It’s the last week of June, and we have to talk about my adventures in vegetables through the book Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden. Before we even talk about the food, I have to gush poetic about all that I learned from this man and his book. This isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a tome of knowledge. The cover of the book says it best: “Joshua McFadden has the soul of a farmer.”
A farmer and a chef made one is a dangerous thing -- for the vegetables. This kind of person knows just what to do, and Joshua McFadden shared his skills with us through this book. For every season and every vegetable, there is a section dedicated to that vegetable. He talks all about how to clean it, what to look for when you’re at the market. For a novice, this is a perfect guide. He teaches you how to store the vegetable once you bring it home and advises how long it’ll generally keep in the fridge. I know next to nothing about how long a squash is going to survive in my fridge, but he does. Thanks, Joshua.
That said, I have never bookmarked this many recipes from a single book. I save twenty-four different recipes that range from butters to casseroles (yes, casseroles. Apparently they aren't as dead as I thought, but more on that later). Each is inspiring and flexible, broken down by seasonality of the star vegetable. I love this approach to a cookbook.
You’re going to laugh, but I may as well have bookmarked the entire ‘corn’ section of the book. I come from corn country. His approach to this dietary staple brought life to the bowl of canned corn or the traditional corn on the cob that I grew up with in Illinois. I started my approach to his corn centric recipes with his recipe ‘Corn, Tomatoes, and Clams on Grilled Bread, Knife-and-Fork-Style’.
As I started my preparations, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My husband is very anti-tomato, and it felt like a big risk for me to try to make him a recipe that featured both cherry tomatoes and tomato paste. I hoped that the inclusion of clams would more than make up for the ingredients that my husband hates. I said a little prayer over my stock pot as I poured the clams in over the broth. I put the lid on and sealed in clam and prayer alike.
It paid off. When I served that thick cut piece of bread covered in clams, broth, corn, and the occasional piece of tomato, I was not greeted with declarations of how I should know he doesn’t like tomato. He ate it gladly, declared it ‘pretty good, babe’, and I couldn’t expect much more than that. Speaking as the person who really enjoys tomatoes, the pop of acidity that the cherry tomatoes added in the mouth to help back up the lemon made them a worthwhile addition. Too bad my husband didn’t get to enjoy that.
The recipes are sometimes not feasible for a weekday, but there are plenty of project cooks in here for me to have fun with on the weekend. He’s driven me to figure out how the hell to make creme fraiche since its not sold in stores here in rural Delaware. He’s given me a new appreciation for vegetables that has helped me through my new pescetarian diet. That said, this is not a beginner's cookbook.
He does a lot to teach the reader about the product, but some of the techniques called for in his recipes were new and challenging even for me (I’ve been at this since I was twelve). Clams and certain other types of seafood are a little scary for anyone to cook, especially when you pick up the bag of clams at the grocery store and they all start to open and close at you. Some fruits and veggies just don't appear at the store when you want them, even peak season.
Six Seasons can be challenging,but I will continue to recommend it going forward. I have vegetarian and pescetarian family that would surely enjoy some of the recipes. For this reason, June’s cookbook of the month earns a prime spot in my reference materials. Thanks, Joshua. For real this time.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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