When I saw this Cooks illustrated book pop up on my list I had to have it. I have a large collection of cookbooks and within that collection about 40 of them are vegetable cookbooks. I was expecting that this book would have the usual Cooks Illustrated magazine...
When I saw this Cooks illustrated book pop up on my list I had to have it. I have a large collection of cookbooks and within that collection about 40 of them are vegetable cookbooks.
I was expecting that this book would have the usual Cooks Illustrated magazine style recipes, with a couple of pages devoted to each recipe with long explanations of how they came to the end result. I enjoy that but didn’t really want a whole book of it. I was extremely pleased when I received this book to find that each page is jam packed with recipes with only a short paragraph “Why this recipe works” heading up every recipe. I appreciate the brevity with the discussion because it resulted in a hefty book with over 700 recipes!
In all honesty I don’t find the “why this recipe works” paragraph to be particularly useful. It basically provides a verbal, “we did this to make it creamier and then we drizzled it with that to enhance the dish with some acidity” type notes. One can simply read the recipe to see what they did. Of much more use to me would have been a short paragraph at the end of each recipe saying how one might switch the recipe up a bit with different vegetables using the same technique or the same vegetable using different seasonings.
But that small gripe aside, I am extremely happy with this book. I have cooked extensively from Cooks Illustrated before and know the recipes are by and large good.
Putting the recipes themselves aside for a moment the main reason why I was so happy with this book is that the book is divided into vegetable specific chapters! That might sound like a no brainer to you, but out of all of my vegetable recipe books, only one other is categorized like that! (Chez Panisse Vegetables) All of the others are either divided into seasons, or divided into courses (breakfasts, sides, mains etc) forcing me to check the index (first I am forced to locate my reading glasses and that’s always a trial in itself) Once I find the ingredient I am looking for in the index I am sent hunting all over the book for the recipes so I can decide what to do with my vegetable of choice. I always find this annoying, all the flicking back and forth until I find a recipe that sounds like it goes with whatever else I am making that night.
This book takes all that work away by providing all the recipes for every vegetable all in one place, plus it''s alphabetical! That’s a huge plus for me!
It is a little irritating though that peppers is under S for Sweet peppers and that ginger, horseradish and sunchokes are lumped together under rhizomes, and legumes are under F for fresh legumes, (''cause let''s admit it, depending on where you live or the time of year it is, favas and edamame for example are more likely to be found in your supermarkets frozen or canned sections) so wouldn’t it have been more useful to just put legumes under L? But that aside, chapter headings are listed on the first page after the title page, so its easy to scan down it and find the category you want, despite those small annoyances.
On the next 8 pages after the initial chapter headings, each vegetable is listed out more specifically with every dish listed under it that contains that vegetable. Favas have their own category, as does Edamame, but annoyingly chickpeas don’t, although if I flick to the back of the book and check the index chickpeas are in ten different recipes, whereas favas are in 3 and edamame are also in 3. So, although I love that the chapters are devoted to a particular vegetable, or category of vegetable I would have made some editorial suggestions myself to avoid these small annoyances (when is someone going to offer me a cookbook editorial job, I wonder? I’m waiting)
Besides the categorization of devoting each chapter to a vegetable, the other reason I was very impressed with this book is the wide range of recipes/flavor profiles and methods that are included for any given vegetable. Let''s take a closer look at one chapter for examples. Firstly, the carrot chapter has a page about prep and storage as does all the chapters.
Here are the recipes for carrots:
Boiled Carrots with Cumin, Lime and Cilantro
Roasted Carrots and Shallots with Chermoula (full page photo)
Roasted Carrot Noodles
Braised Carrots with Apple
Whole Carrots with Red Pepper and Almond Relish (with a full page picture and a diagram of how to make a cartouche/parchment lid)
Glazed Carrots with Oranges and Cranberries
Brined Grilled Carrots with Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce (small photo)
Carrot Habanero Dip
Chopped Carrot Salad with Mint, Pistachios and Pomegranate Seeds (full page photo)
Brown Rice Bowls with Roasted Carrots, Kale and Fried Eggs
Bulgur Salad with Carrots and Almonds
Chickpea Salad with Carrots, Arugula and Olives NOTE: This is one of those out of place chickpea recipes – contains 2 cans of chickpeas and 3 carrots and 1 cup of arugula and ½ cup olives so to my mind this is a chickpea recipe. I stand by my comment that the Fresh Legume chapter should have been Legumes (Fresh, Frozen and Canned) and that chickpeas should also have been given a listing in the “List of recipes”
Carrot Ginger Soup (small photo)
One Pan Chicken with Couscous and Carrots
Carrot Layer Cake (with a full page photo and a diagram on how to slice and layer it)
So that’s the basic outline.
Chapter headings are as follows
Kohlrabi, Rutabagas and Turnips
Lettuces and Leafy Greens
Tomatillos and Cape Gooseberries
Zucchini and Summer Squash
I admit to having some small gripes with almost every cookbook I buy. Despite my irritation and anomalies like the chickpea issue (one example of a couple of similar issues in this book) I love the organization of this book, and the recipes are extensive and wide ranging.
There are many recipes for vegetable dishes from Turkish or Chinese, Jewish, Italian, Thai, German, Southern USA, Cajun, Mexican, Korean, Greek focus for example.
I love to cook across a wide variety of cultures so I think it''s great to be able to turn to say the Okra chapter and find recipes that range from Indian, Cajun, Greek, Caribbean, Creole, Sichuan, along with some basic recipes for sautéed and roasted and deep fried okra for example. This layout is especially useful to me, as I have a huge collection of books that focus on recipes from a particular country, but in order to find the vegetable dish of choice, I am forced to go through not only the index in my vegetable books but also many of my regional books before settling on a recipe for a particular ingredient. In a nutshell this provides the same thing all in one book!
If you already love vegetables and want a book you will turn to first to quickly work out what to do with that bunch of spinach for dinner tonight, or even if you don’t love vegetables but really want to incorporate some interesting vegetable dishes into your repertoire so that your family eats more of them, then look no further. You need this book (and maybe also Chez Panisse Vegetables)
Photos are: Beet and Carrot Noodle Salad, Roasted Carrots and Shallots and Chermoula, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart, Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Paprika and Cilantro Cream, Hearty Beef and Sweet Potato Chili.
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