Spring Miso Soup & the Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook
Photo: Liz Rueven; Miso Soup with Daikon Radish; recipe via the Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook

Spring Miso Soup & the Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook

I dance a little jig when I find a cookbook that speaks to me with stories and recipes that focus on local and seasonal recipes. Toss in background about the growers behind the ingredients and entries that teach while titillating and I’m jazzed to start whipping up something I’ve never cooked before.

The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook; 125 Homegrown Recipes from the Hills of New England  , by Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, celebrates this region in the Northeast with a focus on farmers, their personal stories and the crops they pour their hearts and sweat into.

Miso Soup with Daikon Radish called to me on a wintery day in February but is even more seductive now that spring greens abound at farmers’ markets and in my raised planting beds.

Scroll down for recipe.

The simplicity of this kosher vegan soup, rich in minerals and vitamins, is a reflection of Young Yuk and Jeana Park’s Korean heritage. They are likely the only Berkshires farmers who grow certified organic ginger, daikon, turmeric and bok choy. They also cultivate two rice paddies on Et Cetera Farm in Ghent, NY.

Rice is growing in the Berkshires! Can you believe it?

If you live in or have visited New England, you know about the Berkshires, a county that includes areas in New York state, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. While Tanglewood (summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and Jacob’s Pillow (dance) may come to mind at first, the Berkshires is generously punctuated by family farms, farm stands and farmers’ markets.

Berkshires Farm Table cookbook
Topher Sabot, owner and farmer, Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA.

This heartening volume tells the stories of family owned and run farms and the farmers who grow on them. It is replete with histories of the land, personal challenges, and stories of coping with a radically and rapidly changing business climate.

Topher Sabot, dairy farmer and accidental cheese maker, manages 10 people, sells 28,000 pounds of artisanal cheese annually and is focused on the proper care of his 75-80 cows. He urges consumers to learn more about the sources of their food. “Just because it’s local, doesn’t mean it’s good.”

How can we learn more? He suggests buying directly from farmers whenever possible. Not realistic? Ask your vendors direct questions when shopping your farmers’ markets.

The common thread in the farmers’ profiles is the pride and satisfaction they express as they grow nutritious food, raise their kids with strong work ethics, and protect the environment  by “using sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic farming methods.”

Berkshires Farm Table Cookkbook
Photo: Jen Salinetti of Woven Roots Farm

Recipes are organized by categories and interspersed with personal stories of farmers’ passions and journeys. Many gravitated to farming from unlikely places, like Jen Salinetti, who grew up in suburbia without having a sense of where her food came from.

Excited by her visits to relatives who grew tomatoes in Brooklyn, Jen created her own major in college and focused on sustainable agriculture and herbal medicine. Her husband grew up in the Berkshires and knew about gardening from his parents. Together, they farm by hand and are committed to “no till” farming. Husband and co-farmer, Pete, says  their food tastes different “because of the care they put in each square foot of soil, using ecological and regenerative practices to put carbon back into the earth.”

With a recent grant from the state, they are building a multi-purpose educational center to educate the next generation of farmers on soil biology.

Beet Latkes; the Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook
Savory Beet Latkes; Hawk Dance Farm and Rawson Brook Farm

The recipes here reflect an important message of using available ingredients with flexible substitutions. These savory beet latkes include two cups of shredded beets and equal parts carrots, celery root and potatoes. I’ll consider this recipe as a vehicle for using up other root veggies when I find stragglers in my fridge.

Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook
Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, MA.

Authors, Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner have sought out some of the most interesting and inspiring stories I’ve read. They’ve lived in the Berkshires for over 35 years and clearly love the land, the people and the determination of the farmers, cheesemakers, chefs and restaurant owners behind these accessible seasonal recipes.

Kudos to Chef Brian Alberg, former executive chef of the Red Lion Inn, for bringing the vibrancy and range of the Berkshires grown ingredients to life in The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook. His love of the region’s crops (and farmers) is perfectly expressed in accessible recipes that allow ingredients to shine.

His advice: “Don’t take a beautiful carrot in season and cover it with curry. It loses a sense of the terroir of where it grew.”

Note: All photos and recipes, other than the photos for Miso Soup with Daikon Radish, are excerpted from The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook: 125 Homegrown Recipes from the Hills of New England. Copyright 2020 by Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press, a Division of W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

Join us: I’ll be in conversation with writers, Elisa and Robert, on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 12:30 via zoom. Thank you to Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, CT, for inviting me to join the authors as we explore conscious eating and why farm to table matters.

Click here to register for this free event. A zoom link will be sent a couple of days before May 11.

Disclosure: When readers purchase items through some of the links in this post Kosher Like Me may benefit by receiving a small percentage of that sale. There is no cost for the buyer. Thanks for supporting this blogging habit of mine.


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