Barbara Kafka, inveterate food professional and cookbook writer, she of Roasting: A Simple Art, Soup: A Way of Life, and Microwave Gourmet among others, now brings us the last word on vegetables with the awe-inspiring and massive Vegetable Love: A Book for Cooks. This book has 200 pages dedicated simply to background information on vegetables--buying and storing, cutting, basic cooking techniques, yields and equivalences, etcetera. And then there are the recipes, all 750 of them!
She's a canny lass, Barbara Kafka, with as much respect for the culture of vegetables as for their preparation and cooking, and has divided Vegetable Love into four basic sections: 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. For those inclined to think that vegetables come from supermarkets, Kafka takes you back to the roots, the origins, then revels in the ways in which these foods have found their way around the globe and into everyone's kitchen. Rhubarb, the pie plant of New England spring gardens, finds its beginnings in China and is as much at home in sweet pies as savory lamb stews.
You'll find recipes from all over the world in the New World section because that's the home of potatoes, green beans and their kin (Szechuan green beans anyone?), peppers, summer squash, certainly corn, but tomatoes and peanuts, too. Asparagus, beets, chard, carrots--those vegetable garden stalwarts--are found in the Euro/Arab section. Recipes are short, direct, to the point. Kafka minces no words.
But that's where the final sections come into play. One is Basic Recipes and Techniques, taking into account all manner of dressings, sauces, marinades, stocks, doughs, pastries, pastas, egg dishes, etcetera. And the other, that 200 page compendium, The Cook's Guide, fills in around the spare edges of the recipes. Vegetable Love is easily three books in one.
Barbara Kafka knows that when it comes to cooking for friends or family or oneself in this busy modern world, a recipe that is simple, brief, and to the point is like gold. With Vegetable Love Barbara Kafka delivers true wealth. --Schuyler Ingle