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Fast, Fresh & Green Paperback – April 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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From the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Not everything is fast. Not everything is green. But it is all freshly delicious. In this video, I show my own results with the recipes as well as give glimpses of what the cookbook contains.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
The book is a large paperback, and except for the middle of the book, refuses to lay open on its own, so a cookbook holder will be useful. The paper quality is good and I found spills wiped up easily. The index is comprehensive and makes finding recipes by ingredient a breeze.
Photographs are sprinkled throughout the pages, but only twenty-two of the dishes are pictured. Annoyingly, some of the photographs are wasted on stacks of potatoes, tomatoes or squash. The reader undoubtedly knows what those vegetables look like and would have benefited from a few more photographs of the prepared dishes. If the pages with photographs were divided into quarters, with little if any additional cost, each dish could have been pictured.
Cookbooks are primarily tools for use in the kitchen, and should be constructed with ease of use in mind. For example, using bold and pale fonts make the recipes difficult to read from a standing position while the book rests on the countertop. Providing nutritional information would also be appreciated. These are decisions the publisher makes, not the author, and given the quality of the recipes, are not enough to downgrade the book even slightly.
In preparation for cooking, Middleton lists a modest inventory of what should be in the cupboard, on the counter, in the liquor cabinet, in the fridge, in the freezer and in the spice cabinet. The list is refreshingly reasonable, and although I didn't have every item, I had most of them and was familiar enough with the rest to have no qualms about adding them to my pantry. Most people who cook will probably already have eighty percent of the ingredients on hand.
I prepared Quick-Braised Green Beans with Pomegranate-Balsamic Pan Sauce. This recipe had a delectable sauce and changed my view of simple green beans forever. Next I prepared Spinach with Shallots and Parmigiano, which contains a hint of cream. The dish is equally delicious the next day, served cold for lunch. Gingery Sweet Potato and Apple Saute with Toasted Almonds is savory and a delicious alternative to basic sweet potato recipes. And, Double-Lemon Ginger Carrot Salad is so delicious, I will prepare it frequently. Actually, I enjoyed everything I tested and will definitely make all of the dishes again. I plan to continue plowing my way through the book. The author suggests serving a few of the dishes together as a main meal, and considering the imaginative combinations she has created, the recipes are worthy of taking center stage.
Middleton has a decidedly casual, unpretentious tone to her writing. I enjoyed her narrative throughout the book, and although not a novice in the kitchen, I learned from her. The book has clear instructions and would be suitable for a new cook or an experienced one. This cookbook is a keeper, worthy of space on my already crowded cookbook shelves.
The "fast" part comes from you spending a few minutes cutting ingredients that ordinarily take a long time to cook (such as potatoes) into smaller pieces. Most recipes promise to be fridge-to-table in 30 minutes. Although several could be a meal in themselves (or they would if you added extra protein, like cheese), these recipes are primarily meant to be served with something, and Middleton usually provides guidance about what a dish would go with. (Often, it means the "with" can be simple, such as a roast chicken. You don't have to knock yourself out on a school night.)
The book is organized by cooking method, such as quick-roasting, stir frying, or grilling, and an introductory section discusses items you should have in your pantry and how to buy and store vegetables. Three quarters of the 90 recipes have no meat, making them suitable (though not optimized) for vegetarians. This is a very readable cookbook, too; that didn't surprise me because I've enjoyed so many of the author's articles in Fine Cooking over the years.
The key point, however, is that these recipes are _good_. This week, I made the harvest gratin of butternut squash, corn, and leeks, which is among the more complex dishes in the book (certainly suitable for Thanksgiving, but I'm sure it will appear on my table a few more times before then). And it's not at all complex, really; it took about 15 minutes of prep time and then 40 minutes in the oven (during which I cooked a pork chop to fill out the meal). *Delicious.* This weekend's shopping list will include the ingredients for at least a few more of her recipes, such as roasted Brussels sprouts with orange butter sauce, or sauteed asparagus with pancetta and parmigiano, or stir-fried carrots with ginger, lime, and cilantro. As you can tell, these all use familiar foods, but in a way that's practically guaranteed to make your family say, "Can you pass the vegetables?"
I own lots of cookbooks, and probably 20 of them are devoted to vegetables or vegetarian dishes. This won't replace my copy of Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini,Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, or On the Side, but it absolutely complements them. I'm very glad I picked up Fast, Fresh, and Green from my Amazon Vine selection. Recommended.