In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - The Book of Greens, a Cook's Compendium

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Aug 7, 2017 8:00 AM

By Jenn Louis, Copyright © 2017. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Our Summary:

For most, we limit our greens to a handful of grocery or market staples:  arugula, kale, spinach, and maybe cabbage.  But let your eyes fall across mustard greens or watercress, or spy some chard or dandelion greens, and what do you do?  If you're lucky, you know of a recipe.  If you don't, those greens may never get a chance in your kitchen.  Now, celebrated Portland, Oregon chef Jenn Louis can change that with her new cookbook, The Book of Greens.  Organized alphabetically by greens (agretti to wild and foraged greens), this reference book reads like an encyclopedia but works like a cookbook!  Whether you are choosing from fresh-from-the-farm or season-less staples, Chef Louis puts these greens on display in each recipe. 

What you need to know:

Buy it:  The Book of Greens, a Cook's Compendium by Jenn Louis, Copyright © 2017.  Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, April 11, 2017.  Hardcover $35.00 (Amazon $22.48; Kindle $18.99)

See it:  328 pages with full-color photographs of each green and the completed dish of at least one recipe for each green.  A comprehensive table of contents is followed by a recipe list with vegetarian dishes highlighted.  A very friendly index cross-references greens, names of dishes and other ingredients.

Make it:  Over 175 recipes for healthy vegetable-focused food from snacks to soups to mains, and even includes breakfast and dessert recipes.  Each chapter features information on history, seasonality, and nutrition; practical prep and storage tips; and advice to get the most flavor out of each green 

Our Review:

If you think greens and automatically go to the predictable salad you're in for a big surprise with The Book of Greens.  Chef Jenn Louis, in her second cookbook, introduces us to familiar and strange ingredients that she's learned to use from her travels and her successes as a restauranteur.  Louis tells you up front the greens from familiar vegetables like tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi and even sweet potatoes, have clean and refreshing vegetal flavors; they can balance richness and add texture and color to any dish.  And even though they're nutritious our culture isn't very good at adding them into our foods.

Trusting that you can find some of the odd sounding greens to buy like cardoon, chickweed, or spigarello is your biggest obstacle with The Book of Greens.  But if you are lucky enough to know a really good farm or farmer's market, or have a well-stocked ethnic grocer nearby, chances are you'll have access to most of the 40 greens Louis features in her book.  Even if some of the more exotic sounding greens elude your search, you'll make excellent use of the tools and recipes provided in here for the always-available greens such as arugula, broccoli rabe and Brussels sprouts.  Of course, you'll be happy to know that herbs, kale, lettuces, spinach, seaweed, and watercress have dedicated chapters in Louis' book, too.

When you buy the greens, your next hurdle is trying to decide which of the several recipes from that chapter to make.  Do you make the acorn-squash with kimchi butter, poached egg, and Brussels chips, or the Brussels sprouts and parsnips with lardo from the Brussels sprouts you just brought home?  You'll wonder if you should add the salt-roasted Yukon gold potatoes with radicchio and crème fraiche or the lettuce and carrot cake to your next holiday meal.  And, you'll be delighted to see beef, pork, rabbit and chicken recipes included that make excellent use of your vegetables and their greens.

There's a lot of information and options in The Book of Greens.  Louis has found the right mix of what you actually want to know and what you need to know to make your investment in both the book, the recipes, and these greens worthwhile.  You'll not easily bore either.  There are recipes from cultures that span our globe, and there are options for trying other greens in each recipe.  No chrysanthemum leaves available for the beef tenderloin, maitake mushroom, and chrysanthemum green miso soup? No worries.  Louis suggests trying nettles or spinach.  Suggestions are not offered for just a few recipes, rather for all of them. 

The Book of Greens helps you identify and get creative with a host of ingredients you're likely familiar with.  Perhaps you just never bought them because you didn't know what to do with them.  That you'll know what to do with them now lands this reference/recipe/idea book on your kitchen counter.  A modern book filled with current ideas and home-kitchen cooking techniques, The Book of Greens allows any home cook from beginner to seasoned veteran to find their way to flavor in the simplest and most exotic of greens.

Published in In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

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