The fresh vegetable sections in most supermarkets, farmers' markets, and gourmet groceries are overflowing with an amazing range of produce, both familiar and exotic. Consumers are tempted by kale and kohlrabi, taro and tomatillos, bok choy and burdock, along with all the familiar choices. Now acclaimed cookbook author and food writer Jack Bishop offers a comprehensive A-to-Z guide to this bounty of produce, complete with selection tips, preparation instructions, and hundreds of recipes for more than sixty-six commonly available vegetables. With Bishop's expert advice, you'll learn how to coax the very best flavor from every vegetable, whether it's a carrot, cauliflower, or cardoon. Wondering how and when to buy the sweetest green beans? Bishop suggests buying at the height of summer, and selecting beans that are crisp and slim (older, thicker beans will be mealy and bland). Confused about how to cook the spring's first sorrel? Bishop offers such unique and delicious dishes as Sorrel and Potato Soup and Sorrel Frittata. These recipes like all 350 in the book are clear and uncomplicated, ensuring success for even the novice cook. So whether you are looking for a salad or side dish, a vibrant main course, or simply great mashed potatoes, you are sure to find it in this essential kitchen companion. We all know that vegetables are the key to healthful eating now it's time to discover how great they can taste, each and every day!
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About the Author
Jack Bishop is a well-known cookbook author and food writer who writes frequently about vegetables for the New York Times and Cook's Illustrated and Natural Health magazines. His cookbooks include Pasta e Verdura, The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, and Lasagna. Jack and his family live in Sag Harbor, New York.
Read an Excerpt
Sweet green peas come in three distinct forms in our markets. Traditional shelling peas (also called garden peas or English peas) have become something of a rarity. This is the pea we see in the frozen food aisle. Over with the fresh vegetables, they make a brief appearance in late spring and early summer.
Part of the problem is labor. It takes a long time to shell peas and most people would rather not bother. The other problem is flavor. Shelling peas start to lose their sweet flavor as soon as they are harvested. Peas picked last week will be starchy and mealy. If you want to buy shelling peas, buy from a source that picks them locally and frequently. For these reasons, many cooks stick with frozen peas, knowing they will never be great but that they won't be horrible either. Peas freeze better than most vegetables and are a decent option.
Thankfully, there are other fresh peas. Two kinds of edible-pod peas are available in many areas throughout the year. Snow peas are pale green and fairly flat. Inside the pods (which are the main attraction with snow peas) are tiny, immature peas, really nothing more than tiny seeds or bumps. We generally stir-fry snow peas, which may explain why some stores label them Chinese peas.
The other option is the sugar snap pea, which is a cross between the shelling pea and the snow pea. Like snow peas, sugar snap peas are completely edible, pod and all. However, inside the bright green pods are round, little peas that are especially sweet and tender when properly cooked.
Flat snow peas are best stir-fried without precooking. However, sugar snap peas taste better when blanched firstand then stir-fried or sautéed. Blanching sets the bright green pod color and helps cook the tiny peas inside the pods, which otherwise can be tough if these peas are stir-fried or sautéed without precooking.
Availability: Snow peas and sugar snap peas are available year-round, although summer is the best season for them. Shelling peas are usually available only in the late spring and early summer.
Selection: All peas should be brightly colored and crisp. Snow peas will be flexible, while sugar snap and shelling peas should be firm. It's a good idea to taste one or two peas before buying. Peas should be crisp and sweet. If buying shelling peas, open the pod and taste a few. They should be sweet, not starchy or mealy. The peas should fill out the pods, but you don't want swollen peas either; they tend to be starchy.
Storage: All three kinds of peas can be refrigerated in a loosely sealed plastic bag. Shelling peas start losing flavor as soon as they are picked and are best used immediately. Snow and sugar snap peas will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
Basic Preparation: Snow peas are quick to prepare -- simply pull the strings off the ends like a zipper. The same thing holds true for sugar snap peas; sometimes they also have a piece of the stem attached, which needs to be removed.
As their name suggests, shelling peas must be removed from their pods, a tedious step that yields a very small amount of peas for quite a bit of effort. Grasp hold of the bit of the stem at the end of the pod and pull to open the pods like a zipper. You may need to force the pods open with your fingers by applying pressure on the seam where the string was.
