Root to Leaf Cookbook: Seasonal Cooking Straight from the Market
“Seasonal cooking begins with the harvest,” Steven Satterfield writes in his new cookbook, Root to Leaf. Throughout the book Satterfield sings the virtues of shopping at your local farmers markets and produce stands, and Root to Leaf is an homage to cooking inspired by the freshest seasonal produce. With deep roots in the South, Satterfield might not seem like an obvious choice for a deep appreciation of the culinary potential of vegetables, but within the pages of Root to Leaf you’ll find eloquent, colorful stories, stunning photography and a comprehensive guide to seasonal cooking straight from the market all year long.
How does Satterfield choose which produce makes it into his tote bags? “I’m usually drawn towards whatever looks good and fresh,” he tells us. “I also like to mix things up. Give yourself a challenge and buy one thing that you’ve never cooked before.” And picking new dishes to try won’t be too hard once you flip through Root to Leaf. Honestly, the biggest challenge you’ll face is which new recipe to try first. There’s plenty of inspiration growing in those pages, from springtime English Pea Hummus (recipe below for you to try at home) and a vibrant summer Eggplant Caponata to Gingered Pumpkin Custards for autumn or a winter Beet Red Velvet Cake.
Satterfield was kind enough to share his top tips for an easy, fruitful trip to the farmers market:
- Before you go, hit your ATM. Most farmers accept cash only. If you need a receipt, just ask.
- Bring your own reusable bags or boxes for your purchases. If you are forgetful like me, hang them on a hook at your front door, or leave them in the trunk of your car.
- When you arrive, do a “market stroll” first, and take a good look at what is at every stand and table. Get a sense of the big picture: Who has what? What looks good? Are there similar items at more than one stand?
- Prioritize your purchases. If something looks great but wasn’t on your list, consider buying it and experimenting. Chances are you will not find a better one at your local supermarket or possibly another booth.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the farm stand: “Will you have these for the rest of the season?” “What other varieties are you growing?” If you are hoping to can or preserve for the season and you don’t have time that particular day, you may be able to plan to do it before the season ends.
- Try to spread out your purchases so that you can buy a little something from several stands, not just one. The more relationships you can develop with your local growers, the more opportunities you will have for future good finds. Some farmers have certain items that really shine at certain times of the year that are often not to be missed.
- Many markets offer lots of other items besides fresh produce: oils, dairy and cheese, milled grains, freshly baked breads and pastries, foraged items, pastured birds, humanely raised meats, value-added products (jams, jellies, ready to eat foods, ice creams). Take advantage of all that your market has to offer. The more you can find to purchase locally, the easier it is to get into the habit.
- Consider where your dollar is going and decide: Can I buy this locally or do I need to pick it up somewhere else?
- Avoid buying more than you think you’ll actually cook, to minimize food waste.
- Think about how much free time you have and how many meals you need to make, and buy accordingly.
Though the healthful and now mainstream Middle Eastern dip we know as hummus typically includes chickpeas and sesame tahini, this adaptation contains neither. Rather, its similarly smooth texture comes from the natural starch and protein of the English pea. In the summer, I make a variation of this using blanched field peas of any variety, and I substitute thyme for the spring herbs and fresh garlic in place of the early green garlic of spring.
In a large saucepan over high heat, bring 3 quarts water and 1/2 cup kosher salt to a boil. Prepare an ice bath of 3 quarts water and ice with 1/2 cup kosher salt stirred in until dissolved. Add the shelled English peas to the boiling water and cook until tender, 2 to 4 minutes. When sweet and tender, immediately remove the peas from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Let sit until the peas are fully cooled, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain.
Combine blanched peas, green garlic, mint, chervil, lemon, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with crudités or crackers.
Recipes and photography from Root to Leaf by Steven Satterfield. Copyright © 2015 by Steven Satterfield. Photography by John Kernick. Used with permission of Harper Wave Publishing. All rights reserved.
You can order your copy of Root to Leaf here before you head out to the farmers market this spring season.