The Crisper Whisperer: Two Smart, Gorgeous Cookbooks for Vegetable Lovers

Crisper Whisperer

Cook through your crisper surplus with ease.

[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

As the "mostly plants" approach to eating edges its way into the popular mindset, it's been a kick to see vegetable-heavy cookbooks by well-known authors springing up from the verdant ground of the major publishing houses. These two new books (one very new, one a rock star from 2010) are among my favorites in this category. Oddly, both are written by former editors of major food magazines, and they have titles similar enough to be easily confused. Once you crack the covers, though, they're quite different—and each offers its own value to vegetable enthusiasts. In the event that you can't keep the names straight, might I recommend that you get your hands on both?

Fast, Fresh & Green, by former Fine Cooking editor (and current editor-at-large) Susie Middleton, is packed with practical advice for bringing out the best in vegetables. The book is cleverly arranged by cooking method—from quick-roasting to hands-on sautéing to grilling to gratin-baking. Each section begins with an explanation of how the technique works, a chart of vegetables well suited to it, and a "foundation recipe" that lays out basic principles and tips from Middleton's years of experience as a vegetable guru.

Middleton's deep love for vegetables hasn't been a secret for years, but nowhere is it more passionately displayed than in the pages of this beautifully conceived and gorgeously photographed book. Despite the book's title, its recipes are not particularly designed for speed—though they are pleasingly straightforward. If getting home-cooked meals on the table fast is your game (and who doesn't play that game sometimes?), take a look at the book that follows.

Weeknight Fresh & Fast, written by former Bon Appétit food editor Kristine Kidd for Williams-Sonoma, isn't technically a vegetable cookbook. But with creative, vegetable-driven meals organized by season, it's hard not to love this book if you love vegetables. True to the title, Kidd's recipes are well within the do-able range for weeknight dinners, but with impressive variety to inspire busy cooks to break away from their same old same-olds. Each section opens with cooking strategies relevant to the season at hand and ideas for simple side dishes and desserts to complement the featured mains. There's also a section in back with eminently practical tips for stocking the pantry, selecting fresh foods for quick cooking, and making the most of your meals.

The attached recipe, from Kidd's book, relies more heavily on pantry staples (in this case, Indian curry paste) for flavor than many other recipes in the book. But in terms of good nutrition and big bang for your time-and-effort buck, it's representative of what the book has to offer.