"Locally Grown" Cookbook Covers Farmers & Their Farms

A cookbook explores the definition of farm-to-table

In recent years, the term "farm-to-table" has become nearly meaningless.

Author Anna Blessing restores the term's weight in her new book, Locally Grown: Portraits of Artisanal Farms from America's Heartland ($23). She explores the relationship between Midwest farmers and their crops, spanning history, process and beyond.

Then Blessing delves deeper, examining the connections forged between farmers and the Chicago chefs who depend on their output to cook seasonally relevant dishes. (Recipes from both farmers and chefs are featured in the book.)

These farmers' and chefs' shared love of nature's bounty and mutual respect are evident in dishes like stuffed summer zucchini (see the recipe) from chef Carlos Ysaguirre (Acre, Anteprima). Ysaguirre typically uses "immaculate" vegetables from nearby Henry's Farm, but even supermarket zucchini will do nicely.

We tweaked the recipe to allow the produce to shine further: Instead of pan-frying the squash, we roasted it, and replaced a fried egg with a poached one. Vibrant, hearty and ideal for brunch, the dish reminds us that where ingredients come from is as important as how they taste.