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Best Cookbooks--cooking with fresh vegetables, for omnivores?

I'm thrilled! I've joined a CSA and, finally, we're about to get our first delivery of produce for the season. (We only get about 90 frost free days a year, so the local produce "season" starts late and ends early...usually, mid to late September.) I expect to have LOTS of vegetables to use up every week over the next several months.

Do you have any favorite cookbooks you recommend for using up lots of fresh produce, particularly summer produce? I see lots of posts out there about "vegetarian" cookbooks, and I'll investigate some of those, but we aren't vegetarians, so I thought I'd throw a slightly more general question out there. We're looking for ways to use up lots of vegetables, but don't need (or necessarily want) the recipes to be vegetarian.

It can get unsufferably hot here June-August and we hate to heat up the kitchen, so if you know of cookbooks with recipes that are particularly grill friendly (we own every gas grill accessory known to humankind) or don't require long heating times in the oven or on the stovetop, I would especially grateful.

EDIT--one more thought--if we have too many vegetables, we'll probably start freezing them as we have a deep-freeze, so if there are any recipes particularly well-suited to freezing, I guess those would be good to know about, too, assuming there is such a thing.

Thank you!


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  1. I don't even know if this book is still in print, but my absolute favorite produce cookbook is Too Many Tomatoes. My own copy (given to me by my husband who grew up in a gardening family while I did not) is tattered, torn, and taped, and I still use it constantly.

    1. My favorite summer time cooking is Vietnamese. Light, fresh, lots of veg and herbs. I have several Vietnamese cookbooks which I love. My current favorite is the new book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen. South central Indiana get very hot and humid in the summer and we really appreciate the lightness and diversity of the Vietnamese recipes.

      1. Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market in San Francisco has a wonderful cookbook organized by season and vegetable. Definitely recommend a trip to experince this market in person and pick up the cookbook.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dpnpt

          I'm glad to see this, as I bought this for my mom for Christmas and I don't know if she's used it yet. Could you suggest a few of your favorite recipes from the ferry cookbook? I used to adore Saturday mornings at that ferry market. I lived in Oakland and took the ferry over to SF.

        2. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

          This is the go-to book for me with vegetables. She divides the book by vegetable, so you can look up zucchini, for example, and immediately find a detailed description of how to clean and cook, plus at least five or six recipes featuring that ingredient. This is an excellent book, one of my favorites. I flip right to whichever veggie tempts me at the market and then comes the hard part: deciding which of her many inventive recipes to try! Lots of these are sides which could also work as main dishes - so even though you're not vegetarian, this book would be an excellent resource. It's about 750 pages so you'll never run out of ideas with this one!

          3 Replies
          1. re: foxy fairy

            I'm with you; "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" is an excellent book. The recipes in it consistently work.

            1. re: inuksuk

              I second and third this recommendation. I love Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone!

            2. re: foxy fairy

              Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is my go to cookbook, but it is vegetarian. For some recipes that include meat, you might look at one of Deborah Madison's other books, Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets. It's a lovely celebration of markets and local food, and it includes recipes with meat.

            3. Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster of Foster's Market in North Carolina. I received this for Christmas a couple of years ago and it's a wonderful cookbook. As far as grilling, look into Steven Raichlen's grilling cookbooks. My favorite is the Barbeque Bible which has plenty of side dishes in it.

              1. "Vegetable Love" by Barbara Kafka is very good -- has just about every vegetable you're likely to encounter. I've found her books to be well-edited, and full of good recipes. I also really like "Starting With Ingredients" by Aliza Green.

                1. Check out Mollie Katzen's cookbooks. Most of these are veggie (I think a couple include fish). I love the original, but she's done lots of great ones. If you're into soups and salads, the Daily Specials at Moosewood includes all sorts of cool veggie combinations. All of her books are excellent -- Vegetable Heaven (more contemporary), Enchanted Broccoli Forest (more of her classics), and Still Life with Menu (she plans out more than 50 vegetarian menus). I would go to your local bookstore and check out her titles and the others mentioned here and pick the book with the most dishes that inspire you to race home and start cooking.

                  1. Try some greek cookbooks for great grilled veggie ideas. My favorites are The Book of Greek Cooking and The Real Greek at Home.

                    1. Chez Panisse Vegetables is one of my favorites for the CSA box. Also Patricia Wells has a new vegetable cookbook out, but I haven't looked at it yet.

                      1. These are all such great suggestions. I've actually been loading up my cart on Amazon with all of these suggestions, until I realized I was about to go broke. HA! Instead, I went to the library and checked a bunch of them out. I'll play with them for a couple of weeks and see how I like them, and THEN I can buy them.

