I know, I know! How boring is that post title? It is SO NOT me.
When I went to Amazon.com in search of the best vegetable garden cookbooks, I could pull up more than 200 and sometimes 600 matches. There’s a new one for sale about every other day. I should know, I own a few dozen cookbooks in this category ALONE. I decided to look no further than my own cookbook shelf. Here’s are my absolute faves:
“The Mother of all Vegetable Garden Cookbooks!” Hubba Hubba Bubba, now we are cooking. I am talking about the original Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash, published in 1982. Take a look:
If you wanna know how loved that book is, try picking up my copy. Use both hands, please. The cover is no longer attached, it just has to go along with the book. The binding glue is cracking and falling all over the place. The book itself is trying to break into two or three booklets.
The Victory Garden Cookbook was a companion piece to the television program, the original Crockett’s Victory Garden, produced by Russell Morash. Turns out, Russ’s wife, author Marian Morash was executive chef on the Julia Child and More Company show. Russ is credited with discovering Julia Child in the 60’s and putting her on the tube. A star is born. So, having been clever enough to link together the Victory Garden Cookbook and Julia Child just days before the movie, Julie and Julia makes its nationwide debut, I best be sharing with the reasons I love this book.
It covers 37 vegetables. Anytime you have a pile of fresh zukes, eggplants, kohlrabi or leeks, open this book. The simplest of preparations are laid out for you, as well as a dozen or more straight forward delicious recipes for each veg. Under “Finishing Touches for Hot Snap Beans” is our all time favorite …”With Warm Salad Dressing.”
You will find page 111 all puckered with dashes of olive oil, red wine vinegar and the no doubt the juice of fresh tomatoes. This is the page for our beloved Caponata, a cold eggplant salad that is also fantastic over hot pasta. Fresh cold tomato basil sauce for pasta is a 15 minute wonder. The page with “Tabbouleh with Tomatoes” is also dog-eared. Corn? If you find yourself with a bushel of corn, this is the book for you. Dressings for raw celeriac? Right here. I discovered I loved fresh celeriac salad 15 years ago, in Los Angeles. I could get celeriac in Boise, but how to make it into a salad? This was before Google was a household word. I turned to Marian.
Second on my list, or the brother from another motha, is Jamie at Home, Cook Your Way to the Good Life. Yes, I have the DVD as well and probably the last season or two spooled up on TIVO. I like to drink and watch him cook mushrooms on a bed of straw in the forest. As many times as I have seen this episode, I am – every time – convinced he is going to set the woods on fire. I covet his handmade stone oven and his gardener Brian. At least he confessed to having a gardener. And that little garden hut, where he cooks up a storm? I want one of those, too. A blob, a mash, a nob, some lashings and gobsmack me right on over to the dinner table.
I am taking the fixin’s for Jamie’s (we are on a first name basis whether he knows it or not) Rhubarb Bellinis to a party tomorrow. Rhubarb juice, champagne, sugar and mint. Regular readers know my passion for rhubarb, and I have a nice batch of rhubarb juice all made up and resting in the freezer. If any rhubarb survives my penchant for reducing it to juice for cocktails, I might try making rhubarb and sticky stem ginger crumble. Someday. Maybe.
This cookbook is all about the seasons. It includes recipes for fresh spring lamb, chickens raised at home (or elsewhere if you must), preparations of fresh fruit and pickles. Make the Ultimate Mushroom Bruschetta, Amazing pickled and marinated veg, and someday, if it ever cools down, Italian bread and cabbage soup with sage butter. Promise me you’ll try the bread and cabbage soup. Its all about the good life.
Start with these two books. You’ll be glad you did.
ps, the idea for this blog template was borrowed from Jamie Oliver’s TV show. I love the notebook paper background he uses for his handwritten recipes.