The Agricola Cookbook is the must-have local cookbook of the summer

Agricola Cookbook | southjerseylocavore.comI’m not even sure where to start with Agricola Cookbook because almost every recipe is begging for me to make it. Filled with recipes from Princeton’s Agricola Community Eatery, it’s subtitled Seasonal American Comfort Food with Style and Grace. I’m counting on the recipes and cooking tips in this book to bump my locavore dishes up a notch this summer.

Agricola brings the warm, stylishly retro décor of the restaurant to life with 100 inspired recipes that showcase Chef Thomsen’s deft touch with local ingredients and span all seasons for a full year’s worth of farm-focused eating.  Dishes range from soups, salads and starters to braised and roasted meats to desserts and even cocktails, all inspired by and prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients to bring an authentic taste of New Jersey to the table.  Highlights include:  Roasted Beet Tartare with crispy onion petals;  Summer Squash Flatbread with corn, braised leeks and ricotta;  Cavatelli with duck confit ragu;  East Coast Seafood Stew;  and Dark Chocolate Cake with black pepper icing.

In addition to the wealth of recipes, Agricola also includes authoritative “From the Farmer” notes sprinkled throughout the book that help home cooks highlight the distinctive flavors of seasonal vegetables, including kale and turnips, and introduce them to other exceptional local growers, such as Terhune Orchards, as well as artisanal local products, such as Rojo’s Roasters coffees, and even farm-to-kitchen distribution services, such as Zone 7, a group that connects farmers and restaurants and helps them work collaboratively.  The book also delves into preserving in “From Our Larder,” a section that includes watermelon rind pickles, preserved lemons, oven-dried tomatoes, daikon kimchi and other inspired ways to make the summer harvest last all year long.

Two recipes that stand out for me are the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Almond Hummus and Compressed Watermelon (sounds amazing, doesn’t it?) and the Goat Cheese-Potato Terrine with Baby Beets and Balsamic Syrup. A terrine is a French dish of “meat, fish, or vegetable mixture that has been cooked or otherwise prepared in advance and allowed to cool or set in its container, typically served in slices.” This ends up being a loaf with potato and goat cheese layers (with plenty of chives in the goat cheese). I don’t even need the beats. I can imagine just slicing this up and eating just the terrine.

Agricola is beautifully photographed. My mouth is watering looking through its pages and I’m getting antsy to get to a farmers market to grab ingredients and start cooking. While there are recipes for all year round, this is a cookbook you’ll want to pick up NOW because New Jersey is about to start bursting with local produce.

I’ve heard great things about Agricola Community Eatery but I haven’t taken the time to drive up to Princeton and dine there. In addition to cooking from this book this summer, I’m going to make a point to get up there before all the season’s bounty is gone to have a meal.

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