                        P.S. I love the SF Ferry Plaza cookbook. I own it, and, yes, thanks for reminder that I should actually USE IT rather than simply daydream to it during winter when fresh produce isn't available locally. :)


                        1. One thing that's always perplexed me about vegetarians is their propensity to make vegetables taste horrible.

                          I'll have to check this cookbook out. <3 meat. <3 vegetables.

                          1. The first year I joined a CSA I bought "Vegetables Every Day" by Jack Bishop, and it was the perfect thing: organized by vegetable, many as side dishes (as opposed to vegeterian entrees), many very simple combinations that are delicious. Everything I've made from this book has been excellent, and it's my most used book on the shelf.


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Budino

                              I love this book too. The first book I turn to is Deborah Madison's, as mentioned above, but this is my number 2 choice.

                              One minor quibble -- for all of his roasted beet recipes, he has you roast them whole, then skin and cut them afterwards. I vastly prefer peeling the beets (yes, just with a vegetable peeler) and cutting them into slices or dice beforehand, tossing with a little olive oil, and then roasting. You get lovely carmelization of the sugars, depending on how long you leave them in. In any case, it's faster than roasting them whole. The roasted beet salad served on greens with walnuts and goat cheese is divine.

                              Chez Panisse Vegetables is good too, and Greens, Glorious Greens is a great choice is you're getting lots of leafy greens.

                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                I see your point about the peeling and dicing of the beets, though I do like to roast them myself: less work, easier cleanup...it does take longer, though. One tip: put a piece of star anise into the foil "packet" you make for the beets, and you've got a subtle extra flavor for your salad.

                              2. re: Budino

                                I'm also a fan of the Jack Bishop book. Many simple recipes for everyday cooking. I also picked it up when I joined a weekly organic delivery service.

                              3. I also recommend the Deborah Madison book, as well as using the library to try out cookbooks. While reading this thread, I went on line with my library and put holds on Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen, "Vegetables Every Day" by Jack Bishop, and Greens, Glorious Greens! They should be in to my local branch by Monday! Can't wait. Thanks for all the recs.!

                                From my first foray this season to our Weds. farmer's market, I came home yesterday with bags of beautiful kale, spinach, mixed greens, butterhead lettuce, green onions and new for me, sunflower, radish, and pea (tip) sprouts. I made a quick salad of the greens, spinach, a chopped green onion, and some of each kind of sprout. The sunflower sprouts were surprisingly spicy--and delicious. The sprouts, with their different colors and shapes looked great.
                                Thanks, p.j.

                                1. I joined a CSA two months ago and it has been wonderful, you will love it. You will also end up with a lot of 'by product'... great for composting! (If you have not done it and want to, let me know, I can give you some good advice.)

                                  Everyone is right, Deborah Madison’s book is amazing, even for an omnivore like myself. Two other books I love for vegetables, both also noted above:

                                  CHEZ PANISSE VEGETABLES by Alice Waters and VEGETABLE HARVEST by Patricia Wells. Both are arranged alphabetically, so when you have, say, Cabbage, you can just turn to the section on Cabbage and see what is there. (The Patricia Wells book has a few other sections as well, but has a large section arranged thus and also has a good index.) Both have excellent recipes.

                                  Also, you can find some terrific resources for recipes on the web from various CSA’s. Here are two I use:



                                  1. There is a lovely book by Georganne Brennan, Potager, Fresh Garden Cooking in the french Style. Thisi book is not vegetarian by anymeans. Also another good book on vegetables is by Roni Lundy is Butterbeans to Blackberries, southern in flavors and very good.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Candy

                                      Was at Candy's house yesterday and had a look through "Potager." It's a lovely book and I'm going to have to get a copy if it's still in print. There was a recipe for a creamy ratatouille soup that really caught my eye. It's a very pretty book, as well, nice design.

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        Just checked -- you can find it on Amazon for about 9 bucks.

                                    2. Just thought of another one that has been hiding on one of my shelves: Recipes from America's Small Farms: Fresh Ideas for the Season's Bounty. I have admittedly not cooked from it a lot (but will try to use it this next week). However, I kind of like it in part because it highlights farmers and CSAs.

                                      I still give an enthusiastic to Deborah Madison's Local Flavors in addition to the more popular and comprehensive Veg Cooking for Everyone. I just made the swiss chard gratin two nights ago. If you can stand to have your oven on, I highly recommend the dish for these days of chard bounty.

                                      1. The CSA to which I used to belong bought a bunch of copies of The Victory Garden Cookbook because it was going out of print and they wanted to make sure their members could get a copy if they wanted. It has since been reprinted and shows no signs of ever going out of print again.

                                        This book just cries out for CSA membership and I think you'll be happy to have a copy.

