Thursday, April 17, 2014
Every once in a while, a cookbook comes along that would be at home on any Maine bookshelf.
Sam Hayward’s sea scallops with saffron and cider dish looks perfect for this time of year.
Photo by Genti and Hyers
That's the case with "The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America's Great Chefs" (The Taunton Press, $40).
The Chefs Collaborative is a non-profit network of 6,000 chefs, farmers, fishermen, educators and food lovers that has been promoting sustainable food systems since it was founded in 1993. The ranks of the group include notable chefs such as John Ash, Rick Bayless, Dan Barber, Hugh Acheson and Deborah Madison.
The collaborative's new cookbook includes 115 original recipes from some of its member chefs, including Portland's own Sam Hayward of Fore Street, who joined the organization in its first year. (You'll find Hayward's contribution to the book, his recipe for sea scallops with saffron and cider, reprinted below.)
Last year, the Chefs Collaborative awarded Hayward its "Sustainer" award, which "recognizes a chef who has been both a great mentor and a model to the culinary community through his purchases of seasonal, sustainable ingredients and the transformation of these ingredients into delicious food."
When chef Michael Leviton of Lumiere presented the award to Hayward in New Orleans last year, he said: "Sam has very quietly been doing this for a long time and has trained generations of chefs. Not only that, but he has been a champion of a cuisine that is uniquely representative of Maine's bounty."
Hayward, who has won a "Best Chef" James Beard award and whose restaurant has received multiple Beard nominations, said the award from the Chefs Collaborative is "the award I'm most proud to have achieved."
So, what's the Chefs Collaborative cookbook like? Think of it as a primer for the home cook on how to choose sustainable ingredients, read labels (what does "Food Alliance Certified" mean?), and in general prepare dinner like Hayward is standing beside you in your kitchen, giving you advice.
There are sidebars explaining why organic food costs more, and advising you "What to Ask When You're Ready to Buy the Cow."
What exactly is quinoa? How do you use teff and farro? You'll find out in the mini-encyclopedia of grains in the book.
"Using Everything" gives advice on what to do with chard and collard stems, apricot and cherry pits, radish greens, and other "leftover" parts of fruits and vegetables.
There's a guide to the categories and types of cheeses, and an explainer on egg labels.
If you have to choose between local and organic ingredients, which should you choose?
And that's just the beginning.
You might be wary of the recipes in a book like this because they come from chefs who aren't intimidated at all by recipes like roasted leg of goat with bordal beans and pork heart and sausage ragout over pasta.
Yes, those are in the cookbook, but don't worry: There's also plenty of accessible recipes for the faint-of-pork-heart, including buttermilk fried chicken from a North Carolina chef and corn spoonbread souffle with green garlic and asparagus from a San Francisco chef.
Most are in the middle – dishes that sound tantalizing but don't require a culinary degree or 20 years in a professional kitchen to execute. Think smoke-roasted whole chicken with Moroccan spices, spicy lamb Bolognese with basil ricotta on fettucine, and grilled New York steaks (grass-fed, of course) with asparagus, spring onions and porcini sauce.
Most of the chefs from the Northeast who contributed recipes are from Massachusetts. Chef Evan Mallett from the Black Trumpet in Portsmouth is the only chef from New Hampshire in the book. He shared an "October Heirloom Salad" that features some of his favorite heirloom root vegetables.
(Continued on page 2)