To keep our minds focused on the good, healthy organic food that now is a few months away, I am offering you a selection of really fine books to (mentally) keep your taste buds hoppin’. Every home cook I know likes a challenge and wants new ideas. So my choices for this summer include some stretches for both my knowledge base of vegetables and the science of preservation.
Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press) was designed to be a new standard reference for cooking vegetables. Deborah has eleven cookbooks to her name and is known for simple, seasonal vegetable cooking. This book is organized around “families” of vegetables e.g. carrot family, mint family, cabbage family, lily family and each section details the biology of the family along with varieties of vegetables in the family and some helpful kitchen wisdom. The recipes in each section are quite compelling (“Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta cream,” “Tangled Collard Greens with Sesame”, “Chilled Beet Soup.”).
The book also provides a “Source” section, where to find hard-to-find ingredients like grains and grain products for those of us who like everything organic.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page (Little Brown and Company) is a compendium of knowledge about taste. “It is an essential reference for flavor pairings and affinities to help usher in today’s emerging vegetable-driven cuisine.” What has amazed me about this book is the very thoughtful way each vegetable and spice is described. While the book is not a recipe book it references many excellent books that are easy to find. Take, for example, Kohlrabi. I have long wondered what to do with this vegetable but this book gave me many, many options and suggests that kohlrabi can be paired with apples, lemon and mustard to make an interesting and healthy slaw. Also worth reading is the history of Vegetarianism (Chapter 1) and Chapter 2, “Creating a New Compassionate Cuisine.”
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green Publications) is, perhaps, the most challenging book in my reading list. As noted on the book jacket, this book offers “the most comprehensive and definitive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published.” Readers will find detailed information on fermenting just about anything and everything in the food world from sauerkraut and pickling techniques from all over the world to fermenting beers and growing cultures for sourdough bread. There is even a section on making your own herbal elixers. So, if you’d like a book to really study over the summer this one will give you hours of new information. Even the James Beard Foundation gave a “thumbs up” to this book!
Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press) is a book every CSA cook should own. This year we had a grand bounty of brassicas and with this book in hand you will never run out of delicious ways to prepare all these healthy and nutritious veggies. The first chapter provides all the basics with flavor profiles of each vegetable, storage and prep tips, and cooking techniques. Laura Russell walks us through Kale to Cabbage and on to the leafy brassicas we have grown to love and appreciate offering new tastes like “Curried Collard Greens,” “Spanish Tortilla with Mustard Greens,” and “Garlicky Stir-Fried Bok Choy.” The book concludes with a special section on brassicas and your health.
The photos in this book are fabulous, too.
The Gardener and the Grill by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig (Running Press) is a book that provides great tips and recipes for grilling just about anything that comes from the garden. Many people I know shy away from grilling as vegetarians thinking that the grill is reserved for carnivores but these two women show us ways to make grilling a technique that works for most veggies. The book provides recipes for many sauces and “accompaniments”. There is even a special section on how to gripp flatbreads and pizzas. And, if you’ve never eaten a grilled carrot, you are in or a treat!
Hope to see all of you at the farm come November!