Reviewed by Sara Dalton
I love new book day. When my books arrive for review, I take some time to sit and open the envelope and revel in each title. This book came all by itself but I took as much time as I would have for three books. The first thing I noticed after opening it was the texture of the pages. It was not what I expected but it’s exactly what was needed. Though this book is well bound and has gorgeous, full color illustrations on almost every page, they are not slick and glossy. The feel of the pages is perfect for this book. Dishing up the Dirt is written by Andrea Bemis and she, along with her husband, is a farmer. Farming is not an easy life of leisure that will leave you with baby soft hands and clean fingernails. Feeling my baby soft hands rasp over the pages of the book gave me a tangible connection to the author. It felt like a friendly handshake.
Friendly is a good way to describe this book. The author welcomes you in and tells you stories about her family and their home, Tumbleweed Farm. I enjoyed reading about Andrea and her husband’s decision and journey to start their small (6 acre) organic farm. I could imagine sitting with her at their table, drinking one of her Honey Cardamom Lattes and chatting about the harvest and farming plans. I can imagine doing this in the winter though, there is no time for it the rest of the year. Andrea’s stories about the farm talk about the fulfillment but do not sugar coat the vast amount of work that goes into a farm, especially a small, family owned, organic farm. She also talks about her love of using the food from her farm to create meals for her family and friends. All of her recipes made me long for my local farmers market to open. With spring in the air, I am craving fresh greens, asparagus, and early strawberries. I will certainly be using her cookbook to prepare farmers market finds this summer.
I took quite a bit of time with this book, which is organized not by type of meal (breakfast, soup, entrée) as you so often see, but by season. I made something from each category except Autumn, but I will get to that section eventually. I ended up making six dishes and my mother-in-law made another recipe on her own. All the food was well received, though some was certainly more popular than others. Andrea begins each seasonal section of this cookbook with a few pages about what this time of year means for Tumbleweed Farm. You could easily skip the non-recipe aspects of this book and enjoy just the food, but I found myself enjoying the food even more after reading the stories because it felt like a friend had passed me a recipe card.
I will give two cautionary tales about this book. Though it is gorgeous and the photos are rustic, simple, and breathtaking, my hardback copy had a corner rip on the cover in the first fifteen minutes. I think there was just a gluing anomaly on mine. The very small rip is completely cosmetic. The second caution is about some of the recipes. I like to prepare all my ingredients before I start cooking, have them measured and ready to go. In a couple recipes, I would have everything out and when I started cooking the body of the recipe would call for water to be added that wasn’t on the ingredient list. I found this in a couple recipes and it only ever happened when the ingredient was water. It’s not a huge deal and it happens enough in cookbooks that I warn my student to read a recipe from start to finish before beginning the prep for it. I should have taken my own advice. Oh hubris!
With that being said, these recipes were simple enough, though some of them did have quite a few steps. It also demystified salad dressings for some of my friends. Andrea just incorporates a homemade salad dressing like it’s nothing and that casual attitude was helpful for some of my friends who think salad dressing either comes from a bottle or takes two days of work. Without further ado, let’s get to the recipes!
In the Spring section my mother-in-law made the Honey-Roasted Strawberry Muffins. I hear they were delicious. I wouldn’t know–they were all gone by the time I made it to her house! But, because my MIL is fabulous, she sent me a picture to share with all of you.
Pretty, right? Also tasty, I hear.
Also from Spring I made a lovely drink called a Bourbon Thyme Cocktail. She had me at bourbon. I enjoyed this drink but I’m going to fiddle with the ratios. I like less lemon juice and more syrup, but if you like a more tart drink, stick with the recipe amounts. Before I made the cocktail I whipped up the Pan-Fried Butter Beans & Greens. This was lovely and I’ll be making it again, I might just add bacon, because, c’mon, bacon.
On to Summer. I enjoyed my fare from this section too. The Beet Butter was unique and another way to serve beets to my guest. I LOVE beets and this dip was lightly sweet and unique. My husband and I have been spreading it on sandwiches. Speaking of my husband–one of his favorite recipes was the Burst Tomatoes & Cashew Ricotta Tartine. The cashew ricotta is another one of those things that we have been slathering on sandwiches and crackers. It is a tasty complement but not overpowering. You’ll notice in my picture one of the tartines is green instead of light brown since I have a cashew intolerant friend who LOVED this with pesto instead.
I haven’t cooked anything from the Autumn section yet, but I did get in two recipes from Winter. I made the Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella and the Honey Cardamom Latte. Both were excellent. I didn’t have any almond or other nut butter on hand for the latte so I used Nutella instead to good result. I think the panzanella was my Husbands second favorite. I will say the left over kept beautifully and we would warm them up and eat them on toast spread with the beet butter or cashew ricotta.
We are not fancy people at my house so you’ll have to forgive my non-professional food photography and lack of fancy pants dishes. Overall, I would suggest picking this book up to add to your food arsenal. It is filled with fresh, wonderful stuff. I want to go shopping at Tumbleweed Farm and meet Andrea for a grilled pizza and an ice cold beer. I can guarantee I will be making almost every recipe from this book.
Sarah is a wife, Mom, personal chef, avid reader, sometimes writer, all around smart ass, and lover of life. She maintains her sanity in the hectic life of raising two special needs kids by drinking vast amounts of coffee, small amounts of wine, laughing often, telling lots of jokes (occasionally poorly timed, often thoroughly inappropriate), and appreciating her husband because he’s a rock star Dad and partner.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Wave. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.