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Which books do you use when you have a pile of stuff from the farmer's market and don't know what to do with it?

I do this all the time - hey! cool! cardoons! Wow! Purslane! Black salsify! I buy a bunch of stuff, and then try to figure out what I'm going to do with them.

I find I regularly turn to 4 cookbooks in this situation (plus my recipe files, Every once in a while, NYT and LA Times have great features focusing on one obscure vegetable, so I save the recipes, and wait for the veggies to show up)

"Chez Panisse Vegetables"
Faith Willinger, "Red, White, and Greens"
Alfred Portale, "12 Seasons"
Suzanne Goin, "Sunday Suppers at Lucques"

Any other recommendations? I see that "Vegetable Harvest" is this month's cookbook - would people consider it a worthwhile addition?

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  1. I've only started this summer to really base a lot of my cooking on going to the farmer's market and it's been a fun adventure, though I often have to stop at the store as well to supplement. I've enjoyed most of the things I've cooked so far from VH - meant to make the Avocado "ravioli" with crabmeat last night - perfect avocado, and when I opened the crabmeat it was bad - such a bummer! But I'd say that and Lucques are what I've been using, along with "Think Like a Chef" by Colicchio. I posted a bunch of links on one of the VH threads - I think you can get to it from the post at the top of the board - so you might find some inspiration there without buying the book. Thinking about making the beet tartare tonight - I'm making her sardine en papillotte recipe for dinner. It's a rainy day here so I may also make her roasted tomato sauce to freeze - the tomatoes at the market today are clearing on the wane in terms of flavor. I also bought some pears to make a pear/prune/saffron compote of sorts to serve with cheese.

    3 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        In addition to my cookbooks, I go to epicurious.com and type in the ingredient at hand. Have often gotten interesting recipes and ideas that way (most recently for grilled artichokes), and find the attached reviews to be really helpful.

        1. re: janeh

          I also go to epicurious and type in a few of the veggies and search through the recipes that pop and see which one inspires me. I love the reviews too. often times you can find out what's off in a recipe before you make it just by reading the reviews... then you can make the needed changes.

    1. I actually will do Google searches to find out how best to use farmer's market bounty. Often you can find obscure blogs from people of all types of nationality, ethnicity, whatever, who use these ingredients regularly. These can point you in directions that you've never considered and provide a unique alternative to the rustic-y/Mediterranean-inspired cooking that so dominates the epicurean scene.
      Also, when you're buying the stuff, always remember to ask the vendors how to best prepare it; they often have some really great ideas.

      1. Zuni Cafe Cookbook
        Anything by Richard Olney
        Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz
        Any of the more rustic cookbooks by Ducasse or Bocuse.

        There's some great resources on line as well, such as Chef2Chef. Name your ingredients and there'll be at least a dozen chefs and cooks giving you ideas and recipies.

        1. The Joy of Cooking is one of my favorites- outdated by many people's standards, but they have references to so many different ingredients and types of food that it's a great springboard for my imagination. That's what I usually use cookbooks for, anyway- more inspiration than following recipes word for word (unless I'm baking something).

          1 Reply
          1. re: EWSflash

            I agree, and moreover, I don't think the new edition is outdated.Old fashioned,perhaps,but that isn't the same IMO. I just looked up cardoons, purslane and black salsify in my new edition of Joy of Cooking and found both explanations AND recipes for all three. In many instances the explanations can be as helpful as the recipe, as they give you a sense of the type of ways you might cook or use the ingredient if you feel like improvising.

          2. I use Foodnetwork website because I can type in one ingredient at a time and keep narrowing until I find something that strikes my fancy. I've come accross some very surprising recipes when I had some random ingredient and no idea what to do.

            1. This is when I turn to the farmers' market guru, Deborah Madison: either Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone or Local Flavours.

              1 Reply
              1. re: piccola

                vegetarian cooking for everyone is my vegetable bible.

              2. Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider

                1. "Fresh from the Garden" by Perla Meyers. The recipes are arranged by season and vegetable.

                    1. re: pacz

                      Seconding this one; this is the book I clicked on this thread to recommend. He gives you the details on about 300 different vegetables including how to select them, how to prep them and basic cooking methods/techniques for them. A great resource.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        ccbweb, I had exactly the same thought! I love this book--it has good recipes and is a fun read.

                        I also like "Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: a Guide" by Elizabeth Schneider. It's a bit older so some of the "unusual" things are not so much anymore, but still very valuable.

