Apples, salmon, wild mushrooms, and Dungeness crab--these are some of the ingredients celebrated in Greg Atkinson's The Northwest Essentials Cookbook, an exploration of regional bounty and the cooking it inspires. Atkinson, food writer and chef at Canlis in Seattle, offers 150 accessible recipes peppered with personal culinary narratives evoking his own Northwest "journey." Readers interested in one of the country's most fertile and gastronomically distinguished regions, and those seeking straightforward yet polished recipes for its cooking, should be delighted.
Organized by the ingredients (which, in addition to the above, include stone fruit, herbs, berries, oysters, and mussels, among other seafood), the book features recipes for the likes of Pork Tenderloin Sautéed with Morels, Grilled Singing Scallops on the Half Shell, and Warm Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. There's a definitive recipe for apple pie, a marvelous Dungeness crab gumbo and, among more modish offerings, Flame-Broiled Arctic Char with Cherry Salsa. If Atkinson's introductory essays on, for example, an early morning encounter with a wave-skimming salmon strain for effect, his recipes are always inviting and his culinary information comprehensive. Of particular interest and usefulness are his chapter-by-chapter investigations of apple, salmon, herb, and other food varieties (his discussion of apple types--he favors the jonagold for all-purpose use--is particularly good). Infused with a love of food and respect for ingredients treated simply, Atkinson's book does full justice to the richness of the culinary Northwest and its cooking. --Arthur Boehm
"...the executive chef at Seattle's Canlis restaurant focuses on the local ingredients he uses the most. Much of this book's appeal lies in Atkinson's lyrical descriptions of food and its elevating role in his life. 'I imagine,' he writes, 'that...we are something between animals and angels, and food is the golden chain that keeps us connected to both worlds.'" -- Northwest Palate
"Not since James Beard or M.F.K. Fisher has anyone written about food so honestly." -- Willamette Week
"There are some foods we associate with things other than meals, and ingredients that flavor out lives as well as our cooking. Seattle Homes and Lifestyles contributing editor knows this, and has used his own experiences to put together a book of recipes that is both atechnically informative and intriguingly personal. This is a collection of recipes that utilize the foods we associate with the Northwest. Of course, seafood is covered in its many forms, from shellfish to salmon. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs that flavor local cuisine are described in detail and listed in recipes both basic and daring. The recipes themselves are inventive and never dull. But what really sets this book apart is Atkinson's own anecdotes and opinions about the ingredients he's included. He tells us how a meal of stuffed muchrooms made his future wife agree to marry him and how steamed oysters helped him cope with a family tragedy. Although the recipes are enough to inspir! ! e any chef, Atkinson's approach also inspires a deeper appreciation, of not only the finished product, but the importance of each ingredient." -- Seattle Homes and Lifestyles, October 1999