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Cookbook review: ‘Fresh’ offers seasonal recipes

This easy-to-make rhubarb compote from the new “Fresh from the Farm” complements everything from ice cream, above, to yogurt, pound cake, French toast, meringue and more. (Adriana Janovich)
This easy-to-make rhubarb compote from the new “Fresh from the Farm” complements everything from ice cream, above, to yogurt, pound cake, French toast, meringue and more. (Adriana Janovich)


By Susie Middleton

(The Taunton Press, $28)

Quick look: The former editor-in-chief of Fine Cooking magazine began growing vegetables commercially on Martha’s Vineyard in 2010. This volume – part cookbook, part memoir – details a year in her life on Green Island Farm and offers 125 simple yet elegant recipes that she created to celebrate each season.

What’s inside: Susie Middleton admits she was “nervous as hell” when she first set up her farmstand at the end of her driveway. She had moved into the farmhouse the prior autumn. But Memorial Day weekend 2011 marked one of those here-goes-nothing moments.

Three years later, she’s “settled into a rhythm that works, though it isn’t always completely graceful.” Her anecdotes – “How Not to Start Seedlings,” “An Embarrassment of Squashes” – are humorous, heartfelt, inspiring, self-deprecating and delightful. Approachable, vegetable-centered recipes come with “Cook’s Tips” and are often accompanied by gorgeous, sunlight-filled photographs. The appendix includes instructions for building your own farmstand, seed-starting shelving rack, raised bed with hoops and chicken coop.

Recipes and vignettes are organized by growing seasons: late spring and early summer, high summer, and Indian summer and early fall. They start with dishes like spring celebration salad with crab cakes and avocado-chive dressing, rhubarb compote, and pink and green radish and arugula salad with honey, almonds and mint. In high summer, there are tomato party sandwiches on fresh corn biscuits with basil mayo; roasted tomato rustic tart; tomato, corn, leek and potato gratin; and roasted eggplant, roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil stacks. September and October bring “The Bonus Season” and a different bounty. There’s curry-coconut butternut squash soup, caramelized carrots and shallots with spinach and citrus brown butter, and roasted beet jewels with cranberries, toasted pecans and balsamic butter.

What’s not: Winter is the only season that’s missing from this field-to-farmhouse-kitchen cookbook.

Rhubarb Compote

Use this easy-to-make recipe to complement ice cream, yogurt, pound cake, French toast, pancakes, meringue or whipped cream – or serve it as a tart-and-sweet dessert on its own.

Rhubarb has a high water content, but adding a little extra orange or pineapple juice or water will thin the mixture, making the consistency more sauce-like for topping ice cream – which is what I did. I also used this recipe to make a filling for a rhubarb tart, which received rave reviews at a backyard barbecue.

This recipe can also provide a simple base for flavor add-ons like bourbon and vanilla bean, anise, strawberries, raspberries, ginger or dry or sweet white wine.

And you don’t have to use sugar; substitute honey or agave syrup, if you desire.

12 ounces rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons orange juice

In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar and orange juice. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle, not vigorous, simmer, and continue cooking until mixture has reduced and thickened but before the rhubarb has completely broken up, about 12 minutes. (The mixture will pull away from the sides and separate a bit when a spoon drags through it but will still be fairly loose. It will thicken up as it cools.) Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate to chill completely.

Cook’s Illustrated’s Foolproof Pie Crust

This recipe doesn’t come from “Fresh from the Farm,” but I used it to make the crust for the tart I made with the rhubarb compote recipe, which did come from the cookbook.

You can swap out the vodka for booze with flavor, like rye or rum. (I used rum.) The alcohol cooks out of the dough, leaving it crispy and flakey.

1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter ( 3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces

2 tablespoons vodka, cold

2 tablespoons cold water

Process 3/4 cups flour, salt and sugar together in food processor until combined, about two one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie crust