Cookbook Review: Tasting the Seasons by Kerry Dunnington
I have been reading Tasting the Seasons, a 2015 Benjamin Franklin award winning “eco-friendly” cookbook by author and chef, Kerry Dunnington. Kerry reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to review her newly released book. I love reading cookbooks, so was thrilled at the request.
Disclaimer: To conduct this review of Tasting the Seasons cookbook, I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, with no additional compensation provided. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Tasting the Seasons is an expansive cookbook with 13 different sections: appetizers, enhancers (sauces and dips), breakfast and brunch, hearty soups, lighter than hearty soups, pescatarian main dishes, meat main dishes, cold garden greenery side dishes, warm garden greenery side dishes, breads, sweet endings, a product resource list, and eco-terms-eco-tips-eco-techniques. 250 recipes in all. However, I noticed that Ms. Dunnington seemed to be filling the pages with several redundant recipes in order to get to that magical 250 number. For instance, 4 of the 5 vinaigrettes listed were essentially the exact same recipes, only changing out the acid and/or the herb. Vinaigrettes are vinaigrettes, but there is room for additional creativity I’m not sure she utilized. Additionally, she included 3 vegetarian lasagnas, 2 of which were identical except one called for roasted vegetables and the other did not. The most jarring however had to be the country ham recipe. It wasn’t a recipe at all, but rather the instructions off of the “how to cook this ham” packaging label. However, that ham “recipe” was at least made entertaining with a story from Kerry’s childhood.
Kerry’s stories and experiences were found throughout the book, and I found myself really enjoying her writing style. Her stories were fun and made for a good read, and made me feel like I knew who this author was once I finished the book. I found several worthwhile tips throughout the book, and liked the use of less-common ingredients like purslane. Many of the dishes seemed well put together and delicious. Kerry’s years of catering experience came through in the recipes and entertainment ideas, and I found several of Kerry’s insights and ideas valuable.
Tasting the Seasons markets itself to be a book built around seasonal eating, sustainable living, and eco-friendly tips and suggestions. There’s even a 365 Challenge about ditching foods found in plastics, leaving fast food forever, and buying and using local foods that are in season. A book about cooking real food, delicious food, easy to prepare food, and healthy seasonal food. Yes! But as I read Tasting the Seasons, I found that this concept was a bit absent in the recipes and the layout of the book. That doesn’t mean this is a bad book, but may mean that its marketing is a bit misleading.
I found Tasting the Seasons to be more of an encyclopedia style resource book (without any pictures of the dishes mind you) of one chef’s life-long catering and entertaining experience, personal cooking style, and culinary opinions. That’s not exactly what the title leads you to believe. Tasting the Seasons is marketing a book that is centered around the seasons, eating and cooking what is fresh from local gardens and farms at the time. But you won’t really find that in this book. “Healthy, Fresh, and Fun” is the book’s slogan, but canned items and store bought prepared items frequented the pages of the book. I’m not sure that cream of chicken/mushroom soup fit the category of healthy and fresh. It just seemed out of place for what the book was branding itself to be. Additionally, there wasn’t any organization by season, there weren’t any real tips of best foods and sources to find them by season, or much else by season other than the occasional, “I like to make this when ‘xyz’ is in season.” This seemed misleading and a bit frustrating to me as a reader. If I was to grab Tasting the Seasons off the shelf and scan through it, I wouldn’t buy it for these very reasons. Perhaps this is something Dunnington and her publisher could change for version 2 of the book.
But what about the recipes? Were they good and worth making? It is a cookbook after all, so how was the food? Well, I cooked every single recipe in my mind as I read through the book. Some were a bit odd and not tempting at all, like Tofu Pudding, or Golden Bread (which was just polenta), or Chunky Peanut Butter Soup. But others screamed to be made. Let me tell you about the four we tried.
First up was Curried Broccoli Soup. This stuff was fantastic. Broccoli and curry pair wonderfully! And the addition of tomato paste with the blended green broccoli made for a beautiful orange color. This is definitely a keeper recipe that will frequent my kitchen for years to come.
Second up was Lemon Pasta with Asparagus. This too was a great concept, however, the execution was a touch off due to the recipe calling for too much lemon zest. The lemon blast overpowered the asparagus flavor. Cut the lemon in half and you would have a real winner. Kerry’s use of egg in the sauce made for a rich and creamy “stick to your ribs” deliciousness, much like a carbonara sauce does. Great thinking Kerry!
The third dish we made was the real show stopper. We were completely shocked at how delicious the Mushroom and Robiola Cheese Polenta Pie was. It wasn’t the most beautiful dish, but damn was it tasty! Robiola cheese proved impossible to find in Boise however, so we had to substitute a similar cheese. Regardless though, this was one tasty recipe!
Last up was Coconut Lime Cake. This recipe sounded so freaking delicious, we just had to make it for a dinner party. Coconut and lime, how could it be bad right? Unfortunately, this was a very weird cake. The batter was first cooked on the stove top and then poured into a baking pan and baked for 30 minutes. The result was a very strange textured cake that didn’t go over well at all. The flavors were great, but the texture ruined it. We ended up feeding it to our chickens. They loved it and were buzzing with energy for hours afterwards.
So after finishing Tasting the Seasons and cooking from it, I find myself at a bit of a loss in opinions. It has some great content, some valuable entertaining and catering ideas, and some very good recipes. But it also has some bizaar and undesirable recipes, isn’t a seasonal cookbook whatsoever, and doesn’t have a single picture of any of the recipes. I enjoyed reading it, but was left feeling annoyed at the same time. So I guess I’m 50/50 on this book. I would give Tasting the Seasons 5 out of 10. But it may be worth picking up regardless. If you’d like to get a copy, you can source it at Amazon:
The Bald Gourmet reviews ‘Tasting the Seasons’ by Kerry Dunnington and is left with mixed feelings.