Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Healing Herbs Cookbook

The Healing Herbs Cookbook
Author: Pat Crocker
Publisher: Robert Rose (2013) 

Herbs have long been reputed as nature’s pharmacy. For millennia, civilizations have relied on plants harvested from local areas to treat illness and infections as well as promoting general wellness. Figuring out what to do with herbs in modern day cooking, though is a relatively lost art limited mostly to flavour enhancement via grocery store staples. Pat Crocker, author of The Vegan Cook’s Bible, takes on the challenge of bringing more exotic herbs home with her latest piece – The Healing Herbs Cookbook.

Healing Herbs is not simply a cookbook, nor does it rely on the use of only common herbs. Crocker begins the book with what could be considered a miniature herbology textbook – with a discussion of herb history, an encyclopedia of different plants used in modern culinary and medicinal practice, advice about cooking with herbs and even a few pieces of advice about preparing her specific recipes. At the back of the book, Crocker also includes a handy glossary, resource guide and bibliography for further reading should you choose to further your herb studies.

One of the unique traits of Healing Herbs is that the recipes are not simply organized by type of dish (i.e. mains, soup) but also by season. This provides a handy idea of what we as consumers should be on the lookout for at the farmer’s market, and, if you want to grow your own, greenhouses. The seasonality of the herbs also piques interest as to what to search for in the local wilderness (although you should always check the local laws, as well as with the owners of the property (if private) and be sure of the safety of the plants before foraging and especially eating any wild plants). For instance, this blustery winter day could easily call for a bowl of Roasted Squash, Caramelized onion and Garlic Soup (p. 78), made with woodsy, robust rosemary and thyme, or a serving of thyme, shiitake and sage-laced Winter Vegetable Lasagna (p. 116). When the summer heat beckons us all outside though, Immune-Spiced Soba Noodle Salad (p. 143) sounds like a perfect lunch – especially with some Poached Cherries with Rosemary Custard (p. 153) for dessert.

I will say that most of the recipes in Healing Herbs are not for the amateur cook or palate – if traditional hot and sour soup from the local Chinese-American restaurant is your usual Asian fare, the ginseng and burdock in Crocker’s version (p. 70) may be a bit too “out there” for you to stomach. Likewise, Crocker often calls for many hard to find, odd looking and strange-tasting ingredients which can easily put off readers who don’t have access to varied international markets or have more timid palates. Some items taste downright medicinal (chamomile, hyssop and echinacea come to mind), and simply won’t jive with those who lack the taste for stereotypical “health food”.

That said, there are some recipes in this volume that are easy and accessible to almost everyone, not to mention they’re attuned to the “common” Western tastebuds. The Eggplant Manicotti with Spinach Manicotti Stuffing (p. 105), for example, is everything an Italian carb-watcher could want, being filled with basil, spinach and garlic-laced cheese and topped with simple tomato sauce. To her credit, Crocker also includes more common options for many exotic ingredients in her recipes. If ramps and maitake mushrooms aren’t your grocery store’s usual stock, regular old leeks and cremini or shiitake mushrooms will make a fine Cream of Mushroom Soup (p. 66). A few recipes are still beyond reach for the average cook, but most of the limitations are totally up to the palate of the reader.

With the abundance of medications being prescribed today, more of us would do better turning to the garden for prevention and cooperative treatment. While modern medicine lack taste and can in fact become useless when bacteria mutate and become resistant to the chemicals, herbs are biodynamic and flavourful options for meals, sides and desserts. With The Healing Herbs Cookbook, Pat Crocker endeavours to bring the nutritious and the delicious together, opening up a new world of healthy possibilities.

Asparagus Three-Cheese Burritos with Tomato Sauce (p. 96)
Excerpted from The Healing Herbs Cookbook by Pat Crocker 
© 2013 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with publisher permission.

Available on Amazon

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat

The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat
Authors: Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery
Publisher: Ryland, Peters and Small (2013)

When it comes to homemade meals, a well-stocked pantry and a bunch of go-to recipes are essential. Nobody wants to have to run out to the store for a missing ingredient, especially when it comes to cooking for guests. When you eat a vegetarian diet, cooking for mixed company often brings a level of concern and “in-jest” (but still occasionally hurtful) jibes about the lifestyle. How can your meals possibly be tasty and filling? You must be anemic without having meat on your plate. Your muscles will waste away – you need more protein! On the other hand, if you have a meat eating family and are expecting vegetarians at a dinner party, what to cook can be equally stressful and overly puzzling – without meat at the centre of the table, what is possibly left? Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery create stunning, healthy, hearty and delicious answers to these dilemmas in their book The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat.

Vegetarian Pantry covers every meal of the day – from Breakfast (p. 12) to Sweet Treats (p.118). The authors also include small sections for Small Bites (p. 28) and Dips, Salsas and Sauces (p. 50), which are indispensible for parties and light lunches. The book also offers a “quick-n-dirty” primer on a healthy vegetarian diet and a list of “good-to haves” in the kitchen for making delicious meals. The Well-Stocked Vegetarian Pantry (p. 10) also includes some handy tips for storing your ingredients, which is worth a read for any cook. No resource page is provided, but since most of the recipes call for easy-to-find ingredients this isn’t much of an issue. As if the names of recipes like Individual Baked Cheesecakes with Salted Honey Walnuts (p. 115) weren’t enough to send you racing to the kitchen, William Reavell lends his talent to Vegetarian Pantry, creating stunning, full colour photos of the dishes.

One of the refreshing things about Vegetarian Pantry is that it isn’t a health-guru bible. While the majority of recipes are generally nutritious, sugar, cheese, fat and – gasp! – deep frying also pepper the pages. By including indulgences like this, the authors bring a more approachable feel to the diet for non-vegetarians, while reminding them that the lifestyle is not all beans, lettuce and tofu. The Breadcrumbed Halloumi Goujons (p. 44) is a fantastic example of excess, and I wouldn’t be opposed to sitting down for French Toast Stuffed with Bananas (p. 25) on a Sunday morning.

