Since I'm trying to eat food produced locally as much as possible, I was excited to hear about Sara Raven's new cookbook "In Season: Cooking with Vegetables and Fruit." According to her bio, Raven is an expert on all things to grow and eat from your garden and has written several gardening books. I was interested to see what advice she'd have on cooking.
Let me start by saying that this is an absolutely beautiful book. It's hardcover with bright green and orange ribbon bookmarks. The paper is thick and the book is packed with vibrant, colorful photos that will make your mouth water.
The book is divided into six chapters beginning from January/February and ending with November/December, so no matter what season it is, you can find out what's available and how to prepare it. Within the chapters, Raven highlights five to fifteen foods, but as you might expect, there are more options in the summer months than winter.
Each food section begins with information about the food--different varieties, how to select them, basic preparation instructions, etc. The introduction is followed by a selection of recipes featuring that food. The Green Bean section, for example, includes recipes such as Summer Garden Tempura, Spaghetti with Beans and Tomatoes, and Trofie with Potatoes, Beans, and Pesto (trofie is a type of pasta).
Because of the subtitle "Cooking with fruits and vegetables," I thought this would be a vegetarian cookbook. It's not. There are quite a few meat dishes, particularly in the herb sections. But out of the 450 recipes in the book, I found plenty of recipes that are free of animal products, or can be easily made so by substituting vegan versions of dairy products. Here are some examples of some vegan or easily veganized recipes in the book.
- Savoy Cabbage and Cilantro Soup: made with coconut milk, chilis, and lime juice--YUM!
- The Ultimate Minestrone: made with cranberry beans, veggies, and red wine--just omit the pancetta and enjoy!
- Vegetable Korma: A curry with cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, and green beans.
- Rhubarb Sorbet: Oh my gosh--a total treat even for non-rhubarb lovers.
- Spinach and Lentil Soup: Indian spices and coconut milk.
- Salad of Asparagus, Fava Beans, Arugula, and Peas: Green and light--the perfect spring salad.
- New Potatoes in Saffron Dressing: Sherry and red chilis give the dressing a kick.
- Strawberries with Rosé Wine: a popular dessert in France.
- French Apricot Jam: Made with vanilla beans.
- Pantzarosalata: A puree of beets, walnuts, bread, and seasonings to eat as a dip with pita bread.
- Zucchini and lemon salad: A great raw summer salad.
- Grilled New Carrots: Vegans can barbeque too!
- Tomato Bruschetta: Mix your ripe, summer tomatoes with fresh basil and spread them over good Italian bread.
- Uncooked Apple Chutney: A raw, fermented chutney that keeps for months.
- Spiced Eggplant Salad: Eggplant and Indian spices that go perfect with flatbread.
- Rosemary Saddleback Potatoes: Though there are lots of wonderful potato recipes in this book, I had to try this. You slice the potatoes almost all the way through, insert sprigs of rosemary between the slices, drizzle with olive oil and bake. So good!
- Pears Poached in Saffron Syrup: Pears with cardamom and saffron--very exotic.
- Ribollita: A hearty stew of beans, kale, carrots and other winter veggies.
- Orange and Cranberry Pies: Substitute a good nonhydrogenated margarine for the butter and you can make these yummy holiday pies.
That's just a sampling, but as you can see, there's a lot to choose from.
One other caution about the book--the author lives in England and includes foods that are not common in the United States (at least not in California) like gooseberries, salisfy, samphire, elderberries, and medlars. It's interesting to read about them, but they're not something I usually see at my farmers' market so I don't know how useful those sections are. On the other hand, if I do come across them, I suppose I'd be more likely to try them for having this book.
"In Season" is as enjoyable to read and peruse as it is to cook from. It would make a nice gift for friends that garden or are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables--and a nice give for nonvegetarians that would introduce them to many vegetarian dishes.
Review as seen in VegFamily Magazine by Cathe Olson