                    2. I also love Red White and Greens and Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

                      Patricia Wells' new book, "Vegetable Harvest,"" is a goodie written in the vein of veggie driven menus. Im enjoying it as well.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: ChefJune

                        We had a Vegetable Harvest blow up (exaggeration, though there was pouting involved on both sides) last night - my husband asked me not to cook from it any more! He says he hates the book (i.e., what I've cooked from it) other than the salmon with the olive/caper sauce, and the saffron/pear/prune compote I made yesterday and served with some blue cheese and hazelnuts, which at least meant that we ended a sad meal on a high note.

                        I made the beet salad (2 colors), which was ok, but I thought too lemony, and really just boring. The kicker was the broccoli puree with mint - had a very unpleasant texture, despite being pureed for a long time, and other than tasting like mint, was also boring. I added some olive oil, and then at the table he ate each bit of it with at least a teaspoon of butter. He said he'd rather just have some steamed broccoli spears with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Made the sardines en papillotte, which was edible, but again boring, and preparing the sardines as instructed was very time consuming. His comments, some of which were quite funny but I've forgotten them, included that her food tasted tasted like prison food (unlikely, but still) and this morning he said that he burned the book while feeding the dog (not true). Wish I could remember the other gems.

                        I think the issues is that the vegetable recipes are designed to highlight the vegetables, in a very "pure" fashion but one that tries to be innovative. The dishes are pretty, but the end, it's the taste (and my marital harmony) that matters.

                        So, I'm going back to Sunday Suppers at Lucques!

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Oh dear! I was going to make that broccoli puree with mint today--we're getting a lot of broccoli in the CSA box right now--nevermind, eh? Thanks for your report, disappointing though it is.

                          daveena, you might find this thread about cooking with vegetables from the CSA bounty helpful, too: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/406114


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I would skip it or you could do me a favor and see if it results in the same marital disharmony as it did in my house!

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              MMRuth - thanks for your candid and hilarious review of Vegetable Harvest. I'm thinking that one goes to the bottom of the list.

                              TDQ - thanks so much for the link - there's surprisingly less overlap between these two lists than I would have expected. I should print out both lists and take them to the nearest library...

                              Thanks to everyone else too... there are a couple of cookbooks mentioned that I have but always overlook as reference books because they're so shiny and pretty (Elements of Taste, Think Like a Chef), a bunch of books that I've been thinking about, but wasn't sure if they'd overlap too much with the stuff I have (the Greene, Madison, and Peterson books), and a lot of books I haven't heard of - including the SF Ferry Building Farmer's Market one! (How did that one go under my radar?)

                              1. re: daveena

                                I was coming here to recommend the SF Ferry Building Farmer's Market one (among a few others) -- it's a fun book, and it has lots of good ideas in it. I've turned to it frequently this summer, and have made a few things that have made it into the permanent rotation.

                                1. re: JasmineG

                                  I too love the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market cookbook.

                                  Another one I found this year while at the bookstore with my list is one called "Serving up the Harvest" by Andrea Chesman. I have warn you, I'm an adventurous eater, but a lazy cook. I also live in an exceedingly harsh climate where the seasons are intense and brief. I like two things about Chesman's book: one, the recipes are simple--perhaps too basic for some of you more advanced cooks, but it's perfect for me. Two the book is organized by season, 1) spring/summer, 2) early/mid-summer, 3) mid/late summer, 4) fall/winter. Within each season, she highlights the "star" vegetables of the season. So, you'll get a section on tomatoes, for instance, that pairs them with other vegetables likely to be in season at that same time. The problem I've had with a lot of other cookbooks is that they'll have you pair vegetables that aren't necessarily in season--or, maybe they are in season together in other milder climates, but not here. I have a fridge full of vegetables--those are the ones I want to use now and while I don't mind going to the grocery store to pick up a thing or two, I don't want to buy more produce.

                                  I bought another book, "Greens Glorious Greens" by Albi & Walthers that was "out of season" by the time I bought it; but I am looking forward to using next year in the first 5-6 weeks of my CSA when I'm getting 6-8 bundles of greens in my box per week.


                            2. re: MMRuth

                              I'm behind on posting from this VH, but I've been disappointed in my results. As you've noted numerous times throughout your postings, the flavors are all mild. I agree with this assessment and would bring it a bit further. While the recipes may have been designed to highlight the vegetables, the prep and "sauces" detract the flavor of the vegetable itself. Nothing really enhances the veggie flavor itself.

                              1. re: beetlebug

                                The other thing is - someone else mentioned that this looks like a "diet" book. Though it doesn't say that anywhere in the book, I agree. For example, even though adding olive oil to the broccoli puree certainly didn't make it a magically wonderful dish, it certainly improved both the taste and texture - and I have no idea why she wouldn't have called for some olive oil into it.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  BTW - my husband just came home and said that that saffron/pear/prune compote does redeem the book so I don't have to throw it out!

