April 25, 2013

Thoughts (and a recipe!) from Deborah Madison


"Presenting a book to the world is always a thrill and something of surprise. Here I am hunkered down in my office or out in the garden, and suddenly ‘Vegetable Literacy’ is out there, no longer my near secret activity of the past two years. As my artist husband says about his paintings, he wants them to 'grow up and go to college' – that is, get out there in the world, and it’s the same with a book. Although this first foray into the world feels tender and vulnerable; a bit of shock, really, I’m thrilled to have had the chance to write ‘Vegetable Literacy’. I hope it inspires those who read it as it did me while writing it."
Deborah Madison

This groundbreaking new cookbook, is Madison’s crowning achievement: a celebration of the diversity of the plant kingdom, and an exploration of the fascinating relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, herbs and familiar wild plants within the same botanical families.

Black Quinoa Salad with Lemon
Black Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Vegetable Literacy, featured in our April 22-26, 2013 Newsletter.
Photography credit: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton © 2013

Deborah so graciously shares her knowledge and passion in this epic, new cookbook. We are so grateful to her for sharing her thoughts, one of her recipes from her new book, and some home gardening advice with us.   

Do you have a favorite ingredient or vegetable from Vegetable Literacy?
Well, it's a little like asking what's your favorite child! I don't, really, though I love the green coriander berries that appear before before they brown. They're a real treat to use. I love the opportunity to use interesting corn meals, like Red Floriani or Royal Flint Calais. I find the prickly, bitter members of the Asteraceae family very interesting (cardoons, artichokes, salsify, burdock, chicories, lettuce) and of course, there's
nothing quite like a fresh picked pea, asparagus or tomatoes. Or potatoes. Or eggplant. Or exotic winter squashes.  They all take their turns as favorites.
If someone were looking to start an edible garden of their own, do you have recommended plants to try first as a beginner?
I consider myself a beginner, so I'm somewhat cautious - I have to consider what I can actually take care of and how much water it will use and will I really be home to take care of big cabbage or broccoli.
It's hard for me to start things from seed indoors (tiny house), so I make use of my local nursery who not only has starts, but has interesting starts and is willing to grow out seeds of plants customers think are interesting, and that's a big help. That way I can have a variety of tomatoes, instead of just one, and so forth, or shishito peppers or eggplants. But summer squash are rewarding unless you live where you have infestations of squash bugs (like New Mexico.)  I love growing peas of all kinds, especially southern peas, and beans.
I mix trellised vegetables with flowers, like morning glories because they look so great, and I think mixing up vegetables with flowers helps keep the bugs at bay.  Chard is a must. Kale. Kohlrabi. Lettuce is easy. Spinach is variable due to hot weather, but better in the cooler ends of the seasons. I know I'm forgetting a lot of things. Potatoes! They're very rewarding and fun to harvest and eat.
Personally, I love to grow orach, amaranths of all kinds, cardoons, salsify, lots of herbs both annual and perennial. And I can't resist trying anise seed and caraway and cumin, also angelica and lovage. They're not your everyday plants, and they are probably impractical, but I find them interesting. And I definitely use them. This summer I want to try wheats. Oh, and buckwheat, for a ground cover, is so pretty and strong
Carrots growing on our farm.

Chilled Spicy Carrot Soup with Yogurt Sauce

2 tablespoons ghee, olive oil, or light sesame oil
1 onion, sliced (a sweet variety like Walla Walla or Vidalia 
is good)
1 heaping tablespoon peeled and coarsely chopped fresh ginger
3 cups sliced carrots
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons cilantro stems, finely minced
5 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock or light chicken stock
Sea salt
Juice of 1 lime, plus more if needed

3 tablespoons creamy yogurt
1/2 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely diced, or pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon slivered Thai basil
Pinch of sumac powder
Warm the ghee in a wide soup pot and add the onion, ginger, carrots, spices and cilantro stems. Give a stir to coat with the ghee and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are quite soft, about 20 minutes.

Puree in a blender until very smooth. Cover and chill well. The flavors dull with the cold, so season with the lime juice and with more salt, if needed, just before serving.

To make the sauce, stir together the yogurt, chile, cilantro and basil. Swirl a spoonful of the sauce into each serving of soup and add a pinch of sumac to each bowl.

For 6

Vegetable Literacy cover

A big thank you to renowned chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison for sharing her insight and her wonderful Chilled Spicy Carrot Soup with Yogurt Sauce recipe with us! We hope you find as much inspiration in her words and recipes as we do.

Deborah has generously offered two signed copies of Vegetable Literacy to give away. Enter to win here by 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, April 30th!  
Be sure to check out her book Vegetable Literacy!