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Customer Review

146 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Love Letter to Vegetables, March 12, 2013
This review is from: Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes (Hardcover)
Some of my favorite cookbooks are not those that the newest or most interesting recipes, but those that make me think differently about a whole class or category of food (think James Peterson's Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making or Diane Morgan's Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes). Vegetable Literacy does just that. Deborah Madison translates her years of experience with vegetarian cooking into a beautiful homage to vegetables.

One of the key premises of this book is that understanding the relationships between vegetables may influence the way you think about and use them. For example, the Knotweed family includes buckwheat, sorrel, and rhubarb. Knowing the relationship between these ingredients may inform your use of them. Thus, you may choose to add rhubarb to buckwheat muffins, knowing that the two share a phylogenetic family and thus have a natural affinity.

Vegetable Literacy is organized by vegetable family. Each member of the family is described in detail, with great information about appearance, history, and nutrients. The entry also includes excellent varieties to look for, information about using other portions of the plant, "kitchen wisdom," and other foods with which the vegetable pairs well.

In addition to all of this fantastic information about vegetables (both common and uncommon -- how much did I know about salsify before this book? Absolutely nothing), Vegetable Literacy contains some fantastic recipes. Armed with new knowledge about the relationships between vegetable families, I loved exploring some new flavor combinations. Thus far, I've tried several recipes from this book with excellent success. The Braised Endive with Gorgonzola is is amazing (I had it over polenta, as the author recommends). And I also love the Thick Marjoram Sauce with Capers and Green Olives (it's fantastic on bruschetta).

One thing to be aware of is that these recipes are (duh) very vegetable-centric. There are many salads, soups, sauces, appetizers, and vinaigrettes, but fewer recipes for hearty main dishes. Each of the recipes is designed to let the flavors of its vegetable ingredients truly shine. Personally, I love this approach, but readers looking for hearty vegetarian main courses might want to look elsewhere. Of course, the information in this book is easily applied to other recipes so you can branch out on your own.

Overall, Vegetable Literacy is an essential addition to any cook's bookshelf. Its recipes are only the beginning of what makes this such a valuable resource. After understanding the relationships between plant families and learning which vegetables naturally pair well with others, you will be well-suited to adapt your favorite recipes accordingly. Vegetable Literacy is not just a cookbook; it's a guide to understanding plant life and employing that knowledge in your kitchen. Enjoy!
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Initial post: Mar 27, 2013 6:34:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 17, 2013 5:18:50 AM PDT
I'm curious: How were you able to review this cook book before it was released to the public? Did you find it somewhere to BUY? Or did you receive an ARC or free copy. If you received a copy gratis, you really should declare that fact in your review.
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