Farewell, chunky soups. Adios, crockpot chili. Arrivederci, baked pasta. It’s 70 degrees in New England and I’ve got a hankering for something spring-y. As much as I love those hearty, cozy and comforting, cold-weather meals and the way they make the house smell like every happy memory from childhood, it’s time for something light, bright, clean and green. Warmer temperatures make me want to indulge in those shimmering jewels newly emerging from the farm.
Fortunately, we have the scoop on the newest books of the season—including a sneak preview of a couple of gems out in May. So get ready to savor these delectable cookbooks that will snap you out of the winter doldrums.
The Plantiful Table: Easy, From-the-Farm Recipes for the Whole Family by Andrea Duclos (The Experiment; December 2015)
There was a little empanada stand on the side of the mountain that was the El Yunque National Forest in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, that served the most mouth-watering beef empanadas that I still crave. The stand is long gone and I haven’t eaten a mammal since then, so I was delighted when I saw Andrea Duclos’s recipe for vegan Empanadas. They’re more Cuban than Puerto Rican, but the tasty vegetable filling spiked with herbs, spices and a shot of sherry vinegar has my mouth watering. Duclos, who pens the ohdeardrea blog, is also a mother and her cookbook is geared toward fast, easy and tasty recipes the entire family will love. From Coconut & Mango Noodle Salad to the vegan take on Vietnamese Bahn Mi Chay sandwiches to her Pad Thai with pickled daikon in a gochujang and tamarind-spiked sauce, I’m ready to add these dishes to my weeknight dinner rotation. A tasty walk on the vegan side.
Field & Feast: Sublime Food from a Brave New Farm by Dean Carlson with Ian Knauer and Andrew Wood (Burgess Lee Press; March 1, 2016)
A lot of people had their eyes opened when they read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, but that book completely changed Dean Carlson’s life. He gave up his life on Wall Street and bought a bank-owned farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania. His goal was to create a sustainable farming alternative to the industrial food supply, a place where animals were raised in the best possible circumstance and every scrap was respectfully used to feed the community. Recipes from Wyebrook Farm are bursting with life from the sourdough bread that boasts a long-lived yeast sponge called Jorge, to the heritage, pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and goats that live dreamy pastoral lives foraging for their dinner. From this bounty come such seasonal treasures as Spring Radishes with Bacon Butter and Sear-Crusted Leg of Lamb or Gingered Rhubarb Crostata with a delectably flaky crust made from beef suet and butter. Included in the book are menus for seasonal feasting and recipes that make up the backbone of the farm-to-table kitchen. An inspiring journey into a tastier way of eating that is better for us, and for our planet.
Peace & Parsnips: Adventurous Vegan Cooking for Everyone by Lee Watson (The Experiment; May 31, 2016)
When this cookbook came into our offices my colleague and fellow cookbook reviewer, Amanda, and I couldn’t keep our hands off it—and Amanda is a card-carrying meat lover. Lee Watson brings the love with a clear-eyed explanation of healthy vegan eating, including an in-depth discussion of the vegan pantry. His recipes are sophisticated without being overwhelming and had us drooling over some of his clever combinations such as Tamarind & Coconut Milk Mashed Sweet Potatoes that bring the tang and the creamy richness for a mouth full of flavor. Squash Gnocchi with Fennel, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Spinach Pistou sounds formidable but by making the pistou (a sort of Provencal pesto) and roasting the squash ahead, this is a dish that comes together easily and will dazzle guests. Watson, a trained chef, invigorates neo-hippie mindfulness with luscious and inspiring creations. A must-have for plant lovers.
Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest by Lenny Russo (Burgess Lee Press; May 3, 2016)
Before the farm-to-table movement gained national popularity there was Lenny Russo who was elevating local sourcing and sustainable foodways to an art form. Back in the 1980s he realized that the Midwest abounded in rich bounty that most chefs failed to recognize. Combining Native American cultural traditions with farmhouse cooking of European immigrants, Russo created his heralded Midwestern cuisine. His Tricolor Ukrainian Borsch, which includes an ingenuous and zingy Green Borscht using sorrel and spinach, would have made my grandma envious. He handles freshwater fish with delicious delicacy in his Pan Fried Rainbow Trout with Shell Pea-Mint Sauce. And his meaty bounty includes Grilled Bison Tenderloin and a Venison Porterhouse Chop. Most dazzling is his Americanization of the humble Madeleine by remaking them with wild rice flour. A brilliant presentation of our heartland bounty by a master chef.