Banana-Apricot Muffins
Honey and Apricot Breakfast Muffins (p. 26)
I tried a few recipes from the pages of Vegetarian Pantry, and had mixed results. My first project, Honey and Apricot Breakfast Muffins (p. 26) was missing a touch of salt, and the bake time of 30-40 minutes would have led to dense pucks of charcoal in muffin wrappers had I let them get that far (I wound up pulling them out at 20 minutes, and even then they were a bit too “done”). The taste was okay, but the dense texture and incorrect directions crossed off a remake for this reader. The Spicy Tomato Ketchup (p. 64) and the Sweet Chili Jam (p. 66) fared much better in my kitchen, and while I kept a few jars for myself (delicious!), I also canned a batch of each for holiday gifting. I’m led to believe that the authors are definitely more attuned to savoury cooking than baking, which most readers will find more useful anyways given most baked items are vegetarian by default.

Vegetarian cooking doesn’t have to be boring, flavourless or a complicated chore. There are so many options available that everyone can enjoy a meal together without compromise and come away full and happy. While I’d look elsewhere for desserts, Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery’s The Vegetarian Pantry: Fresh and Modern Recipes for Meals Without Meat will certainly fill your plate with delicious, meat free fare.

Available on Amazon

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The 250 Best Cookie Recipes Cookbook

The 250 Best Cookie Recipes Cookbook
Author: Esther Brody
Publisher: Robert Rose (2013)

Christmastime in my house means one thing more than any other – cookies. My mom’s classic shortbreads are infamous to all those who are lucky enough to get a box of them each year, and for those of us who get a taste of the raw dough, they are pure nirvana. Try as I might, I still can’t recreate those melt-in-your-mouth treats exactly, but that doesn’t mean my gift baskets are cookieless. Instead, I tend to include a handful of unique creations that change year to year. Coming up with new twists on something as basic as a cookie can be challenging, but luckily new books like Esther Brody’s The 250 Best Cookie Recipes Cookbook are a great source of inspiration and know how.

Like its title, Brody’s book consists of 250 recipes for almost any type of cookie you can imagine. From run of the mill Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (p. 23) to the exotic-sounding Komish Bread Cookies (p. 140). There are so many varieties (and variations) that it would take years to get through them all, but you would undoubtedly find a favourite to stick to before then. This book is particularly good for those looking to start their own family tradition of cookie making, since while the recipes may be delicious in their own right we all know that none of them will match Mom’s or Grandma’s.

Knowing that I’d be gunning for disappointment if I attempted to make shortbreads (my mom’s specialty), I chose a few treats to try that we never made as kids. The first one I picked from Best Cookie RecipesWholesome Banana Granola Drops (p. 16) – came as a result of far too many bananas sitting on the counter and a batch of freshly made granola in my pantry. These serendipitous cookies turned out soft but not mushy, with a pillowy crumb flecked with crunchy morsels. They were not only delicious on their own, but made fantastic sandwich cookies with a smear of Nutella or peanut butter in between. The only shame is that these yummy (and semi-healthy) bites are really too tender for all but the most carefully packed lunchboxes, as they would make a perfect treat at school.

A more “packable” and “giftable” treat that I found in the pages of Best Cookie Recipes was Shirley’s Meringue Cookies (p. 137). This recipe piqued my interest because of it’s use of an added starch – potato or corn in this case. I was confused at the beginning though, as the ingredient list calls for potato flour, which is a very different ingredient than it’s suggested substitute of cornstarch. In the end, I opted for potato starch, and I think that was what the recipe author intended. To add a bit of extra flavour (since meringues are notorious for tasting just sweet), I used a minty trifecta of dried peppermint, peppermint extract and mint chocolate chips. The meringues took a lot longer to dry out that the stated 60 minutes, and I wound up turning off the oven (after an hour and 45 minutes) and leaving the cookies inside to cool completely. That said, the first bite of one was incredible – a crisp shattering of the outer shell, a not-quite-soft interior and a cooling pop of mint. Of all the meringues I’ve made over the years, these are definitely in my “top 5” after my revisions.

There are so many unique ideas in Best Cookie Recipes that I want to try in every section of the book! While the photos are minimal, they are there, and I appreciate the author’s foresight on that part. Brody also dedicates the book’s first five pagest to her Tips for Making Perfect Cookies, covering everything from ingredients and mixing techniques to freezing, room temperature storage and how to fix any problems that may arise. Even though I’ve been making cookies for years, it is valuable information to have and I suggest that every baker give this section a browse.

Whether you churn out dozens of different kinds for the holidays, or simply like to have a sweet treat in the cookie jar for when you come home, you are sure to find at least a few new options in Esther Brody’s The 250 Best Cookie Recipes Cookbook. While nothing will replace my mom’s shortbreads, I know that I can at least find another treat to call my own!

Available on Amazon

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home

Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2013)

Few diners ever see beyond the swinging doors of their favourite restaurants into the back of the house. Doing so means entering a whole new world – a hot, frantic yet perfectly orchestrated society of cooks, waitstaff, dishwashers and hosts, all who do their jobs almost invisibly, without seeking fame or attention from the clients they serve. It’s unusual to think about those hardworking men and women as diners as well – and with the pace of the job it’s often only in a few stolen moments that a meal can be wolfed down. Many establishments, especially the nicer table service ones, go out of their way to take care of their “family” of employees with the offer of a group meal before or after service. Staff often take turns cooking for their comrades to spread the workload and everyone sits together – without any reservations or “class” divisions of cook and waiter. Danny Meyer’s restaurants (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and others) are some such establishments, and can no doubt attribute part of their success to the fact that the employees are well fed physically and mentally as a result. As an homage to the meals around the “family table”, Michael Romano, chef and partner of Meyer’s, penned Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home.

Family Table is a compilation of recipes, stories and informative vignettes from the world behind the kitchen door. Each recipe has a short foreword describing a key ingredient or method, and peppered throughout the full-colour photograph pages are personal recollections of or from staff members, adding a true “homey” touch to this hardcover work. The dishes themselves run from soup and salad to pasta, meat and fish, with sides, breads and even a few quick and easy sweet staff favourites. Many of the recipes that sound complex and too haute cuisine for home cooks (let alone rushed staff pre-dinner), but thankfully upon reading they mellow to a doable, if fancier than usual, weeknight meal. Not every recipe is quick to prepare, but those that take time can be made on a weekend and leftovers served mid-week or frozen for later.

