Side Dish: Fresh, seasonal cooking

Fresh, seasonal and local. Those are today’s culinary buzzwords. And for good reason. Using freshly picked, locally grown foods is a healthier — and tastier — way to cook.

As the farm-to-table movement grows, so does the list of cookbooks offering recipes to get the most of that in-season produce. Among them is “Better Homes and Gardens Fresh: Recipes for Enjoying Ingredients at Their Peak.”

The cookbook, attractively illustrated with full-color photographs of many of the prepared recipes, opens with seven chapters of recipes.

An extensive, seasonally organized produce guide is at the back. The guide covers produce from artichokes and rhubarb to okra and sweet potatoes.

It gives a description of the ingredient with information on varieties, explains how to select and store the produce, and how to prepare them.

Among its recipes are Crepes With Strawberries and Lemony Crème Fraîche; Cucumber Sangria; Roast Duck With Blackberry-Orange Sauce; six ideas each for enjoying garlic and mint; Roasted Vegetable and Fresh Mozzarella Panini; Stirred Custard With Fresh Figs and Sherry-Caramel Sauce; and Broiled Grapefruit Tart.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to enjoy produce from the home garden or farmers market, “Better Homes and Gardens Fresh” has plenty of flavorful, easy-to-follow recipes to try.

Seeking crawfish info

Sam Irwin is writing a book on the modern Louisiana crawfish industry and he wants to hear the crawfish stories of Louisiana residents.

Irwin, a Breaux Bridge native, said he witnessed the Atchafalaya River’s evolution from a fish economy to a crawfish-driven market.

He’s been told some people were embarrassed to admit they ate crawfish because it was considered “low class” (bas clas) and would like to interview anyone with such a story.

He also wants to hear from residents of Pierre Part and other locations on the eastern side of the Atchafalaya Basin and the rice-growing parishes to learn how crawfish became king in the big city, the Cajun prairie and beyond Louisiana’s boundaries. Contact him at samirwin@samirwin.net or (225) 924-2756.

The book, “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean,” is expected to be released by History Press in 2014.

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


Advocate-tested recipe

Roasted Tomato-Bread Toss

Serves 8. Recipe is from “Better Homes and Gardens Fresh” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

2 lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes (about 6 cups)

6 cups torn baguette or Italian bread (12 ozs.)

2 to 3 tbls. olive oil

1/2 cup pitted kalamata and/or green olives

2 tbls. balsamic vinegar (see note)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1.2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Position one oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 15-inch-by-10-inch-by-1-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer in the prepared pan Place bread in large bowl. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons oil over bread pieces. Toss to coat. In a second 15-inch by 10-inch-by-1-inch baking pan arrange bread in a single layer.

2. Roast tomatoes on the upper rack and bread on the lower rack for 20 to 25 minutes. Roast tomatoes just until skins begin to split and wrinkle, gently stirring once. Roast bread until lightly toasted, stirring once.

3. Add bread and olives to tomatoes in pan; gently toss to mix. In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle vinegar mixture over tomatoes, olives and bread. Toss to coat.

Note: For a richer flavor, in a small saucepan heat 1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar over medium heat until boiling. Boil gently, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes or until reduced to 2 tablespoons, watching carefully at the end because vinegar will reduce quickly.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 215 calories, 10 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 494 milligrams sodium, 28 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber and 5 grams protein.