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Carol Shih / Sunset Publishing

We’ll admit it: here at Sunset, we love to play with our food. Whether we’re crafting cocktails or perfecting pie crust, studying sugar cookies or butterflying the Thanksgiving turkey, we are always experimenting, always tinkering.

So as you can imagine, we love trying out new recipes. Back in November last year, we decided to share our delicious discoveries through the Sunset Cookbook Club. Every so often, a group of Sunset staffers chooses one or more inspiring cookbooks by Western authors and we…cook the books! Each of us makes one recipe, and then shares his or her results here on Westphoria.

This summer, we chose Heather Hardison’s Homegrown: Illustrated Bites From Your Garden to Your Table. Hardison lives in Berkeley, has an edible garden, and creates the winsome blog Illustrated Bites, for which she draws a lot of the meals she makes at home. Her book is just right for us backyard-gardening Westerners, and for anyone who loves to “eat fresh and eat local”—the food mantra that, Hardison says, she’s completely smitten with.

We thoroughly agree with Hardison's feelings about cooking and gardening. Here’s what she writes in her introduction to the book: “When I have a busy week of being buried in endless tasks, when I feel like every free second is spent checking my phone, the anxiety and stress starts wearing on me in a deep way. Getting my hands dirty in the kitchen or the garden has a way of melting that stress away…I won’t argue that we should all give up going to the grocery store and strive to be completely self-sufficient, but I do know that gardening and home cooking foster a mindfulness and calm that we all could use.” Hear, hear!

Through friendly, encouraging advice and drawings, Hardison shows us how to plant and then cook more than two dozen different crops. If you’ve never before planted seeds, or trellised a pea vine, you may suddenly find yourself doing just those things, Homegrown in hand, because she makes it seem like Not a Big Deal. A few of us at Sunset actually grew our own crops for this edition of Cookbook Club; others will be visiting the farmers’ market to make our recipes.

Together, over the next week or so, we’re going to cook the entire summer chapter. First up: a garden-to-table staple—pesto! (Ours has a twist.)


 

A little recap of last month’s Sunset Cookbook Club. We explored the art of outdoor dining with Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson’s The Picnic.

*Editorial Assistant—and hummus aficionado—Jane Chertoff applied her talents to Shocking Pink Beet Hummus…and loved the tasty results.

*Senior Travel Editor Andrea Minarcek discovered that Quickle Pickles really are quick-le to make—and delicious (and gift-worthy) to boot.

*Deputy Editor Miranda Crowell fell hard for the unique combination of flavors and textures in the Farro Tricolore with Balsamic-Fig Dressing, an appealing grain salad.

*Senior Web Editor Jessica Mordo, intrigued by the Japanese Potato Salad, investigated this picnic-staple-with-a-twist.

*Home Editor Joanna Linberg, a salad connoisseur, spent 30 minutes peeling carrots to bring us the beautiful Rainbow Carrots with Smoky Paprika Vinaigrette.

*Associate Art Director Soni Obinger learned new tomato tricks while making the highly addicting Blue Ribbon Tomato Pie.

*Digital Editions Managing Editor Erika Ehmsen took a stab at cooking with raw shrimp and whole stalks of lemongrass, to make tasty Vietnamese Noodle Bowls with Grilled Shrimp.

*Associate Garden Editor Lauren Dunec Hoang, a lemon curd lover, whipped up scrumptious Lemon Lavender Cream Pots—a perfect treat for the end of our picnic.


 

Come into our kitchens! Leave comments on our posts, or share notes and photos from your own kitchen on Facebook, Twitter (@SunsetMag), or Instagram (@SunsetMag) using #SunsetCookbookClub.

Want more ideas for great seasonal eats? Check out these dishes, where seasonal produce stars. And, if we've inspired you to grow your own, stop by our handy guide to edible gardening.

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