We are not adverse to vegetables in our house. Most of the kids will eat most things, but I had kind of got into a rut cooking the same old veg in the same old ways. Nothing wrong with them, just not very interesting – the vegetables were always a side dish but never the star – until I received a copy of “Vegetables Please” by Carolyn Humphries.
I must admit my culinary skills are just about adequate. I haven’t poisoned anyone yet, but I won’t be invited onto the Food Network anytime soon, and consequently, I tend to feel intimidated by cookbooks, especially ones that feature ingredients I don’t use on a frequent basis. This was the first hurdle “Vegetables Please” helped me over.
Each dish takes up just one short page – including the ingredients list – so there are no long recipes with 47 complicated steps to follow. Flicking through the book, most of the dishes have only 3 or 4 steps, and this immediately made me feel comfortable about my skill (or lack of) level. Every dish has information about prep time, cooking time and the number of servings it should yield. This was a real boon for me, being able to choose a dish because I only had 20 minutes to get something ready or try out a stew that I could prep at lunch time and just flick the oven on later to cook it.
The other thing I really liked about the book was that each recipe has a suggestion for optional meat or fish and notes on what to do if adding them. For example, the ‘spring vegetable stew with fresh herb dumplings’ has chicken thighs as a suggested option. Instead of leaving you just to throw them in, you are taken through browning and adding them at a particular point in the process and told to omit one of the cans of beans.
Scattered among the recipes, are some double page spreads named “Four ways with.” Each spread features a different vegetable and four mini recipes to try with them. Two of our favorite dishes from these sections were the mushroom bruschetta and the zucchini fritters – both very quick and very tasty!
Of course, I mustn’t forget the techniques section at the end. If you are new to prepping a vegetable, it can be daunting to know what to do with it. This chapter takes you back to basics (or to basics for the first time!) and shows you how to do everything from preparing artichoke hearts and seeding tomatoes to cooking risotto, making pie dough in a food processor and cooking a classic omelet.
On top of all this, there is a pantry essentials section that gives you notes on many of the basics you could have to hand. For me the legumes section of these pages was invaluable. Learning that brown lentils have a nutty flavor and meaty texture – making them especially suitable for substituting for ground meat has enabled has given me the knowledge and confidence to try substituting them in many dishes.
So far I have tried the recipes for:
- Potato pancakes with applesauce and chive yogurt
- Creamy spinach & rosemary soup
- Spicy broccoli spaghetti
- Rainbow pepper Mexican tacos &
- Mixed vegetable cottage pie with rutabaga crust
All of them have been a hit, and we are looking forward to trying out many more of the dishes.
For new cooks, new to healthy eating cooks and chefs who are looking to add a pinch of vegetable deliciousness to their menu’s – Vegetables Please is s cookbook you must have on your shelf.