The soon-to-be-released cookbook follows Steele's My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur cookbook, and is equally storybook in nature, or at least in its celebration of cooking. On the front jacket flap, we are told the sixty "simple and seductive" recipes "celebrate the 'romance of fruit.'"
Normally, we would groan, but Steele has that rare knack for getting away with planting oft-repeated Gertrude Stein quotes ("Rose is a rose is a rose") within a few pages of Anton Chekhov Gooseberries recollections and random musings about wild plums that begin with phrases like "Remembered mornings, light streaming through the window...."
Actually, maybe it was really the recipes that won us over.Tucked between the quotes and romanticized photos taken by Sara Remington -- gorgeous vintage jars fat with homemade raspberry-rhubarb jam, children on a wild pomegranate quest, even the occasional wild horse or two -- you will find recipes for gooseberry-yellow plum fool, almond meringue with rose cream and red currants, and if you can find wild berries, you're in luck. There is a wild strawberry tartlet waiting for you.
There are savory recipes here too, including honey-glazed duck breasts with cherry salsa, pear and butternut squash soup, grilled sardines with preserved lemon gremolata, and "steak with blackberries" (New York strip steaks grilled, thinly sliced and served on a bed of baby greens with a blackberry vinaigrette).
Yes, this is a cookbook heavy on romantic fairytale, the sort of small-but-substantive book you might tuck into a gift box along with an impossibly cute (practical, too) Emile Henry citron pie dish along with classic cherry clafoutis (p. 90) wishes for the bride and groom.
Which is to say that for some, Plum Gorgeous might be a little heavy on the white chocolate-passion fruit-pistachio truffles (p. 166). For others, those lavender-brined pork chops with grilled spiced plums (p. 87) epitomize what Steele does best: serve up beautiful dishes for lovers and dreamers who also happen to be passionate eaters.