Given that this is a book written by restaurateurs, however, the reader should expect a certain level of “coffee table” ambience in Family Table. The dishes are definitely adult-oriented, and usually serve 4-6, which while useful for dinner parties and the occasional birthday will likely fall by the wayside in a conventional household. If cost control is an issue, some recipes will be unapproachable as well (due to ingredients like Parmigiano-Reggiano and specialty ethnic items), though things like homemade Fresh Pasta Dough (p. 108) and Brisket with Red-Eye Gravy (p. 190) cost more time than pennies. Relatively inexpensive and quick recipes can be found in the mix, though, with most of the egg chapter and a Patty Melt (p. 172) looking like a safe bet in that regard.

Generally, Family Table is an international mix of meals, from Japanese Soba Salad with Miso Dressing (p. 84) to Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce (p. 204), French Basic Brioche (p. 262) and Italian Mama Romano’s Lasagna (p. 105). More “American” items stud the pages as well, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Desserts smack of the homemade treats your mother may have made when you were a child, albeit a more refined version, and the stories from and about the pastry and bakery chefs ring of that “homey” passion and family bonds that tie the restaurants together.

I don’t think that Family Table will become an everyday cookbook for most people, being a little too fussy for the weeknight schedules we all have. That said, it is a great read for those looking for the personalities behind the brightly lit signs of the local restaurant, and for Sunday night dinners and the occasional family get together at the holidays, the recipes are a solid twist on home cooking. Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home enlightened and tempted me, and with luck one day I’ll have cause to serve up one of Romano’s colleagues’ meals in my own kitchen.

Available on Amazon

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Flying Brownie

The Flying Brownie
Author: Shirley Fan
Publisher: Harvard Common Press (2013)

One of the common things that accompany a child’s first leaving home for university is a “care package” from Mom and Dad, Gran and Gramps or a family friend. From shoeboxes lovingly filled with chocolate chip cookies, cereal snack mixes and (if you had really progressive parents) a Beer Store gift card and taxi number, to huge shipping crates packed with soup mix, pasta, applesauce and granola bars, the taste of home is never unappreciated. Mailbox gifts fill the holiday season too, with fudge, brownies and shortbreads flying coast to coast every day from Hallowe’en to New Year’s. Some treats are family heirlooms that are time-tested, well-respected and as such looked forward to every year, but for those needing a dash or two of extra inspiration when it comes to jazzing up their care packages, cookbooks filled with mailable goodies are a great place to start. Shirley Fan is throwing her chef’s hat into the ring with her book The Flying Brownie.

Flying Brownie is a small but relatively complete-spectrum hardcover cookbook, comprised of 100 mailbox-friendly recipes. From candy to granola and everything in between, something is bound to grab your attention. The items, like the book itself, are designed to be sturdy, unique and enjoyable, and for all appearances they should be. However, actually using this book turned out to be more of a post-office nightmare than a dreamy delivery guy.

Coffee and Spice Doughnut LoafI had high hopes when I first looked through the beautiful photos in Flying Brownie. After all, who could pass up a chunk of Peppermint Fantasy Fudge (p.88) or a slice of espresso-swirled Coffee and Spice Doughnut Loaf (p. 110)? Unfortunately, the batter of the loaf in question was far runnier than any quickbread I had ever made, didn’t swirl very well and overflowed my 9x5-inch loaf pan (quite a feat, since that pan runs on the large side generally). At one hour into the baking time, when the cake should have been thoroughly done, I opened the oven to find a batter-caked, smoking mass on the floor of the unit and a still mostly-raw batter in the pan. All told, it took a further 45 minutes to firm up, and when we cut into it we definitely noticed a sharp smell and taste of baking soda.

Chocolate Chip and Cococnut Banana BreadSadly, the Chocolate Chip and Coconut Banana Bread (p. 107) didn’t fare much berrer. Learning from my experience with the Doughnut Loaf disaster, I put about a quarter of the (again, very runny) batter into muffin tins and placed everything on a rimmed sheet tray. This loaf took about an hour and 20 minutes to test done (still far longer than stated in the book), and even after letting it cool completely it was definitely on the wetter side of moist inside. Like the previous recipe, the baking soda aroma and taste was noticeable, and I would seriously re-evaluate the 1-teaspoon measure that Fan seems to use across the board in Flying Brownie’s quickbread section before making anything else. My disappointment with these two seemingly simple recipes jaded me from trying any others in the book, a shame since there were so many decadent looking options that would have been perfect for gifting if I knew they would turn out properly.

As much as I wanted to love and use Shirley Fan’s book for gift making this holiday season, I’m inclined to look elsewhere for my recipes. As a Canadian, the US Postal Service mailing advice doesn’t apply to me either, and the scant Resource list is inaccessible to non-US citizens too. However, if you are in the US and looking for a little help in that respect, The Flying Brownie can be of some use. Just stay away from the quickbreads.

Available on Amazon

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Vegan Baker: More Than 50 Delicious Recipes for Vegan-friendly Cakes, Cookies, Bars and Other Baked Treats

The Vegan Baker: More Than 50 Delicious Recipes for Vegan-friendly Cakes, Cookies, Bars and Other Baked Treats
Author: Dunja Gulin
Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small (2013)

Everyone loves a treat once in a while. It’s almost impossible to think of an office meeting, open house or even road trip without some sort of edible, and while muffins and cookies aren’t considered “health food” in any sense of the phrase, they can provide a much-needed pick-me-up during the day. However, those who have dietary restrictions are often at a loss when it comes to the conventional sweets table. Most commonly purchased bakery items are laced with eggs, dairy, nuts or one of the other common allergens, and those who follow a specific diet for religious or ethical reasons often avoid prepared foods for this reason as well. One of the most basic ways to eliminate two of the major allergens, as well as any animal product-based restrictions, is by preparing vegan items. While they may be stereotyped as things only palatable for hippies and health gurus, the science and methodology of vegan baking has progressed enough to be more than capable of producing items that are approachable, economical and simply delicious – no segregating identifier of “vegan” required. Dunja Gulin believes delicious baking that just happens to be vegan is accessible to everyone, and avers this passion in her third cookbook: The Vegan Baker: More Than 50 Delicious Recipes for Vegan-friendly Cakes, Cookies, Bars and Other Baked Treats.

