Even though the weather has been quite unusual, the local farmers markets have plenty to offer. Starting with spring onions and sweet peas, you can easily fill your shopping basket. To go with vegetable season, here are three new books chock-full of new ways to use them.
“Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening With Twelve Families From the Edible Plant Kingdom.” Vegetarian guru Deborah Madison, whose first restaurant was San Francisco’s “Greens,” is the author of 11 cookbooks. Among them are “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” “Vegetarian Suppers,” “Vegetable Soups” and “The Greens Cookbook.”
In “Vegetable Literacy,” she shares the results of decades of study.
There are 12 chapters, each dedicated to a specific botanical plant family: carrot, mint, sunflower, knotweed, cabbage, nightshade, goosefoot and amaranth, lily, cucurbit, grass, legume and morning glory.
Madison explores the relationships between the vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, and familiar wild plants of the same botanical family, illustrating how the members of each family relate and how they can be substituted for one another; beet greens for spinach is an easy example.
She advocates whole plant usage, advising when and how the unexpected can be eaten, such as sweet potato leaves and vines, broccoli and cauliflower leaves, spinach crowns and carrot tops. Along with recipes, in each chapter she gives a list of recommended varieties to look for when planting.
“Vegetable Literacy” is a handbook that should be in the library of all cooks and gardeners interested in expanding their vegetable knowledge. There is much to be learned. Hardcover. Ten Speed Press. $40.
“River Cottage Veg.” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new book doesn’t have the detailed text component of “The River Cottage Cookbook” or “River Cottage Meat.” He wrote it out of a growing concern over the state of meat production and depletion of the Earth’s fisheries.
His solution is to remove them from the center of the plate, and more and more completely off the plate. He offers the book, with its 200 recipes, as an aid for “cooking vegetables as the main meal.” He makes fried rice as a summer stir-fry, loaded with zucchini, green onions, spinach, snow peas, shelled peas and mint.
He tops bruschetta with kale, or zucchini, or fava beans and asparagus. He crafts risottos with carrots and favas, leeks and thyme, tomato and mozzarella. It is, as expected, a lovely book. Hardcover. Ten Speed Press. $35.
“Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes.” This book from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living addresses the vegetables in categories: Small Plates to Mix and Match; Stovetop Suppers; Soups, Stews and Chili; Casseroles and Other Baked Dishes, and salads, sandwiches, pastas and sides.
The recipes are simple and creative, as you’ll see with Zucchini Ribbon “Lasagna”; Apple, Leek and Squash Gratin; and Vegetable-Barley Potpies with phyllo tops.
How far we’ve come from the dishes in “Diet for a Small Planet.” Semi-hard cover. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. $25.
Reach Marion Sullivan at email@example.com.