Last February, Rachel asked via email if I was interested in reviewing Shelley Adams’ third and most recent book in her acclaimed Whitewater Cooks series, Whitewater Cooks with Friends. I have heard very good things about it and I’m eager to support a Canadian author and publisher, so I gladly said yes.
Shelley and her husband used to own the Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC, where she ran the Fresh Tracks Cafe. [I've never been there, sadly.] The first two cookbooks were born out of guests’ and locals’ requests for their recipes. This third installation came together after the couple retired, when Shelley thought that she’s done writing cookbooks. Her previous book collaborators and friends were more than happy to help her produce this stunning collection of recipes for the home cook.
The book arrived before one weekend and it just so happened that we had already invited a couple of friends with the promise of a home-cooked dinner that Sunday. Luring people with food almost always works and it’s a good excuse to get together. We usually make something we’ve made before and/or are fairly familiar with, but we were feeling quite adventurous and picked 2 dishes from the book with our Italian and Chinese friends in mind: a tomato and red lentil bisque and a seafood pasta with an Asian twist. To make it even extra special, we made some fresh pasta an hour before dinner. There’s something about kneading the dough by hand and rolling it with a hand-cranked machine. And we don’t mind taking the extra effort to make something from scratch for friends and family — they are worth it. [** My stand-by fresh pasta recipe is from Giuliano and Lael Hazan's website, using 00 Flour.]
Whitewater Cooks with Friends by Shelley Adams
Our friends didn’t know they were going to be our test subjects for the cookbook until they arrived, but thankfully, they were willing to try whatever we served them. They helped us out in the kitchen, too. I love it when people get involved with the food, then enjoying the fruits of our labor afterwards in bowl- and platefuls.
We started off with the bisque with notes of cumin, ginger, mustard, turmeric, coriander, bay leaves, and a hint of jalapeño. The soup base of tomato, coconut milk and vegetable stock was hearty, but light enough that going for seconds would be easy to do even for a 3-course meal. Jens usually makes an Indian lentil soup similar to this, but we loved the Asian flavours mixed in here as well.
Tana's Tomato and Red Lentil Bisque
We chatted a bit while the fresh pasta was cooking in a vigorously boiling pot of water, and Jens was quickly sauteing the garlic, onions, preserved black beans, tomatoes, chili flakes, prawns and scallops. There was much anticipation as steam wafted from the thick bubbling tomato sauce, across the kitchen and into the dining room. Before tossing everything together, a vote for how much arugula should be put came up. It turns out we all like it, so we had some slightly wilted with the hot pasta, and crunchy ones added just before serving.
Fettuccine with Prawns, Scallops, Chilis and Preserved Beans
Barely a phrase was said amongst four while we devoured our initial helping. The touch of saltiness and umami from the beans, with the peppery arugula and the touch of acidity from the tomatoes and the sweet fresh seafood melded together just like old friends catching up where they’ve left off. The black beans were similar to capers in pasta dishes, imparting saltiness, so if you’re not into the latter for pastas, it’s a good alternative.
Dinner was finished off with freshly baked pear frangipane brioche tarts and tea. We didn’t get a chance to make dessert from the book because we’ve already pre-made the brioche and frangipane, but there were more than a handful of pages bookmarked for near-future use, such as Lava Cakes with Sour Cherries — oh, yes!
We’re enjoying Whitewater Cooks with Friends so far. In fact, we cooked a miso-glazed black cod from the book a few days after this feast. It will definitely be in continuous rotation in our kitchen, both for family meals and cooking for friends.
What we love about the book so far:
- Most dishes were familiar and approachable, with each recipe having a unique twist. Those we’ve prepared so far introduced us to flavor profiles we would have otherwise overlooked.
- The flavors are spot on and are perfectly balanced.
- Wide variety of recipes, even vegetarians and pescetarians would love.
- Most dishes are quick to make, about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Most ingredients are already things you’ll have in stock, or are easy to find. If not, they can be easily substituted.
- Recipes are clearly laid out (not paragraph style), and it’s hard to miss a step.
- Notes on where to get ingredients in Nelson BC, which I found quite charming. It makes me want to go to there for a visit.
- Small-town feel from the headnotes to the recipe notes (see above) but boasts of big flavors.
- Beautiful photography for each dish.
If you’re looking for another cookbook to add to your collection, this would be a valuable thing to have. Ah, and a bonus: you will find yourself using it more and more, too.