Vegan Baker takes not only a dairy- and egg-free approach to baking, but a healthier twist as well. Gulin stresses the use of the best possible ingredients, organic items when possible, and limiting or eliminating refined sugar – resulting in wholesome, not-too-sweet goods that are still most definitely treats. While some people may argue against all these restrictions (or “rules”) for what is supposed to be something decadent and special, Gulin’s reasoning is that the finished goods will taste just as rich and delicious, if not more so, than their conventional counterparts. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the belief that organic food tastes (or is in general) better, but I do know that quality ingredients in any form of cooking or baking make a huge difference. This is not to say you should break the bank on imported chocolate and hand-harvested and ground grains for flour, nor do you need to cook beans and grind nut butters from scratch at home – just have faith that the items you choose to cook with will produce stellar results.

If the passionate introduction and thorough discussion of ingredients doesn’t whet your appetite for the recipes, Clare Winfield’s fantastic, full-colour photos just might. Beautifully styled shots of almost (if not every) recipe fill the pages, and unlike many cookbook pictures provide a relatively authentic representation of the words alongside.

Carob Slice
Yummy Carob Slices (p. 58)
Of the recipes I tried in Vegan Baker, I was consistently amazed. Not because the methods were outlandish or the ingredients were exotic, but because they were anything but – fairly simple, straightforward and quick, with the most outré ingredients being carob and agar powder (which even in my relatively rural neighbourhood were easy to locate at the health food and bulk store). The results weren’t anything other than decadent – not just “good for being vegan” – and while I included a list of ingredients on the packages I put together for some friends of mine (in order to avoid any potential allergies to soy, gluten or nuts), no mention was made of the treats being made without many conventional staple ingredients and no questions ever came up. The Rich Tea Bread (p. 36) was first on my list to try, and I actually made it twice in different forms to use up a bunch of partial bags of nuts and dried fruit in my pantry. Both the original, more “British” combination of Earl Grey, prunes, dates, Craisins, sunflower seeds and walnuts and the “tropical” rendition with mango tea, candied ginger, apricots, macadamia nuts, dates, cranberries, almonds, pumpkin seeds and raisins were moist, dense and flavourful – better than any standard fruitcake I’ve ever made or had before! The sleeper hit for many of my taste-testers was the Yummy Carob Slices (p. 58).  Given that carob is the unfortunate recipient of the “70’s-era hippie food” stereotype, I waited for the unbiased opinion to be leveled before cluing in the group. While it didn’t taste like your standard chocolate cake (and it wasn’t billed as such), it was moist, rich and nothing short of a wonderful dessert.

The only recipe of Gulin’s I questioned was the Coffee Toffee Cookies (p. 89), as there was no real “toffee” or true “coffee” element in the ingredients. I expected a buttery, bittersweet note from the two ingredients, but the cookies only contained coffee extract, not brewed, ground or instant coffee, and contained cocoa powder which seemed out of place. If I was to re-make these, I would use a vegan butter substitute instead of the relatively flavourless coconut oil, add a dash of butterscotch or caramel flavouring, leave out the cocoa and use a spoonful of instant coffee along with the extract.

Tropical Tea Cake
Rich Tea Bread (Tropical Version) (p. 36)

On the whole, Dunja Gulin does the culinary world as a whole a great service with The Vegan Baker: More Than 50 Delicious Recipes for Vegan-friendly Cakes, Cookies, Bars and Other Baked Treats. With sweet, rich tasting treats that have a subtly healthy twist, the book will become a staple on my baking bookshelf and I urge you to take a look yourself.

Available on Amazon

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Leafy Greens Cookbook

The Leafy Greens Cookbook
Publisher: Ulysses Press (2013)

Everyone knows that dark leafy greens are a nutritious, low-calorie option that should be included more often than not in our diets. However, their positives – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and varieties – are often overshadowed by their “negatives”. In this day of over-sweetened, over-oiled, over-salted meals, our palates are trained to perceive the taste of a beautiful leaf of rainbow chard, a head of kale or a pancake-like collard as too bitter to eat. As a result, many home cooks no longer know how to cook them well, or cook them at all. Chefs that put the greens on their menus are divided between the “raw vegan” camp and those who adhere to the Southern style of cooking, adding copious quantities of pork meat and fat before stewing for hours. There is a happy medium in all of this, though, and it’s one that Kathryn Anible strives for in The Leafy Greens Cookbook.

Leafy Greens has 100 recipes ranging from smoothies to salads, soups and suppers. Some are relatively tame and “conventional”, like the Arugula Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette (p. 8) and the currently haute Kale Chips (p. 50) – both excellent introductions to the world of culinary greenery. More adventurous palates are catered to as well, with offerings like Sautéed Radicchio and Endive with Quinoa and Capers (p. 52) and Arugula Hummus (p. 34). Those who are well accustomed to the taste and (somewhat strange) composition of green juices and smoothies will find no shortage of inspiration, with 14 concoctions such as Super Greens Juice (p. 93) – made with spinach, kale, parsley and cucumber amongst other things – and a Spinach, Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie (p. 96). I was let down slightly by the fact that there was no use of the greens in sweet applications, as they can work quite well and many parents (and picky adults) would find these a good way to “sneak in” some extra nutrition. Each recipe is accompanied by a brief introduction, and while there are no photos (a sad oversight) the recipe titles are eye-catching and descriptive enough to warrant a look. Unfortunately, the photos on the cover are not of actual recipes in Leafy Greens, but rather shutterstock purchases – something I discovered when scouring for the kale-pine nut- and cranberry dish on the back (called Sautéed Kale by Andi Berger).

