Book Review: Eating From The Ground Up

Eating From The Ground Up:  Recipes For Simple, Perfect Vegetables, by Alana Chernaila

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Clarkson Potter Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

When I requested this book, I thought that it was a vegetarian cookbook, but to my pleasure and surprise I found that it was a cookbook that focused on vegetables, but in a context that made those vegetables their best, including with meats and in soups and salads and other dishes.  I also figured, accurately, that the book would be a somewhat preachy hipster ode to elitist vegetables, but fortunately the author includes a lot of information about her personal life and family background and that makes this a more appealing book than it would otherwise be.  And it is fortunate as well that my standards for cookbooks are reasonably generous [1] in that I expect at least a few dishes I would want to eat.  This book definitely provides a few dishes I would be willing to eat, and even more if you include some substitute ingredients to what the book includes.  And that is good enough for this book to be worth appreciating as a pleasant cookbook with mostly simple recipes that sound tasty.

At over 250 pages, this book is a bit larger than most contemporary cookbooks and features both gorgeous photographs as well as some intriguing recipes.  The author begins the book with an introduction and some moderately preachy comments on where to get the best veggies, how to wash, store, and preserve one’s veggies, some praises of vegetables with cheese, and a discussion on the tools of the kitchen one needs.  After this the author talks about some dishes that are “barely recipes” that showcase veggies in a mode of relatively simplicity, some of which sound fantastic (roasted asparagus with yummy sauce, green beans with almonds and brown butter, roasted potatoes, cheesy broccoli, kohlrabi fries, a simple slaw that uses olive oil instead of mayo, butter-braised cabbage, and perfected roasted cauliflower, along with panfried brussels).  Count me in on a lot of these recipes.  Then the author looks at veggies that shine in soups, including some interesting ideas like nettle soup and chicken soup with lots of greens and a kale and white bean soup with rosemary oil and a cauliflower cheddar soup that sound intriguing.  A list of dishes too hot to cook includes some interesting choices like zucchini and garlic scape pasta, and swiss chard stem, fennel, and salmon fried rice, along with poblano rajas tacos that only need a bit of meat to be really tasty looking.  The author then turns her attention to warmth and comfort foods, including such dishes as a garlicky kohlrabi with dandelion and chickpeas, a polenta with all the greens, a roasted vegetable and cashew curry, as well as asparagus and (probably turkey) bacon pasta.  The book then closes with a discussion of foods to be eaten as celebration dishes, like green bean tempura nests, sweet potato latkes with roasted applesauce, and a carrot celebration cake.  The book then closes with recipes divided by vegetable as well as acknowledgements and an index.

There are at least a few takeaways that even those readers who are not hipster gourmands will appreciate.  For one, a lot of our aversion to certain foods comes from the way that they were prepared and the author seeks to point out ways in which veggies can be shown at their best.  As a texture eater, there are at least a few veggies in this book that I personally dislike because of the way that they have ended up on my plate, such as slimy shiitake mushrooms or mushy beets, but I am willing to concede that there are ways that these vegetables could be tasty under the right circumstances.  With most of the vegetables discussed in this book that I am familiar with, I need no such encouragement to think highly of tasty dishes with brussels sprouts that are not boiled into oblivion or tasty asparagus spears, for example.  And for those who love vegetables, this book is certainly one that will give you all kinds of tasty ideas for future dishes with a bias towards simplicity as well as taste.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/12/03/book-review-the-mac-cheese-cookbook/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/12/book-review-the-gourmet-jewish-cookbook/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/04/29/book-review-the-oregonian-cookbook/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/12/13/book-review-the-colorful-kitchen/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/12/03/book-review-samarkand/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/10/30/book-review-the-lost-art-of-real-cooking/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/10/01/book-review-the-southern-cook-book-of-fine-old-recipes/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/07/22/book-review-colorado-cook-book/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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