Hints of spring in an otherwise grey March (Daylight Saving Time! Tiny crocus shoots! An afternoon warm enough to ditch my winter coat!) have me daydreaming about farmers’ market tables that will soon be groaning under heaps of fresh vegetables. A new cookbook arrived on my desk that is feeding those dreams and then some: Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, chef, gardener and author of 11 books on vegetarian cooking.
In this elegantly photographed, coffee-table-worthy book, Madison shares her intimate knowledge of plant families — from the ubiquitous nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers) to the more obscure knotweed family (rhubarb, sorrel, bitter dock) — and shows how members of the same family complement each other. She emphasizes using parts of the plants that we usually toss aside, like cauliflower and celery leaves or artichoke stems, and includes more than 300 simple yet sophisticated recipes, as well as lists of additional ways to serve every vegetable highlighted.
For this red cabbage recipe, Madison suggests using a mandoline for slicing. And don’t toss the core—it’s edible and mild. “Slice it thinly and include it in the dish that you’re making, or nibble on it while you cook,” she writes.
Wilted Red Cabbage with
Mint and Goat Feta
For 2 to 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, quartered through the stem end and thinly sliced crosswise
1 garlic clove, finely minced
4 cups packed very finely sliced red cabbage (a scant pound)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper
Crumbled goat feta plus whole mint leaves, to finish
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. When hot, add the onion, turn to coat it with the oil, and cook for a minute to sear and soften. Add the garlic, then the cabbage, and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Immediately begin turning it in the pan to wilt it evenly. You don’t want to fully cook it, just wilt it; two minutes should be enough time. Remove the pan from the heat, toss the cabbage with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, then taste and add more if sharpness is desired. Toss with the herbs. Season with more salt, if needed, and plenty of pepper. Transfer the cabbage to a platter, mounding it in a heap, then shower with the crumbled goat feta. Finish with the extra mint leaves and serve.
Wilted Red Cabbage with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce
Make the salad as above, minus the goat feta, but use plenty of dill. Make the Tahini-Yogurt Sauce below and spoon it over the cabbage, or serve it on the side. Optional, but good if you wish to emphasize the sesame element, finish with toasted sesame seeds and a few drops roasted sesame oil. Dukkah is another crunchy, compatible option.
Makes a scant 3/4 cup
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup yogurt
3 tablespoons tahini
Pound the garlic in a mortar with 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Stir the garlic mixture into the yogurt, then stir in the tahini, mixing well. Taste for salt.