Lately, I’ve been examining seasonally focused cookbooks to help me cook with locally available ingredients. The latest of these cookbooks I’ve explored is Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool. Jesse is the Chef/Owner of Flea Street Café in Menlo Park, CA along with Cool Café and jZCool Eatery. She is highly devoted to sustainable, organic ingredients and that devotion shines through in Simply Organic.
Photo by France Ruffenach
Simply Organic begins with an introduction to organic foods and your organic pantry. It is then divided into eight different times of year with recipes for the ingredients available during those times. The sections are first of spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, Indian summer, autumn harvest, early winter and deep winter. Each of these ‘seasons’ has an introduction talking about what Jesse cooks during that season followed by a collection of recipes for that season. The recipes have short introductions followed by detailed descriptions on how to prepare them. The book is colorful and has photos for some of the dishes.
I dug right into this cookbook when I got it since it is inviting and you can almost feel Jesse’s strong devotion to organic, seasonally available ingredients as you read it. Of course, it helps that I’ve met Jesse and heard her talk, as I read it could hear her voice in the words.
Asparagus is in season now so I asked what does Simply Organic offer? The answer is a great recipe for Asparagus and Scallops, see below. It is simple and delicious. I have green onions in my garden right now (actually small Walla Walla onions that need to be thinned and can be used as green onions) and I found a great recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi with Green Onions in Simply Organic. I’d never made ricotta gnocchi before and this was a fun one to try. The recipe was really easy and the result was wonderful. Even Husband who doesn’t usually like Gnocchi really enjoyed Jesse’s version. I’ll definitely be making these gnocchi again and again. I also loved the details Jesse provided such as how to determine if I’d added enough flour and not merely stating how long to cook the gnocchi but telling me how to know when they were done.
With the eight different sections each containing 15-20 recipes I think I’ll be turning to Simply Organic rather frequently – especially when my garden is in full production mode!
Asparagus and Scallops
From Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool, Chronicle Books 2008
This is a perfect dish for springtime, served with fresh rolls and a crisp white wine.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 whole canned chipotle chile pepper, pureed or minced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 pound sea scallops
- ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Lime wedges for garnish
In a small bowl, combine the oil, lime juice, sugar, garlic, chile pepper, and cilantro. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Remove and discard the tough muscle from the scallops.
In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal, coriander, salt and black pepper. Toss the scallops in the cornmeal mixture and set aside.
Pour ½ cup water into a heavy skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 4 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Remove to a platter and keep warm.
Wipe the skillet and add the butter. Place over medium heat to melt the butter. Add the scallops and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned and opaque.
Divide the asparagus evenly among 4 plates. Top with the scallops. Drizzle with the chipotle dressing, and garnish with lime wedges.
Often scallops are soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) to help keep them moist. To avoid chemical-laden scallops, look for scallops labeled Day Boat, Diver, Dry Pack or Chemical-Free. These scallops are more readily available these days and, of course, area much healthier choice. They may not be perfectly white and uniform in size but those qualities are not natural to scallops; they are human-induced. As always, opt for the most natural products available. And, as always, ask questions. The fishmonger should know exactly where the fish is from and how it has been treated.
About Simply Organic
The world is changing, and along with it, so must our eating habits. Author and restaurateur Jesse Ziff Cool has compiled over 30 years of knowledge about organic, local, and sustainable food into one magnificent cookbook. With 150 enticing recipes, Simply Organic encourages home cooks to embrace organics as a lifestyle rather than a fad. Cool organizes her chapters seasonally to ensure that the freshest, ripest ingredients enhance the flavors of dishes like Filet Mignon with mashed Potatoes and Leek Sauce in early spring to Pumpkin Raisin Bread Pudding in autumn. Inspiring profiles on farmers and producers reveal how these individuals are working to create a sustainable future every day.
Available at Amazon.com
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.