The 7 Best Farmers’ Market Cookbooks

by Katherine Sacks

11/05/18

Walking through the farmers’ market, it’s easy to hit sensory overload and start shopping based on the array of rainbow colors, scents and flavors. But once you’re home, the question of what to cook can be overwhelming. Just what does one do with fiddlehead ferns anyway?

Shopping from the farmers’ market is a great way to support a sustainable food system, not only because you are supporting local farmers and the local economy, but also because your food spends less time traveling and in storage. Seasonal, local food is also more delicious #winwin. But just as important is using that food up: in the United States, we throw away about 40 percent of our food each year. From produce shopping guides to whole-vegetable cooking techniques, these cookbooks are guaranteed to inspire you — no matter the season — to cook something delicious with that farmers’ market produce. Shop, read, cook, repeat.

“Local Flavors” by Deborah Madison

Published nearly two decades before the current infatuation with seasonal foods — #farmersmarketinspo – “Local Flavors” is one of the truly iconic farmers’ market tomes, filled with 350 gorgeous recipes. As a former farmers’ market manager and avid market shopper, Deborah Madison’s love of produce shines through with recipes like braised root vegetables and black lentils or sweet and sour onions with dried pluots and rosemary. Madison visited nearly 100 markets across the US while working on the book, from Vermont to Hawaii, sharing farmers’ stories and market photos, to create a truly special portrait of America’s seasons and regions.

“The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook” by Amelia Saltsman

Cookbook author Amelia Saltsman has long been one of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market’s most devoted shoppers, and for good reason, as the market is widely recognized as one of the largest and most diverse farmers’ markets in the country. It’s no wonder her “Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook,originally published in 2007 and now in its sixth printing, has become a go-to resource for celebrating local, fresh cuisine. Equal parts shopping guide (Just what is sapote? How do you pick the best eggs?) and stories about farmers and their crops, the book is a wonderful profile of the city’s markets. Saltsman also includes 100 simple, produce-driven recipes, along with chef and farmer cooking tips.

Yardlong bean curry with wilted spinach from “The CSA Cookbook” by Linda Ly. Photograph by Will Taylor.
Yardlong bean curry with wilted spinach from “The CSA Cookbook” by Linda Ly. Photograph by Will Taylor.

“The CSA Cookbook” by Linda Ly

With some of the country’s best farmers at her disposal, LA-based food blogger Linda Ly knows a thing or two about shopping as a locavore. Although her “The CSA Cookbook” is geared towards CSA subscribers who need help making the most of their delivery of farm-fresh produce, the book is equally useful for market shoppers. Drawing on her home gardening experiences and world travels, Ly’s 105 seasonal, globally-inspired recipes will help you cook through your farmers’ market produce, with recipes like Sicilian squash shoot soup, heirloom tomato galette with tomato leaf pesto and yardlong bean curry with wilted spinach. She also includes basic preservation techniques, ideas for root-to-stem-vegetable cookery, and ideas for cooking lesser-known vegetables, making it easy to use it up, waste less and get more out of your produce.

“Canal House Cooking Volume No. 4” by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

The fourth volume in the Canal House Cooking series — a collection of self-published quarterly cookbooks from the duo that make up the Lambertville, NJ-based studio-workshop Canal House — looks to the garden, farmers’ market and roadside farm stand to inspire readers to enter their kitchen. Dishes like roast chicken with tomato butter and pasta with parsley and toasted walnut sauce harken to a casual farm table dinner with classic freshness that is inviting while still being enticing. It’s not surprising. As former food magazine editors, the Canal House team of Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton understand the power of a gorgeous photo and classic, fresh flavors.

North African carrot salad. Excerpted from "David Tanis Market Cooking" by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.
North African carrot salad. Excerpted from “David Tanis Market Cooking” by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.

“David Tanis Market Cooking” by David Tanis

With a bumper crop of produce on your hands, “David Tanis’ Market Cooking” comes to the rescue. Instead of sorting by menu ideas or seasonality, New York Times food writer David Tanis’ cookbook is broken into ingredient sections — including alliums, chilies, mushrooms and potatoes — giving a wide variety of recipes and suggestions. In Tanis’s world, the classics get updated with international flavors, adding Moroccan, Mexican and Chinese techniques and flavors into the mix for results that only heighten the seasonal produce. Turn those carrots into a North African salad with preserved lemon, that onion into Lebanese-style caramelized onions. You won’t think about produce the same way again, and that’s the point.

“The Farm” by Ian Knauer

What do you get when you combine a former Gourmet test kitchen editor and an eighteenth-century Pennsylvania family farm? When you are Ian Knauer, you get the 150 fresh, modern recipes that make up “The Farm,” his ode to seasonal, farm-fresh cooking. Knauer brings a fresh, creative eye to his cookery, while still keeping the recipes homey and satisfying. Why make roasted potatoes when you can make potato nachos? Update that apple pie by adding in concord grapes. Paging through this book, full of beautiful photographs and Knauer’s stories of farm life, is like visiting the family’s Pennsylvania farm and is sure to inspire you to get into the kitchen and start cooking.

Trout fillets with sautéed fennel stems and fronds from “Root to Leaf” by Steven Satterfield. Photograph by John Kernick.
Trout fillets with sautéed fennel stems and fronds from “Root to Leaf” by Steven Satterfield. Photograph by John Kernick.

“Root to Leaf” by Steven Satterfield

Have you ever wandered through the farmers’ market and found yourself struggling with what to buy? Steven Satterfield, chef of Atlanta’s Miller Union, doesn’t have this problem, but he wrote “Root to Leaf” to help shoppers solve it. Where many see a sparse market come winter time, Satterfield views unlimited possibility. His book offers a plan for the year ahead, as well as a philosophy for minimal treatment of the best-you-can-find produce, asking shoppers to show up at the market with “an open mind and some empty bags rather than a shopping list.” Unlike the fancy recipes found at his restaurant, Satterfield provides ideas that home cooks can easily follow, covering produce basics, such as cleaning techniques and prep tips, as well as whole vegetable recipes, like adding fennel stems and fronds to a butter alongside trout.

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