July 12, 2011
The title simultaneously makes perfect sense and feels misleading.
That’s because new locally sown cookbook Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard is downright beautiful, but it’s also about a lot more than plums.
It arrives from Romney Steele, who was raised at Nepenthe (667-2345) in the kitchen with her grandma, master baker and all-around South Coast matriarch/muse Lolly Fassett; who rose to chef at Nepenthe’s Cafe Kevah for a spell; and who was last seen publishing My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family and Big Sur right around Nepenthe’s 60th anniversary two summers ago.
Gorgeous is dripping with no fewer than 60 fruit-driven recipes that canvas the seasons and tempt both imagination and appetite—think white chocolate passionfruit truffles, plum soup with basil ice cream, blueberry-lemon lime gratin, honey-baked figs with lavender, and grilled sardines with preserved lemon gremolata.
The accompanying art from Sara Remington, meanwhile, looks like it should either fall right from the tree (in the orchard) or give off an aroma (in the kitchen), and the poetic asides from Steele on the year she spent living in a Big Sur orchard complete the package nicely.
“The virtue of an orchard life, as I see it after all, is the stroll,” she writes, “the slowing down long enough to gather fruit and put it by, to make a pear tart when you planned on making a plum one instead, or substituting persimmons for figs because one is ripe and the other is not—the unexpected is often surprising, and can be just as delicious and full.”
A book launch goes down 1-8pm Saturday, July 16, at her old stomping and cheffing grounds, and as with whatever flavor of affair, when Nepenthe does a book launch, it ain't your average signing-and-smiling.
Steele discusses and fields questions about her beautiful manual down at the Phoenix Shop (1-3pm), then a reception overlooking the Pacific (4-6pm) precedes belly dancers reclaiming the fiery patio (6-8pm), all while Nepenthe Chef Greg Lizza preps specials from the book.
Steele also appears 2-5pm July 24 at Carmel Bay Company (624-3868) and noon July 25 at River House Books (626-2665).
For those who would like to plumb the gorgeous depths further, a Romney Steele cookbook Q&A with Bay Area News Group's Jackie Burrell came out the day after this first appeared here.