Best Cooking Methods: Snow peas are best stir-fried. Sugar snap peas should be blanched and then sautéed or stir-fried. Shelling peas are best boiled and but, tered, braised, or used in soups and stews.
Other Recipes with Peas: Indian Spiced Potatoes and Peas (page 275) Stir-Fried Water Chestnuts and Snow Peas (page 347)
Sugar Snap Peas with Walnuts and Basil
I find that blanching sugar snap peas before sautéing them guarantees that the peas are cooked through and tender. Shocking the blanched peas prevents them from overcooking and ensures that their exterior remains bright green and does not pucker or shrivel.
1 pound sugar snap peas, stems and strings removedInstructions:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
- Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the peas and salt to taste to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain and plunge the peas into the bowl of ice water. When cool, drain the peas and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the walnuts and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
RecipeRoasted Tomatillo Salsa with Ancho Chiles
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
It's hard to believe that there are just four ingredients, plus salt, in this rich, flavor-packed, nonfat salsa. Roasting the tomatillos and toasting the chile and garlic really adds depth here. Serve this thick, chunky salsa with a basket of chips, drizzle some over cheese quesadillas or grilled fish, or stir some into scrambled eggs. Any dried chile will work here, but I prefer an ancho or New Mexico chile.
1 medium dried chile, about 3 inches long
2 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
- Place a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chile to the hot skillet and toast, turning once, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chile to a bowl and cover with hot tap water. Soak for 30 minutes.
- Add the garlic cloves to the hot skillet and toast, turning occasionally, until the skins blacken, about 5 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside to cool.
- Preheat the broiler. Place the tomatillos on a rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until the skins blacken in spots, about 8 minutes. Set the tomatillos aside to cool.
- When the chile has softened, drain and place it on a cutting board. Remove the stem, halve lengthwise, and discard the seeds. Place the chile in a food processor. Peel the garlic and place it in the food processor along with half the tomatillos. Puree until smooth. Add the remaining tomatillos and pulse once or twice to form a chunky salsa. Scrape the salsa into a bowl and stir in the cilantro and salt to taste. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Moroccan Fennel and Grapefruit Salad with Olives
Serves 4 as a first course
Versions of this salad are popular throughout the Mediterranean, wherever fennel grows wild. Use the small black olives in brine, such as Ni&ccir;oise or Gaeta olives. Although I prefer the floral note that mint adds, chopped parsley can be substituted.
2 large red grapefruits
1 large fennel bulb (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/2 cup small black olives
12 large fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch sweet paprika
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Trim thick slices from the ends of the grapefruits so they can sit flat on a work surface. Slice downward around the grapefruits to remove the peel and white pith. Sliced the peeled fruit crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick circles, removing any seeds. Place the slices and any juice they have given off in a large bowl.
- Trim and discard the stems and fronds from the fennel. Trim a thick slice from the base of the bulb and remove any tough or blemished outer layers. Cut the bulb in half through the base and use a small, sharp knife to remove the triangular piece of the core from each half. With each fennel piece flat side down and your knife parallel to the work surface, slice crosswise to yield several 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut the slices lengthwise to yield long strips about 1/4 inch thick.
- Add the fennel, olives, and mint to the bowl with the grapefruits. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Drizzle with the oil and toss gently. Serve immediately.
Variation: Italian Fennel and Orange Salad
In Italy, cooks are most likely to use oranges than grapefruits.
Use 3 navel or blood oranges in place of the grapefruits and omit the paprika.
Grilled Corn with Chili Butter
Serves 4 as a side dish
Grilling is an efficient way to cook corn in the summer, when you are more likely to be outside tending the grill than standing over the stove. The problem is that corn cooked in the husks tends to steam and pick up very little grill flavor. However, husked corn tends to char and burn and the texture can be a bit dry. My friend and colleague Maryellen Driscoll turned me on to this solution: Remove all but the last, thin layer of the husk, which offers protection against burning but permits some browning of the corn kernels. Once the husk blackens, the corn is ready to be husked and silked (be careful, the ears are hot) and served. This recipe can be doubled or tripled if you like.
The stronger flavor of grilled corn makes it an ideal candidate for more adventurous seasonings, like chili butter. The butter is delicious if you toast and grind your own dried chiles. However, good-quality store-bought chili powder will be fine.
