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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Elizabeth Schneider deserves a special place of honor in the Vegetable Hall of Fame for this outstanding, all-in-one vegetable encyclopedia-cookbook-reference.
At 777 pages, with 500 recipes, 350 vegetables, and 275 color identification photographs, it's clearly a labor of love, impeccably researched and beautifully produced. The six pages of acknowledgments, with credits to professional chefs, scientists, scholars, produce distributors, and growers, give a clue to the wealth of information inside.
Now take a vegetable you think you know -- say, the artichoke -- and turn to pages 1925. In this entry, Schneider walks you through the various varieties (shown in color photos) and gives a great tip on selection : "Squeezed, a fresh artichoke protests with a noisy squeak; a flabby one barely mumbles."
Next comes advice on artichoke storage, preparation, and cooking. Schneider has tried at least five cooking methods for each vegetable in the book, so she can recommend from experience which method does the most for each vegetable. In this case, she's not happy with the microwave method but likes steaming, steam baking, and a pressure-cooker method from Lorna Sass. Four artichoke recipes developed by Schneider follow, then a section called Pros Propose, in which Schneider sketches out recipes offered by chefs all over the country -- in this case, Brick-Flattened Fried Artichokes from Faith Willinger's Red, White & Greens and Artichoke and Pink Grapefruit Salad from Alice Waters's Chez Panisse Vegetables.
Now, imagine what Schneider can do for a vegetable you don't know -- like amaranth or cardoons, celeriac, or vegetables popular in Chinese cooking. And imagine what she can do for vegetables you are sure to have underplayed (or miscooked) for years, like okra, rutabaga, or even the zucchini.
Everywhere you turn in this book, you can find out something useful or interesting. Her method of cooking each vegetable five different ways often disproves conventional wisdom: It turns out that salting eggplant does not take away a bitter taste, nor do mushrooms taste best when sautéed. For best results, Schneider discovered that cucumbers should be sautéed, green asparagus roasted, but purple asparagus boiled, and sweetpotatoes steamed.
For all the length and heft of this book, you'll wish it were longer. Schneider has not included sections on the most common vegetables -- bell pepper, cabbage, corn, tomatoes, and lettuces -- but given the fantastic treatment every other vegetable gets, you'll wish she had. (Ginger Curwen)