This month we feature a book that places vegetables on a royal pedestal worthy of attention.
The Veggie Queen:
Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment:
By Jill Nussinow, MS, RD
Vegetarian Connection Press, 2005
To registered dietitian Jill Nussinow nearly everything takes a back seat to vegetables. Her adoration of them began at the early age of 4 when she often sat next to her grandfather and preferred to nibble his potato and veggies than eat the meat on her plate.
Today, Jill shares her love of vegetables with culinary students she teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College as well as at The New McDougall Health Center in Santa Rosa, California. While Jill presents a volume of all vegan recipes, she attracts the mainstream cook by placing the vegetables at center stage.
An avid supporter of farmers' markets, the author devotes her Sunday mornings to talking with farmers and communing with organic veggies. Strolling among the vegetables she finds a spiritual connection and uses the opportunity to express appreciation to the people who grow the food. While some people find excitement watching horror movies, Jill finds her thrills in the discovery of unique vegetable varieties like purple cauliflower or prickly West Indies gherkins.
In the brief section on Kitchen Equipment she expounds on the merits of the OXO Look-into Measuring Cup that allows the cook to simply look down into the cup to read the measurement rather than bending over to see the numbers. Another of her favorites is a heat-resistant spatula for use on non-stick cookware.
Recipes are presented in six chapters. The first begins with Spring, the season of rebirth. Jill writes, "Shoots of asparagus appear. Artichokes form their flowers, which we eat. Garlic sends its greens out to scout for sun. Onions get plucked from the earth before they form a papery skin. And if we are lucky, we get to eat them all."
Enticing recipes like Mediterranean French Green Lentils along with the Greek Stuffed Artichokes are examples of the author's vegetable enlightenment. Taking full advantage of the entire plant kingdom, she employs a wide variety of herbs to flavor her vegetable dishes.
In the introduction to the Summer section, Jill says, "The vegetables speak for themselves and do not need much help from me." She considers Summer a time to focus on plenty of raw vegetables and those that are lightly cooked. It's the season to focus food preparation with more assembling of vegetables into salads and enhancing them with a sprinkle of herbs rather than lengthy cooking.
The diverse flavors and textures in the Floribbean Summer Fruit Salsa begin with a base of baby greens topped with a combo of peaches, nectarines, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, and red pepper. Seasonings feature fresh ginger, citrus juices, and cilantro. And for a touch of spice, a finely chopped jalapeno. Her version of a favored old-world Italian Bread Salad is enhanced with cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and parsley and finished with a generous sprinkle of soy Parmesan.
The Fall season finds Jill happily immersing herself in the harvest season's abundance. As she leaves the summer bounty behind, she looks forward to savoring gnarly celery root and squashes like delicata, butternut, and acorn. Creations like Squash Custard, Spiced Sweet Potato Pie, and Herb Roasted Root Vegetables elegantly introduce some of her favorite autumn vegetables.
Green, orange and purple cauliflower are gems of the Winter farm along with root vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, and turnips. The Jerusalem Artichoke Salad with its Cranberry Vinaigrette demonstrates Jill's flair for incorporating variety into her cooking.
Salads, soups, entrees, and side dishes are all represented in each season throughout the book. For those foods available throughout the year, the Anytime At All section corrals recipes like Rice Paper Rolls with Spicy Citrus Sauce and three burger dishes including Mushroom Oat Burgers, Herbed Lentil Burgers, and Mushroom Veggie Burgers.
An aficionado of the pressure cooker, Jill presents a chapter on using this item she considers an essential piece of kitchen equipment in her home. In a detailed sidebar she explains how the pressure cooker works and how to choose the perfect one. Another sidebar offers tips on making stock. On that same page is an exceptional recipe for Simple Vegetable Stock. The busy home chef can serve Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili in only 8 minutes using the pressure cooker.
Jill's vegetable expertise comes through in the many sidebars sprinkled throughout the volume. In one, she presents suggestions for enjoying beets, another describes a daikon experience, while others relate tidbits of conversations she has had with farmers during her many farmers' market visits.
Adding visual appeal are beautiful line drawings of vegetables by Joseph Sorensen, while an affirming Forward by Ellen Ecker Ogden talks of the author's twenty years of experience teaching students the wonders of vegetables.
The Glossary briefly explains a number of unique ingredients like gomashio, agar agar, and kaffir lime leaves to help the newly initiated vegetarian home chef. An extensive index concludes the book.
In The Veggie Queen, author Jill Nussinow demonstrates she really knows her vegetables intimately. Her love of plant foods is clearly evident and can easily stir interest in anyone wanting to learn how to bring more vegetables into the diet. Most recipes are easy to prepare and offer an ideal guide to cooking what's in season. The Veggie Queen is not only for people who like vegetables, but also for anyone who enjoys great tasting food.
Reviewed December 2005