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    I think Wells is in a diet mode right now. I saw her on Barefoot C and she seemed quite pleased about losing some 40 pounds. Barefoot seemed less than pleased about losing a good eating buddy.

                                    1. re: ccferg

                                      Lol! My husband thinks she is compromising taste in order to present a dish that might be healthy. I think I read that a couple of years ago she started running etc. after having gained weight over the years. I suggested that my husband, now that he has also conceded that the duck dish I cooked was good, go through the book and flag recipes he might like, so that the book doesn't go to waste. His counter offer was that he go through the book and tear out the recipes he thinks are unappealing.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        I agree with your husband's assessment. Very perceptive of him, especially with him being the eater v. the cook. But, she didn't have to sacrifice flavor for tastiness. There are low fat/non fat ways to do so. The addition of more fresh herbs comes to my mind, as well as a bit more olive oil to the dish.

                                        Tearing out the bad recipes may be a sad thing. I do love the pictures of the book. And, I also really like the texture of the pages in the book. Odd, I know, but it made flipping through the book quite pleasant, even if the recipes didn't quite appeal to me.

                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                          He was truly joking about tearing the bad recipes out - I promise - and even if he weren't, I wouldn't have let him! I did wish that she had some photos of the completed recipes.

                                          We were just watching Chef's Story on PBS with Suzanne Goin, and when she started to make two salads, each with cheese, one with bacon and bacon fat etc., he joked "*That's* my girl!" (as opposed to Patricia Wells)>

                                    2. re: MMRuth

                                      That may be but she is so stingy on everything. Not just olive oil. To make it taste better, she could add more seasonal fresh herbs into her recipe. It's like she woke up and decided to put all these random vegetable together. And, it doesn't even seem to be veggies that come out at the same time.

                                      It's a shame because it's a beautiful book and initially, it really appealed to me.

                                  2. re: MMRuth

                                    Very interesting observation by your husband. I'm a shameless cookbook collector and love Patricia Wells. But I got the book at the library first before purchasing and was underwhelmed.

                                    1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                                      I love her too - cooked out of her food lover's guide to Paris, and copied a lot of recipes out of another book of hers from a friend's copy. And really, some of the things are great - just had a pre-dinner nibble of bleu cheese and that compote - really incredible.

                                2. I've found Greene on Greens to be useful -- though often as a springboard as another poster noted about a different book.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ccferg

                                    G on G is the book I refer to as well. You can get it very cheaply on Amazon since it is considerably ancient now (1984). What I find so useful is his in depth information on the qualities of the vegetable and not just the recipes.

                                    1. re: lucyis

                                      Buy any Bert Greene cookbook you can find! He had such a wealth of knowledge and such a great way of writing about it! His Grains Cookbook is what got me cooking with a lot of alternative grains, and I love his Greens book as well. Kitchen Bouquet has a lot of great recipes too.

                                  2. I've been using, Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table, his other two vegetarian cookbooks, Sunday Suppers, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Deborah Madison's Local Flavors and the big yellow Gourmet book.

                                    1. "The Farm Market Cookbook" by Judith Olney, from Doubleday

                                      1. The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook: Seasonal Foods, Simple Recipes and Stories from the Market and Farm by Amelia Saltsman
                                        The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Cookbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Impeccable Produce Plus Seasonal Recipes by Peggy Knickerbocker and Christopher Hersheimer

                                        both are great reference books for seasonality, both have great photos and tidbits, and both have great recipes.

                                        1. For recipes for unusual vegetables, I usually go to http://www.melissas.com or http://www.friedas.com. Both of these online produce purveyors have lots and lots of interesting recipes and lots of good info on their websites.

                                          I also like Crescent Dragonwagon's book, The Passionate Vegetarian, and her other books (the Dairy Hollow House books) for good vegetable recipes. http://www.passionatevegetarian.com

                                          1. It's so funny that you ask this, I've definitely done this a lot this summer! So far, it's been Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, and The SF Farmer's Market Cookbook. Veg Cooking for Everyone isn't my favorite book, it isn't laid out in the best way, and most of the recipes are under flavored for me (I always have to mentally add salt to just about every recipe, for instance), I like World Vegetarian, but it's better with eastern flavors, and while I love the Farmer's Market cookbook, it's a little small. I might have to invest in Sunday Suppers (which I've wanted for a while)!

