As befits a season of fresh blooms and new growth, this spring has seen the release of a slew of vegetable-centric cookbooks. The best of these ignore the prevailing dietary wisdom of the minute and instead focus on the vegetables themselves. A prime example is River Cottage Veg, the latest from prolific British author, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Yes, Fearnley-Whittingstall does call his approach "evangelical." Yes, he is on a quest to get us to eat more vegetables. But anyone who has followed the River Cottage series with an eye to detail knows that Fearnley-Whittingstall is far from vegetarian; he even goes so far as to call himself a "notorious carnivore" in the book's introduction. So instead of asking readers to make a choice between meat and veg, he wishes for all of us to find joy in cooking vegetables, to celebrate the earthy beet, to embrace the humble onion.
It's an easy thing to do after opening his book.
Almost every recipe is colorfully illustrated, photographed, and annotated with pithy headnotes full of tips, shortcuts, and British charm. Most are written with an eye towards pantry flexibility and seasonal substitutions. The numerous vegan recipes are marked with their own symbol, but those with butter, cheese, cream, and eggs don't shy away from such decadent additions. Let's be clear—this is no diet book, and most of the dishes are written for those with substantial appetites. There are plenty of salads, of course, but hearty comfort dishes outnumber lightly dressed greens by a landslide.
It was a difficult task, but we narrowed down five exciting vegetable dishes to share this week. We'll start light, with a salad of arugula, fennel, and green lentils and a cucumber lettuce vichyssoise. Then we'll simmer a unique twist on caponata, assemble a colorful vegetable biryani, and finish out the week with an extra-buttery but totally savory beet tarte tatin.
Win 'River Cottage Veg'
Thanks to our friends at Ten Speed Press, we have five (5) copies of River Cottage Veg to give away this week. All you need to do to win a copy is tell us about your favorite late-spring vegetable dish in the comments section below.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.