Monday, May 27, 2013

Cook the Books 2013 - Tender goodness from Nigel Slater

This month's Cook the Books assignment was Tender by Nigel Slater. I loved this tome of a cookbook and its somewhat non-standard presentation; think part gardening diary, part ode to the seasons (the moody photos especially), part personal narrative, and a lot of enticing recipes. Organized alphabetically by type of produce, he starts each chapter discussing the specific vegetable in both the garden and in the kitchen. The section (when applicable) on varieties was always interesting and informative to read, but I think my favorite feature was the list of seasoning recommendations for that specific vegetable. From herbs and spices to best oils and accompaniments, I felt like this piece showed a lot of his cook's personality, and was plenty useful and inspiring—and I definitely found some things I wouldn't have thought of, but that make perfect sense.

The lineup of dishes served up this month was modest, but across-the-board satisfying.

Chickpea patties with beet tzatziki

I broke in my new food processor (first full-size one I've ever owned) making the chickpea patties! They took a bit of finessing in the pan to get right, but in my opinion the key is to not make them too big, and to let them cook long enough on the first side to crisp and firm up so you can flip them without them coming out a crumbly mess.




The color and flavor boost from the grated beet "tzatziki", with additional salt and lemon, is what really made this shine for me.

Chard with olive oil and lemon

First-ever time that I boiled chard. Of course really it's just blanching, but still I was surprised at this preparation, not least at how much I liked it. So I busted out a new technique and a new tool in the kitchen this month!

A pilaf of asparagus and mint (sans the favas)

I saw favas all over early in the month, but by the time I was looking for them to cook with, they were nowhere to be found. So I made the spring pilaf without them and still loved it. The aromatic spices added great dimension, but I cut down the butter called for by about 1/3, and still found it a bit heavy for the dish. In fact, there were a lot dishes in this book that called for heavy cream or a lot of butter, it kind of made me laugh. Of course that tastes good! Maybe the difference of the UK still being cold in spring came into play, but veggies I would think of as lending themselves to being lighter often had a lineup of heavy ingredients. Still, come cold nights, I could definitely see myself turning to some of them. Again, this one I felt like was really elevated by the yogurt sauce, so don't skip it.

Check out some of the dishes Grow & Resist and Ohbriggsy cooked up, and as soon as it's up I'll post the recap of everyone's menus.

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