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: JasmineG

                                              Thanks for the critical review of Veg Cooking for Everyone... negative reviews are definitely as helpful (maybe even more!) than positive ones, when I'm trying to only buy high-yield books.

                                              I think you'll really like Sunday Suppers. I was drawn to it initially because Goin seems to have a lot of the same fetishes I do (fava beans, cavolo nero, farro). She introduced the simple, yet brilliant flavor base of onion, rosemary, and chile de arbol to my cooking vocabulary... the last chef cookbook that made such a big difference in my home cooking was Mario Batali, for garlic/mint/chili peppers.

                                              Dang! How did I forget the Batali books? Both Babbo and Simple Home Cooking have some great veg dishes.

                                              1. re: daveena

                                                And it's not that I *dislike* Veg Cooking for Everyone, it's just that I find all of the recipes slightly...off. I've had similar conversations with friends of mine who have cooked for it (and one is a vegetarian, so I know it's not just that I'm used to the flavor from meat). There are definitely some treasures in there, and I'm glad that I have the book, but I just wish that I hadn't paid full price for it. And if you do get it, when you make things from it, double the salt for just about everything, and be liberal with other herbs and olive oil.

                                                I think I'm definitely going to have to take the plunge and get Sunday Suppers!

                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                  Yeah, I always alter recipes from Veg Cooking... - but then again, I alter recipes from all cookbooks. So maybe I'm not the best person to review them. :-)

                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                    Interesting --- I received this for Christmas last year, and I've really enjoyed her recipes so far... which are the treasures you've found?

                                                    1. re: foxy fairy

                                                      The Green Herb Tart is really really good (though, again, add a little more salt), although I didn't love her crust for it. Her recipe for foccacia (the one to bake on a tray) was really perfect. And I absolutely love the mushroom pate, and I've made the pepperonata a lot this summer (really really good with the foccacia, and a great use of the multitude peppers that I can't stop myself from buying at the farmer's market every week).

                                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                                        Thanks -- I will try that mushroom pate and the focaccia pronto.

                                                        Any to avoid??

                                                        I made, and really enjoyed so so much, her asparagus baked with parmesan and brown butter. The dish really transformed asparagus, which I always really enjoy, into something exquisite. It was a flash to prepare (and clean up) too!

                                                        However, I tried her black bean cakes and they were a big sticky mess. :( In a very close call regarding my esteem as a cook, I nearly decided to give these a whirl with friends who stopped over unexpectedly, as I had just finished cooking a big pot of beans. Good thing I didn't risk it -- the next day SO and I tried the bean cake recipe, threw the whole thing out, and went out for dinner. We were so so relieved that we didn't try those on the guests. It looked and tasted disgusting -- and I've rarely had that happen with a recipe. I thought I did something wrong, but I'll console myself with the idea that others have had difficulty with some of her recipes too.

                                              2. *My mom's binder of family recipes, which she has divided seasonally, and then within that by meal and course. :)

                                                *any of Mollie Katzen's books -- I really can't rave enough about the original Moosewood, too, which is also great for cooks new to combining flavors. I learned so much from that book -- how to create a soup or sandwich or casserole featuring any kind of vegetable, how to make veggies shine!

                                                *Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone -- I actually enjoy the layout, and I like that she offers a handful of accessible preparations for every vegetable.

                                                *the Home Cooking board, hooray! I try to peruse before I go to the market -- and thus I'm filled with excellent seasonally appropriate ideas (like last week's braised red cabbage with apples and vinegar -- mmm!)

                                                *epicurious and food network - I search on foodnetwork with the ingredient and the name of the chefs I tend to like (Flay, Ina, Nigella, and the irritating RR and Giada b/c I do enjoy their dishes). I do this one chef at a time, and narrow down my search based on the reviews posted for the recipes. I like that review/fork rating system on epicurious, too.

                                                1. Red, White & Greens, Faith Willinger
                                                  My Italian Garden, Viana La Place
                                                  Verdura, Viana La Place
                                                  Solo Verdura, Anne Bianchi
                                                  Contorni, Susan Simon
                                                  San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Cookbook
                                                  Greenmarket Cookbook, Joel Patraker
                                                  Vegetable Love, Barbara Kafka
                                                  Vegetables Every Day, Jack Bishop
                                                  India's Vegetarian Cooking, Monisha Bharadwaj
                                                  The Greek Vegetarian, Diane Kochilas

                                                  1. Oh, and I forgot one:

                                                    Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

                                                    It's a terrific book. I have not bought it yet so I forgot to include it. Here is my cookbook collection:


                                                    1. "Putting Food By" is all about canning. That's what I've been doing with a bounty of fresh, local tomatoes.

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