Phyllis's October Book Review - Half Baked Harvest. A Cookbook! October 07 2017

I think a family of ducks set the stage for the serendipity in choosing this month’s book. Silently gliding up and stepping through the grasses at water’s edge, an enterprising duck joined my husband and me as we sat perched on small logs downing our quinoa begging ducklunch at the edge of Bierstadt Lake. She wasn’t shy about letting us know quinoa wasn’t her idea of food as she stood on a log begging charmingly and with complete dignity before slipping away.

A second duck, even snootier about quinoa than the first, soon appeared only minutes before the entire family of five. As the rejected quinoa set the pecking order in motion, wings flapped, webbed feet slipped off logs, and fluffy grains of quinoa spilled out of beaks.

Okay, so much for the quinoa, but what about the book review? I wanted to review a cookbook to celebrate the harvest, farmers, and local farming, one featuring recipes made largely with local produce grown sustainably and animal protein raised humanely. Animals have much to contribute to the biology of the soil. After our lunch with the ducks, I had the chance to poke around Estes Park’s MacDonald’s book store. Nothing on the shelves fit what I had in mind. Discussing my interest with the store manager led her to suggest a cookbook by a Colorado author that she and a colleague had been pouring over since it came in just that morning.

I liked the heft of the book and the dish of delicious-looking food on the cover. It looked like a dish I could eat with minor modifications for my particular dietary restrictions. The title, Half Baked Harvest, sounded most promising. As a former copy editor, however, I winced at the missing hyphen and suddenly went left brain. For me it has to be Half-Baked Harvest. The wince from the missing hyphen soon fell away and my right brain re-engaged as I flipped to and fro looking at one delicious-looking dish and yummy-sounding recipe after the other. And the author’s name, Tieghan Gerard, intrigued me.

Is this a good choice? It’s not a cookbook promoting locally grown food, but Tieghan’srecipes use lots of fresh basil and other herbs, fresh farmers’ market and local farm stand produce, goat cheese and goat milk from her family’s goats, coconut milk, and non-processed foods. Along with main dish recipes, she includes how to make her homemade pesto, several varieties of guacamole, tomato-based and fruity salsas, and quick tomato sauce, to list a few. In her recipe for Herb-Whipped Goat Cheese with Harissa, Poached Eggs, and Toast, she includes a recipe for Perfectly Poached Eggs that I’ll be trying soon. Yes, I’m talking real poached eggs slid one by one right into the simmering whirlpool of water. Tieghan uses eggs from her family’s flock of chickens.

As I left the bookstore, Half Baked Harvest in the bag (Half-Baked Harvest in my head), I

half baked cover

 wasn’t sure I’d made a wise decision. The left brain began churning to take the heart out of my decision. Being a lifelong library junkie, I seldom buy books and pretty much never buy cookbooks. The cookbook’s not targeted to vegetarians, vegans, paleos, or gluten-free/ dairy-free eaters, so not to many of us BBK eaters. She sometimes, however, suggests substitutes for meat or wheat or whatever might not work for some. She doesn’t talk specifically about the importance of sourcing ingredients, which is huge for Susanna and for many of us.

This bunch of backstory is all to highlight the sweetness that came the more I had time to read parts of the book, focus on several of the recipes, check out Tieghan’s blog, and view photos of the horse barn she and her parents converted into a home for her complete with dream kitchen and pantry. It seemed even more right when I read about the large family she had grown up in and how when she was fourteen, she announced she’d had enough of dinner at 9 p.m. Tieghan explains, “And that right there is how and why I began cooking. At the time, I was cooking for the sole purpose of helping my dad get dinner on the table before nine p.m.”  

That determination and accepting her mom’s suggestion years later in 2012 to start a food blog set her up to create the life she loves and lives today.

Without those ducks and the hike, I’m not sure I would have walked out of the book store in Estes Park with Tieghan Gerard’s first cookbook featuring Steak Shawarma Bowl, “the best of Middle Eastern street food,” on the cover. I might only have seen what the cookbook wasn’t and denied it the chance to unveil what it is. Tieghan says the cookbook is meant to “feed your loved ones, encourage good conversation, and, above all, enjoy something delicious.”  

Something delicious for her ranges pretty much from very healthy to downright decadent. I find a whole lot healthy here. One story she tells is of trying to “healthify” the range of foods her family was eating. She sneakily swapped meat in the family tacos for quinoa by preparing everyone’s taco for them and using lots of cheese for cover. After a couple of days of everyone lunching on leftover quinoa tacos, she told her oldest brother and biggest carnivore in the family what he’d been eating. He went ballistic, only later admitting he loved them.

Another example of her “healthified” recipes is her Korean Beef, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Bibimbap. She describes her variation as a Mexican-Korean fusion version. She swaps the white rice with quinoa, adds lots of miso-roasted sweet potatoes, and drizzles the entire bowl with a spicy roasted tomatillo sauce. She refers readers to a specific brand of  Korean chili paste, gochujang, that contains “nothing scary-sounding, just simple, real-food ingredients.” I googled the brand and learned it’s an artisan gochujang made without MSG, corn syrup, or other additives. It’s also made with non-GMO soybeans.

Tieghan may well become a voice for local, regeneratively farmed food and animal protein. I hope so. I’ll leave you with a few of her recipe titles: Braised Mediterranean Lentils with Roasted Spaghetti Squash; Chipotle Sweet Potato Noodles with Black Beans; Ginger-Miso Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate; Slow-Cooker Tuscan Beef and White Bean Ragu, and Cheesy Chiles Rellenos Farro Bake, a lighter and easier-to-make recipe for chile rellenos.

Read on,

Phyllis (dedicated local food eater and BBK customer)