Making the most of your veggies



Vegetable Love

By Barbara Kafka with Christopher Styler

Artisan / 2005 / $35

Not sure what to do with those artichokes you picked up on a whim while grocery shopping? Vegetable Love has about 20 ideas, including wrapping them in bacon and serving them with snails.

The recipes in Kafka's book range from the simple and familiar, such as roasted potatoes and tomato basil soup, to the unusual, such as avocado ice cream and cabbage risotto. For any high rollers, there are a couple of truffle recipes - a salad with potatoes and a gratin.

The recipe for guacamole is the best I've tried. Instead of saying to mix all the ingredients into the avocado, it directs you to sprinkle the salt over the garlic and then mince the garlic. You press the salt into the garlic as you go, eventually forming a paste to which the peppers and some of the lime juice are added. You then add the avocados and the rest of the lime juice just before serving.

Mushroom-vegetable stew - made with black beans, peas, cauliflower, parsley, and cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms - made a hearty side dish.

Squash muffins, which tasted a bit like pumpkin, turned out perfectly moist. Making them was time-consuming - steaming the squash took 20 minutes, and the muffins take 28 to 30 minutes to bake. But it's worth the effort for a treat. I used butternut squash, but you can use buttercup squash as well.

Roasted red new potatoes with garlic and rosemary were tasty and simple (no need to even peel the garlic). They dried out a bit on reheating, though.

The one disappointment was black bean soup. As the book instructed, the beans were not soaked or parboiled before cooking, and after three hours, they still were not ready. The results weren't worth the time. Although Kafka writes that it is her "very favorite black bean soup," I found little to distinguish it.

Vegetable Love is split into regional chapters: "Vegetables of the New World," "Vegetables of the Mediterranean Basin, Europe and the Arab World," "Vegetables of Asia and Africa" and "Citizens of the World."

Each chapter is organized alphabetically by vegetable. Though this is valuable for learning the origins of vegetables, I found myself flipping to the index whenever I was looking for something specific.

The "Cook's Guide" at the back of the book would be useful in any kitchen. Organized by vegetable, with instructions for buying, cooking, storing and washing, it's an excellent reference source.

Vegetable Love serves well as a trove of recipes and as inspiration for trying new and unusual vegetables.

Thanksgiving Squash Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 buttercup or butternut squash (1 pound), halved, seeds and fibers removed, steamed

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened (divided use)

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (divided use)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Peel the squash and cut into chunks. Place in a food processor and puree until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Allow to cool (makes 1 cup puree).

Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 12-cup or two 6-cup muffin tins, using 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons flour. Place in the refrigerator until needed.

Whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Using a mixer set on medium speed, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the squash puree, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients by hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Loosen the muffins from the tin while still warm, and cool the tin on a rack. Serve or wrap well and freeze. Defrost and serve at room temperature.

From "Vegetable Love"

Per serving: 230 calories, 3 grams protein, 10 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 35 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 58 milligrams cholesterol, 228 milligrams sodium

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