Having just read “Foraging in Oklahoma: Tales and Recipes from the Open Road” ($24.95, Full Circle Press), I'm feeling a pull to pack my 10-year-old daughter, Jess, in our 2007 white Chevy Malibu to make our own road trip memories to Oklahoma farms that offer tours (oklahomaagritourism.
“Foraging” — which is based on stories told by Andrew Black, corporate chef at Flint, a new restaurant opening this month at the Colcord Hotel, and written by my co-worker and author Steve Lackmeyer — is no ordinary cookbook. It's a kind of blended travel log, biography and coffee table book punctuated by more than a dozen recipes for Black's culinary creations made with Oklahoma's own, organic products — grown as close as Edmond, Oklahoma City and El Reno to Helena in northwest Oklahoma and Wynnewood and Lone Wolf, in the south-central and southwestern parts of our state.
Move over, Eskimos Pies. Hello, Wewoka Sorghum Glazed Sea Bass, Tamarind Glazed Shrimp & Pumpkin Salad, Peanut Crusted Flatbread Pizza, Cream Corn Chowder, Grilled Blue Cheese on Marble Rye and Spiced Poached Pear & Peach Cobbler, to name a few.
Presentations of the sumptuous dishes are pictured in the book through photography by J.D. Merryweather.
The cookbook grew out of Black's experience a few years ago traveling to more than 30 Oklahoma farms and then using those products, including Oklahoma beer and wine, for cooking demonstrations at the Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City farmers' market every Saturday at 900 N Portland Ave. (osuokc.
“Oklahoma has an abundance of fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy that makes for wonderful recipes,” said Black, a Jamaican who learned to cook in his grandmother's kitchen, where he used cocoa, crawfish, 30 different kinds of mangos, 15 different avocados, and pork and goat meat that he butchered himself.
It's no surprise Black, who's cooked in Caribbean resorts and The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, wanted that same hands-on experience with Oklahoma products.
He never milked a cow before calling on Christian Cheese in Kingfisher, or visited a slaughterhouse until the one in far north Edmond used by NoName Ranch in Wynnewood.
“Cheeses are made up of different flavors, just like full-body wines made of different grapes,” Black said.
“And you have to understand slaughter if we're going to understand what it takes to produce a good cut of beef.”
One of his most descriptive entries describes a visit to Organic Gardens in El Reno, which grows tomatoes and fresh herbs.
“You walk in, and the smell, the aroma, the bright green of the plants — it's breathtaking and worthwhile, picking the leaves from the plants, holding them in your hands and smelling them,” Black said. “… I can't wait to go back to the kitchen and play with the food.”
His subsequent creations included dressings using lavender and fresh thyme, and blue cheese herb crust with basil for steak.
Farmers look at new crops as Apple does its next generation iPhone, Black said.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “it's about looking all around us and using the products we have right here in Oklahoma.”
Foraging in Oklahoma will debut Saturday, May 19, with a signing by Chef Andrew Black and author Steve Lackmeyer at Flint, 15 N Robinson (the Colcord Hotel).