                                        1. Verdura: Vegetables Italian Stye, by Viana La Place, is another great resource for using fresh veggies. It's organized by course, like most cookbooks, but it covers all the veggies you could imagine in creative ways (and it's not a vegetarian cookbook). It appears to be out of print, which is a shame, but there are used copies available via amazon.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                            CSA season is approaching again, so I had a peek at this thread to see if I need to add to my cookbook collection. I have since purchased many of the books recommended in this thread, so, thank you everyone for your suggestions. Caitlin, I finally bought Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style, which is seldom mentioned on this board. What a lovely cookbook--lots of interesting, unique, delicious-sounding recipes. I wish i'd bought it sooner, but I'm glad I have it now. I can't wait to start cooking from it!

                                            Funny thing--I realize I own another cookbook from this same author that I haven't looked at in a long time. I'll have to drag that back out and refresh my memory.

                                            Thank you!


                                          2. I'm jumping in on this thread a little late, but I wanted to mention a few cookbooks that I have used a lot since we subscribed to a CSA about 2 years ago (where, in the bay area, I'm blessed with having to figure out what to do with my box year-round!) Since we're mostly vegetarian, the books are mostly vegetarian, too, but I think there's enough in them for meat-eaters to be pleased with.

                                            Although I like VCFE, the Deborah Madison book I find myself turning to over and over again is Local Flavors, which others have mentioned. It's organized roughly by season and kind of produce, and there always seems to be something that a) I am in the mood for and b) uses up veggies from the box. And in the several years I've been cooking from it, there's been precisely one recipe that was less than stellar (and I blame myself for a poor cheese choice). As was mentioned, it isn't strictly veg, although a very small proportion of the recipes are meat-based. I also like DM's latest, Vegetarian Suppers, which also has a lot of veg-heavy choices. Between these two books, I usually cook somethink of hers around once a week.

                                            My favorite Jack Bishop book is A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen (I like Vegetables Every Day, but it's too heavy on the sides for my taste). It's organized by season as well, and the recipes tend to be more simple than DM's.

                                            Another that I use somewhat less often these days, but might still be worth a look, is Fresh from a Farmer's Market by Janet Fletcher. (Not vegetarian.) It's a smaller book, so probably doesn't cover all of the bases, but there are some nice ideas in there, including desserts, if you get fruit in your box.

                                            Another book that might fit the bill is Faith Willinger's Red, White and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables--the chapters are organized by vegetable (and it also uses meat in some recipes, I think). I don't use it very much, but every time I flip through it, I find interesting ideas that I keep meaning to try. And, for another tomato-specific rec, I love Joanne Weir's You Say Tomato.

                                            I also second the rec. for Verdura (which actually is vegetarian except for a few recipes that call for chicken or beef broth), and all of Viana LaPlace's books, including her latest (I haven't cooked from it yet but the recipes look promising), which might be too bay-area specific to be useful to you, though.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Emily Hope

                                              Great recs Emily. I too love Local Flavors. As for Veg Suppers, we cook out of this more in fall/winter than spring summer. I don't know why. But, many of the recipes bring me warm comfort in the cold winter. I love both of the Jack Bishop books you mention. The only LaPlace book I have is Unplugged Kitchen. I don't know that I've every cooked from it, but I do love sitting down and reading bits of it. It reminds me of how truly lovely simple dishes can be.

                                            2. You might also want to take a look at Peter Berley's new book, "The Flexitarian Table.) It offers intriquing-sounding recipes, all with a vegetarian/carnivore option.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                Oooh! I didn't know Berley had a new book out. He's one of my favorites for veg cooking, with Deborah Madison and Jack Bishop. Something about the flexitarian term makes me cringe, but I'll still likely have the book in hand by the end of the week. Thanks for the heads up!

                                              2. I'm probably hopelessly out-of-date (as usual), but I've never made anything from either volume of "The Vegetarian Epicure" that wasn't outstanding. The woman knows how to make vegetarian dishes anyone would love. I also depend on Marion Cunningham's little "Supper Book" for some unusual, incredibly simple and astonishingly tasty vegetable tricks.

                                                The late great Edna Lewis' books are wonderful, too. Can't recall the name of any except "In Pursuit of Flavor".

                                                [Just checked my bookshelf and her other book is "The Taste of Country Cooking". ]

                                                1. I just started reading Elizabeth David's Summer Cooking and am delighted by it so far. I think it's a lovely book to read when thinking about summer meals, whether or not you make any of the recipes, as I enjoy her writing and she does focus on seasonal ingredients. It's also clearly for omnivores. However, I wouldn't buy it sight unseen. You'll want to determine your own "Ooh -- I'd actually make that" versus "Um...unlikely" ratio.