by Sybil PrattJune 2010
Ripe and ready veggies
Vegetable gardens are in—from the White House lawn to a small, lovingly tended plot in your own backyard, planters on your window sills or weekly trips to your local farm stands—and eating these freshly grown vegetables and fruits is the best way to add a green sheen to your daily dining and please your inner locavore. With summer upon us, it’s prime time for produce and prime time for Cooking from the Garden, edited by Ruth Lively, with more than 200 appealing, well-presented recipes that appeared in Kitchen Gardener magazine from 1996 to 2001, contributed by well-known chefs, cookbook authors and restaurateurs like Deborah Madison, Rick Bayless and John Ash. The book has an inviting retro look, with small drawings rather than glossy photos and recipes that cover the gastronomic gamut from breakfast to dinner and from starters and snacks to salads, sides and sweets. Begin the day with a delicate Blueberry Breakfast Popover, try a BLT Extraordinaire with pancetta, aïoli and arugula for lunch and fresh Herb-Encrusted Pork Tenderloin for dinner, with sage syrup-infused Pear Burgundy Granita for dessert.
TAPPING INTO TAPAS
This is where it started—the graze craze, that is—and the motherland of sensational small-plate, small-bite sampling and sharing is, unquestionably, Spain. So to Spain we go to find the book that will give you everything you need to turn out authentic tapas in your own kitchen. The Book of Tapas by Simone Ortega, author of 1080 Recipes and Spain’s foremost authority on traditional cooking, and Inés Ortega, her daughter and close collaborator, has more than 250 recipes for tempting, transporting tapas treats and 150 luscious full-color photos to inspire you. Tapas can be hot or cold, they can feature vegetables, eggs, cheese, chicken, sausage, salmon or shrimp, they can be as simple as marinated olives or as elegant as Iberian Ham and Foie Gras Cones. In Spain, you’ll almost always be offered a small slice of Tortilla, a sturdy potato omelet—not to be confused with the Mexican kind—and little portions of substantial dishes such as Rice with Clams in Parsley Sauce, Pork Fillets in Wine or Chicken and Prune Brochettes. How many different tapas you serve is up to you; just add wine, cold beer or good sherry and you’re on your way to a virtual stay in Madrid or Malaga.
COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH
I was surprised to see Simon Hopkinson’s name on a book titled The Vegetarian Option and wondered if the author of the wonderfully engaging, immensely useful Roast Chicken and Other Stories had become a convert. No, he hasn’t—this devotee of all things edible simply wants to share his belief that a dish “without carnivorous and piscatorial leanings can be every bit as exciting as those with.” Whether your leanings are strictly veg or happily omnivorous, Hopkinson’s options will expand your repertoire of delectable meatless dishes. The short chapters are arranged by ingredients: 40 paired vegetables (e.g., cabbage and chard, ginger and scallions, endive and watercress) come first, followed by pasta, grains, rice, eggs and fruit, each introduced with Hopkinson’s trademark charm and informative ruminations, each followed by four recipes showcasing the ingredients. And fabulous recipes they are, different and distinctive, with thorough, uniquely chatty directions that make you want to get into the kitchen and cook: smooth, silky Spinach Mousse with Parmesan Cream; sweet, subtle Watercress and Turnip Soup; utterly simple Onion & Blood Orange Salad; Damson and Almond Pudding Cake. I’m opting in!