by Barbara Kafka with Christopher Styler
There are cookbooks you actually cook from—those dog-eared favorites that never leave the kitchen—and there are cookbooks you relish as bedtime reading.
And then there is that rare breed that satisfies on both fronts. Edifying yet eminently practical, Vegetable Love: Vegetables Delicious, Alone or with Pasta, Seafood, Poultry, Meat and More is one such masterwork. It's the latest in a string of indispensable cookbooks from Barbara Kafka, author of Roasting: A Simple Art, Microwave Gourmet, and Soup: A Way of Life, among others. Collaborating with Christopher Styler, a multitalented chef and writer, Kafka has produced the definitive work on preparing vegetables, celebrating the glories of the garden in 750 delicious recipes.
While vegetarians and even vegans will find much to feast on here, Vegetable Love features vegetables in all their permutations. For example, Radiant Bok Choy, Hubbard Squash Silk Soup. Rhubarb Energy Beets, Eggplant with Italian Sausage or Salmon Wrapped in Lettuce Leaves. Kafka evinces real passion for her subject and shares her love for "the sweet seductive perfume of slowly sautéing onions...the slow dance of eating an artichoke." She's an avid gardener, too, so when she demystifies the multitude of eggplant varieties (Chinese, Turkish, French, Neapolitan, and Japanese, to name a few) or instructs us that the asparagus is a lily—stalks that are going to seed actually produce small, trumpet-shaped flowers—she knows whereof she speaks.
Along with her recipes, Kafka includes horticultural and historical information. We leam, for example, that Thomas Jefferson grew more than 30 varieties of peas at Monticello, that onions lower blood pressure, and that an entire class at a posh British school was mortally afflicted after eating green potatoes.
Kafka is not out to impress but rather to aid, inform, and entertain. She is also a marvelously witty, self-deprecating guide to her subject, confessing her love for "low-life tomato treats" like Kitchen Sink Sandwiches (fresh tomatoes on store-bought white bread slathered with commercial mayo, wolfed down with abandon while bent over the sink) and even copping to liking iceberg lettuce ("by this point," she writes, "I have probably lost all my credentials as a gourmet or even a good cook"). So, yes, there's a recipe for Iceberg Lettuce with Blue Cheese Dressing, but Kafka is equally at home with such fare as Fiddlehead and Chanterelle Risotto and Poached Eggs on Mushroom Duxelles with Hollandaise.
The recipes are innovative and global in reach, running from classics like Cucumber Dill Salad to creations such as Chervil Chicken Stew and Carrot-Honey Ice Cream. Kafka credits pals like famed chef Zarela Martinez's puréed Black Beans, and offers brilliant microwave versions of Szechwan Green Beans and Creamy Polenta, which will doubtless represent "heresy to many Italians" with fond memories of nonna's endless stirring.
Vegetable Love is also laden with tips on serving suggestions, side dishes, presentation, and more, and this must-have volume contains two appendices devoted to basic recipes and techniques—from mayonnaise and Asian dipping sauces to pizza dough and souffles—as well as ingredients. Offering information on how to buy, store, wash, and prepare everything from amaranth to watercress, Kafka seeks to "liberate the cook from rigid adherence to the printed page" and encourages improvisation.
About the Authors
Barbara Kafka's most recent book, Soup: A Way of Life was a national best seller and a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection. Roasting: A Simple Art, won the Julia Child Cookbook Award and was also a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection as was the preceding book Party Food. Other books include The New York Times best seller, Microwave Gourmet, and Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook. A frequent contributor to The New York Times, Kafka has written monthly columns for Gourmet, Family Circle and Vogue as well as contributing extensively to other food magazines in the United States, Australia and Great Britain. The winner of many awards, Kafka has served on the boards of culinary organizations and educational boards.
Christopher Styler is an experienced chef, teacher, culinary producer, and the author or co-author of several books including Primi Piatti, Mom's Secret Recipe File, Sylvia's Soul Food (with Sylvia Woods) and Blue Collar Food (with Bill Hodge). He is an editor-at-large for Food Arts magazine.
Vegetables Delicious, Alone or with Pasta, Seafood, Poultry, Meat and More
by Barbara Kafka with Christopher Styler
Hardcover, $35, 720 pages
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created March 2006
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