Book Review: ‘Green City Market Cookbook’: Put it on your reading menu

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

The Green City Market Cookbook: Great Recipes from Chicago’s Award-Winning Farmers Market (Agate Midway; 978-1-572894-157-4, published July 2014, $24.99) is a locovore’s dream. As the press release says, it is “a beautiful collection of delicious recipes from Chicago’s nationally renowned farmers’ market.” The book contains 88 recipes from well-known Chicago-based chefs such as Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard, and contributions from farmers, volunteers and loyal customers who make up the market’s community.

Now held year round in Chicago, in its beginning the market seemed little more than a tiny flame about to go out. But, fueled by the burning desire of those who saw its promise, it has continued to grow and spread its light to enthusiastic patrons. Founded in 1998 by the late culinary author, chef and entrepreneur Abby Mandel, Green City Market was “different” from other farmers’ markets. Praised by chefs and foodies, it focused on sustainability and teaching children and cooks how to prepare tasty dishes with our local Midwest bounty.

But two years after its inception, the market was struggling to stay alive. It was a tiny, nine-vendor market in an alley next to The Chicago Theatre. Originally open only on Wednesdays, it had few vendors and only a few more patrons. Mandel was overwhelmed with the task and becoming discouraged. Fearing that she might give it up altogether, a few of the local chefs got together to hold meetings to see how they might be able to keep it going. Taking the initiative, they decided that if Mandel wanted to step down, they would take it over and continue to expand.

But as they discovered, taking over the market was no small project, and they had their own restaurants to run. To give the market the attention it deserved, they needed the services of someone who was passionate about the food and had the time and energy to devote to making it a success. Fortunately, they were able to persuade Abby Mandel to come back and help them. She moved the market to Lincoln Park, expanded the hours to include Saturdays, and promoted it as a place where people could hang out, share and find a new social venue.

Although Mandel died in 2008, her dream continues to live on — and now this cookbook offers some of the various chefs’ favorite recipes, organized among the four seasons so readers can take advantage of what is available at its peak season.

You can go through the year with The Green City Market Cookbook and find recipes from regional farms that will be delicious, nutritious and visually appealing. Since November finds turkeys in much demand for Thanksgiving, you can try various recipes to enhance your family feast, such as: Butternut Squash and Potato Soup; Parsnip Soup with Confit Mushrooms and Spiced Walnuts; Roast Turkey with Spice Rub and Beer Gravy; Pumpkin-Parmesan Gnocchi with Turkey, Sage, Pears and Pecans; Market Apple Pie; and Holiday Honey Cake with Raspberries.

Chef Rick Bayless, who wrote the Foreword, said, “Green City was the first real hope I’d had that I might be able to source incomparable ingredients from the Midwest and offer our guests a distinctive Chicago experience … [a] unique inspiration issues from each page of this book.”

Alice Waters said: “The amazing Green City Market has been dedicated to sustainability from the very beginning. It’s the first place I go when I am in Chicago.”

The Green City Market Cookbook can be ordered from the publisher at agatepublishing.com, amazon.com or from your local bookstore.

From the Dec. 3-9, 2014, issue

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