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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Seamus Mullen's Hero Food - Seamus Mullen

Released April 2012

Seamus Mullen
Andrews McMeel Publishing

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Like the author, I've grown up in Vermont. The only difference is that I haven't left, yet. While part of me is very tired of the high taxes, long winters with outrageous heating bills, and insane cost of living, I know I'd miss having a berry farm a mile away, the thrill of leaning over my deck rail to pick fresh blackberries, and having a spacious yard with a garden filled with my favorites. Reading Seamus Mullen's Hero Foods really put it into perspective just how much I do love that part of life.

Seamus Mullen is a known New York City chef and finalist on the Next Iron Chef. What people may not know is that at 35, his rheumatoid arthritis got so bad he ended up in a wheelchair. That's when he began to use foods to improve his condition.

His cookbook, Hero Foods, delves into the foods that should be a part of daily life. Things like dried beans, olive oil, grains, poultry, eggs, parsley, berries, greens, meat, squash, carrots, corn, fish and almonds each have chapters in this cookbook. Some items, like fresh trout or anchovies, I can do without. Vermont trout has always tasted muddy to me and now with Lake Champlain's pollution levels and many streams and rivers being polluted, I'm just not interested. I live close to Lake Champlain and in one bay, the smell during the summer is simply nauseating. I also grew up in a farm town and even today, the cows nearest my parents are allowed to wander into a tributary of the Winooski causing high fecal coliform levels.

The rest of the recipes, however, sounded amazing. I happened to have a three-pound bag of almonds my brother had just given me because his restaurant ordered too much over the holidays, so I set to work.

The photography in this book is incredible. I found myself entranced with the photos. The cookbook is set up by season. He has an outstanding recipe for preserved lemons and I've been looking for one that isn't horribly involved. That's one of the first recipes I tested, though I did cut the recipe down because I use olive oil for everything and didn't want to use up the full two cups. I then went on to make his Almond Sable and immediately used it as the crust for another recipe I have for a Chocolate-Amaretto tart. That recipe quickly became a favorite.

I'm anxious to try the Corn and Crab salad once summer arrives. Other recipes that appealed to me include Stuffed Spaghetti Squash, Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts (While many hate these tiny cabbage-like treats, I love them!), and Spiced Rubbed Hanger Steaks.

There are many treats waiting for your kitchen skills in Seamus Mullen's Hero Food. After viewing the pictures and scanning the recipes, I found myself longing for this odd winter to end so that my chives spring up, lawn blooms with thyme's purple flowers, rhubarb stalks appear, and the first run of vegetables are ready to be picked. This is an incredible cookbook and one I plan to purchase for my collection.

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