Deborah Madison has published another terrific cookbook, Vegetable Literacy. Madison’s background as a chef and celebrated author took root while growing up on a farm in upstate New York, and then in a walnut orchard in Davis, CA. This introduced her to plants and cooking with the additional influence of her father, who was a gardener and botanist.
Her cooking career took flight at the restaurant temple of West Coast cooking, Chez Panisse. Madison was also a student for 18 years at the San Francisco Zen Center, where she became the center’s chef. Subsequently, the seasoned chef was one of the founders of the restaurant Greens at Fort Mason, which is where I first encountered her food and her ardent support of the slow food movement, and the Seed Savers Exchange.
There are many different methods to cooking such as roasting, grilling, sautéing, boiling, frying, braising, poaching, steaming and even microwaving, which I must admit is not a technique I recommend. Today our focus is poaching.
Many people just get Asian takeout when it comes to poaching or steaming. Whether Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai, poaching is a common Pacific Rim cooking technique. In contrast, most Western-style cuisine is more frequently fried, grilled, roasted or braised. French cuisine is an exception as a journey through any Julia Child recipe will attest.
Those of us who are not vegans, myself included, may suffer these days from the politically correct movement toward eating healthier, low-fat foods. Vegetarian cooking for me used to be risotto Milanese or eggplant Parmesan. These dishes were easy for me but the cheese and butter these dishes call for are tough to give up. Moving beyond these winners is still a challenge. I am too often unsure about cooking vegetarian for the evening meal. Perhaps you too find yourself somewhat at a loss trying to decide how to cook a purely vegetarian meal, without resorting to the ease of pasta and marinara, or another lentil, bean, tofu or tempeh specialty. Did I hear someone ask to pass the bowl of quinoa?
Celebrity cookbooks are less common these days than they used to be. Recently a friend recommended Frank DeCaro’s The Dead Celebrity Cookbook. This book resurrects recipes from more than 145 stars of stage and screen. Don’t let the book’s title, or its unfortunate skull and crossbones cover, scare you away.
Given my interest in music, I found myself drawn to artists like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Others you might enjoy reading about in this book are Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Eartha Kitt, Michael Jackson and John Wayne, among others. The recipes are accompanied by interesting short bios of the stars.
St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of St. Patrick, celebrated each year on the 17th of March, is considered both a cultural and religious holiday. It commemorates the birth of Christianity in Ireland through the success and devotion of a British lad of 16 named Patrick who became its champion in Ireland. The young boy arrived on the Irish shores as a consequence of Irish raiders who kidnapped him to become a slave. In the process Patrick, soon to become St. Patrick, witnessed the poverty and pagan beliefs of a people whose destiny was to radically change. He escaped after a few years but returned to become a priest and driving force to convert a population of idol worshiping people to the Catholic Church.
The day called St. Patrick’s Day became a feast day in the 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. The holiday has become more secular over the years especially in communities with large numbers of Irish who emigrated from the Olde Sod. Large populations of Irish can be found in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. But the holiday is also followed in other parts of the world like Japan, Montserrat in the Caribbean, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland and Argentina where they dance and only drink beer throughout the night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
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