In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - Martha Stewart's Vegetables: Inspired Recipes and Tips for Choosing, Cooking, and Enjoying the Freshest Seasonal Flavors

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Jan 17, 2017 3:20 PM
Martha Stewart's Vegetables

Martha Stewart's Vegetables: Inspired Recipes and Tips for Choosing, Cooking, and Enjoying the Freshest Seasonal Flavors, by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living. Copyright © 2016 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Ngoc Ming Ngo. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Our Summary: 

The Foreward of Vegetables is quintessential Martha Stewart: in her endearing-but-dismissive way, she references the transgressions of the supposedly provocative book that inspired her own, along with her preferred title.  Then, with unapologetic abandon she begins describing her own ideas of how the subject matter should be presented and even suggests that we will all be delighted - if not smart enough to know there is a difference - that fruits have been included in her vegetable book.  But for whatever reason you are drawn to Martha Stewart, you will thank her every time you open Vegetables.  In 328 pages she captures the essence of the vegetables that we have available to us and, perhaps, even more important, actually eat.  They are the star of the recipes, but there are plenty of main course proteins wrapped in that makes this much more than a manual for a seasonal side dish, or a vegetarian meal.

What you need to know:

Get it:  Martha Stewart's Vegetables: Inspired Recipes and Tips for Choosing, Cooking, and Enjoying the Freshest Seasonal Flavors, by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living.  Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, September 6, 2016.  $29.50 Hardcover. (Amazon $18.61; Kindle $15.99

See it:  328 pages divided into categorical chapters including Bulbs, Tubers, Stalks and Stems, Flowers & Buds, and Kernels.  Each recipe is photographed in a clean, relatively unadorned and un-styled manner, that gives you a clear visual of the finished dish.

Make it:  156 recipes from 11 chapters including one on fruits, plus each chapter features an introductory how-to section, including how to cook those types of vegetables (e.g., roots, tubers, stalks and stems, etc.) in a variety of ways.

There was a time when Alice Waters, Deborah Madison, Crescent Dragonwagon, and so on, were the authority on vegetables, at least as far as cookbooks go.  Today, Martha Stewart has condensed those outdated tomes on the subject and created a modern kitchen approach to vegetables.  In Martha Stewart's Vegetables, you need never venture past the introductory pages of each chapter.  These pages are filled with (perhaps) the only information you need to purchase, store, prep and then cook all the vegetables - including a handful of fruits - you will likely tackle in your everyday kitchen.  The pièce de résistance to each chapter, however, is her list of "Flavor Pairings" that allows you to confidently think and cook outside of her recipes.  Unfortunately, that alone - though all you really need - doesn't make for a very interesting or visually appealing cookbook!  So, in the classic Martha Stewart way, she adds recipes - most heavy on ingredients and light on instruction - that span cultural flavor profiles and appeal with simplicity.

Most surprising, this book lacks the brand's obsessive pursuit of perfection, with a slack index that makes finding the recipes you want or need in a snap rather difficult.  Indeed, the first few pages of Vegetables contains two tables of contents: one simply named "Contents" that lays out the heading of each chapter and a start page, listing the specific vegetables covered in that chapter; then, "Recipes by Chapter," again with the starting page of each chapter, but no page numbers with each recipe. 

But what makes this book compelling, beyond the prosaic still-life-looking photography, is the everyday ease of the recipes.  Heavy on ingredients, but short on instruction, you can cook your way through most of these recipes in a reasonable amount of time, which is the time it takes to prepare a meal. 

Still, don't be fooled by the title.  There are a plenty of meat recipes tied to the vegetable based recipes, and in some cases they lead, as with Lacquered Short Ribs with Celery Root Puree, Lamb Stew with Jerusalem Artichokes, Roasted Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Apples, Broiled Stripe Bass with Cauliflower and Capers, and Fried Chicken with Puntarelle Salad.

And fruits are worth mentioning!  Not just because the doyenne of domestication herself seems to think we don't know the difference, but because we have treated some fruits as if they are, indeed, vegetables (and if you've seen enough Martha Stewart TV or videos, you can hear her shaming tone in your head as you read why she's included your favorites like zucchini and tomatoes.)

In the end, you won't regret having this new edition, Vegetables, on your shelf.  You may only wonder why it took so long for this modern approach to arrive in our bookstores and what to do with all the other books Martha Stewart's Vegetables renders obsolete!

 

The Recipes (Reprinted from Martha Stewart's Vegetables. Copyright 2016 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Photographs copyright 2016 by Ngoc Ming Ngo. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.):

Green Been Fattoush

Roasted Carrots and Quinoa

Butternut Squash Taleggio Pizza

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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