Title: Farm to Fork; Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh
Author: Emeril LaGasse
312 pages; Colorful Softcover $24.95 US
Publisher: 2010 HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY
Reviewed by: Chef John Vyhnanek, June, 2010

The review--- So you just went to the farmers market and have come home with all sorts of vegetables, now what? Well you should have planned ahead and purchased Emeril Lagasse’s new cookbook Farm to Fork first! Emeril has penned over a dozen cookbooks and like all the others, this is very good indeed. The recipes are clearly written and will make sense to a professional chef or a home cook. One important key to most chefs is to not overdo and kill the flavors of your main ingredient with the addition of more seasonings. Emeril has managed to do this with these recipes.

Most people nowadays have access to farm grown food that only 15 years ago was available to the lucky country folk, many of whom raise or grew their own supply. In comparing a real farm laid egg only a few days old to a store bought month old egg, you will notice that when cracked open It'stays compact compared to the store egg which spreads out. It’s all in the freshness, which gives a richer flavor and a sense of satisfaction to the diner. This principle applies to everything else locally farmed and that is why this book is better than good. Okay you ask, what about the recipes?

As mentioned, they work! Try the Tempura Squash Blossoms or the Spanish-Style Braised Squid, both of which sound great. I tried two recipes, Tomato Tartare and Micro Greens with Shallot Vinaigrette page 78 and Red GrapefruIt'sorbet page 203. I must say that I pushed the envelope a bit because it isn’t tomato season yet in my area, far from it in fact; we won’t see farm field tomatoes for another six weeks or so. I was able to find some delicious hydroponically grown plum tomatoes that rival farm field tomatoes to use. The recipe was clear to follow and the plate assembly straightforward. It was fun to look at on the plate and the flavor hit the mark. I do wonder about the micro greens though, they were a bit hard to find and I might have preferred a chiffonade of fresh basil leaves instead. The Red GrapefruIt'sorbet was an easy-to-make recipe, providing that you have an ice cream maker! If you don’t, It'still can be made in ice cube trays although the consistency won’t be the same. Machine-made, it is creamy and snow-cone textured when frozen and with the cube method it is more chunky and popsicle-hard. The flavor is the same and both ways will work as the quality of ingredients in the recipe makes the difference.

Red Grapefruit Sorbet

Good Cooking recommends this book for the summer and fall farm season when the bounty of the table is plentiful. There are ideas and recipes that aren’t common and that will add to your repertoire. The pictures are a plus as they help you visualize how your finished plates should look. So--a “Salute to Emeril” on another fine cookbook!

Tomato Tartare and Micro Greens with Shallot Vinaigrette
4 servings

I remember a time, not long ago, when the most widely available tomatoes were those developed to withstand the impact of long journeys across the country in less than perfect conditions and, hence, picked long before they were ripe. They looked good in the store but often lacked flavor. Nowadays, we can choose from Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Banana Legs, Golden Egg, Jersey Devil ... and with names like those, how can you resist? This dish is best when the heirloom tomatoes are at their peak.

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 shallots, sliced into rounds (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cubed whole wheat bread (small cubes)
1/4 cup chopped pitted black olives
1/2 cup micro greens

1. Seed and dice the tomatoes, and place them in a colander set over a bowl to catch the juices. Sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon of the salt over the tomatoes, and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.

2. Combine the olive oil, thyme, and shallots in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then immediately
reduce the heat. Simmer gently until the shallots are tender, 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat,
and discard the thyme. Strain the shallots, reserving the oil separately, and allow them to cool. Puree the cooled shallots with 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a blender or food processor.

3. In a small bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of the shallot puree with the vinegar, garlic, mustard, sugar, and herbs. Slowly whisk in 8 tablespoons of the reserved oil. Season with 1h teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

5. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 4 tablespoons of the remaining reserved oil. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet, and bake until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, toasted bread cubes, and olives, and toss with 1/4 cup of the shallot vinaigrette.

7. To assemble, place a 3-inch round cookie cutter on a plate, and spoon the tomato mixture into the mold, filling it all the way to the top. Remove the mold, and mound 2 tablespoons of the micro greens on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle the plate with a little of the remaining vinaigrette. Repeat this for all the remaining three plates, and serve.