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Tamara Murphy has long been committed to quality ingredients and the connections among food producers, chefs, and diners. When she owned Brasa in Belltown, she

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Back to Basics With Tamara Murphy's Cookbook Tender

tender.jpg
Tamara Murphy has long been committed to quality ingredients and the connections among food producers, chefs, and diners. When she owned Brasa in Belltown, she chronicled the life of a pig she would ultimately slaughter and serve, on a blog called Life of a Pig. Today, between running two locations of Elliott Bay Café and preparing the launch of her latest restaurant, Terra Plata, she's written a cookbook. Murphy teamed up with a trio experienced in publishing and marketing to self-publish Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters, a cookbook honoring, fresh, seasonal ingredients with recipes as simple as a poached egg to an impressive yet easy paella.

Flipping through the pages of Tender is like roaming the stalls of the farmers market. Just as a market doesn't have supermarket-style aisles, Tender doesn't have chapters like other cookbooks. Instead, you can roam the pages of the book, garnering inspiration as much from the photos, as from Murphy's stories, and the advice and cooking tips given in recipe headnotes and sidebars. The book is well-indexed, so if you need to find a way to use up some beets, it's easy to find the recipes for Oven-Roasted Beets, Oranges, and Spring Garlic or Caramelized Onion and Roasted Beet Pizzetta.

Cookbooks by restaurant chefs have pros and cons, and Tender is no different. Murphy's recipes are sometimes vague on quantities. For example, I like to see a volume or weight equivalent in addition to "1 medium butternut squash." Thankfully, her years of experience and ability to guide readers are valuable enough to make up for this small gripe. The book is peppered with advice, like how to cook poached eggs in advance and tips for grilling corn in the husk. There are lots of garnishes, sauces, and other condiments that can raise an otherwise simple dish to something sublime: Roast squash seeds for a crunchy, smoky garnish. Make balsamic syrup to drizzle on everything from blue cheese to fresh berries.

Using ingredients economically can mean the life or death of a restaurant, and Murphy has included these valuable tips in Tender. The Herb and Wild Greens Relish adds a pungent kick to soups, meats, fish, and sandwiches, but is also a great way to use up any fresh herbs you have leftover. Recipes for Apricot Compote or Apple Relish offer ways to capture the essence of season's bounty and make it last just a little bit longer.

Tamara Murphy will be selling and signing copies of Tender this weekend, Feb. 26 and 27, at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Look for her at the University Bookstore booth both days from 1-2 p.m.

Read Part II of this week's Cooking the Books and a recipe from Tender.

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