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Deborah Madison's "Vegetable Literacy"

Anyone have this new book? My copy just arrived, and OMG, I want to dive right in and start cooking! A Parsnip-Cardamom Custard sweetened with maple syrup caught my eye to begin with.

The vegetables are grouped by their botanical families -- quite an interesting approach.

Lots of buying and storing info, suggestions for use, which parts of the plant are edible, in addition to the obvious.

Pricey, but destined to become a classic.

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  1. I'm waiting for it to arrive today. I'm hoping for a vegetable epiphany.

    1. That and the forthcoming book from Barbara Damrosch & Eliot Coleman are very high on my can't-wait-to-see-in-person list.

      Having just reacquired The Victory Garden Cookbook last year, and used it almost more than any other book, I'm bound to measure anything of the kind against it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ellabee

        I couldn't wait, as it turns out, and ordered it a couple of weeks ago. But, strangely, I can't quite get interested. Part of the problem is the physical size of the book, bigger than is handy to use in the kitchen (along with pointlessly difficult-to-spot page numbers in center of the page), beautiful photos of some plants but not others, and the time of year -- I'm outside planting vegetables and herbs, not doing as much curling up with a book.

        Maybe when the planting window closes, and it's too hot to be outdoors all day...

      2. I got this Saturday for my birthday. Gorgeous book and as much a reading book as a cookbook. There are lots of recipe ideas in the text ("this vegetable is great roasted with this other vegetable and this herb in that oil" kind of thing) -- I almost feel I should have a notebook to write these down while I read as they suit my cooking style more than formal recipes.

        She calls for coconut butter a lot -- does anyone know if that is the same as coconut oil (which seems to solidify into a butter-like solid at room temperature)?

        4 Replies
        1. re: GretchenS

          Ooh, lucky you. I looked through it at a bookstore and I'm first in line for a library copy. AFAIK, coconut butter is indeed the cooler version of coconut oil.

          1. re: GretchenS

            Coconut oil and coconut butter are different products, I'm not really sure what the difference is though. I just made a recipe with coconut butter in the title (it said coconut oil in the instructions, though) and I used coconut oil as that's what I had on hand. In that case, I don't think the substitution made a difference as AFIK both products taste and smell like coconut and are liquid when warm.

            1. re: Westminstress

              I've never had coconut butter, but google tells me it contains coconut flesh, not just coconut oil.

              1. re: emily

                Correct, coconut butter is a puree of the actual flesh.
                Coconut oil does not contain any of the flesh.
                The two behave very differently in recipes and are not interchangable

          2. Wow, this is a timely thread for me! I am really lusting after this book after taking a look at it in the bookstore the other day. Given that I've had mixed results with Deborah Madison recipes in the past, though, I want to preview some recipes before buying the book. Unfortunately I am number 45 on the library's waiting list!

            Last night I made Carrots with Coconut Butter and Lime. Not online, but this recipe called to me in the store and was so short that I was able to reproduce it at home. A very simple recipe. Carrots are cut into half inch coins and boiled in salted water until barely tender. Drain, return to the hot pot to dry a bit, then toss with 2 tbsp coconut oil and the juice of half a lime.

            Verdict: Mixed. I loved the coconut and lime flavor combination with carrots. However, in the end they were still boiled carrots, not my fave. I think these seasonings would be fantastic with roasted carrots and I will do it that way next time.

            Next up (I think) is the onion tart recipe featured in the NYT, and I might do the asparagus as well. Also saw a marjoram sauce with capers and olives on 101 cookbooks that sounds appealing, if I ever run into any good-looking marjoram.

            I would like to hear more about others' experiences with this book!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Westminstress

              Westminstress, thanks so much for the review of the carrot recipe, I had marked it but share your reservations about boiled carrots. I think I will do as you say and do it with roasted carrots.

              1. re: GretchenS

                Please report back and let us know how you like it!

                1. re: GretchenS

                  I am always surprised to see boiled carrots and other common vegetables on cooking shows and in recipes. Steaming is faster, uses less energy, tastes better, and nutrients aren't going down the drain with the boiled water.
                  Steaming wasn't a typical technique (in American cookery) 50 and more years ago, but now that its benefits are well-known, boiling seems on a par with using a rotary egg-beater to make meringue, instead of the Kitchen Aid that's sitting on your counter.

              2. Bitter Greens with Walnut Oil and Mustard Viniagrette

                I came home from the farmer's market with a HUGE bunch of young dandelion greens and an EYB search led me to this recipe. The recipe calls for 8 cups of mixed bitter greens but I used only dandelion. The greens are cut into bite sized pieces, then tossed with toasted walnuts and a dressing consisting of: garlic, mustard, red wine vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, and a tbsp of creme fraiche. DM states in the headnotes that the dressing is fairly pungent, and it is. I liked it though. My husband thought it was a bit TOO pungent (or perhaps I overdressed the salad). I thought the dressing did an excellent job of offsetting the bitterness in the greens. I love these wild, bitter salads - they taste like spring to me. This was my first time using walnut oil. I liked it, but with all the strong flavors in the dressing, the flavor wasn't all that discernible. I think the dressing would be just as good using only olive oil and creme fraiche.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Westminstress

                  Good to know Westminstress as I cannot stand walnut oil and tend to just skip recipes featuring it.

                  1. re: GretchenS

                    Up until now, I've always just subbed olive oil and never once have I regretted it!