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 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.


(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
kosher salt

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

21 thoughts on “FAST, FRESH, AND GREEN

  1. Like you, I’ve stopped buying cookbooks — at least until I read the ones I’ve most recently purchased. I don’t want to collect cookbooks[ I want to use them.
    Now, this acorn squash recipe and your review has me rethinking my stance about cookbooks.. The squash sounds wonderful and I cannot wait to try it for myself. And one more cookbook really isn’t so bad, is it?


  2. Love the title… I’m thinking it could work for my blog (especially the fast part – haha ;-)) – it’s odd, I don’t really use cookbooks… I waste quite a bit of money though on glossy cooking magazines… (we all have our ‘things’ :)). Every once in a while a great cookbook comes around – I’m thankful for your review otherwise I would never know about this useful book – the mushrooms have my toes curling (total mushroom girl). The squash rings look great too – so innovative and perfect for the season. Yum! Thanks for the review Sally.


  3. I have a cookbook addiction too. And have the self inflicted ban in place too. Then a friend decided to clear out their collection…

    I saved the life of all of her rejects.

    The squash looks great – and as someone who is dying to try them despite the hairy eyeball from my husband I will be making this soon! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Popping in from our adventures…and so glad that I did Sally!!! I am definitely putting this on our menu for Thanksgiving (and a few more random nights this season). I love cardamom too. Isn’t the aroma just incredible?! This sounds like a great cookbook and I don’t blame you at all for giving in and getting it. The title alone would have me hooked. Fast and fresh – two things I need right now. And of course green is always a bonus. It sounds like I could learn a great deal from this book too.


  5. I love your Energy theory.. for me it’s pretty simple, tell me not to do something and I think about it all the time until I finally break down. I’m really glad you’ve purchased this one.. but now I’m so tempted to go find it for myself. She really has done a good job of organizing, it really does make more sense when you think about it. Each chapter would match the time that you have on hand. How pretty did your squash turn out as well!! And Mahogany Mushrooms.. I would be down for those just because they have the word Mahogany in them! xx


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