Cookbook Profile


The Most Authoritative Guide to Buying, Preparing and Cooking
With More Than 300 Recipes

by James Peterson

In his past works, award-winning cookbook author James Peterson has taught us everything we need to know about fish and shellfish, soups, and sauces. He brings the same breadth of knowledge and knack for imparting culinary skill to the subject of vegetables in his newest tome, simply titled Vegetables (William Morrow & Co.; 1998; $35/hardcover).


Peterson's comprehensive approach will prepare readers to make the most of just about any vegetable they might encounter. He covers the gamut, from such everyday pantry staples as beans, mushrooms, and squash to the somewhat more esoteric, including burdock (a long, slender root popular in Japanese cooking), fiddlehead ferns (which have "a delightful crunch, a subtle vaguely asparagus-like flavor, and a peculiar shape that makes them look impressive on the plate"), and radicchio, escarole, and endive (firm-textured, stronger-flavored greens that can be braised, grilled, or cooked in soups in addition to their more obvious use in salads).

Vegetables boasts more than 425 pages, chock-full of hands-on color photographs and how-to charts. It begins with an encyclopedic overview of techniques for cooking vegetables, explaining how each works and to what types of vegetables it is best suited. Along the way, Peterson tackles such common kitchen quandaries as whether or not to peel root vegetables before boiling them (it depends upon the vegetable, but remember to bring root vegetables to a boil along with the water, rather than pop them into boiling water as you would green vegetables), how to reheat steamed vegetables without making them mushy or greasy (toss them with a couple of tablespoons of water over high heat, remove from the heat, and then add butter or olive oil), and what to look for in a sauté pan ("heavy-bottomed—most good ones are aluminum—nonstick pan").

Peterson next focuses on the characteristics of individual vegetables, from artichokes to zucchini, showing us what to look for in the supermarket and how to store, prep, and use each vegetable. We learn which lentils are better in salads and which in cooked dishes, how to char peppers, how to eat an artichoke, and all about Chinese greens and the various bottled sauces in which they can be easily finished.

He tells us which chiles to handle with particular care (Scotch bonnets, rocatillos, and habaneros), weighs in on the perpetual corn-husking debate on the side of husking prior to cooking (it's easier and the corn then cooks faster), extols the virtues of creminis (they have twice the flavor of white mushrooms and grow up to be portobellos), and advises us to use frozen peas rather than supermarket fresh if we can't get just-picked (but don't boil them according to package directions).

The rest of Vegetables is devoted to recipes covering almost every aspect of vegetable cookery—more than 300 in total. Peterson's starters range from a simple Eggplant Antipasti to sinful Baked Morels Stuffed with Foie Gras to the exotic Cardoons with Aïoli or Bagna Cauda. Also included are Avocado, Pepper, and Smoked Salmon Terrine; Twice-baked Garlic and Tomato Soufflés, and Green Onion Brioche Tart.

Soups span the globe: Mexican Avocado and Chile "Gazpacho," Thai Mushroom, Eggplant, and Zucchini Soup, and Mediterranean Mixed Vegetable Soup, as well as such stews as Indian-style Vegetable Stew. Salads include Summer Italian-style Mixed Vegetable Salad; Warm Duck Salad with Jerusalem Artichokes, Watercress, Apples, and Walnuts; Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts; and an assortment of French crudités (Beet Salad with Horseradish Cream Sauce, Moroccan Spicy Carrots, and Celeriac Remoulade).

James Peterson

Peterson believes that frying "seals in the flavor of most vegetables better than any other method" and that when it's done well "the vegetables absorb very little oil and remain light and crispy." He offers a wealth of information on proper technique, suggestions for feathery batters, and recipes for such treats as Fritto Misto, Pan-fried Straw Mat Potato Cake, and Chiles Rellenos.

The featured selection of gratins and casseroles includes recipes for dishes made with béchamel sauce, with cheese (including a Brussels Sprout Gratin that "will convert even the most Brussels sprout-phobic"), and with tomatoes and tomato sauce, along with a dessert gratin of Baked Dark Plantains with Rum and Sugar. Turn the oven up a bit and readers learn how to prepare the likes of Roasted Onions, Roasted New Potatoes, and Roasted Assorted Fall and Winter vegetables. Peterson provides detailed directions for grilling numerous vegetables and for making and flavoring (with seasonings ranging from homemade garam masala to black truffles) several vegetable purées. His pasta chapter includes recipes for Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Penne with Beet Greens and Garlic, as well as for Spinach Gnocchi and Risotto with Dried Porcini or Morels.

Although braising is a technique somewhat overlooked with today's emphasis on the fresh, crunchy, and colorful, Peterson points out that it works especially well with full-flavored but somewhat tough vegetables, such as dried beans and lentils, cabbage, and most root vegetables. His choices include Stewed Lentils with Duck Confit, Potted Stuffed Cabbage, Long-Cooked Collards with Ham Hocks, and a selection of glazed root vegetables.


About The Author

Paris-trained James Peterson is the author of the IACP/Julia Child award-winning cookbook Fish & Shellfish, as well as Splendid Soups, and Sauces (a James Beard Award winner). He has taught at The French Culinary Institute and Peter Kump's Cooking School in New York City. Peterson lives in Brooklyn, New York.


by James Peterson
William Morrow & Company, Inc.
1998, Hardcover, US $35.00
Information provided by the publisher





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This page created September 1998