All summer in March

In the neighborhood outside Winston-Salem where I grew up, every backyard had a sizable garden, and every garden had tomatoes. By midsummer, when the tomatoes were flowing into kitchens like red snowballs in an avalanche, kids would be dispatched to leave them on other people’s back stoops. This was the annual tomato-go-round, where my parents would send extra tomatoes to people who had already sent their surplus tomatoes to someone who dropped off their spare tomatoes at our house.

If a book like Miriam Rubin’s had existed then, it would have ground the tomato-go-round to a halt because no one would have been willing to give up a single orb before trying all 50 recipes within it. “Tomatoes: A Savor the South Cookbook” (University of North Carolina Press, $19) includes savory tomato pie, tapenade, salads, soups, pickles, a tomato cake and more.

I’m glad to see that she knows the proper place to eat a tomato sandwich (over the sink) and that Southern-style  tomato gravy isn’t the kind found in Italian restaurants. Canned tomatoes work well in many of the recipes, giving options when summer is over. She also suggests what I’ve been telling tomato fans to do for years: When the avalanche hits, chop up those tomatoes and freeze them.

I believe that a cookbook about peaches in which the first recipe is for peach ice cream has its priorities straight. Such is the case with “Peaches: A Savor the South Cookbook” by Kelly Alexander (University of North Carolina Press, $19).

In fact, the book unashamedly begins with desserts and works its way through other ways to use peaches, including an intriguing Peach Tempura and the green peach salad from Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill (which I have enjoyed). Alexander amply recognizes the wonderful uses for peaches in beverages. And I can’t say that I’ve ever read a cookbook before that quotes Sir Thomas More.

There’s a great variety of recipes. My only wish is that she had mentioned how to freeze summer peaches at home and where frozen peaches might work in some of the recipes. Seems to me they might work in the Tangy Peach Barbecue Sauce if I crave it in November. I am all for extending peach season, and this book makes me want peaches now.

These just-released books are the latest in UNC Press’ Savor the South series of small books on Southern ingredients. This fall will bring books on biscuits and bourbon. And in the interest of full disclosure, I wrote “Buttermilk,” one of the first two books.


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