Vegetable Literacy

by Kelsi Leitz in


 

This summer I did a huge cookbook purge, re-gifting most of my collection to friends. I love to cook and bake and have a weakness for new cookbooks so over the years I've amassed aplenty. In my quest to have less and keep only the perfect essentials around I decided it was time to part with those that I hadn't opened in months or those that have only one or two recipes I consistently use. However, one newcomer made the cut. Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy, which is a beauty of a book. The recipes are simple and lovely but what made it an even more special addition to my collection is the connection to the garden since this was the first year we planted our very own garden. The recipes are organized by plant families and at the beginning of each "chapter" Madison writes a bit about the family, for example, "The Cabbage Family: The Sometimes Difficult Crucifers" with really useful info on how things grow, how to best prepare them and how to pair them with other things. And then she writes in more detail on the specific plant itself before the collection of recipes.

Like Kale goes really well with garlic. Lots of it. Other good companions are lemon and strong sherry vinegars, red pepper flakes, robust olive oils, potatoes, beans, rice, bacon and smoked paprika. It has made preparing a simple meal really fun having some knowledge on how to throw things together that really end up shining.

It is definitely fall here in Seattle and the we've had some epic rainstorms the last week that pretty much demand you get cozy and stay inside. So I've been in the mood for really comforting food and have been roasting vegetables every night this week. After they come out of the oven I've been tossing them in this Cilantro Salsa with Basil and Mint.

"For some people, this is a condiment without which life would be unimaginable. If you love cilantro, you will slather this green sauce over grilled and roasted vegetables, on shrimp, over pizza, in eggs-pretty much wherever you can imagine using it." Um, yeah. It's amazing.

1 clove garlic 1/2 of a large jalapeno chile, seeds removed for less heat, left in for more sea salt 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed 1 bunch cilantro, lower stems removed 5 basil leaves a spring of mint, stemmed fresh lime juice, to finish

Put the garlic, chile, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and olive oil in a food processor and pulse. Add the cilantro and continue to pulse, adding more olive oil until you have the consistency you like. Add the basil and mint and pulse once more. Taste for salt and add more as needed. Add some fresh lime juice to taste just before serving.

On my list to make this weekend is the Carrot Soup with Tangled Collard Greens in Coconut Butter and Dukkah (pictured below).