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Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes Hardcover – March 12, 2013
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Featured Recipe from Vegetable Literacy: Ivory Carrot Soup with a Fine Dice of Orange Carrots
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound white carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon raw white rice
- Sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 thyme sprig
- 4 cups water or light chicken stock
- Few tablespoons finely diced orange carrots and/or other colored carrots
- Freshly ground pepper
- About 1 tablespoon minced fine green carrot tops
Warm the butter and oil in a soup pot and add the onion, white carrots, rice, 1 teaspoon salt, and the sugar and thyme. Cook over medium heat for several minutes, turning everything occasionally. Add 1 cup of the water, cover, turn down the heat, and cook while you heat the remaining 3 cups water. When the water is hot, add it to the pot, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, cook the diced carrots in salted boiling water for about 3 minutes and then drain.
When ready, let cool slightly, then remove and discard the thyme sprig. Puree the soup until smooth in a blender. Taste for salt and season with the pepper. Reheat if it has cooled.
Ladle the soup into bowls, scatter the diced carrots and carrot tops over each serving, and serve.
Featured Recipe from Vegetable Literacy: Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs
- Olive oil
- 1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped full-fat ricotta
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
- 4 teaspoons butter
- 2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
- 5 small sage leaves, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 1/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating
Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.
If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn’t drained.)
When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.
Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.
With Pasta: Cook 1 cup or so pasta shells in boiling, salted water. Drain and toss them with the peas, cooked as above, and then with the ricotta. The peas nestle in the pasta, like little green pearls.
*Starred Review* Committed vegetarians will cheer over another book from the hands of Madison. One of the nation’s best-known vegetarian cooks, Madison has practiced her craft both at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and her own restaurant. Comprehensive and exhaustive, this new cookbook surveys the world of edible plant products in rigorous scientific groupings. Both text and color photographs educate readers to discover correlations and kinships and to explore how recipes adapt to encompass related ingredients. All of the nightshade family—eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers—appear together. A sandwich of spinach, caramelized onions, and roasted peppers neighbors a sort of casserole assembled from little-known quelites (lamb’s quarters) and mushrooms layered with corn tortillas. Madison introduces even more curious vegetables, such as fourwing saltbush. Although most recipes fall into the vegan category, there are plenty of dairy products and eggs to broaden recipes’ appeal. Madison herself confesses partiality to tomatoes baked in cream. A necessary addition for both reference and circulating collections. --Mark Knoblauch
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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!
Besides being an absolutely fabulous cookbook, this is a great reference book. Instead of going from A-Z (A is for Asparagus, etc.) as so many authors have done with vegetables, Madison does something pretty astounding, and classifies vegetables by family. Deborah, through years of cooking and gardening experience, has observed that vegetables in the same family can be used interchangeably in cooking, due to shared botanical characteristics. So it greatly helps with the mystery of why some substitutions work beautifully and why some leave your family saying eeeek! She consulted with Botanist to bring us a book that is fun to read and learn from. The book has beautiful photography as well as formatting, and as usual Madison has some truly inventive and delicious recipes. The scientist and cook in me wants to stop everything and just read this book cover to cover, then cook everything! Madison even has a beautiful green ribbon bookmark in the book! How cool is that?
I own a lot of cookbooks, and Deborah Madison's are my very favorite ones. They make everyone a better cook! Please do NOT assume that this is a book of interest only to vegetarians, since Madison is known for her vegetarian books, because every cook, from home chef to restaurant chef should treasure this book. We all need to eat a more diversified plant based diet, and how wonderful it is to have vegetables that are so amazing in taste that they put a good steak or roasted chicken sitting beside them to shame!
Here are the Families:
* The Carrot Family
* The Mint Family
* The Sunflower Family
* The Knotweed Family
* The Cabbage Family
* The Nightshade Family
* The Goosefoot and Amaranth Families
* The (former) Lily Family
* The Cucurbit Family
* The Grass Family
* The Legume Family
* The Morning Glory Family
And a few of the over 400 pages of recipes and information include:
* Salsify, Jerusalem Artichoke, and Burdock soup with Truffle Salt
* Cauliflower Soup with Coconut, Turmeric, and Lime
* Caraway Seed Cake
* Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta Cream
* Orange and Rosemary Compote
* Rhubarb, Apple, and Berry Pandowdy
* Braised Cabbage with Chewy Fried Potatoes, Feta, and Dill
* Slivered Brussels Sprouts roasted with Shallots
* Smoky Kale and Potato Cakes
* Winter Stew of Braised Rutabagas with Carrots, Potatoes, and Parsley Sauce
* Kohlrabi Salad with Green Onions, Parsley, and Frizzy Mustard Greens
* A Fragrant Onion Tart
* Quick Bread of Rye, Emmer, and Corn
* Winter Squash Wedges or Rounds with Gorgonzola Butter and Crushed Walnuts.
* Blue Lake Beans with Shallots, Pistachios, and Marjoram
* Asian Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Butter
* Green Pea Fritters with Herb-Laced Crème Fraiche
Honestly, if I had the money, I would buy this for all my friends who like to cook!
The recipes are relatively simple, clearly written, and very tasty. I've tried new ingredients--tempeh, coconut butter, and black quinoa come to mind. I've learned new techniques--for example, presoaking lentils and adding salt to beans at the start of cooking, which has done wonders for my black beans.
Some of my new go-to recipes from this book are the basic lentil recipe, Rio Zape Beans with salt-roasted tomatoes (can sub black beans), pan-fried tempeh with trimmings, which I serve with salsa and lettuce leaf wrappers, roasted asparagus with chopped egg, griddled eggplant rounds, and heirloom tomato quinoa soup. I've tried many others and enjoyed all.
I noticed another review that complained about lack of depth in the information on vegetables. I'd say this is a cookbook that gives extra insight into ingredients and a few tips on vegetable gardening. For a book that focusses on in-depth nutritional information on vegetables, I like "Eating on the Wild Side".