Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day

Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day is a masterpiece because the books seems so simple, but comes jammed with so much more thought than most cookbooks.

Bishop wrote a book for people who want to eat vegetables. Any people, any vegetables. Grab any item from the produce department, and you can make several of Bishop's dishes from any stocked pantry. Even better, carry Vegetables Every Day to the store so that you can pick the best-looking vegetable and grab the few other ingredients to make the dish that catches your fancy.

Bishop didn't write a book based on some foreign cuisine. He has no celebrity to sell, no gimmick, no photographs. The book has thin chapters for almost 70 vegetables. Each chapter has a half-dozen ways to cook that vegetable, designed as side dishes or appetizers but most could be dinner if you grab some bread while you are at the store.

These are simple techniques. Most recipes call for 6 or 7 ingredients, often pantry staples like olive oil, garlic, honey or cheese. Bishop

loves to saute and to roast. Most recipes have three steps, and they're appropriate for a weekday night.

That's not to say that Bishop is simple. He takes ingredients from my pantry and uses them in ways that I never imagined. Cabbage cooked in my Le Creuset with butter, apples and onions and then flavored with cinnamon, apple cider and cider vinegar. Beets shredded with potatoes, then crisped into a browned vegetable cake. This spring, I harvested my first-ever crop of peas, and I pulled out Vegetables Every Day for advice -- butter, mint and salt that created my favorite meal from an entire year's garden.

Although these recipes broke me out of my ruts with vegetables that I already knew, Bishop is even more valuable when I'm staring at something unknown. Organic markets offer up baby artichokes, acorn squash, and kohlrabi. Korean groceries range from the Asian bok choy through the Latin chayote, boniato, taro and yuca. Bishop has recipes for them all, and they're modern American food -- artfully bringing variation to our meals through familiar flavors like butter, basil, vinegar, or orange juice. There are a few mentions of coconut milk or chipotle peppers, but Vegetables Every Day was priceless for teaching me the pretty obvious fact that boniatos -- which look like sweet potatoes -- can be (surprise!) baked, mashed or broiled. It's not like boniatos have instructions stenciled on the side. With a flip through the book, I can pick up almost anything and turn it into a meal.

Vegetables Every Day works for anyone who likes to cook. This is the book that I pull off the shelf all the time when I have something in the crisper and 30 minutes to dinner. It's ideal if you're trying to eat more vegetables -- Bishop adds flavor where plain steamed greenery would be a bore. And the book would be your bible if you order a CSA share. It's the perfect place to turn if some farmer drops you off a box of whatever just ripened this week.
Slow-Cooked Cabbage With Apples And Cinnamon
(From Vegetables Every Day)

1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
2 tbl unsalted butter
2 medium apples (McIntosh), peeled, cored and chooped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp juniper berries)
3/4 c. apple cider
1 tbl cider vinegar

1) Remove any tough or dry outer leaves from the cabbage. Quarter the cabbage through the stem end. Cut out and discard the hard core at the base of each quarter. Slice cabbage crosswise into thin strips. (You should have about 10 cups.)

2) Melt the butter in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Add the apples and onion and saute over medium hear until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick (or juniper berries) and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3) Add the cabbage, stirring the coat with the fat in the pan. Add the cider, reduce the hear, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender, about 35 minutes.

4) Stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, just until any excess liquid in the pot evaporates, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick or juniper berries. Serve immediately. (Bishop says you won't get all the berries, so you'll need to warn people to remove them as they eat.)
For more about vegetables, check out my post about vegetable shopping in Howard County or my posts about the organic markets or the Asian grocery stores. If you like this review, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's Japanese cookbooks.

You can borrow some of Jack Bishop's cookbooks from the Howard County library, but not Vegetables Every Day. You can buy the book on Amazon through this link (which means Amazon would pay me a referral fee):


K8teebug said...

He was just at Politics and Prose this week! I love him.

Wendy T said...

Now that sounds like a book I could sink my teeth into. If I didn't need my protein, I'd just be a vegetabletarian. Gonna check this one out next time I'm in Borders. Thanks for the tip!