Im the first to confess that I do not need another cookbook. If you are reading this page, I suspect youre in the same boat. After all, its so easy to jump online and get whatever recipe you want.
But if youre like me, you know that every cookbook on the shelf tells a story, and its the story within the cookbook that earns its safe keeping. It might be the 1970s saga of your hometown Junior League. Or maybe its the tale of old Greek bread bakers from a little orthodox church in the Midwest.
The recently released Iron Horse Chef Cookbook has a Durango story worth telling. Its a slice of life preserved within 40 pages about what we grow and how we use our bounty. The characters are the chefs you recognize, such as Vera Hansen from Cyprus Cafe, Chris Crowl from Cosmo Bar and Dining and a handful more who show us how to use what we grow or raise in La Plata County to create great meals at home.
The products featured include cheeses from James Ranch, Reisling from Cortezs Guy Drew Vineyards and about every vegetable the Durango Farmers Market has to offer.
The book is small in size but big in heart.
Its no surprise that many Durango chefs shop for local produce and protein to offer their guests the freshest food available. Once a year, two eager chef competitors don aprons in a 90-minute match at the Durango Farmers Market to create culinary showstoppers. Its a home- grown version modeled after Food Networks Iron Chef America, but the secret ingredients are no secret, if you regularly shop the Farmers Market.
Volunteers from Durango High Schools ProStart Culinary Team, led by Susie Francis, join the fun. Judges choose a winner, and its usually a close call. Recipes from the last couple of contests, collected over the last two years by Iron Horse Chef Competition coordinators Darcy Craig of Healthy Lifestyle La Plata and Darrin Parmenter of the Colorado State University Extension Office in La Plata County are featured within this stocking-stuffer-size book. Color photos by Colorado master gardeners capture the annual event.
Most recipes are easy enough for kids to follow. But dont let the simple Egg Salad from Mahogany Grilles Dave Cuntz fool you. The recipe features all the usual suspects: eggs, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. But whats this? Two tablespoons of truffle oil?
True, not every ingredient is fresh from a western Colorado garden, but its the little surprises that elevate the ordinary into the noteworthy. Some of the recipes, such as Jason Blankenships (Kennebec Cafe) Romanesca Saffron Soup not only educate with a description of this lesser-known vegetable but also offer substitutes, in the event cauliflower is more readily available.
Colorado fruits get the nod in recipes such as Savory Lamb Rillette with Apricot and Mint Salsa (Palace Chef Paul Spadora) and chilled Melon Soup (Cosmos Chris Crowl).
Seasons Rotisserie & Grill Chef Dave Stewart offers an exceptional saffron aioli recipe to dress Fox Fire Lamb Sliders. And his Herb Crusted Fox Fire Lamb Loin Chops with Wild Chanterelle & Sweet Corn Sauce is reason enough to plant a home herb garden. In fact, if you are not tilling up a corner of the lawn to plant thyme, basil, garlic, cilantro, onions and Italian flat parsley, youre missing the point.
Recipes within the spiral bound are arranged by restaurant, rather than category. For example, Sean Devereauxs Zucchini Carpaccio (Guidos Favorite Foods) can serve as an appetizer or a salad, just as the Basil & Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Peaches (Chef Ryan Lowe, Ore House) can serve as an appetizer or a dessert.
The $12 cookbook is available at Marias Bookshop, Cloudberries and the La Plata County Fairgrounds CSU Extension Office.
Heres a Christmas shopping suggestion to go with it: Pick up a good bottle of olive oil, sherry vinegar, pine nuts, Parmesan, saffron and smoky sweet paprika and you can get a jump start in your pantry for next years Durango Farmers Market. Fewer than 150 days until it opens!
Merry Christmas and buono appetito.
firstname.lastname@example.org Karen Brucoli Anesi is a Durango cook.