Pros: wonderful recipes and great narration
Cons: this cookbook might not appeal to everyone
Rarely does a book come along that changes the way we think about the food we eat, where it comes from, and the amount of edible food that we, in "advanced" societies, tend to throw away. Wild Flavors by Didi Emmon is one such book. If that name rings a bell, it should. Emmons is the author of "The Vegetarian Planet" and Entertaining for a Veggie Planet," both popular cookbooks.
"Wild Flavors" chronicles Emmons relationship with Eva Sommaripa a farmer, and modern day pioneer woman in Massachusetts. Eva turned her passion for farming into a 2 acre, organic farm specializing in herbs, greens, flowers, and wild edibles, many of which no one else is cultivating.
The book is divided into 4 sections that coincide with the seasons, although in this book they are listed under the headings of Salvaging, Community, Bartering and Preserving and Conserving, 4 major pillars of Eva's philosophy in how to approach farming and life in general. The book then lists all the recipes by their main ingredient so if you're looking for cabbage recipes they are all in the same place, looking for leek recipes then they will all be grouped together. This makes it very convenient when you are looking for a recipe for certain items, not that most of the items in this book are so pedestrian. While there are a few very familiar items listed in the "Contents" you are more likely to find lesser known vegetables, herbs and wild edibles. Items such as Bronze Fennel, Chickweed, Juniper Berries and Goosefoot all make appearances. The latter one, Goosefoot, I'm excited about as I have it growing all over my yard and before reading this book I had no idea this weed was edible.
This book isn't for everyone though. It has a message and that message is pretty "in your face" most of the time. It is one long lesson on how to live sustainably and lessen your imprint on this Earth. If you are not someone who really cares much about the sustainable lifestyle or have access to many of the wild and exotic greens and herbs highlighted in this book, it may not be for you, but if you are interested in using food items that you have never used before or want to get a feel for living a sustainable lifestyle then you couldn't do much better than to pick up this book.
Spaghetti Squash with Lentils and Sage
makes 3 servings
1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds)
1 1/4 cup brown lentils or french lentils
5 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbl. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
4 ounces feta, cut into small pieces (my favorite is goat's-milk feta)
2-4 Tbl. chopped sage leaves (reviewer's note - this would be fresh sage)
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Bake the squash whole on a baking sheet for 1 1/2 hours.
3. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan with plenty of salted water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook until al dente, about 20 minutes. Rinse the lentils with cold water and drain them well.
4. Remove the softened squash from the oven and let it cool a bit. Then cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Use a fork to pull the strands of squash out of the shell and into a bowl. You can use a spoon to get the last bits out. Set aside.
5. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and the lentils, frying them without stirring for about 3 minutes. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir or toss, and fry for a few more minutes until they become a bit crispy. Transfer to a plate.
6. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and squash to the pan, and reheat, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the feta, sage and salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Stir in the lemon juice. Spoon onto plates and top with lentils and serve.