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Cookbook Watch: Times Food editor Russ Parsons on growing your own with Sunset

June 9, 2011 |  8:00 am

One-block-feast-m At this time of year, the thoughts of even the most urban Southern Californian begin to turn to matters agrarian and bucolic. And, as it has been for more than 100 years, Sunset magazine is here to help. With its blend of gardening, travel and cooking, Sunset is as much a part of the California ethos as Craftsman furniture, Case Study houses and beach barbecues. Though the magazine may seem a little breathless at times, the core of information is always solid.

And because part of being a Californian these days, even in the most urban settings, means a fascination with that thing we're calling "locavorism," it was no surprise last year when the magazine devoted several pages to a project it called "the one-block feast." But several pages weren't nearly enough to cover the subject and so now they've turned it into a book called, fittingly enough, "The One-Block Feast." And it's pretty terrific.

Written by Sunset food editor Margo True and the magazine staff, it lays out in sufficient detail what you need to know to keep bees or chickens, grow tomatoes or morels, and make your own wine. There's also a very active blog called "The One-Block Diet" that furthers the conversation.

Though it's not a cookbook, per se, there are plenty of recipes, and they are just what we've come to expect from this old friend: sophisticated but not off-puttingly so. Summer recommendations include things such as watermelon-chile salad and lemongrass custards. They're one step ahead of the simply trendy, but one step behind the bleeding edge.

Whether you plan to grow hops to brew your own beer or simply want to know some good zucchini varieties to plant in your vegetable garden, this is a terrific place to start.

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--Russ Parsons

Cover photo courtesy of Sunset

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