Cookbook Collector: Vegetable Literacy

May 8, 2013

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison will transform the way you think, feel, and taste vegetables.  This book is as much a cookbook as an encyclopedia, deciphering the various definitions of vegetables according to botanists, dieticians, herbalists, gourmands and more.  The book is arranged by vegetable classification, each vegetable "family" is described in great detail with an outline of their history along with recipes.  Vegetable Literacy provides more than 300 mouth-watering recipes to enjoy the myriad of vegetables available in our local markets.  Savor roasted Brussels sprouts with mustard cream vinaigrette, haloumi with grilled peppers, olives, and capers, and cauliflower with saffron and pasta.  Madison is known for her extensive knowledge of vegetable cookery and Vegetable Literacy is proof of that.

Cauliflower with Saffron, Pepper Flakes, Plenty of Parsley, and Pasta
For 4

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), broken into small florets, the core diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for tossing the pasta
1 onion, finely diced
2 pinches of saffron threads
1 large clove garlic, minced
Scant 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Sea salt
8 ounces pasta shells, snails or other shapes
Grated aged cheese or crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Directions:

Steam the cauliflower florets and core over boiling water for about 3 minutes. Taste a piece. It should be on the verge of tenderness and not quite fully cooked. Set it aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saffron and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, 6 minutes or so. The steam will activate the saffron so that it stains and flavors the onion. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and a few pinches of the parsley, give them a stir, and then add the cauliflower. Toss the cauliflower to coat it with the seasonings, add 1/2 cup water, and cook over medium heat until the cauliflower is tender, just a few minutes. Season with salt, toss with half of the remaining parsley, and keep warm.

While the cauliflower is cooking, cook the pasta in the boiling water seasoned with salt until al dente. Drain, transfer to a warmed bowl, and toss with a few tablespoons of oil and the remaining parsley. Taste for salt, then spoon the cauliflower over the pasta, wiggle some of it into the pasta crevices, grate the cheese on top, and serve.

With Shrimp: When wild Gulf shrimp are in season, take advantage of their sweet goodness. Peel 1 pound shrimp, then sauté them over high heat in olive oil until pink and firm, after 5 minutes or so. Toss them with chopped garlic and parsley and divide them among the individual pasta plates or heap them over the top of the communal dish. Omit the cheese.

Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photography credit: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton© 2013

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