Cookbook of the Month: June 2017, Deep Run Roots
This June, most of my cookbooks were in moving boxes. Since I had just received Vivian Howard's book "Deep Run Roots" as a gift, I was antsy to unpack it and get cooking. I have been watching Howard's PBS documentary series "A Chef's Life" ever since its debut in 2013. So I've been waiting for her cookbook with anticipation before it ever had its title, publisher, or release date. I enjoy watching Howard connect the farm community to the restaurant world, with each episode featuring a specific regional eastern North Carolina ingredient and recipe along with local industry professionals, neighbors, and family members. Howard knows how to tell a good story, how to draw you into a recipe (Frogmore Stew, anyone?), how to make you root for her when she's cooking for an intimidating large event with a much-too-small fryer, and how to make you care about visiting the small town in the South where she grew up. (Kinston, North Carolina is now on my bucket list.)
But what I particularly love is watching Howard confront new challenges in the kitchen as she balances work, family, and entrepreneurship-- both with a sense of purpose, and a sense of humor. The show spotlights a lot of challenges specific to the restaurant business (staffing issues, developing new menu items, sourcing ingredients, etc.) But whether you're in the food industry or not, the show captures universally relatable human moments. I love watching Howard push herself towards her goals-- it's a reminder that great rewards can come from pushing beyond one's comfort zone. Howard is also a constant reminder to have faith in yourself in the kitchen-- every professional has their moments of doubt, but you must learn to trust your instincts, skills, and creativity.
Howard's Peanut Romesco sauce was the perfect recipe to try when I was planning to cook up some freshly caught yellowtail and halibut. Describing it as a "good to have on hand" sauce, she packs it with red wine vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, paprika, parsley, mint, and pine nuts, then serves it with arugula salad and fried fish. For our fish, I pan-fried it and served it with her Peanut Romesco alongside a classic arugula pesto, with roasted baby purple potatoes and brussels sprouts. (I'm thinking this peanut romesco has a definite future served with an overeasy egg breakfast.) I'm looking forward to cooking many more of the recipes from Deep Run Roots. At 564 pages it's going to take awhile, so here's to wearing down those pages for years to come.