4 medium ears corn
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon good-quality chili powder
- Light a grill fire. Remove all but the innermost layer of the husk from the corn. Twist off the silk at the top of each ear by hand.
- Place the butter, chili powder, and salt to taste in a small bowl. Use a fork to work the ingredients into a smooth paste.
- Grill the corn over a medium fire, turning several times, until the husks are charred and beginning to peel away from the ears, about 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the grill.
- Wearing an oven mitt, peel away and discard the charred husks and silks. Use a butter knife to spread the chili butter lightly over the grilled corn and serve immediately.
Variation: Grilled Corn with Herb Butter
Good choices are parsley, basil, tarragon, chives, sage, and chervil.
Replace the chili powder with 1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs.
Copyright © 2001 by Jack Bishop
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wanted to add more vegetables to my diet, but found myself cooking them the same vegetables, the same way all the time. This is a great book. Chapters are in alphabetical order by vegetable. It's easy to find information and there is probably 3 to 5 recipes for each vegetable. So, now when I'm at the store, I buy what's on sale or try something new and then can easily find a recipe! If you cook often, or want to start cooking more at home, this is a great cookbook!
I compulsively check cookbooks out of the library, and I'm always looking for good ways to prepare vegetables. All too often the recipes I come across are poorly thought out, or weird for weirdness's sake, or require too many rare or expensive ingredients. This cookbook commits none of those errors. I've made 31 recipes out of it so far, and I think there was one that was just ok--otherwise, all of them have been outstanding. Bishop really understands his raw materials and how to flatter their flavors. If he suggests an unusual ingredient, such as roasted peanut oil or hoisin sauce, it's with good reason, and there are plenty of other recipes where you'll be able to use it too. I haven't been very impressed with other all-vegetable cookbooks, including some of the famous vegetarian ones (honestly, The Moosewood Cookbook is more culturally than culinarily interesting), but this one is worth its weight in arugula!
I've been eating my way through this book for about a year. I just love it. I learned that I was preparing a lot of veggies incorrectly which is why they tasted so bland and, sometimes, mushy. The recipies are interesting without being weird and often apply to more than one kind of vegetable. I've gotten a lot out of this book and I keep buying more copies as gifts for my friends and family who are trying to eat healthy and who are bored with their frozen-dumped-in-a-pan routine. I find most of the recipies are simple and fairly quick to prepare.
I really, really like this cookbook. It has a huge selection of vegetables, all organized alphabetically, and with each vegetable it tells you what to look for when shopping, how best to store them, how long they will last, and the best recipes to highlight each vegetable. A must have!
This is my very favorite cookbook. It has completely changed how I cook. There are so many more vegetables now that I have discovered and love (cardoons! edamame!) and familiar vegetables that I love in a whole new way (beets! endive!). Only a small handful of recipes have fallen flat for me, and I've made all the recipes save about 35 by now. I have ambitions of trying every recipe... hopefully in another year I'll knock of what's left (mostly the exotic tubers which are hard to find where I live). A little obsessive, but take it as proof--it's that good.
If you love to cook and eat, vegetables, this is the book for you. This book does an excellent job of teaching the basics of vegetables, including selecting, cleaning, storing, and preparing. The best way to prepare vegetables is presented, and the recipes are designed to teach the reader how to cook vegetables without having to rely on the book while in the kitchen. I¿ve actually taught people how to roast asparagus spears with olive oil and kosher salt based on what I¿ve learned in this book. The book will also confront some misconceptions about particular vegetables ¿ cucumbers can be cooked! As noted by another reviewer on Library Thing, the vegetables are side dishes, not the centerpiece. But any user will find that the vegetables, well cooked and seasoned, can make a good meal great.
This is really a great cookbook if you love vegetables or are learning to love them. My go-to vegetable cookbook, always gives me a recupe or an idea or riff on one.
I bought this after hearing the author on the radio a few years ago, and I love it. I just bought it for a friend because she loved the veggie dishes I bring to work. The veggies are listed alphabetically, and you can look up any veggie you have and find numerous easy and tasty recipes for it. It's also great if you see an interesting looking unkown veggie in the store - you can buy it knowing there will be a description of the veggie, how it tastes and basic ways to prepare it and serve it in the book.