New book proves Northwest has a unique cuisine after all
It wasn't too many years ago that we were hard-pressed to come up with a definition of "Pacific Northwest cuisine. " Shunned by the national...
Seattle Times Food staff
It wasn't too many years ago that we were hard-pressed to come up with a definition of "Pacific Northwest cuisine." Shunned by the national media, we wrung our collective hands and suffered through a period of intense debate and indecision.
Although we were blessed with an abundance of apples and berries, and the sweet meat of Dungeness crab and fresh salmon could be brought to the table with ease, we weren't quite certain if the roots of our culinary heritage were deep enough.
If only we had been privy to a copy of "Pure Flavor: 125 Fresh All-American Recipes from the Pacific Northwest" by Kurt Beecher Dammeier with Laura Holmes Haddad (Random House, $32.50), the debate would have been clearly won by local advocates.
Compare this beautifully conceived book with other recently published regional cookbooks such as "The Summer Shack Cookbook" by Boston's Jasper White or Earl Hiers' "Uncle Bubba's Savannah Seafood," and it's apparent that not only do we have a regional cuisine, but it can hold its own against that of any other section of the country.
Dammeier's résumé is impressive. He bought the beloved Pasta & Co. gourmet retail stores in 2000 from their original owners, Marcella and Harvey Rosene, and opened Bennett's Pure Food Bistro on Mercer Island in 2006. But it's his award-winning cheeses produced at Beecher's Handmade Cheese in Pike Place Market, which opened its doors in 2003, that have drawn kudos from national media heavyweights such as Food & Wine magazine and The New York Times.
Although Dammeier is passionate about promoting American cheese makers and their products, his book is not all curds and whey.
In fact, it's the sort of book that cooks will reach for when entertaining special guests or simply putting dinner on the table. The recipes are easy to prepare, taste sensational and are visually beautiful.
Butter-Rubbed Salmon with Blueberry Sauce offers quintessential Northwest ingredients prepared in a quintessentially Northwest fashion, and a Strawberry Shortcake with Fromage Blanc Whipped Cream, fashioned from a sconelike base, lightly sweetened berries and an opulent cream topping, is a luscious variation on a classic theme.
There's also practical information for cooking a live crab or pairing wine with food. Capsule profiles offer an appreciative tip of the hat to regional "food icons" such as Frank Isernio, Sally Jackson and Bruce Gore.
Of course, quality cheese is dear to Dammeier's heart, so he offers tips for cooking with it as well as substitutions and recommendations for specific cheeses suggested in a recipe.
The lovely photography captures the beauty and spirit of the Northwest, and of the recipes presented in the book. It's a visual pleasure.
Like any good cook, Dammeier knows the success of a dish relies on the freshest ingredients we can buy.
"No matter where you live and what foods you have access to, you can still eat seasonally," he writes. "I often provide substitution suggestions for ingredients, but the best ingredient will always be the one that was grown down the road from your house."
"Pure Flavor" will be released Tuesday.
CeCe Sullivan: email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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