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Customer Reviews

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on March 28, 2012
Full disclosure, I'm not always a fan of James Peterson's books. Baking is a tragedy among cookbooks. Having said that, I am hopeful that this book is a huge departure from "Baking" and more akin to Peterson's Cooking and Splendid Soups: Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World's Best Soups.
Vegetables 2nd Ed. contains several photographs illustrating how to buy, prep, and store each vegetable. Peterson assumes nothing, teaching how to mince garlic, chop onions, and clean leeks. Though this book just barely came out, I immediately made a few recipes with some fresh produce. So far I am quite impressed. I loved the Cauliflower Gratin and the tips on "Frenching Green Beans." I will also take to heart the tips on buying peas (pea pods)!
Most of the recipes are basic, containing few ingredients and focusing on the natural flavors of vegetable(s). I appreciate that for the most part. All said, I did expect more recipes beyond steaming, sautéing, adding cream, and/or drizzling with oil - there seems to be a lot of recipes like that. The book covers MANY vegetables and touches on variations within certain vegetables (squash, tomatoes, and mushrooms). The coverage on potatoes is great, especially the Parisian Potato Salad recipe. I am glad to see several Asian vegetables covered, finally demystifying the peculiar (to me) vegetables in Chinatown. I am sure this book will prove its place among my cookbooks, even if its just to quickly look up a new or challenging vegetable. I am especially eager to try the parsnip recipes, and finally tackling celeriac.

(Some of the tips and recipes in this book are also mentioned in many of his other books, especially What's a Cook to Do?: An Illustrated Guide to 484 Essential Tips, Techniques, and Tricks. Hey, if a tip/recipe is good, why not repeat it where appropriate? I have not seen the first edition of this book, so I cannot provide a comparison between the editions.)
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on July 1, 1999
If you are thinking *maybe* you *might* want to buy this book -- buy it! You won't regret it. Not only is the information invaluable and in a very accessible format, but the recipes are delicious and a happy mix of decadent and healthful. For me, though, the best part of this book is how inspiring it is. If I am thinking of what to make for dinner, I grab this book, find a recipe, and then adapt it for what I have in the house. It has truly helped me to be a better, more imaginative cook. The only caveat is that in the color photo section the recipes are not cross referenced. That is, the photo of the recipe appears there but not the page number it is on. So, you have to go back and look it up in the index. This is a minor inconvenience, of course, but on the other hand, how hard would it have been to put the page numbers in? In any case, I heartily recommend this book to anyone. All my friends who have seen it have bought their own copies because they loved mine so much. This is THE reference guide to have if you ever cook fresh vegetables.
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on September 4, 2000
I remember my reaction when the greenmarkets first hit N.Y.C.. I could hardly contain my glee!! It was a showcase for fresh produce grown by local farmers. On any given day, you will see all the usual suspects of the vegetable world. You will also see UNUSUAL vegetables such as chayote, jicama and salsify. How do you select, store and prepare all of them? By using this superb book!! This book, with more than 300 recipes, puts vegetables front and center! No longer relegated to an accompaning role, these recipes show how vegetables can be used as the MAIN COURSE! Yes, you will find recipes for various vegetable salades which are VERY good; but how about vegetable gratins made with coconut milk, or casseroles made with Bechamel sauce? Peterson offers some very interesting soups from around the world, such as Italian-style kale and garlic soup with white beans and prosciutto. A great surprise was the section on pickles and brine. My family loves to pickling and canning, so this section was extremely useful. As someone who is starting to feel comfortable in the kitchen, but does not know a lot about trimming, shaving, seeding and julienning anything, the techniques section, presented in beautiful color photographs was a tremendous help. The same can be said for the section that showed the finished dishes, where you can SEE just how everything is supposed to look. I loved the seasonal availabity of vegetables chart that was found in the back of the book as well as the sources listing, which gives you the names of stores where you can find the various ingredients. After reading this book and using the recipies, you'll never look at vegetables the same way again!
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on September 17, 1998
I borrowed this cookbook from the library and was so impressed by the clarity of the descriptions, the ease with which I was able to find recipes and the descriptive simplicity of the writing, that I decided to buy it. As an avid, library-book-borrower, this is the highest compliment I can pay to an author.
Two main points: Although this book is about vegetables, it does not assume that the reader is a vegetarian. Often the recipes suggest which meats would be complement the vegetable dish.
Furthermore, as a foreigner confronted with the wider variety of American vegetables, it was wonderful to have a step-by-step approach to preparing what may seem to some people common vegetables. For once, I did not feel the writer was being patronising, rather clarity was the aim.
On the strength of this book, I am quite willing to buy further books by James Peterson, sight unseen.
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on January 6, 2006
I agree with many previous reviewers. I absolutely love the layout of this book. The first part of the book focuses on a comprehensive study of several different vegetables, providing very useful information about each one (what they are, how to buy them, when they are seasonal, best uses for them, etc). I find this section to be very helpful, especially since there are many "exotic" veggies discussed here that are not often found in other cookbooks (ie/kohlrabi, chayote, or salsify). This section is very user-friendly, as each vegetable is listed in alphabetical order, making them very easy to find. Also, with each vegetable description, there is a full list of recipes for that particular vegetable and where to find it in the book. I find this to be a very useful tool. If I want to cook something with spinach, for example, I don't have to go hunting for different spinach recipes in the book. All I have to do is go to the spinach page and find a complete list of all the recipes in the book that have spinach in it. I can then make my choice from there. The rest of the book (the recipe section) is then broken down by cooking methods (ie/stews, grilled veggies, fried etc), which I find to be a more useful way to categorize recipes. There is also a wonderful instructional section with full color photos that shows the various techniques for working with many of the vegetables. For example, trimming artichokes, cleaning leeks, peeling fava beans, glazing pearl onions, etc.

