by Maria Ribas.
If you love local food, you should love local cookbooks. Who could better understand the bounty of our corner of the globe than someone who lives, eats, and grows here? Sure, you could pull out a celebrity chef cookbook when your CSA comes in, or turn to the ever-trusty The Joy of Cooking for a new lobster recipe. But our very best food deserves our very best recipes. With Cooking the Books, I’ll share reviews of cookbooks by local authors, adapt cookbook recipes to highlight local ingredients, and occasionally share an inside look at the world of cookbook publishing. Come eat and read with me!
In Cape Cod Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Buzzards Bay to Provincetown, John Carafoli takes you on a tour of the Cape, heading east and stopping at restaurants, bakeries, vineyards, breweries, bars, shanties, and food trucks along the way. It’s a whirlwind trip to discover and dine with all the local chefs, farmers, and artisans that define the peninsula.
You’ll find the essential recipes for chowder, clam bakes, and stuffed lobster, but the true gems in this cookbook are the distinctive recipes, the ones that will make you see our local ingredients in new ways. The Monkfish with Lentils and Pureed Cauliflower from Brewster Fish House takes a light and often overlooked fish and gives it the creamy depth and richness of a hearty winter meal. The Glass Onion’s Lobster Strudel recipe is a must-try innovation, and you’ll be surprised by how simple it is to recreate in your own kitchen.
Carafoli also does an excellent job of showing a panoramic view of cooking on the Cape—you’ll find a recipe for Brazilian Caipirinhas alongside a classic lobster roll. But the very greatest strength of this cookbook is the honest photography of the people behind the food. Photographer Francine Zaslow captures both the distinctiveness and the ordinariness of these salt-of-the earth, hearty New England people. There’s something refreshing about seeing real people and real tables in this era of overly styled, filter-obsessed food photography. While at times Carafoli’s headnotes ramble, this is an invaluable cookbook for anyone interested in discovering new local food purveyors and hearing their stories of life on the Cape.
Try this inventive and easy recipe from The Island Merchant in Hyannis that coats tuna steaks in classic Cape Cod Chips.
Cape Cod Potato Chip Encrusted Tuna Steak
For the marinade:
½ medium onion, peeled and diced
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from one lime)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon minced
Scotch Bonnet pepper, or to taste
For the tuna:
Four (4-oz) sushi-grade tuna steaks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (7-oz) bag Cape Cod potato chips, crushed as finely as possible
For the marinade: Combine the onion, orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine.
For the tuna: Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper and place in the marinade, turning to coat. Marinate for at least ten minutes and up to twenty. Spread the crushed chips on a plate. One at a time, lift the tuna steaks from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and coat completely with the crushed chips, pressing gently so they adhere. Then grill the steaks over medium-hot fire, about two minutes per side (tuna will be rare), being careful not to burn the coating.
To assemble the dish: Cut each tuna steak in half and serve over mashed potatoes.
Maria Ribas is an editor, blogger, and connoisseur of all things pecan pie. By day she acquires and edits cookbooks and lifestyle books, and by night she cooks, writes, and snaps photos for Cooks & Books. She thinks a good cookbook can help anyone create restaurant-worthy meals and take control of how and why they eat. You can find her talking publishing, cooking, and life at www.cooksplusbooks.com.