Side Dish: ‘The Fresh Table’

By Cheramie Sonnier

Helana Brigman couldn’t quite contain her excitement when she called not long ago to say her first cookbook was off the press. LSU Press is the publisher of the book, “The Fresh Table: Cooking in Louisiana All Year Round.”

The author is an LSU doctoral candidate who somehow finds time to blog about food, photograph food — she says that’s so she can immortalize her plating arrangements before the food is eaten —and write the “Fresh Ideas” column for The Advocate’s Food section (see Page 3E).

In her book, which is illustrated with about three dozen of her photographs, she encourages readers to discover seasonal eating, to take advantage of Louisiana’s seasonal harvests.

When planning her book, she says she paid “close attention both to seasonal availability and to the availability of our time. … recipes in this book are set up to save time as much as possible while not sacrificing the quality of a dish or its seasonal resources.”

Her book is divided by season.

Each season offers recipes for appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts and lagniappe, such as cheesy Southern biscuits and Abita molasses beer bread.

There’s a chapter on stocking the pantry, plus information on how to use some of the tools and what she calls essential food items and ingredients — like boudin, Cajun seasoning, crawfish, olive oil and vinegars.

That chapter includes recipes for making your own pizza sauce, ravioli pasta dough and pie crust, along with info on such things as how to roll an egg roll, keep chocolate from separating and remove pomegranate seeds

The book closes with a seasonal calendar of menus, a produce availability chart and a listing of Louisiana farmers markets and roadside stands.

I would be remiss in not noting that Helana kindly mentions both Beth Colvin, The Advocate’s assistant Food editor, and me in the book’s acknowledgments.

The author says she hopes her book reflects how she approaches cooking daily: “What’s affordable, fresh and available.” I believe she succeeded.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.