Favorite Cookbooks: Sara Foster

Favorite Cookbooks: Sara Foster Recipe

Sara Foster is the owner of two bustling markets in North Carolina. Google Maps tells me I'm precisely 2,824 miles from her Durham location, or approximately 42 hours in the car. Which is a shame because I've had Sara's books on my shelves for years, and I'd love the chance to taste her food at Foster's Market first-hand.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Sara's books, or maybe you've seen her on television at one point or another. People. love. Sara. For her fresh, casual, relaxed approach to cooking. For her bright flavors and accessible ingredient lists. I couldn't help but jump at the chance to have her share some of the cookbooks that have inspired her over the years. She has picked some great books for her list, a few that are favorites of mine. But she also has a couple on her list that I've yet to see - time to keep my eyes peeled.

SARA'S COOKING STYLE (in her own words):

My rule of thumb, no matter what I am making, is to always start with a few fresh seasonal ingredients and to keep it as simple as possible. My inspiration for making dinner usually comes from a trip to the farmers market or grocery, or better yet, an outing, such as my recent road trip to the coast where soft shell crabs are just coming into season. I pick up whatever looks and smells the freshest, which has many advantages. First, it means whatever I make is going to taste great. And second, when I start with good ingredients I don't have to do much to them because I want the natural flavors of those foods to shine.

The season and the weather are also factors, not only for the ingredients I use, but also in what I do with those ingredients and how I like to eat. I tend to cook richer, slow-cooked meals in the winter, such as braised chicken and vegetables. In the warmer months, I usually throw together a salad and vegetable side dish to serve piece of grilled fish or chicken (or occasionally a big steak).

Right now, I am working on my fourth cookbook, A Little Slice of Southern, which is my take on southern food. A collection of foods I grew up eating in Tennessee but made to be fresher and lighter - more the way we like to eat today. This means, I have been making a lot of dishes with southern ingredients like peas, collard greens, grits and sweet potatoes - all things I really love. Cooking together and eating together are major parts of the Southern culture. The food doesn't need to be elaborate, just making dinner for the people you care about is really great for everyone, but especially the cook.

Sara Foster's Favorite Cookbooks

FAVORITE COOKBOOKS (the ones Sara turns to most often for recipes and inspiration):

- Appetite, Nigel Slater - I love the boldness of this book and his fearless approach to meat. He really knows how to work a grill pan and "the law of the wok" is a great reminder on how to cook with a wok.

- A Platter of Figs and Other recipes, David Tanis - It was a real toss up between this book and Chez Panisse Menu Book by Alice Waters. I love them both; not only for the simple seasonal recipes but the way they are organized into menus. Books like these never go out of style. I use the David Tanis book more because it is new to me, but I have to say the Chez Panisse book is the most worn book on my shelf.

- Cucina Simpatica, Johanne Killeen and George Germon - I have had this book forever and still make the Oven Cured Tomatoes, they are the best slow cooked tomatoes I have ever eaten. The pastas are incredible and the grilled pizzas, way before their time. The book shows Johanne and George as the true artists they really are.

- Frank Stitt's Southern Table - With sections like the Pea Primer telling you the difference between a zipper pea and a lady pea, this book is as much fun to read as it is to cook from. I made the White Bean and Collard Green Gratin for a dinner party recently and it was everyone's favorite part of the dinner.

- French Regional Cooking, Anne Willan - This is my go to book when I want to make something special and have the time to spend in the kitchen on a cold winter day making classic French dishes like Bouillabaisse, Coq Au Vin or Boeuf Bourguignon.

- Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life - I love the way he mixes and mashes, in your face, get it on the table method of cooking. Creative combinations of ingredients driven by his garden like " Hot and Sour Rhubarb and Crispy Pork with Noodles. There is also great information on gardening and making you realize the importance of where and how our food is being raised and produced.

- Martha Stewart's Cookies - I'm not a baker and usually don't have the patience but I love making cookies because they are so easy and somewhat therapeutic. The table of contents has a photo of every cookie, which I find very helpful, it helps you decide what you want to make in advance. The Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies are my favorite. We sell hundreds of the Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies every day at Foster's.

- The Greens Cookbook, Deborah Madison - I used this book for several years before I realized it was a vegetarian cookbook. I still make the Chinese Noodle Salad with Roasted Eggplant. The Blackberry Crisp topping is my base recipe for all crisps. I mix up the fruit and sometimes add oats or nuts to the topping.

- The Heritage of Southern Cooking, Camille Glenn - This book was given to me by a friend and mentor in the late 80's when I had my catering business in CT. Clients were always asking us for southern dinners with sweet tea and biscuits. Bruce gave me this to refresh my southern roots and recipes. I love the pickles and preserves chapter, especially the chutneys and chow chows.

- The Zuni Café Cookbook, Judy Rodgers - I still have to eat at this restaurant every time I go to San Francisco because it is always the best, the cookbook is the same. The chicken and duck recipes are my favorite. Duck Braised with Red Wine and Prunes. Chicken with Figs, Honey and Vinegar and the Roast Chicken with Bread Salad is a great crowd pleaser.

Photo credits: photo of Sara is by Diane Cu, and detail shots were taken by Quentin Bacon.


