Famous chef designs cookbook around seasonal food

Canadian chef Lynn Crawford has created a book so approachable and down-to-earth that when you read it, you may be able to take on a recipe that day with items you already have in your fridge, pantry or garden.

That’s the first thing I thought as I thumbed through Farm to Chef: Cooking through the seasons, her latest cookbook in search of recipes I could make in my rural prairie home.

While cookbooks of all shapes and sizes have exploded onto the publishing scene in the last decade, some have featured ingredients and recipes that just aren’t practical for the average home cook.

With the gardening season coming to an end, I had brought in carrots and zucchinis from my humble patch that were in want of being processed before they turned to mush. Crawford’s homey and hearty recipe for zucchini bread was just the answer.

The addition of walnut-honey butter gave the straightforward recipe a twist that made it both a conversation piece for guests and a reason for seconds. The crunch of the toasted walnuts and tang of orange zest in Crawford’s butter recipe made buying the book worth it as I imagined slathering the spread on pancakes, waffles and French toast.

Crawford, a native of Ontario, has become a familiar face on TV, guest judging on the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada and Chopped Canada and hosting the farm-to-table series Pitchin’ In. Her career has taken her full circle from executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto and New York City right back to Toronto where she now lives and owns the restaurant Ruby Watchco.

While Crawford’s resume is long and impressive, her recipes are approachable and humble. From babka’s borscht, which is the classic beet-borscht recipe many have grown up with on the Prairies, to cabbage rolls with kielbasa and sage, Crawford adds one or two unique ingredients to take the recipes from ordinary to unique.

“Consider this book your official invitation to cook with me for an entire year, to discover all the seasons together,” writes Crawford in the book’s introduction.

In fall, the recipes hone in on basic ingredients like apples, beets and carrots while the winter recipes bring to life onions in marmalade parsnips in poutine.

Spring recipes are built around mushrooms and new potatoes while summer is explored through classic ingredients like corn, berries and tomatoes.

What I love most about this cookbook is the simplicity.

You see a collage of humble potatoes on one page, and on the next the dirt-encrusted orbs are transformed into potato pancakes and french fries (albeit with chipotle aioli to amp up the creativity).

While recipes are easily found on the internet these days, Crawford’s recipes are ones that you just want to hold in your hand and enjoy the photographs. Stories that accompany recipes are as soul warming as the recipes for spiced apple butter and My Dad’s Pickled Beets.

“I distinctly remember the smell of vinegar, the sound of laughter and our bright purple hands. He loved beets … and so do I,” writes Crawford.

For the cook in your family, this book could just be the perfect Christmas gift.

Christalee Froese is a freelance journalist from Montmartre, Sask. Contact: chapters@producer.com.

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