Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Lush: A Season-by-Season Celebration of Craft Beer and Produce

Lush: A Season-by-Season Celebration of Craft Beer and Produce
Author: Jacquelyn Dodd 
Publisher: Agate Surrey (2019) 

From the publisher:
Beer today is increasingly as seasonal as produce; its ingredients come from the soil and are harvested at peak freshness, just like the offerings at local farmers markets. Lush is perfect for fresh produce lovers and craft beer lovers alike. The cookbook translates complex flavor profiles into easy-to-follow recipes for at-home kitchens. Dodd's beautiful, insightful recipes—which also happen to be vegetarian—open the door to deliciously complex flavors that evolve with the seasons, and respond perfectly to food-world trends, such as the surge of seasonal farm-to-table eating, the push to support local businesses like breweries and farmers markets and, of course, our ever-growing appreciation
great craft beer. 

My review:
In college, beer was my drink of choice (until I discovered my multiple allergies, at least). But aside from in chocolate cake or fish n' chip batter, I never really considered it as an ingredient - beer went with a meal, not in it! However, after reading through Lush: A Season-by-Season Celebration of Craft Beer and Produce, I've changed my tune. This book is not simply a "cooking with beer" volume for college students who yearn to add alcohol to everything (they know who they are!). Rather, this book delves deep into seasonal cooking and eating, and just happens to be using the beer varieties that are appropriate for each. Dodd makes great use of produce that is available (and usually at a great price) for each of the four seasons the book is divided into, from Summer peaches (which are pickled in summer ale (p. 115)) to Winter squash, onions and hearty greens that are stars on top of a stout-infused pizza crust (p. 195). Every course is covered in the book, and recipes are always innovative. Full colour pictures range through the book and entice the reader to try at least one or two a season.

One of my favourite things about this book - even as a non drinker - is the break down of the seasonal produce in each section that is correlated with the various recipes. For instance, Spring is known for artichokes - along with a short paragraph as to how to select and store them, the reader will be able to see that they can find recipes for Beer Braised Artichokes Wrapped in Puff Pastry on page 36 and Beer-Steamed Artichokes with Roated Garlic Hummus on page 38. Every dish in the book is vegetarian, and many can be made vegan with simple substitutions if need be. That said, due to the nature of beer being brewed with barley, gluten-free cooks will likely want to skip this book (I do know there is gluten free beer available, but I can't speak for it's results in the recipes).

For the more experienced home cook, none of the techniques used by the author are strange or complex, but even for the beginner cook the directions are straightforward and broken down into easy to follow steps. Most of the recipes are multi-part, meaning that the reader can pick and choose elements from each to make meals their own. For instance, this holiday season we were looking for a hearty, vegetarian side dish to go with the seafood mains. We loved all the elements that went into Roasted Butternut Squash and Barrel-Aged Stout Caramelized Onion Pizza (p. 195), but thought that pizza would be too messy for a cocktail hour. Instead, we took the topping and folded it into cooked farro (you could also use barley for an extra "nod" to the beer) and used the vinaigrette from the Beer-Braised Leeks with Lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano Vinaigrette (p. 205) as a dressing (see the photo above). The pizza dough recipe did not go to waste, though - it turned into delicious, chewy-soft breadsticks glazed with egg and sprinkled with Cabernet-infused sea salt (my addition). The combination of flavours worked wonders (and those leeks are on my bucket list), and the dish was one that worked perfectly hot, cold or room temperature (our favourite way to eat it).

I have yet to try any of the sweet recipes from this book in particular, but based off my previous experience from the author's website offerings I doubt I'll be disappointed. The language in this book is easy to comprehend even for non-cooks, and recipes don't call for oddball or hard-to-find ingredients. That said, if you aren't in the habit of buying beer - and especially craft beer - some of the recipes may seem challenging, and at the very least, expensive! I equate it to using wine in a dish, though - you will taste the nuances of the beer where it's being used for the most part, and for special occasions a $4 bottle of local craft ale is worth it. I would not be one to cook from this book weekly, but when I need to pull out a showstopper dish I will have no problem cracking open my copy of Lush: A Season-by-Season Celebration of Craft Beer and Produce.

Available on Amazon