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Homegrown Pure & Simple:
Great Healthy Food From Garden to Table
By Michael Nischan with Mary Goodbody
Chronicle Books, 2005
ISBN 0811844722
Review By William I. Lengeman III

After spending enough time in the rarefied world of hoity-toity cuisine, where it seems that flash and the relentless pressure to innovate reign supreme, it's surprising that more chefs don't choose to decompress the way Michael Nischan did. Prior to writing this books Nischan served his time in a variety of upscale eateries, including Manhattan's Heartbeat.

Perhaps it's overstating the point to say that the 80 recipes in Homegrown Pure & Simple are the antithesis of that type of fancy restaurant cooking, but not by much. Nischan, whose primary influence and inspiration for writing this book was his mother's simple Southern cooking, opens with a short chapter on his garden, the source for many of the ingredients that make up these recipes.

Then it's on to Salads ("Salads should never be afterthoughts"), such as Watermelon, Arugula and Toasted Almond and Soups, the likes of which include Pumpkin with Crispy Sage Garnish.

Included in the list of ingredients for Main Dishes are salmon, scallops, lamb, ham and even four vegetarian selections, while the Side Dishes section includes the like of Vanilla "Cream" Corn and Two-Skillet Pattypan Squash.

Nischan includes a short chapter on Extending the Harvest, which is devoted to "putting up" foods and making such delights as Tomato, Butter and Honey Jam. Breakfast and Breads includes only five well-chosen recipes, as does Desserts - Nischan admits that he's not "especially interested in dessert."

Scattered throughout are a smattering of brief sidebars on subjects like local honey, knives and cast-iron cookware. But it's Susie Cushner's striking full-page photos that really put the icing on the cookbook. Homegrown Pure & Simple would make a great coffee table book, but it would be kind of a shame to let it lay there gathering dust.

William I. Lengeman III maintains the Tea Guy Speaks Web site and Tea Industry News, a free weekly newsletter.
More information at http://wileng.blogspot.com/.

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