As you may remember, 2012 was another year that began with the regrettable, futile decision to avoid buying any more cookbooks. But, one of the curious things about New Year’s resolutions is that you must overcome a certain barrier to break them. This situation is analogous to a biochemical paradigm, the so-called “energy of activation,” to make a reaction go forward. It’s that little kick an enzyme provides, by binding its substrate, that causes a normally slow reaction to happen right away. Two things boosted me to buy Fast, Fresh, and Green. First, Susie Middleton wrote it. Having known her for a long time as the editor of Fine Cooking, I expected a great book. Then, I read reviews on amazon.com and THAT was the catalyst, the activation energy, the end of my inner debate. Reaction CATALYZED, iTunes contacted, book delivered to My Preciousss within 2 milliseconds!! Below I share with you a recipe, a teaser, and my thoughts on the book.
VANILLA AND CARDAMON GLAZED ACORN SQUASH RINGS
(reprinted from Fast, Fresh, and Green, with permission from Susie Middleton)
1 small acorn squash (1 + 1/4 pounds maximum)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon
Heat your oven to 475 F (or 245 C). Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the acorn squase in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and fibery stuff with a spoon. Place each half, with the cut side down on a cutting board, and slice a little less than an inch of both ends. Discard the ends. Slice the squash crosswise into 1/2 inch slices, and place them over the prepared baking sheet.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the maple syrup, vanilla, and cardamon. Stir well to combine. Use a brush to lightly brush the slices of squash with the a little less than half the amount of butter. Season lightly with salt and turn the slices over. Brush the second side with the remaining melted butter, reserving some to brush at the end (optional). Season the second side with salt.
Roast the squash for 12 minutes. Carefully flip the pieces over, and roast until nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes more. If you want, brush with a little more butter before serving.
to print the recipe, click here
I think I am becoming cardamon-obsessed. Cannot have enough of it. Love everything about it, particularly that intense smell that hits me when I first open the spice grinder… heaven! In this recipe, the combination of maple, vanilla, and cardamon is outstanding and perfect with the acorn squash. A keeper, and ready so quickly, you can make it for Thanksgiving dinner (as Susie advised in the book) while the turkey rests after roasting. Keep that in mind, Thanksgiving is already peeking at us. 😉
Baby-bella mushrooms are sauteed in a simple sauce full of flavor and with a few unexpected twists… They turn out with just the right amount of heat and a sweet and sour hint. Perfect alongside many main dishes. We had it with a T-bone steak.
Contrary to many cookbooks in which chapters ate divided either by season of the year, or ingredient, Susie Middleton went through a different route, sorting recipes by method of preparation. I really like that.
The first and second chapters deal with general stuff: what you should have in your pantry as well as cooking equipment (half sheet pans are a must, according to her, and I could not agree more). All other chapters are centered on cooking methods, as follows:
Quick Roasting: My favorite chapter of the book, as I love roasting veggies but usually my impatient nature prevents me from enjoying them too often. The acorn squash rings featured in this post is an example found in this chapter. Some other tempting dishes from the same group: Quick-Roasted Cauliflower with Zesty Orange-Olive Dressing, Quick-Roasted Beet Slices, Sweet Potato “Mini-Fries” with Limey Dipping Sauce and Spiced Salt, Caramelized Plum Tomatoes in an Olive Oil Bath, Roasted Turnips and Pears with Rosemary-Honey Drizzle.
Quick Braising: I think quick braising and stir-frying are two of the most common techniques used in the home-kitchen, and in these categories Susie really shines. All recipes come with some creative twist, an expected flavoring, or combination of ingredients that makes the most humble veggie take center stage. Some examples: Quick-Braised Green Beans with Pomegranate-Balsamic Pan Sauce, Cider-Braised Baby Bok Choy and Golden Apples, Braised Carrots with Blood Orange-Fresh Tarragon Pan Sauce, Silky Braised Fennel in Pink Sauce (this will be my next recipe to try from the book).
Hands-On Sauteing: These are recipes that require you to stay around the stovetop doing some baby-sitting, but they come together in lightning speed. The teaser recipe, Mahogany Mushrooms, comes from this group. Other recipes on my list to try: Corn Saute with Chile and Lime, Sauteed Carrots with Warm Olive and Mint Dressing, Sauteed Savoy Cabbage with Apple Cider Butter (oh, my…), Brown Butter Summer Squash “Linguine”.
Walk-Away Sauteeing: As the name indicates, once you start cooking, there’s plenty of opportunity to do something else, work on a main dish, play fetch with your dog, or stare at the window admiring the arrival of the Fall. Some tasty examples include: Gingery Sweet Potato and Apple Saute with Toasted Almonds, Carmelized Green Beans and Sweet Onions, Sauteed Turnips with Ham and Molasses, Southwestern Butternut Squash Saute, Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel with Toasted Hazelnuts.
Two-Stepping: includes recipes that call for boiling the vegetables and then continuing with another type of preparation, like sauteeing, or inclusion in a salad. I absolutely MUST make the “Brown Butter Asparagus with Pine Nuts” from this chapter. But there’a a lot there to chose from.
No Cooking: This whole chapter calls my name very loud. 😉 The Double-Lemon Ginger Carrot Salad will be showing up at our table very soon. But wouldn’t you be happy with a serving or two of Heirloom Tomato, Summer Peach, and Fresh Herb Gazpacho Salad? I thought so… 😉
Stir-Frying: A collection of very tasty options for stir-fries, with additions such as black bean sauce and balsamic butter to make them special.
Grilling. Reading this chapter it occurred to me that I only grill two veggies: eggplant and zucchini. If you are like me, Susie will definitely open your horizons to include mushrooms, asparagus, even potatoes.
Baking Gratins: This is the slow-cooking chapter that closes the book. I don’t think any book on veggies would be complete without some gratins, the comfort food by default. Some examples: Mini-Potato Gratin, Slow-Roasted Heirloom Tomato Gratin, Christmas Kale Gratin with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Harvest Gratin of Butternut Squash, Corn, and Leeks.
My verdict: this is a wonderful cookbook, one that will change the way you view your side dishes, especially if you have a busy schedule. I tend to have more problems figuring out what to cook as a side dish than anything else, because we usually rotate a few main dishes during the week. There’s the roast chicken, the grilled salmon, the pork tenderloin, the chicken cutlets, the steaks. But what to serve with them is the million dollar question. This book helps answer that, big time! 😉
Susie, thanks for allowing me to share a recipe from your book!
ONE YEAR AGO: Speculaas
TWO YEARS AGO: Capital Sauce Pork Ribbons over Pot-Browned Noodles
THREE YEARS AGO: Pain a l’ancienne