Review: Root to Leaf

I’m welcoming my favourite guest poster back again, Beardy Mum!  As you can see from the review, there’s a reason this review was a bit of a family project – this is definitely a cookbook I’ll be saving to pass onto future family members!

Beardy Baker’s dad has some amazing cousins all of  whose names begin with an S:  Suzan, Scott, Stuart and Steven.  They all live in the Atlanta area, and when anyone visits Suzie, we know we are in for fun.  Suzie lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, but she and Allen are some of the most frequent visitors and always recommend that we go to Steven’s restaurant, Miller Union, in a revitalized area of of downtown Atlanta.  The food is always amazing and Steven cites the influence of Duckie (Beardy Baker’s great-grandma Duckworth, who she only knew up until the age of 2) as a legend in cooking southern specialties.  Steven has added a farm to table and seasonal sensibility to her cooking to produce menus that are intensely flavorful but also understated at the same time.  His recent release of Root to Leaf was eagerly anticipated by our family in order to add to the mushroom pate and farm eggs in celery cream appetizer recipes that we so love.  Steven’s cookbook has interesting takes on fruits and vegetable as side dishes (we love okra and it’s not fair that Nick’s Tesco in London has it way later in the season than in the US mid-atlantic area) and has main dishes that I cannot wait to try like eggplant caponata and  fig, ham and goat cheese sandwiches  Since we just recently received a copy of the cookbook and because it’s winter, we were not able to explore many of the amazing vegetable recipes (the downside of seasonal cooking!).  But Beardy Dad and I saw the oyster stew recipe and decided that would be the perfect meal for a gray day in Delaware in February.

Root to LeafOyster Stew with Sunchokes and Celery (from Root to Leaf)

We made oyster crackers, per Steven’s recipe with benne (sesame) seed and bacon, with bacon fat instead of the recommended country ham and lard that we are not able to source in Delaware.  They were crisp with a salty flavor that was nice with the rich oyster stew.

Roasted sesame seedsIngredients:

1 dozen oysters in brine
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 T. unsalted butter
1 med. onion
1 rib of celery, finely diced
1/2 lb parsnips (substituted well for sunchokes)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/8 c. unbleached flour
freshly ground black and mixed peppercorns
roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and celery leaves
Drain oysters, reserving the liquor.  Remove any small pieces of shell.

Over medium heat, warm the milk and cream just until simmering.  Turn off the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.  
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt 2 T of the butter until foamy.  Add the onion, celery, parsnips and a little salt, stirring well to coat.

Chopped vegetablesCook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and translucent, 8-10 min.  

Cook vegetablesSprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture.  Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring well to cook the raw taste out of the flour.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk and cream; bring the mixture to a low simmer, stirring often to keep it from sticking.  Add the oyster liquor to the Dutch oven and continue to simmer until all the vegetables are tender.  Be sure to taste a piece of parsnip to check for doneness.

Cream and veggiesIn a separate skillet, melt 1-2 T butter and add drained oysters.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a seperate skillet, melt butter and oystersCook until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl up.  Add the oysters to the cream and vegetable mixture.

Add the oysters to the cream and vegetable mixture

Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled with parsley and celery leaves and oyster crackers – Amazing taste!

This is obviously a deeply personal cookbook for my family, but it’s also a great one.  I think we’re all trying to eat a bit more healthily and increase vegetables in our diet and these recipes are absolutely mouth-watering.  I would say that since it’s aimed at southern seasons, it would need to be adjusted for international readers, but it’s an innovative way of looking at vegetables which would have overwhelmed me previously.  I can’t wait to try more recipes.

Root to Leaf

I received a copy of Root to Leaf to review from Harper Wave, but all opinions are my own.  This post has an affiliate link, because after all, love of cookbooks is a family trait!



One comment

  1. […] Root to Leaf.  This is my go-to cookbook, because obviously it’s one that’s very close to my heart.  But it’s a great cookbook focusing on Southern seasonal produce and particularly […]

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