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Awake at the Whisk: Tender: A Cookbook Review

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Tender: A Cookbook Review

What do you get when you combine fresh farm-grown food, a commitment to supporting that food, and women with passion? You get Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters, a newly-published cookbook alive with stories, full-color photos, and thoughtful recipes that express the joys of eating locally. 

Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters by Tamara Murphy

Tender, written by Tamara Murphy with Marlen Boivin, Jody Ericson Dorow, and Nancy Gellos focuses on Seattle-based farmers’ market fare much like its California counter parts: Amelia Saltsman’s The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook and Placer County Real Food by Joanne Neft with Laura Kenny—also by women committed to eating locally.

The book expresses the culinary choices of a chef who is truly awake at the whisk. Murphy writes, “I am grateful to be living in a time when I must pay attention… The [food] choices that we make affect our communities and the planet where we play and live. TENDER is the result of my own growing awareness through the years of how I can meet the challenges of making better choices.”

There’s something about a book that comes to life as the result of a dream, and in the case of Tender, a collective dream. The book reads like the author’s personal kitchen notes with glimpses of the people and farmers who make up her community. Food acts as a foothold to bring this community together.

Tender is more than a cookbook. It’s an experience. It’s the kind of book you can curl up in bed with, or as you’re sharing one of its market-inspired recipes with friends, pass it around the dinner table.

One of the produce-based recipes you'll find in Tender: Roasted Farmers' Market Corn with Herbed Chili Butter

The easy font, the earth-toned and life-like color photos, and the texture of the rustic paper all work together to create a mood that forces you to slow down, linger, and learn. The book isn’t divided into chapters. The seasons in the book blend quietly into one another.

The recipes hold true to farm-fresh fare by using practical techniques that take advantage of the full food item purchased. For instance, there are recipes for roasting whole fish, ducks, and chickens.

Meals like Mediterranean Tomato and Bread Salad use multiple ripe fruits and plenty of garden herbs so the market fare commands center stage in each dish. For instance, Chermoula, a North African pesto, calls for four glorious bunches of fresh herbs.

In Tender, vegetables, herbs, and fruit become sauces, soups, and the stars of the show. While farm-raised meats certainly gain necessary attention, Tender celebrates cauliflower, fennel, grapes, and sage. The simple recipes allow busy people to become active participants in using the bounty of our farmers’ markets—and in this case, specifically those in the Seattle region.

Of course, you don’t have to live in Seattle to benefit from this book. Most of the featured foods can be found at the Sacramento farmers’ markets—and likely at a market in your neck of the woods. Since you don’t need a culinary degree to create these unique and delicious meals, this book is a good fit for anyone who wants to use more farm-grown food in their kitchens. 

Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters
By Tamara Murphy with Marlen Boivin, Jody Ericson Dorow, Nancy Gellos
ShinShinChez LLC, 2010, $40.00, 263 pages

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What a wonderful book! I think I'll get great use of it in Vancouver!
I also have Tender and love it. The Chermoula is fantastic and will be nice with the many things grilled this summer. Very nice write up Amber!

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