Debi Morris, Paper Palate – One of the main signs that summer is just around the corner here in the Midwest is the reappearance of the farmers’ markets. At first the offerings are the slight, leafy greens of spring: spinach, green garlic, asparagus. But over the weeks the bounty changes as the summer fruits and vegetables come into full season, and you can find all kinds of strange and wondrous vegetables. And with the resurgence of heirloom and organic farming, the variety of available vegetables can be a little overwhelming. There are so many enticing new things that it’s easy to get carried away and buy some vegetables that you’re not sure how to prepare.
If that happens to you this year, never fear. Elizabeth Schneider’s Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini can show you just what to do. The essential reference contains 500 recipes and 275 photographs of lesser-known varieties of common vegetables, and vegetables you may not have heard of before now.
Winner of the 2004 IACP Award for Food Reference/Technical Category, Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini is the definitive resource for anything you want to know about all but the most common vegetables. One complaint I’ve heard voiced against the book is that it excludes more common vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, corn, lettuce and spinach. Schneider’s reasoning for leaving those out is that there is already an abundance of information out there, and she wanted to focus on the lesser known vegetables.
Each encyclopedic entry includes a photograph, a list of all the common names by which the vegetable is known, a history of the vegetable, information on availability and how to select, store and prepare, and recipes that highlight the essence of each vegetable. As a bonus, each section concludes with innovative suggestions and methods presented by professional chefs.
I spent an entire evening just leafing through the pages of this book and I have to tell you, I barely cracked the surface of the information provided for each entry. The basic information is given in a light, almost chatty way that makes me feel that I could approach any of the vegetables secure in the knowledge that I know how to deal with it. As I’ve delved deeper into several of the entries, I can see that much thought has been given to each recipe to ensure not only that the recipe itself highlights the essence of the subject, but it gives you even more ideas for other ways to prepare it.
And Schneider is no food snob, either. For several of the vegetables, she gives instructions on how to prepare in the microwave, which is how I’ve been cooking my asparagus for years, but was hesitant to admit in public.
At over 700 pages, this $65.00 book is truly the authoritative word on all things vegetable. It is an invaluable reference, and a must-have for any serious cook’s collection.
Pros: This book tells you everything you would ever want to know about the vegetables represented within its pages.
Cons: As mentioned above, common vegetables have been left out. It would have been nice to have Schneider’s particular treatment of those vegetables as well as the more exotic ones.
Note: Not all of the recipes in this book are dairy-free. Though due to the expansive nature, there are more than enough dairy-free and nutritious recipes for this book to make our selections.
Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: 500 Recipes & 275 Photographs, by Elizabeth Schneider (William Morrow, 2001)