For anyone brand new to eating more than iceberg lettuce salads, Leafy Greens comes complete with a detailed introduction and glossary covering the types of edible leaves as well as a few paragraphs on their health benefits as a whole. I particularly liked the practical details of the vegetables’ appearances (handy when shopping!) as well as the note that “[w]hile not every green will become a favourite, they are all worth trying” (p. 5). This is good advice for any new ingredient and definitely worth remembering in the kitchen!

My favourite thing about this book is that the recipes are so varied that it’s impossible to say you hate all forms of all greens. I still detest any green in smoothies, but give me a plate of Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells (p. 65) or a side of Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan (p. 42) and it is gone in a flash. Likewise, my mother would never serve up a bowlful of Black Bean, Corn and Kale Salad (p.17) for lunch, but I finally convinced her that the green was delicious in African Peanut Stew (p. 29). The stew recipe is not for those sensitive to heat, however, since even after accidentally quadrupling the peanut butter and using a milder chili than the habanero called for, my curry was just barely edible. I can’t imagine what it would be like as written, but I doubt there would be a discernible flavour after all that powerful flame. The Saag Paneer (p. 69) was far more palatable – spicy but flavourfully so – even though it looked less than appetizing on the plate. It was also a dish easily made lighter by using skim milk for the cheese in the recipe or purchasing pressed non-fat cottage cheese and skipping the cheese-making altogether.

African Peanut Stew
African Peanut Stew (p. 29)

Needless to say, there is something for everyone to be found in The Leafy Greens Cookbook. Whatever your preference, the book makes it easy – and tasty – to add the nutrient-dense produce to your table in forms from the predictable to the outlandish, and Kathryn Anible’s recipes will turn many preconceived notions of bitter leaves on their heads. It just goes to show you that it can be easy being green!

Available on Amazon

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook

Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC (2013)

There is nothing like cracking into a jar of homemade jam. For years, we have been able to enjoy the bounty of the Spring and Summer year-round thanks to the ancient practice of preserving berries, tomatoes, stone fruit and more. While today it seems like produce has no seasonality thanks to imports and greenhouses, canning has the unique quality of being able to consistently provide the taste and nutrition of fruit and vegetables in their prime. This, and the ever-stronger movement towards frugal and honest food, is perhaps the reason canning is enjoying a resurgence with a new generation of professional and home cooks. Nobody understands this “young love” better than author Sherri Brooks Vinton, whose previous work Put Em Up! introduced preserving both fruits and vegetables with approachable, decadent style. Now she’s back with another installment – Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook: Creative Ways to Put 'em Up, Tasty Ways to Use 'em Up – and it is just as packed with tempting goodies.

As it’s name implies, Put Em Up! Fruit is exclusively about the home preservation of, well, fruit. Beyond berries and applesauce (though there are those too), Brooks Vinton also includes recipes for more unusual varieties such as grapefruit, quince and rhubarb. Each of the 17 types of fruit have a few options for preserving, from canning and freezing to drying, plus suggestions on how to really make them your own. While many of the preserves in Put Em Up! Fruit are jams, the book also has a wealth of savoury sauces and gastriques, cordials and cocktails too. It’s easy to picture using parts of this book at every meal, not to mention proudly giving away jars of your work over the holidays!

Of course, there is no point in canning all these glorious things if you have no idea what to do with them all afterwards. Brooks Vinton solves this issue too, providing an array of 80 “use up” recipes. From Broiled Pork Chops with Apricot Glaze (p. 71) to Pear Soup (p. 197) and (my personal favourite) Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (p. 242), there is no excuse to have any of the preserves languish in your pantry!

As casual and friendly as Put Em Up! Fruit is on the surface, it should be noted that Brooks Vinton takes her craft seriously and spares no space documenting the safest and most rewarding methods for canning at home. Part One, at just over 30 pages, is a must-read for anyone new to preserving and is worth reviewing if (like me) you are a Summer-only canner. The section covers Keys to Success (i.e. only use fruit that’s ripe and preferably local, definitely not anything past it’s prime), a handy glossary, basic boiling-water bath methodology, ingredient roles in recipes, syrups, ingredient preparations, and of course, discussion of the all-important pectin. If you run into trouble along the way, a browse of Put Em Up! Fruit’s Troubleshooting section answers many of the common canning issues out there. In addition, the book includes three pages of Resources in the back, giving readers no reason to shy away from the craft due to lack of equipment.
Five Spice Plum Sauce
Five Spice Plum Sauce (p. 214)

I couldn’t wait to try out some of the recipes in Put Em Up! Fruit, especially since I planned to give homemade food gifts out again at Christmas. I’m a fairly seasoned canner, but I usually make my jams and jellies with pectin rather than relying on the “gel test” method used with sugar-only recipes. That said, the Five Spice Plum Sauce (p. 214) was relatively simple to put together, although I wound up requiring far more liquid than stated in the recipe. The Strawberry Balsamic Glaze (p. 246) was more akin to the recipe’s wording though, and the gourmet flavours were just as simple to put together. While I “cheated” and used my dehydrator for the Berry Apple Leather (p. 88), I loved the method Brooks Vinton used to make the puree and her reasoning for using apples – they are a neutral, pectin-rich base that helps “stretch” the more expensive berries and give the sheet of puree structure. Since the first batch from the book, I have used the same principles for a variety of “fruit roll ups” at home, and not once have I had an issue. I’ve bookmarked a handful of other scrumptious-looking recipes for future projects, but since I’m running out of jars (and much of the fruit is out of season now), they will have to wait till next year.

Strawberry Balsamic Shellac
Strawberry Balsamic Glaze (p. 246)
Whether you’re brand new to canning or regularly fill your pantry with jars of seasonal goodness, Sherri Brooks Vinton tempts the palate and the imagination with her creations. Put 'em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide & Cookbook: Creative Ways to Put 'em Up, Tasty Ways to Use 'em Up has a wealth of information, easy to follow recipes and use-ups that allow everyone to become a gourmet in their own kitchen, without the fuss (or price-tag) of a fancy restaurant.

