Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thinking Outside the (Recipe) Box

When friends from out of town come to visit, I often take them to Lark, John Sundstrom's Seattle restaurant, which is celebrating a decade of good food this year.

I've been eating at Lark since it opened in 2003. The launch party for my first book, Fat of the Land, was at Lark. John made a porcini crostini (photo here, at top) that night that continues to be one of my go-to apps for dinner parties: sliced baguette rubbed with garlic and topped with a mixture of ricotta cheese and roasted porcini mushrooms, with a sprinkling of sea salt. That simple dish in many ways encapsulates John's philosophy: a fresh ingredient foraged locally and allowed to shine.

John has now put this philosophy on paper (or your device screen, as the case may be) with his new book, Lark: Cooking Against the Grain. It's a big, beautifully photographed book, with many of John's signature recipes from the restaurant, such as his Farro and Wild Mushrooms and Geoduck Ceviche. The focus is unabashedly Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on local producers and wild foods.

The book is organized around three "seasons," which John refers to as mist (November to March), evergreen (April to July), and bounty (August to October). During the mist season you might want to be acquainted with Scallops Choucroute with Ham Hock and Pickled Mustard Seeds. Evergreen brings forth Sunchoke Soup and a hearty dish of Rabbit with Morels, Favas and Emmer Pappardelle. And bounty is a colorful Sockeye Salmon with Corn, Bacon and Lobster Mushrooms followed by a Black Fig Tarte Tatin, among many other treats of the harvest season.

John admits in his introduction that some of the recipes included aren't dumbed-down versions, so he's also produced an inexpensive iPad app that includes color, step-by-step photos to go with each recipe.

This is food that celebrates a sense of place. If spot shrimp or spiced apple cake make you swoon, you'll want to dig into Lark: Cooking Against the Grain. As John says, the book is "about living the good life in the Pacific Northwest."

To learn more about chef John Sundstrom and his food, see his talk "Thinking Outside the (Recipe) Box" this Friday night at Seattle's Central Library, 7 p.m., presented in partnership with Elliott Bay Books.

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