Friday, September 26, 2008

Rediscovering a Friend: The Victory Garden Cookbook

I have been known to read cookbooks to bed. I snuggle in, pull up the covers and with the same excitement that others read a new magazine or a great novel, I eagerly anticipate each recipe. I try to keep my buying to a minimum, especially now that I get so many of my recipes from the web. But there is one cookbook that I find myself returning to over and over. It is not glamorous. It is not sophisticated and it is definitely not low-fat. I can't even tell you when I bought the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash, and in fact, my edition is from 1982. But I love it for many reasons. I can always count on simple, delicious recipes for an enormous range of vegetables. I also appreciate how Morash explains how to clean, store and cook each item in clear language. Since we have relied on getting our produce solely from the Dover Farm CSA this summer and fall, I have found myself facing a large number of less than familiar veggies. So, I have frequently picked up her book to help me decide how to cook fresh edamame, for great ways to prepare radishes and for new uses for shallots.

When Raphael and I returned home from the Dover CSA with leeks and celery root this week, I knew I could find some great recipes to prepare. I am not going to try to persuade you to try the celery root vinaigrette or the baked celery root for that matter. Neither were bad, but it seemed more like I was just tasting celery in potato form.

However, the two leek dishes were much more successful. First, I made a pasta omelet of sorts. Raphael loves his pasta, so I try to make a significant portion about once a week. I refrigerate the rest and serve it to him at least twice. However, I often end up with leftover pasta. One of my new staple dishes is to briefly reheat the pasta in a pan , then pour scrambled eggs over and cooked for a few more minutes over medium heat. This time I sauteed leeks first and then added the pasta and eggs.

It was delicious warm, as well as chilled the next day.

But the highlight was from the Victory Garden book. Titled, "Leek and Barley Soup" the original recipe calls a double step of cooking barley and for 1 cup of cream. As I am still trying to work off the post-partum pounds, I skipped the cream and the finished soup was still deliciously thick and rich. As for the barley, I cooked it with chicken stock in the rice cooker and it was chewy and perfectly cooked. I then simply sauteed leeks, shallots, onion and carrot in butter and olive oil on medium heat until they had softened. Raphael then helped me to use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. He also enjoyed adding the barley and stirring until it was mixed in. Overall the soup was a wonderful fall soup-creamy and textured with the barley. It also reheated beautifully at work the next day. I couldn't quite persuade Raphael to eat it, but my husband loved it...

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