From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine

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Chronicle Books

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This beloved cookbook is now available in a handsome paperback edition. Completely revised and updated with 45 all-new recipes, each delicious dish reflects acclaimed chef John Ash's commitment to sustainable agriculture and his love of fresh fruits and vegetables. More than 300 recipes, inspired by the California Wine Country featuring soups, salads, pastas, pizza, risottos, poultry, fish, meats, vegetarian courses, desserts, breads, and more include wine recommendations and abundant tips on how to incorporate everything from chipotle chiles to persimmons into delectable meals. This is a time-honored classic, sure to continue enticing cooks for years to come.


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From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine
Sid Goldstein

Latest reviews

California Dreamin'

"California style" swept the country a few decades ago, then became a cliché and fell out of fashion, and this book brings us back to the best aspects of it. It's good to be reminded that the originators of this style, people like Ash and Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli, knew and championed good food and are not responsible for the silly excesses of their followers. &nbspAny cook with an interest in freshness and quality will enjoy this reintroduction to wine country cuisine. 

Chef John Ash was an early convert to the fresh-local-sustainable food ideology. This new edition of his cookbook From the Earth to the Table promotes that concept while managing to avoid the paired pitfalls of evangelism and self-congratulation. &nbspAsh wants readers and cooks to think carefully about what makes food taste good and what makes diners feel good about eating it, and local ethical food production is key to this line of thought. Simple as that. 

The bulk of the book consists of &nbspthe recipes, and they tend to be of high quality. When cooking from "cheffy" cookbooks I'm leery of recipes that don't work well because they were poorly scaled from the restaurant version to create a standard four- or six-portion recipe. &nbspI didn't find any such problems in this book. 

There is a chapter of "special sides" which double as vegetarian main dishes, but otherwise fresh and simple side dishes are interspersed throughout the main-dish chapters, paired with their suggested main course. 

The first recipe I tried was the smoked salmon cheesecake, and it was wickedly rich and quite delicious, especially when garnished with a little chopped wild fennel. &nbspA meal from the vegetarian chapter---baked olives and vegetable crudités with warm garlic dipping sauce--- was very tasty and quick to make, although it is puzzling that Ash refers to the sauce as "reminiscent of bagna cauda" when it is, in fact, identical to many bagna cauda recipes. The salmon in a fennel crust with blood-orange vinaigrette was a triumph, accenting the delicious taste of really fresh wild-caught salmon, and the vinaigrette was clearly designed to be pairable with wine. &nbspThe steak salad with hoisin vinaigrette was delicious, with interesting Asian touches, but was definitely an American dish. I made the corned chicken because the technique looked strange and I wanted to investigate my suspicion that it wouldn't work well, but in fact it was moist and flavorful. As would be expected of a California cookbook, the salad chapter is excellent in general. 

Ash has worked as a consultant to wineries, and information about pairing wine with food is integrated throughout the book. There is an appendix titled "Matching Wine With Food" which seems aimed more at beginners, but has information that should interest all enthusiastic wine drinkers. Of particular interest is its section on matching wine with herbs. &nbspThe worst food-wine mismatches that I have been served have all involved strongly herbal-flavored food, in which the herbal flavor notes can serve as a bridge to a wine with similar notes or can conflict badly with wines that have different aromas. I'm glad to see that, in the salad chapter, Ash gently quarrels with the common belief that wine can't be enjoyed with salads, and gives some suggestions about how to improve the harmony. &nbspThis is an American assumption, as far as I can tell I've never seen people from other nations wave away the wine bottle while eating their salad, probably because they don't over-dress or over-acidify them as so often occurs in our country.

Another appendix worth reading is the one on edible flowers. &nbspTheir use became a California cliché to many people, but Ash presents the revisionist school of thought: edible flowers are pretty and heart-warming, have a venerable culinary history, and provide soft and attractive flavor notes of their own. His list is extensive and contained a few whose edibility was new to me, like impatiens (described as "citrusy") and shasta daisy (described as ‘mild and vegetal."

In short, this is a lovely book offering many ways to use the high-quality produce and meat that are increasingly available. &nbspThis is no coffee-table cookbook. It lacks photos and gloss, but my copy has not made it to the bookshelf since I got it it's in the kitchen, satisfyingly stained and dog-eared.

Recipe From The Book: Smoked Salmon Cheesecake with a Walnut Crust


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