Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pure Flavor: A New Pacific Northwest Cookbook

Last year I visited Seattle and had an incredible culinary adventure in the Pike Place Market. I wandered around the Market, sampling delicious food from many different vendors. One of the highlights was a stop at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, an artisan cheese shop, owned and operated by Kurt Beecher Dammeier. You could watch them making cheese, mixing it in a large vat. They also had a superb Macaroni & Cheese, one of the best I have had.

So, I was excited to see that Kurt Beecher Dammeier had written his own cookbook which was just recently published.

Pure Flavor: 125 Fresh All-American Recipes from the Pacific Northwest ($32.50) by Kurt Beecher Dammeier with Laura Holmes Haddad is published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. Pure Flavor is a hardcover book with 256 pages. As the title indicates, it contains 125 recipes. It is broken down into nine chapters including Soups & Sandwiches, Salads, Pasta & Grains, Fish & Shellfish, Poultry & Meat, Vegetable & Sides, Sweets, Breakfast, and Basics, Sauces & Spreads.

The cookbook concentrates on local foods available in the Pacific Northwest region. The idea is that great local ingredients contain "pure flavor" and that recipes should showcase this pure flavor rather than conceal it. So, the recipes are generally simple, using few ingredients. These ingredients are intended only to enhance the flavor of the main ingredient. It is also important to select one's ingredients seasonally, to capitalize on what is fresh.

Shopping locally and seasonally for food is certainly a prominent idea in the culinary realm. In Massachusetts, we certainly have the opportunity to do so as we have many local products from which we can choose, from seafood to artisan cheeses, to an abundance of vegetables. So the concept of this cookbook certainly is appropriate.

This then raises the issue, is Pure Flavor only of value to those who live in the Pacific Northwest? No, it is not. First, plenty of the recipes use ingredients that can be found all over the country. Or minor substitutions can be made. Second, the cookbook actually provides a list of stores in the Pacific Northwest region, with contact information and websites, from which you can order foods and ingredients you might desire. Third, the cookbook contains more than just recipes.

Pure Flavor has numerous sidebar articles on a variety of foods and stores. You will find articles on such matters as Cheese Substitutions, Tomatoes, Crab, Framed vs Wild Fish, Natural Foods and more. There are also articles on local wineries, food markets and artisan food makers. Contact information for all of those is provided. All of these articles are very interesting.

What about the recipes? Generally these recipes are simple to prepare and cooks of any experience level should have no problem preparing them. Each recipe is easy to understand and there are plenty of colorful photographs of some of the recipes. One interesting part of many of the recipes is the "Make Ahead" section. This section tells you how long you can make the recipes ahead of time, and how long they will last in the refrigerator. This is certainly a time saver.

I have found a number of recipes that I would definitely like to try. They have their recipe for their World's Best Mac & Cheese. The cheese sauce in this recipe is versatile and you can use it in many other dishes as well. There is a recipe for Butter-Steamed Clams. As we often can obtain local clams, this would be an good recipe to make. There is also the Lemon-Harissa Chicken, Lamb Stew, Rustic Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and Apple-Pecan Stuffing. All definitely enticing. For dessert, there is the Giant Snickerdoodle. I love Snickerdoodles so this may be one of the first recipes I try. Though I am torn by the Deep-Dish Cinnamon Buns. There is an excellent photo of these which makes my mouth water.

I do recommend Pure Flavor. It is easy to use, has plenty of intriguing recipes, contains some interesting articles and is visually appealing.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this cookbook from Random House. I was not under any obligation to actually review it. And if I did review it, I was under no obligation to say anything specific about this book. Everything was solely at my discretion.

1 comment:

Beecher's Handmade Cheese said...

Thanks for the review on our Mac & Cheese! We appreciate you taking the time and would love to thank you with a sampling of some new frozen sides we’ve been working on – all just as cheesy as our macs! If you’re interested, shoot your contact/shipping information to and we’ll drop some in the mail. We’re happy to delete your info after we ship you the goods, just let us know! Thanks again!