Cook the Book: 'Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch'

20110523-tender-ctb.jpgIn the introduction to Tender, Nigel Slater writes "vegetables beckon and intrigue in a way that no piece of fish or meat ever could." It's an apt beginning for a book devoted to this British food writer's lovingly cultivated vegetable patch. Upon opening this impressive volume you'll see photos of Slater's London home, snapshots of his garden and an index divided into alphabetically listed, vegetable titled chapters.

It would be easy to call Tender a vegetable cookbook but it's so much more than that. For example, the chapter on leeks: Slater introduces the leek, talks about his relationship with it, fond memories it evokes, and even the variety he prefers in his home kitchen (Musselburgh). He goes on to explain the growing process, including a leek diary that begins with sowing them in July and ends with harvesting the last of them at the end of January.

He describes leek varieties, their distinct flavors, and the best times to eat them. Slater then brings the leeks into the kitchen, discussing washing methods and outlining the best ways to cook, season, and incorporate them into recipes.

The introduction ends with a bit of leek miscellanea before turning the page to reveal a collection of lovely, thoughtful leek recipes including Spring Leeks with Fava Beans and Bacon and Little Cakes of Leeks and Potatoes. Slater treats each vegetable in Tender with the same sort of reverence, whether it's something showy like a summer tomato or a humble onion.

Tender is pleasing in so many ways. For cooks it's filled with glorious vegetable-centric recipes, for gardeners it's an insightful and personal story about just how much a garden can mean, and for those who just enjoy reading about food, well, you're going to love getting acquainted with Nigel Slater.

This week will be cooking our way around the vegetable patch with a selection of spring recipes from Tender. Well be baking a tender Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon, pairing Kale with Golden Raisins and Onions, and sharing an unlikely but quite delicious Beet Seed Cake.

Win 'Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch'

Thanks to the generous folks over at Ten Speed Press, we are giving away five (5) copies of Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch this week. All you have to do is tell us about about your vegetable patch in the comments section below.