Available on Amazon

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Perfect Day for a Picnic

A Perfect Day for a Picnic
Author: Tori Finch
Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small (2013)

The Summer is filled with the makings of delicious experiences. The farmers’ markets open, packed with the best, freshest fruit and vegetables the local growers have to offer. The sun and beaches call to cottagers and boaters, while the U-pick farms and home gardens are rife with amateur harvesters filling their baskets with produce. Even the animals feast during the warm months, the pastures filled with sweet clover and tender grasses. With such decadence available in the fresh air, who would want to stay inside to eat? Packing a picnic has never been easier or more flavourful thanks to Tori Finch’s book A Perfect Day for a Picnic.

Picnic takes the concept of eating outdoors and turns it into an event. With 10 different variations, from Bohemian to Luxe (and even one for Teddy Bears!) filled with 80 recipes, it’s almost impossible to become bored! Of course, the pairings of themes and recipes are really just guidelines – if a certain food and a certain style tickle your fancy, go for it! Finch also provides useful information on “setting the scene”, be it using lanterns and exotic fabrics to create a Gypsy-like Bohemian look or spreading out gingham blankets and packing wine glasses for a more Provençal feel. Notes on choosing your overall menu and (more importantly) packing it are also scattered in Picnic’s full-colour pages. Georgia Glynn Smith does a fantastic job of bringing each theme to life through her photos, and the book itself looks like it would be at home on an elegant coffee table.

Unlike most “coffee table literature”, however, Picnic is a book designed to use and enjoy results from. While it has been over a decade since my last picnic experience, many of the recipes begged for me to make them for alfresco dining at home. Unfortunately, the recipes turned out to be a bit of hit and miss – the Spiced Citrus Couscous (p.28) was a hit after we cut the oil in half and nixed the onion garnish, being far too oily and muted as written. The Rainbow Slaw (p. 73) was also delicious, although nowhere near as attractive as in it’s photograph. However, the Courgette & Vintage Cheddar Quiche (p. 106) took 10 minutes longer to set than the recipe stated, and even then it was relatively soft and missing seasoning – thyme or tarragon would have greatly helped to lighten the salty sharpness of the cheese and the rich dairy. Finally, the recipe my sister, mom and I were looking forward to most – Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies (p. 74) – were so greasy after baking that I wound up blotting it four times with paper towel. In the fridge, they set rock hard and upon tasting them it seemed like all the moisture had baked out, along with any flavour but sweet. Thankfully, microwaving pieces slightly (with a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce) softened them enough to eat, and when chopped up they made decent additions to French Vanilla ice cream and plain Greek yoghurt.

(Not So) Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies
Gooey Triple Chocolate Brownies (p. 74)

As a gorgeous addition to the bookshelf with lots of ideas for hosting your own moveable feast, A Perfect Day for a Picnic fits the bill perfectly. However, it is weak as a proper cookbook and the recipes should be approached with a pre-existing knowledge of what the food should look like while being prepared, not simply on a lavishly decorated table. With such a Summer-tinged palette of opportunity at our disposal, I wish Tori Finch had packed a little extra flavour in her basket.
Available on Amazon

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The No-Cook No-Bake Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes for When It's Too Hot to Cook

The No-Cook No-Bake Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes for When It's Too Hot to Cook
Author: Matt Kadey
Publisher: Ulysses Press (2013)

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost into August. Generally known as the hottest, most humid and least comfortable of the Summer months, it’s a time when everyone would rather be outside swimming, gardening, or golfing – definitely not inside heating up the oven. That said, we all have to eat whether we’re confronted by the mid-summer heat or chilled to the bone in February. Matt Kadey tackled the “Summer supper” conundrum in his new cookbook: The No-Cook No-Bake Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes for When It's Too Hot to Cook. For the purposes of this review, I’ve abbreviated the title to NCNB.

NCNB takes the classic staples of Summer cooking – fresh produce, quick-mix condiments and cooling dairy – and adds pantry items like canned beans and fish, nuts and breads to transform them into gourmet-looking fare. Far from your standard salads and ice cream, Kadey instead suggests Watermelon Jicama Salad (p. 39), Shrimp and Noodles with Sweet and Sour Sauce (p. 72) and Cherry Granita (p. 113). If a recipe calls for something cooked (like a cereal or pasta), a combination of boiling water and ingredients like oats, rice noodles and couscous does the trick. The occasional shrimp called for in NCNB is purchased in precooked, frozen form, while tuna or salmon is canned – not only are these cook-free options, but even organically purchased they are economical ways to include seafood in the diet. The few chicken-based recipes make use of the readily available rotisserie chickens from the supermarket, and after Kadey finishes with them it’s hard to tell they weren’t made in your own home. Most of the protein options in NCNB are actually the most convenient and nutritious items in the pantry and fridge – beans, lentils and tofu. Nuts and dairy add some variety as well, so the “un-cook” need never worry about boredom or nutrition deficiencies! Despite the decadent and hearty looking recipes in this book, the nutrition aspect of them is in good standing thanks to Kadey’s nutrition background (he is a registered dietitian, nutrition writer and recipe developer). Luckily, the food itself doesn’t necessarily taste “healthy” – just delicious!

One of the things I particularly liked about this book was that it wasn’t a “raw food” or “health food” collection. While there are a few recipes that appear to be culled from the raw foodist circle (Carrot Cake Muffins (p. 137), Applesauce Pie (p. 139) and a few other desserts in particular), the majority of items are more assembly jobs of ready-to-eat elements. I wouldn’t suggest this book for a strict vegan (there is a lot of dairy and other assorted animal products), nor would I recommend it to someone with nut allergies, but most vegetarians will be able to make most of the recipes in NCNB by either swapping in vegetable proteins or simply leaving out the meat in favour of more vegetables (a favourable option for most, as the amount of protein in a typical diet is generally far too much). My personal favourite in the collection is the sushi bar-esque Cucumber Seaweed Salad (p. 45), which made a fantastic meal topped with marinated tofu. The Smoked Tofu Wraps (p. 98), another vegan option, are on my to-try list as well, and is flavourful enough that it would be a good option for anyone regardless of dietary preference. Unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed with the Pizza Stacks (p. 92), which tasted too oily and salty for what should have been a relatively light meal.

