Q&A with Julia Shanks & Brett Grohsgal, Authors of “The Farmer’s Market Cookbook”

By Shelley Pierce | October 2, 2016
by Shelley Pierce
October 2, 2016

Julia Shanks is a chef, serial entrepreneur and pilot whose passion for food preparation began when she was 12 years old and determined to bake, sauté and steam her way through the complete set of Time-Life Cookbooks. After college, she honed her culinary talents working in restaurants around the country, developing a taste for fresh, local and seasonal foods and “farm-to-table” cuisine. Today, Julia consults with restaurants, farms and food producers helping them maximize profits. She lectures on sustainable food systems and farm accounting, sits on the advisory board of Future Chefs, and is the regional leader of Slow Money Boston.

Brett Grohsgal has dedicated himself to delighting taste buds from New England to California, working as everything from line cook to executive chef, while developing and sharing his appreciation for artisanal, seasonal foods. As his passion for cooking evolved he began growing his own produce, and in 1996 he and his wife established Even’ Star Organic Farm. Even’ Star focuses on harvesting crops year-round for restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and hundreds of CSA members, while adhering to the highest standards of responsible environmental stewardship. “Life is too short, and farm life too arduous, to ever grow or eat boring foods.”

Their collaborative effort, “The Farmer’s Market Cookbook“, offers detailed produce descriptions, storage tips, preparation techniques and over two hundred flavorful recipes for the rich array of unusual fruit and vegetable varieties that are found in farmers’ markets and CSAs.  Read on for more information about this guide for seasonal eating and enter to win one of two copies from New Society Publishers!


How does this book inspire us to head out to our local farmers market or to dig into our CSA box and start cooking?  And – how does your book help us to navigate through the newly discovered foods that we are to find while at the market?

Perhaps the biggest challenge of eating local is that we need to start cooking “ingredients first,” which is the opposite of how we usually plan meals by picking a recipe and then shopping for ingredients. This books reverses the usual cookbook practice, by focusing the recipes on the main ingredient. You can search the index by ingredient and find a recipe for exactly what you’re looking for. This is the perfect book to whip out when you come home from the farmers market or with your weekly CSA with vegetables that look gorgeous but are otherwise only vaguely familiar.

 

What are some of your favorite recipes in your book and why are they your favorite?

Brett: Gumbo (page 223), because it takes care of so much summer stuff and it’s so malleable. You can use up whatever you have in your fridge with this gumbo.  I also like the chick pea crepe stuffed with wilted greens (196); because it’s not my recipe. They are delicious, vegetarian, and they’re not something I’d normally do.

Julia: Now that Brett’s got me thinking about using up what’s in the fridge, I have to admit that I really love the Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Vegetables (page 218). Besides being generally delicious, it’s great for using up odd bits – the stray carrot, the half tomato left over from sandwiches or the lone broccoli floret.  I also really like the Savory Vegetarian Greens with Potatoes (page 208). This is one of Brett’s recipes, and I was skeptical. But I was amazed at how much I love it. I’ll make it at least once a week.

 

What sets your cookbook apart from the other cookbooks on our bookstore shelves?

Few books go into the same detail with storage tips and produce descriptions. We also deal with much more diverse produce”¦ not just tomatoes, but dozens of kinds of tomatoes. Not just winter squash, but 6 kinds.  The recipes are generally pretty simple, and they really work.

 

Why is it important that we eat locally (and seasonally)?

Because it tastes so much better.  Local produce is grown for flavor, not shelf-life and ship-ability.  Produce has a chance to fully ripen on the vine instead of on the shipping truck. Cherokee purple tomatoes are one of the best tomatoes out there, but they don’t ship well. If you want a good tomato, you have to buy local.

 

What kind of home cook is your cookbook tailored for?  Towards those who are busy or those who have more time to invest in the kitchen?  And what type and range of recipes can we expect to find?

Most of the recipes are designed for the busy home cook, but there are definitely a few recipes for when you want a more elaborate dish.  And for those who have more time to invest in the kitchen, the canning and long-term preservation recipes are invaluable to ensuring you have sweet tomatoes and bright herbs in the depths of winter.

