but the actual recipes - the formulas and the instructions are my own.

There is one book that I rely on for the math involved in baking, and that's Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. When I'm trying to come up with a recipe for muffins or cookies or some other baked good, I often turn to that book for the proper ratio of flour to liquid to leavening to fat. And then I go wild from there.

Sometimes, though, I cook from cookbooks. Particularly when I get a new book, whether it's sent by the publisher, or I buy it new, or find it at a garage sale, I like to try at least one recipe and see if it works out. It gives me an idea whether my cooking style is compatible with the cookbook, and whether we like the results. Some cookbooks never make it past the first recipe, and some become good friends.

This time around, I got a review copy of The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook and started browsing through to see what I might make first. The book is organized by season, and chefs from Chicago restaurants are paired with farms.

The interesting thing is that I used to live in Chicago, and very few of the restaurants were familiar to me. I guess I've been gone that long.

I already had plans for dinner, so I started looking for a side dish that would work, and when I found rosemary infused carrots, I decided to give them a try. The rosemary I planted outside was finally growing, and I had carrots and garlic from the farmer's market.

I liked the idea of infusing the carrots with rosemary and garlic, although in the end I didn't taste all that much of either. I think next time I'd add the rosemary right at the beginning, and maybe infuse the oil with the garlic before tossing the carrots in.

I'll probably check out a few of the other recipes. Since they're all done by different chefs, they're likely to be very different from each other.

My only disappointment in the book were the recipes that called for products from a specific producer without explaining what else could be used. In one case it was "Spicy Greens from Werp Farms." Okay, I can get a spicy mix from my farmer's market, but it might have been interesting to know exactly what greens were in that particular mix.

In another case, a particular cheese was mentioned. That's fine if it's distributed nationally, but even that is a little iffy. What if the farm stops making the cheese? Why not describe it? Is it cheddar-like or hard like parmesan? Melty like gruyere? Sharp, mild, creamy, crumbly?

I completely get it when a recipe is featuring a certain product because the product manufacturer has created the recipe or is sponsoring it. They're hoping people will buy the product to make the recipe. But in this case, it seems just a teeny bit odd to name a greens mix from a particular farm, since it's available in such a small area.

But that's just a small complaint. I always assume there will be some recipes in a cookbook that I might not be able to make because ingredients are hard to come by, so it's not that much of a big deal. I know how to substitute things. And I'm looking forward to trying a few more recipes from this book.

So here's the recipe:

Rosemary-Infused Carrots
(from Bruce Sherman of North Pond)
Adapted from The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook by Heather Lally

1 lb. organic carrots
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 fresh rosemary springs
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped

Cut the carrots on the diagonal into 1/8 thick ovals.

Crush the garlic lightly, just to break the skin.

Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat, then add the carrots and garlic. Cook, without shaking the pan, for 3 minutes.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on the carrots and add the rosemary to the pan. Stir to turn the carrots to the uncooked side. Cook undisturbed for another 3 minutes. The carrots should be lightly browned on both sides. Taste for seasoning and to make sure the carrots are cooked to your desired doneness. Cook a little longer if necessary.

Pick out the garlic and rosemary and serve the carrots garnished with the parsley.