Get some veggie smarts
DEBORAH MADISON’S VEGETABLE LITERACY is a cookbook-gardening guide hybrid packed with information
There is something incredibly appealing to me about the idea of cultivating one’s own vegetables and then turning them into delicious dishes. Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy (Random House of Canada) makes me wish even more I had a garden.
This well-designed and well-written book is like a cookbook-gardening guide hybrid with extensive information about plant families, the connections between vegetables, their varieties, how to use them in their entirety (if possible), other foods that pair well with them and recipes. Think of it like a vegetable encyclopedia with useful suggestions on what exactly to do with that broccoli, turnip or ubiquitous zucchini.
Chapters are divided by vegetable family: carrot, mint, knotweed and so on. Some were familiar to me; others (cucurbit? That’s squash and cucumber) were not.
It was interesting to see how many of the vegetables Madison talks about are related, the history of how vegetables and herbs have been used and how Madison likes to use them. Her “kitchen wisdom” notes for each vegetable or herb outline useful tidbits of information, like that salsify and scorzonera can discolour after being scrubbed and cut and should be put in acidulated water to prevent that.
Madison outlines flavour companions for each vegetable, which is great for those of us who sometimes want to experiment with our cooking but don’t quite know where to start.
Although I marked numerous dishes as I went through the book, I kept coming back to a cauliflower soup, spiced with turmeric and spiked with lime.
The addition of coconut milk and cilantro gives it a more exotic flavour than a typical cauliflower soup, while the lime at the end brightens it up.
Madison suggests making this soup with an orange cauliflower — such as cheddar or orange bouquet — to give it a glowing colour. Mine, made with a standard white cauliflower, turned out in- credibly green, which looked good, if not slightly unexpected. Cookbook highlights: More than 300 recipes
Chapters divided by plant family
Information about individual vegetables and herbs, how to get the most out of the whole plant and how to cook them.