Name: Jessica Pigza
Occupation: Rare Books librarian, Handmade Librarian, and half of the duo behind NYPL's Handmade: Crafternoons!
Desert Island Cookbook: The Cook and the Gardener by Amanda Hesser (1999)
Why The Cook and the Gardener? Jessica explains:
Amanda Hesser’s The Cook and the Gardener is part cookbook and part meditation on four seasons of local growing and cooking (the locale here being
Produce takes center stage on these pages—both in Hesser’s recipes as well as in her tale of befriending and working with the taciturn gardener Monsieur Milbert throughout the year. And along the way, Hesser also reveals her great respect for those who tend and coax food from the land. Each seasonal chapter includes a variety of dishes that reveal Hesser’s knowledge and wide-ranging curiosities. Her recipes for meats, jams, vegetables, breads, liqueurs, and sorbets never overwhelm or intimidate, and in each she shows her enthusiasm for well prepared foods eaten at their peak.
A few favorite recipes that I return to again and again are for carrots. The delicious Carrot and Bay Leaf Salad possesses an elegance sometimes lacking in carrot salads. Although Hesser doesn’t call for it, I like to splash a tiny bit of white wine vinegar or a squeeze of lemon over the carrots as well before serving, to counter the oil. I’m also a big proponent of her Roasted Carrots with Thyme, as well as the sweet and savory Carrots and Calvados. These, like many recipes in The Cook and the Gardener, offer tasty reminders that you needn’t do much to a vegetable to coax out its flavor.
Carrots, Three Ways
Roasted Carrots with Thyme
Carrot and Bay Leaf Salad
Carrots and Calvados
Carrots and Calvados (adapted from The Cook and the Gardener):
8 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled
1/4 lb. thickly cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strip (lardons)
1/2 c. Calvados
1/2 c. winter stock (beef based stock) or water
1 T. butter
Bringing a medium saucepan of water (seasoned with salt) to a boil. Add the carrots and boil until just tender on the outside but still crisp in the center, 4-5 minutes. Drain and cut into 1/2 inch diagonal pieces.
Melt the lardons of bacon in a large saute pan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Brown them on all sides and then remove them to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan, and then return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add the carrots and toss to coat with the bacon fat. Add the Calvados and increase the heat to high to reduce the liquid to a syrup, about 2 minutes.
Add the stock. Bring to a boil and let it reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are tender all the way through and are beginning to brown lightly, 5-6 minutes. If the carrots are colored but aren't cooked through, add more stock and reduce again. Remove from the heat and add the lardons. Stir in the butter. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.
Be sure to check out the Handmade: Crafternoons! at the New York Public Library this Saturday, October 10th, from 2-4 pm for an afternoon of knitting with KnitKnit author Sabrina Gschwandtner, and two of the knitters she profiled in her book: Teva Durham, author of Loop-d-Loop and Annie Modesitt, author of Confessions of a Knitting Heretic.