WIN ONE OF TWO COPIES OF “The Farmers’ Market Cookbook”!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, October 9, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Do you shop at farmers’ markets or are you a member of a CSA?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

UPDATE 10/22/2016: Congratulations to Martha Creedon and [TBD]!

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  • Linda
    Comment added October 10, 2016Reply

    Yes! We regularly shop at farmers markets and try to support local growers as much as we can. I would love to learn any tips and recipes that could help me use and store fresh farmers market finds! (Also any help in the cooking department is greatly needed and appreciated) :D

  • Susan Labin
    Comment added October 8, 2016Reply

    We are members of Brett's Even'Star CSA and are delighted with the produce and Brett's recipes and would look forward to another one of his cookbooks. The tomatoes are beyond good-the selection of heirlooms is a treat I look forward to every year and really cannot eat other tomatoes, they all pale in comparison. The unique varieties of vegetables includes sorrel, peachy mamas (wonderful peppers), and tomatillos and highlight how limited the choices are without Even'Star. Many of the vegetables complement well our paleo-oriented cooking such as grass fed meat braises and accents to bone broths. Our lives are enriched by Even' Star and Brett! Thank you

  • Dave Sears
    Comment added October 6, 2016Reply

    Yep -- my wife and I joined the Evenstar CSA a few years ago! It changed our lives -- we never knew before how delicious veggies could be! I used to think that the produce section of Whole Foods was paradise. Now I know better -- Whole Foods is just good, not great. It's the CSA produce that sends me to paradise!

  • MLC
    Comment added October 5, 2016Reply

    "Do you shop at farmers’ markets or are you a member of a CSA?"

    YES to both! By no means are they mutually exclusive.

    I am a farmers' market organizer and also have been on the board of a community farm. I'm also a huge fan of Julia's first cookbook, so I can't wait to see this one.

  • Jim H
    Comment added October 5, 2016Reply

    My wife and I regularly shop [locally] the Homegrown Farmers Market- or just about any market we happen across in our wanderings through Southern Maryland. We are also member of the Even' Star CSA. Access to diverse and exceptional food is a great thing!!
    I find the Farmers Market Cookbook refreshingly easy to use (exceptionally indexed content) - demystifying the challenges of cooking 'ingredients first'.

  • Jesse Meiller
    Comment added October 5, 2016Reply

    We have been part of Brett's CSA for many years and love eating our way through the seasons. I initially started with Brett because he offers a winter CSA share which is wonderful. We go to Farmer's Markets as well to supplement and support other local farms and also do a beef share with local farm and our neighbors too. I want my kids to grow up knowing where their food comes from and how it is grown.

  • Mary U
    Comment added October 5, 2016Reply

    We are part of the Brett's CSA and have thoroughly enjoyed "cooking by ingredient" rather that by recipe. We have tried new things and have engaged in experimental cooking that I never would have thought of even though I was already a creative cook. I have really bought into the 100 mile food movement both in the vegetable arena and in locally produced meats which has led to relationships with a lot of local producers. Onward to health and new ways of thinking.

  • Susan Huff
    Comment added October 4, 2016Reply

    Would love more on Garden to Kitchen - LOVE what you do SOOOOO- Soulfulseed

  • George Christie
    Comment added October 3, 2016Reply

    Although we've never been a part of a CSA, I worked at a historic farm for eight years that had a CSA, and we routinely got fresh produce. We do shop farmer's markets and have a nice farm stand only five minutes from our house where, if you want a head of lettuce one of the kids runs back and cuts one for you while you wait

  • Kasey Clark
    Comment added October 2, 2016Reply

    Yes,I love supporting farmer's markets. It is so fun to build a meal with all the freshest local ingredients. This book sounds great because of the focus of seasons and the ingredient index.

  • Kasey Clark
    Comment added October 2, 2016Reply

    Yes,I shop at farmer's markets as often as I can! It is really fun to build a meal with what's available and you are supporting hardworking stewards of the land...?

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