Where the book falls short, as many reviewers have pointed out, is in the recipes themselves. I've made a small handful of them, and while none have been flops, my high expectations of them fell a little short on taste. (read: bland) I treat his recipes as solid building blocks to quality dishes, but it is up to me to add the flavor. A few additions of herbs and spices do wonders for his dishes. But if you are someone who doesn't feel comfortable embellishing on recipes, then this cookbook is certainly not for you. It's such a shame, because this book is really beautifully written and organized and very educational about vegetables. If only the recipes were as full on taste as the book is on information, then this would be a perfect cookbook.

In conclusion, if you are someone who wants an informative source on vegetables and their uses and is comfortable with customizing a recipe to suit your tastes, then I can recommend this book. But if you are looking for foolproof recipes that require no tweaking, then you should probably look somewhere else.
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on August 9, 1999
I purchased this book hoping to find some meatless entrees to fit into my regular non-vegan diet. There are a few recipes for your run-of-the-mill veggies like broccoli, cabbage, corn and string beans. Most of the book is dedicated to vegetables like truffles, watercress, sorrel, salsify, rutabagas, cardoons and fiddlehead ferns, to name a few. I was disappointed with the small number of recipes that I would consider using in such a large and expensive book.
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on November 24, 2001
I LOVE this book. I used to hate making vegetables - I'd whip out a can of corn, green beans or frozen broccoli with the best of them. Thanks to this book - we have the best vegetables on our table. I love the short cut microwave artichoke method - so easy and delicious - even my kids like them! And don't get me started on the Roasted Tomatoes - To Die For!
This book details how to buy, store and prepare vegetables - its like having Grandma's knowledge in a book. This book is a must have for every kitchen.
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on August 25, 2003
This book exceeded my expectations. It was very good, as to teaching technique and in providing excellent recipes. I don't understand why one person said it was devoted to hard-to-procure vegetables. There were plenty of recipes for the "run of the mill" veggies. Especially nice was that I discovered vegetables I thought I hated (only a few) that were delicious when prepared differently... like turnips. I loved the turnips glazed with a little butter, sugar and sherry. Who knew? I went through all the root vegetables in my refrigerator, using the same process with slight alterations. As a novice cook, I really appreciated some of the amazingly easy and repeatable techniques that were taught in this book... I look forward to making more things, and I am getting more of his books.
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on April 18, 1999
Nearly a 'must' for anyone who doesn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of cooking vegetables. The best way to use this book is to be adventurous. Buy any vegetable, then search for its use in the book. This book is a great help when you are at loss of how to prepare a certain vegetable. Very well organized, with recipies easy to find. I use this book more often than most other cook books because it describes everything from preperation to basic cooking to some exotic dishes.
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on January 23, 2013
I should start by saying that I have purchased many of Peterson's books. His fish and shellfish book is excellent, as is his book on sauces. His book on soups is okay, and this book is okay as well, but not amazing.

My main complaint of the book is that most vegetables have only 1-2 recipes, and many of them are of the more obvious variety. Some of the recipes are more successful than others. For instance, his recipe for lentils is far too watery to serve in the traditional fashion - it's somewhere between soup and stewed lentils.

Unfortunately, I just haven't been able to find a great cookbook for vegetables. This one is good enough, but I wouldn't rush out to buy it again.
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