Award-winning author Sarah Owens’ latest cookbook, Heirloom, is not about heirloom tomatoes—although you do see one peeking its way into the cover, and you will find a couple recipes using them, like kvass soup and tangy bread salad, when you flip through.
“While those beloved plump orbs of the nightshade family are indeed a fine place to begin our exploration into the superior flavor that most heirloom plants possess,” she writes in the introduction, “this book encompasses more substantial topics.”
Owens is chasing after what she calls “an heirloom kitchen,” where artisanal ingredients are celebrated, as are time-tested techniques and culinary wisdom.
The result is a gorgeous collection of recipes that feel equal parts old and new. Think: kasha porridge with candied persimmons; bacon-wrapped pork loin with charred cabbage and prune sauce; chocolate einkorn fudge cake with hazelnut streusel.
Owens is well known for her baking (maybe you recognize her from the sourdough episode of Dear Test Kitchen?), so of course her baked goods grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. Below, we snagged three Heirloom recipes to make as soon as possible. None of them include tomatoes.
Einkorn Cardamom Rolls
If you have yet to play around with einkorn—one of the earliest cultivated wheat varieties—here’s your starting point. These slightly sour, extremely swirly rolls have a cinnamon-cardamom filling and coffee-jolted cream cheese glaze. Make them on a chilly-windy weekend sometime soon and eat them, hopefully still warm, in bed.
This tart is silky, creamy, and nutty not in spite of being gluten- and dairy-free, but because it’s gluten- and dairy-free. Instead of cream, coconut milk adds lushness and a certain beachy flavor. And instead of flour, pecans and coconuts yield a crumbly-nubby texture. Keep on tab for the holidays, or just the next time you’re having people over.
Dried dates, soaked in steamy black tea, give this cake its caramelly sweetness. The recipe was inspired by heirloom recipes Owens encountered in the South, but she pivoted it to include whole-grains—specifically, spelt, and “rich, almost chocolaty teff flour.” Dollop it with maple-sweetened, salted whipped cream or crème fraîche.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.