Whether you are coming home sweating from a run, retreating from weeding duties or simply not in the mood to heat up the kitchen, you will likely find an option in Matt Kadey’s The No-Cook No-Bake Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes for When It's Too Hot to Cook. Filled with fresh twists on cooling fare for every meal of the day, the dog days of Summer have become the best excuse to get back to the kitchen... and out again! 

Available on Amazon

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden

Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden
Author: Matt Wilkinson
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal (2012)

When the growing season comes around, there’s nothing I love more than coming into the kitchen with an armful of vegetables. Whether it’s from one of the local farmers’ markets or right outside my back door, fresh vegetables in season are at their peak of flavour, nutrition and economy. More and more chefs are embracing dishes and menus developed based on the seasonality of ingredients, rather than importing from far and wide, and Matt Wilkinson is no exception. Wilkinson is the chef at Pope Joan, known for its use of seasonal produce, in Melbourne, Australia as well as an ambassador of the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association, and thrives on partnering with producers to provide accessibility to the tastiest food for communities. His passion translates into the cookbook world now, with Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden.

Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables is more than a simple cookbook in that it incorporates not just recipes, but facts about the 24 vegetables he includes. A preamble of 2 or so pages precedes each chapter, which is dedicated to one particular vegetable – providing insight as to the Latin (“official”) name, native origin, history and even how to grow and harvest. This is fascinating for the trivia fan or gardener, but unfortunately this wealth of extra information inhibits the volume and variety of recipes Wilkinson includes. In the 300 pages of Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables, there are slightly over 80 recipes (approximately 3 per vegetable) – and some of the “produce specific” offerings (such as Simple Roast Potatoes (p. 217), Irene’s Tzatziki (p. 117) and Heirloom Radishes in a Salad (p. 244) are overly simple and better suited for the “Basics” section at the back or simply omitted entirely. Wilkinson also ignores the now-popular class of Asian produce – likely due to it’s limited locality and season.

That said, Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables does promote vegetables as a main element in the diet and not simply a side. The recipes respect the foods for themselves, making them the stars of the dinner plate. While the book is useful to vegetarians looking for new twists on their meals, many recipes use meat in an accompanying role – and in most cases it can be omitted without much consequence. This book is refreshing in that while Wilkinson’s passion is evident in his food, it also doesn’t come across as a vegetarian, organic or health food manifesto.

Sweet n' Spicy Baked Beans
Baked Beans (p. 14)
One thing that this book has no shortage of is dishes worthy of a four-star restaurant. Some of them (like Spinach, Mustard Greens, & Baked Ricotta Cheese (p. 176), Baked Beans (p. 14), and Horseradish Wafers (p. 162)), are easy and accessible enough for most home cooks to recreate, and are relatively “safe” to attempt in terms of taste expectations. Others in Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables sound delicious but intimidating, requiring specialty ingredients (truffle oil, certain spices and meats like goat neck) or processes like stovetop smoking. I’m looking forward to trying variations on some of these, however, namely the deceptively simple Sautéed Tuscan Cabbage & Matsutake Mushroom Pasta (p. 63) (though I’d have to substitute shiitakes for the Matsutake or Saffron Milk Caps called for), and the exotic, spicy Tomato Kasundi (p. 263) (using far less oil than the ¾ cup indicated for toasting the array of spices). I’m bookmarking the rich-looking Carrot Cake (p. 80) as well as the Foil Roasted Big Beets with Ricotta & Mint (p. 32) for Fall, when my backyard veggies come to fruition.
For those looking to expand their vegetable-cooking horizons, impress honoured guests or simply use what you grow or buy locally, you can certainly do a lot worse than Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden. While not an exhaustive resource, Matt Wilkinson tempts and inspires with his recipes, and the collection brings to light the need to embrace vegetables in more than a fleeting embrace. From simple to gourmet, the seasons determine the supper as it has always been – what will be on your plate tonight?
Available on Amazon

Monday, July 15, 2013

Farm Fresh Recipes From the Missing Goat Farm

Farm Fresh Recipes From the Missing Goat Farm
Publisher:  CICO Books (2013)

It’s hard to argue against the flavours of fresh, local food. During the growing season, farmer’s markets abound with produce grown right outside your door, and if you’re lucky enough the backyard garden has a few bowlfuls of veggies for you too. That said, it can be tricky to pinpoint new and delicious ways of showcasing the best of each season while it lasts... but farmers like Heather Cameron are getting savvy, leading to cookbooks such as Farm Fresh Recipes From the Missing Goat Farm. This book is dedicated to showing off each season’s prize ingredients in everything from appetizers to desserts, and is certainly one to come back to all year long.

Cameron opens the book with a few charming anecdotes of her entry into the farming profession – turning what was a passive dream into an accidental reality. She is the first to admit that the profession was not a natural calling, but in the end the Missing Goat Blueberry Farm turned into a thriving example of home-based agriculture. In each seasonal chapter, Cameron divides the small selection of recipes into breakfasts, snacks, mains, desserts and pantry staples. While the variety of Farm Fresh Recipes is nowhere near that of other cookbooks out there, the quality and quantity of photographs outshines all but the most illustrated coffee-table tomes. Cameron’s writing style in both the recipe descriptions and text is personal and approachable – readers will get the sense that the author is in the kitchen with them, providing gentle guidance and direction with a smattering of humour and encouragement.

Trying to pick a recipe out of Farm Fresh Recipes is both simple and incredibly difficult – even though there are only a handful of items on offer, they all appear to be simple, balanced and fresh ideas that would appeal to the whole family. This book does not specifically cater to a particular diet or lifestyle – eggs, dairy, meat, nuts and grains are all used – but the importance of natural, fresh and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible is constantly, if tacitly, enforced. Whether it’s the decadent Chocolate Zucchini Cake (p. 91) or the sublimely nutritious Quinoa, Fruit, and Cottage Cheese (p. 57), having good quality ingredients can make the meal worth trying – but bear in mind that if your family (like my stepfamily, sadly) swears by prepackaged sauces, marinated frozen meats and baked goods from a box mix or the grocery store shelf, the adjustment curve can be a bit steep. While I loved the texture and flavour of Cameron’s Pasta from Scratch (p. 41), my Italian stepdad thought it was “gummy” and “not like ‘real’ (i.e. dried) pasta”. The Chicken Strips (p. 142), which are wholesome panko and almond-crusted chicken breast pieces, were another tough sell to my household, especially since my sister (the major consumer of breaded chicken) knew right away that there was something “weird” about the breaded chunks of meat and refused to eat more than one.

