You gotta love a cookbook author bold enough to use the words "hodgepodge" and "depending" in the same recipe title. Yet as Deborah Madison explains in her new book, Vegetable Literacy, "Depending is the operative word when there is a garden or good farmers' market." Indeed, when shopping seasonally, you'll never really know what'll look good until you see it. So, go ahead, embrace the hodgepodge of spring vegetables, and adapt Madison's gentle cooking technique and emphatic use of excellent butter to suit your spring haul.
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It may not be zucchini season quite yet, but I'd advise squirreling away Deborah Madison's Summer Squash Tartines recipe from her new book, Vegetable Literacy, for dinner parties in the coming months. Another winning bread-cheese-vegetable combination, these open-faced sandwiches are just the thing when you've got a couple of cucurbits hanging around the house. Sure, anyone can throw cheese on bread and call it an appetizer. Yet Madison's little touches, like rubbing the bread with garlic and gently cooking the squash with a saute-steam method, make these tartines more than a slapdash effort at a snack.
Shucking fresh peas is not a quick task, I'll admit. But if you can get your hands on some fresh peas in their pods at a farmers' market in the next couple of weeks, grab them and commit to an extra half hour of meal prep. Deborah Madison's unassuming Peas with Baked Ricotta from her new book Vegetable Literacy is worth it. The bright sweetness of the buttery peas matches perfectly with the creamy richness of fresh ricotta, and baking the ricotta with olive oil and fresh bread crumbs transforms cheese and peas into an actual meal.
Deborah Madison's cauliflower and pasta dish from her new cookbook Vegetable Literacy is a surprise of a recipe. It almost looks like something I'd throw together without thinking, but has a few tweaks that make it stand out from my ordinary dinners. First, she uses what may look like a dangerous amount of red pepper flakes; her scant teaspoon looks menacing compared to my usual pinch or two. Also, she throws in parsley, lots of parsley, in three places--some of it is cooked with garlic to mellow, some of it is wilted into the cooked pasta, and the rest is thrown in at the end for a bright finish. But the real winner here is saffron. The floral taste of saffron always reminds me of bouillabaisse; tasting bites of Madison's cauliflower dish takes my mind to the French stew but for much less time and effort.
I am a big fan of rainbow carrots, so I'm no stranger to surprisingly stark white carrots. Yet Deborah Madison's Ivory Carrot Soup from her new cookbook Vegetable Literacy was still a bit of a mind game for me. The finished soup tasted purely of carrot, but my eyes were convinced that I was slurping down potato-leek or some kind of parsnip concoction.