Flip through the pages of Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods, and a fairly utopian picture of American food emerges. Land and sea are sustainably harvested, producers, chefs and growers look happy in their work and even the farm animals seem content.
The book provides a snapshot of 65 communities nationwide and into Canada and Europe. They are identified by the independently run, regional food magazines that make up Edible Communities Inc., a Santa Fe, N.M., company founded in 2002 by co-authors Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian. (To get a taste, read about Edible: Sarasota, the magazine closest to the Tampa Bay area, online at edible communities.com/sarasota.)
Topalian is a photographic journalist who spent six years shooting the images in Edible (Wiley, $29.95). Ryder watched over the book's evolution for almost three years. About 75 percent of the material and 50 percent of the recipes are new.
The first section has colorful images and profiles of local heroes: the Thachers of Ojai, Calif., who bring us Pixie tangerines and Vaniglia Sanguigno blood oranges; Mary Forstbauer, a biodynamic farmer in Vancouver, B.C.; Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery in Richmond, Va.; and the Seed Savers Exchange in the Iowa River Valley.
The cumulative effect of their stories is powerful. There's good stuff out there, and Edible can help you find it.
Recipes fill the second section and are seasonally organized. Just about all are on a single page, which is good. But the type size is pretty darn small. Luckily, the titles are inviting and large. We found the Pineapple Gazpacho was as bright and delicious as it sounds.
For the gazpacho:
1 ripe pineapple (about 4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into chunks (about 4 1/2 cups)
About 1/2 medium yellow bell pepper (without seeds), chopped (1/2 cup)
1/3 medium red onion, chopped (1/3 cup)
2 1/2- to 3-inch length of peeled seedless (English) cucumber, chopped (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)
For the pepper garnish:
About 1/4 medium red bell pepper seeded and finely chopped (1/4 cup)
About 1/4 medium green bell pepper (without seeds), finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2-inch length of peeled seedless (English) cucumber, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 medium jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
Leaves from 2 stems cilantro, finely chopped
(1 tablespoon; optional)
1/4 cup pineapple juice, preferably fresh, or as needed (may substitute water)
To make the gazpacho, process the pineapple in a food processor until smooth; transfer to a large nonreactive bowl, preferably glass or stainless steel. Taste; if the fruit puree is not very sweet, you might want to add the brown sugar in the next step.
Using the same food processor bowl, add the yellow bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, vinegar, hot pepper sauce, salt, white pepper and brown sugar, if using. Add about one-quarter of the pureed pineapple. Puree until smooth, then add the mixture to the remaining pineapple puree in the nonreactive bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
For the garnish, combine the red and green bell peppers, cucumber, jalapeno pepper and cilantro, if using, in a medium bowl; mix well.
To assemble, stir pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the pureed gazpacho to reach the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Divide among individual bowls; top each portion with the pepper garnish. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 appetizer servings.
Note: The gazpacho needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours and no more than 24 hours. The flavor will improve with a day's refrigeration.
Nutritional information per serving: 110 calories, 2g protein, 28g carbohydrates, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 3g dietary fiber, 19g sugar.
Source: Adapted from Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods, by Tracey Rider and Carole Topalian (Wiley, 2010)