Related links:

- Sara's blog
- Foster's Market website
- Foster's Market on Twitter

- Foster's Market recipes
- Book: Sara Foster's Casual Cooking
- Book: Fresh Every Day
- Book: The Foster's Market Cookbook

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Comments

  • "I pick up whatever looks and smells the freshest" that is the way to do it. The farmer's market here is selling greenhouse greens right now. They smell and taste wonderful. Can't wait for our gardens to start growing. It's a bit cold yet.

    Marissa Makes
  • As an undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill, I spent many a day hanging out at Foster's Market and everytime a friend goes back to Chapel Hill I make sure they pick me up a jar of Sara's mind blowing seven peper jelly. You could slather that stuff on tree bark and I'd eat it up!

    ¡Yo Soy Liz!
  • Oops! I didn't mean to be anonymous... If you do decide to plan a trip, and would like some great hiking/veggie food recommendations, feel free to shoot me a line!

    Michelle @ www.PorktoPurslane.com
  • I went to college in Chapel Hill, and Foster's Market was definitely a weekly pit-stop. I hope you get to make it out there sometime soon! If you go, you should save time for a hiking trip in North Carolina's BEAUTIFUL mountains!

    Anonymous
  • I have all of Sara Foster's cookbooks, starting from her first TV appearnace on Martha Stewart Living when she demonstrated NY Crumb Cake. Since then, I had purchased every book that came out and love her recipes. Food Network should give her a spot on TV because she is such a good insructor. She explains things so well and so thorough and her recipes turns out great even the first try.

    D
  • I'm not familiar with Sara but thank you for introducing me. Her books sounds great and her restaurant even better. I'm heading to the library tonight to look for some of what she's written.

    Mixing Bowl Mama
  • Thanks for the great feature. Sara's Fresh Every Day cookbook was a gift from a friend of mine and has become one of my favorite go-to recipe books. I'm excited to check out some of the recommended books on this list!

    Sarah
  • My college years were spent living right behind Foster's. It is SOOOO GOOD! How interesting I learn more about it's owner a few years later from someone 42 hours away!

    Lindsay
  • I live a couple hundred miles from her restaurant but stop by whenever I am in Durham or Chapel Hill. It is YUMMY!

    teresa
  • Happy to see Sara featured! We met her in the Bahamas and she was just the nicest.

    deb
  • Foster's! I ate at Foster's all through seminary at Duke. My friends and I would head over there for a late breakfast--always on a warm herb biscuit--or for lunch jammed in with everyone and debating our lectures. Everything was just perfect! It is also the first place I bought Jila Mints, which are still a favourite find. Food memories are the best! Now I no longer can eat gluten, so I relish that I had such wonderful gluten filled delights there once upon a time. Heidi, thank you for highlighting Sara Foster and her easy relaxed way of preparing Southern food at its best. I gave my mom your cookbook for Mother's Day, which she was so delighted about. She too is on the Kiva team and loves how your passion for food reaches beyond your site to encourage others to share in helping small businesses around the world. How do I know? She waxed poetic about this last night when she got the book for our early celebration!

    Jacqueline
  • What a great spotlight on Sara Foster and a fabulous look of her favorite cookbooks. There are several on the list that I'm not familiar with, but will be heading to the library to check them out. Thank you! http://www.cookincanuck.com

    Cookin' Canuck
  • Yes! I love Sara as well too! I went to school in Chapel Hill and loved Foster's Market, as did everyone else I knew that went there. I also love her cookbook (Fresh everyday)-- I just recently pulled it out and used it, it's beautiful as well as down-to-earth...she is also very nice in person. I'm so glad NC got some recognition on what is one of my favorite blogs.

    roxyjane
  • thanks for the introduction to Sara....simple fresh cooking isnt easy to find...everyone wants to be top chef :).

    clive
  • That seems like a great cooking philosophy. Doing simple things to simple fresh ingredients. This preserves not only flavor, but nutrition as well. I like your list of cookbooks and will check out a few at the library. That only I've tried before is Jamie at Home, which definitely fits with this same food philosophy. Great post!

    Matt (NoMeatAthlete)
  • I too wish I could visit her market, but I'd have to fly or come by boat! Love her cooking style - few fresh season ingredients and simple. Looking forward to Sara's Southern cookbook and Zuni is one of my favorite cookbooks and restaurants too. Just had the roast chicken there two weeks ago on a visit back home to SF!

    gastroanthropologist
  • Just one more reason I'm glad I'm on the East coast. :) I'll have to look into this market and check it out as well as the books listed!

    Tabitha (From Single to Married)
  • Hello Heidi, Alas I seem to be about 7,000 miles from the market... :p Thanks as always for the inspiring list... the books sound all interesting (and I do own some of them!) but I would love to visit one of her markets if I ever get a chance (never even been to NC!).

    chika
  • Wait...Foster's in Durham is still open??? I thought it closed a couple years ago?Awesome food. Oh, the memories. HS: Hi Wren I think so it's open, but I'll double check with Sara. You can see the addresses listed on this page.

    Wren
  • Fresh, seasonal ingredients make every dish amazing.

    Pearl
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