Other recipes were a hit with children who already had a relatively broad palate – even if the marketing of the food involved a little name-tweaking. I knew that if I labeled the sweet oat and seed bars as Choc Chip Granola Bars (p. 26) like in the book, I would get nothing but skeptical looks and maybe a few bites from the kids at school – but a simple name change to “oatmeal squares” (keeping the same recipe) led to the whole pan being demolished and the kids licking their lips. I actually wound up making a second batch of the recipe with a banana in place of the egg for allergies, and it was just as delicious and well received. Likewise, Mini Jam Pies (p. 148) became a craved mid morning treat after being re-labeled “pop tarts” – the very type of thing that Farm Fresh Recipes is trying to avoid!

Banana Berry Granola Bars
Choc Chip Granola Bars (Banana Version) (p. 26)

If you’re looking for a wealth of recipes and a “how-to” farming guide, Farm Fresh Recipes From the Missing Goat Farm is not your book. However, Heather Cameron’s combination of personal stories, knowledge, photos and recipes makes her book worth a look for anyone looking to add more fresh, simple, wholesome foods to their family’s diet.
Available on Amazon

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook

The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook
Authors: Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman
Publisher: Workman (2013)

Gardening can be a tricky thing. Between choosing what and when to plant, what type of soil you have, how much water, sun, fertilizer and space the seedlings need and how to deal with all those darned weeds, what should be a relaxing pastime can quickly turn into a neurotic episode. Of course, even if all the variables are in your favour, your garden harvest may fail horribly... or you may find yourself with more tomatoes and peppers than you know what to do with! The Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, does though – and authors Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman are ready to share their knowledge in their book: The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook.

Gardener’s Cookbook is actually two books in one – the first 250 of the almost 500 pages (Part One) are dedicated to everything related to growing your own food. From the best layouts for proper growing and easy harvests (p. 33), to gardening in tiny spaces (p. 32), crop rotation (p. 43-52) and even the annual vs. permanent produce varieties, no practical detail is spared. A bit of soil science is also included in the first chapter, which for any new gardener (and even some seasoned pros) proves to be a useful and informative read. Note, however, that since the Four Season Farm is on the East coast of Maine, the notes that Damrosch and Coleman include are attuned to that climate (humid continental) and topography (rocky). However, with the solid knowledge that this book provides on a general scheme, readers will be able to apply the necessary adaptations for their own zones.

Purple Oregano

My favourite section of Part One is The Crops (p. 63), as it comprises suggested plans for all types of gardening. From the Salad Garden (p. 64) to the Winter Garden (p. 87) and even a Hard Times Garden (p. 75), whatever your need or desire you can find one (or many) forms of inspiration. The suggestions of produce are not only astoundingly diverse, but are inspirational for even a summertime casual gardener like me. Things I didn’t even realize were accessible to the home gardener (like artichokes and Asian greens) came onto my radar, and now I’m probing their possibilities in my garden next year. Given that the authors have over 40 years of experience in the field of agriculture, readers can rest assured that spending the time to peruse Part One of this book is well worth it!

Filbert Torte with Rich Chocolate Frosting
Hazelnut Torte (p. 437)
For those shopping for a recipe bible, the title of Gardener’s Cookbook is a little bit of a misnomer. In fact, the actual “cookbook” is in Part Two, and while it does contain 120 recipes it is by no means a comprehensive “usage guide” for the produce that tempted gardeners in Part One. Many of these recipes are heavy on the butter, cream, cheese and meat too (dieters and vegetarians beware), sometimes to the edge of excess. That said, many of these recipes are still delicious examples of why we need to eat more vegetables, fruits and herbs! My mom (a bona fide leek lover) fawned over the Baked Leeks (p. 392), even though we both agreed it didn’t need the butter to taste rich. The “Thinnings” Salad with Asparagus (p. 304) has been bookmarked since I received the book as well, since both my mother and I love asparagus and we have plenty of beet greens, lettuce, arugula and endive at our disposal in the backyard! With a few modifications for dairy allergies (and a different, chocolatey filling for taste preferences), almost everyone I served the Hazelnut Torte with Summer Berries (p. 437) to adored the rich, nut- and egg-based crumb (especially with fresh raspberries). That said, while the title of Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Sage (p. 421) tempted me, upon reading the ingredients (containing a cup of heavy cream in a “gravy”), I was turned off by how such a simple, comforting meal like roast chicken and potatoes was being drowned in a rich sauce. Making the Red Thai Curry with Fall Vegetables (p. 404) was an experience I won’t soon forget either – from having to hunt for the red curry paste to the volumes (of both ingredients and finished product) and cook times being drastically off, I was sure the end result would be horrid. Luckily, on the taste and (eventual) texture front, it was a winner – just make sure that if you do attempt this recipe that you break out the absolute largest pot in the house, double the curry paste and add an extra can of coconut milk! The curry is also a great example of a perfectly adaptable recipe. Don’t have sweet potato? Use carrots. No cauliflower? Use broccoli, green beans, parsnips... whatever your fancy! We actually made a second batch of this recipe with almost every vegetable under the sun as well as cubed tofu for extra protein, and it was definitely the hit of the evening.

Thai Vegetable Curry
Red Thai Curry with Fall Vegetables (p. 404)
Even if you don’t think you have a green thumb or culinary bone in your body, it’s never too late to start. As long as you have the desire for fresh, homegrown food – like perfectly crisp lettuce, still warm tomatoes, or just-pulled carrots – at your beck and call, some dirt, seeds and a kitchen are all you need to use The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook.

Available on Amazon