Kurama Sushi chef Yoshi Shirotani

COLUMN: Serious deliciousness at your library

New book Pairings features 21 Nelson chefs and plenty of good eats.

There’s nothing like a cookbook to make you hungry.

Earlier this year I headed out into Nelson’s culinary community to pitch a win-win idea. Building on the success of our 2010 literary cookbook Seasonings, a new book, Pairings: A compendium of beloved recipes and books from the chefs of Nelson, will celebrate the culinary brilliance of our community, and the books that sustain us.

I asked Nelson restaurants to provide up to four recipes. I asked for personal favourites, the kind of things that might be a lunchtime or dinner special, a featured dessert or an appetizer, salad dressing or sauce. And I asked for the name of a book they’ve loved.

The idea? To create a book jam packed with delicious recipes to make at home. To offer a reading list for all tastes and types. To celebrate Nelson’s unique restaurants, because much as we love to cook, we all love to go out for a meal and have our tastebuds tingled by the experts. And to raise money for the library’s collections and databases, so that we can keep this area’s thirst for knowledge satiated.

Nelson chefs responded to the call — 21, in fact! And then the recipes started rolling in. And I started getting hungry.

Salivate with me for a moment: there’s samaki harra (pistachio and herb-stuffed salmon) from chef Rania Kassem at Mana’eesh Middle Eastern; creamy chicken and chorizo pasta from chef Jenn Francoeur at the Vienna Café; and chocolate beer chili from chef Trevor Ditzel at Re-Lish Bistro.

Pique your palate with Ki Mow Woon Sen – drunken glass noodles with chicken from chef Rangsiwut Klinsutho at Busaba Thai Café, or buckwheat and beet salad from chef Roger Quayle at Sanderella’s Starbird Teahouse. Enhance your entree with serial hill hummus from chef Rick Nixon at Itza Ristorante, or olive tapenade from chefs Robert Little and Dave Shaw at Louie’s Steakhouse. Wet your whistle with orange bitters from June McEwen and Shane Bump of BiBO. Satisfy your sweet tooth with banana habanero cheesecake from chef Mike Helsa at Cantina Del Centro.

There’s everything from soup (hearty mushroom, from chef Levi Nicoll at Kootenay Bakery Café) to nuts (pecan torte from chef Ward Nelson at the Hume Hotel) and in between (pear and cranberry chutney from chef Steve Kirby, Max and Irma’s) — and this is just a taste. Add recipes by the chefs at Kootenay Smokehouse, Frog Peak Café, Oso Negro Coffee, Nelson Brewing Company, Main Street Diner and the four mentioned below (read on), and you’ve got a knock-out menu.

The recipes are in —75 of them!— and the book is beginning to take shape in the talented hands of designer Steven Cretney of The Forest Design. Seasoned photographer David Gluns has begun his work, including a stunning cover photograph with the help of All Seasons chef Amanda Skidmore, who besides giving us mouth-watering recipes (baked cambozola cheese with fig and dark cherry chutney, for example), happens to be a professional food stager.

Book recommendations are beginning to roll in and I love the variety already, from Kurama Sushi chef Yoshi Shirotani’s recommendation of Amanda Lindhout’s 2013 memoir A House in the Sky, to Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Supremacy recommended by Baba’s chef Christopher Mathias, to Outer Clove chef Iain Pardoe’s all-time favourite, Island by Alistair MacLeod.

Whether books or words, it always comes down to taste, and Pairings is shaping up to be flavourful indeed. But more than that, it’s about community: a community of foodlovers, booklovers, and library-lovers, coming together to create something wonderful. It doesn’t get much more delicious than that.

Now, did someone say something about lunch?

Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

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