Most good love stories have a certain amount of magic in them; mine just also happens to contain vegetables. (11)
The most interesting cookbooks are the ones that also offer a connection in addition to the recipes. While there has been much written maligning narrative recipe writing, I strongly believe it is the personal stories that make the recipes worth trying. And in a world of myriad recipes, as a home cook, I want to know why ingredients are important and what makes a recipe special. I need something to hang my apron on, so to speak, so when I received a copy of Renée Kohlman‘s latest cookbook, Vegetables: A Love Story, I was intrigued. At the heart of Kohlman’s cookbook is love — of Dixon Simpkins, the Saskatchewan farmer who stole her heart with a bouquet of asparagus, of the memories of her mother’s vegetable gardens, and of Kohlman’s desire to nourish people with good food.
Written and organized into an A-to-Z guide of vegetables, Kohlman offers 92 recipes along with personal essays. It’s Kohlman’s poignant and heartwarming stories that make her cookbook so special — and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed her last cookbook, All the Sweet Things so much. The most noteworthy thing about Vegetables: A Love Story is that while it’s a book about vegetable cooking, it’s not a vegetarian book. While she offers some recipes containing meat/fish/poultry, there are many recipes without and, as I cook through her book, I’ve found the recipes are adaptable as well. The recipes aren’t precious, so if home cooks sub ingredients the recipes are still delicious.
While I don’t have a personal relationship with any farmers now, since the start of the pandemic in 2020, I’ve come to rely upon an online service to do my farmer’s market shopping. Wolfville Farmer’s Market 2 Go offers an enormous online selection of produce and goods sold at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market (located about an hour away in the Annapolis Valley). So, when Kohlman’s cookbook arrived, I bookmarked recipes and shopped the seasonal selection from the market. Autumn is my favourite time of year at the market because of all the hearty, warming meals I can make — like the Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie w/ Gruyère Biscuit Topping. Full of parsnips, carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, onions, and garlic, this saucy, creamy pot pie is then topped with tender and cheesy biscuits. I took a chance and added chickpeas too and I was really pleased with the results. Smelled incredible as it baked and while Gruyère is a pricier cheese, it was well worth buying for this recipe.
I was pleased to see parsnip get their own chapter because they are one of my favourite vegetables! While I adored them in the pot pie, they’re equally as delightful in the recipe for Parsnip and Cheddar Scones w/ Sage. I wasn’t sure how much my husband and daughter would enjoy grated parsnip in a scone, but it was love! I served them alongside a tomato soup, and I was happy to add a savoury scone recipe to my repertoire.
Normally if I mention Brussels Sprouts, I get a whole lot of bellyaching from my family but when I didn’t mention them but, instead made Kohlman’s Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad w/ Crispy Chickpeas and served it, my family realized that this humble ingredient is nothing to hate on. Since I didn’t have any pomegranate arils on hand, I used dried cranberries instead which offered a similar sweetness to the salad. As a vegetarian, in a family of vegetarians, it needs to be said: I appreciate the attention Kohlman gives to pulses and legumes in her book. The crispy chickpeas in this salad are amazing and just the thing to make it heartier.
We love nachos, and I find that when I make them, I usually pile on the toppings. Up until this point, black beans were used exclusively until I made Kohlman’s recipe for Ren and Dix’s Loaded Lentil Nachos w/ Pickled Red Onions! Black beans and nachos always seemed like a natural pairing but after trying lentils on nachos, I’m not so sure. The lentils are spiced using chili powder and garlic powder and they’re such a great addition to the nachos! And the pickled red onions offer the perfect sweet, tangy crunch. When I made them for this recipe, I was also able to use them on her recipe for Roasted Corn and Black Bean Tostadas. For this recipe corn tortillas are layered with a black bean filling, roasted corn, and cheese then they’re baked until the cheese is melted, and the tortillas are crispy. We topped them with the pickled red onions, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and cilantro. I appreciated that this recipe could use either fresh or frozen corn.
Vegetables: A Love Story offers the home cook delicious, vegetable-focused recipes along with Renée Kohlman’s personal essays connecting her to the book. If you’re unfamiliar cooking with vegetables, Kohlman guides home cooks through the tips she offers in the section, Notes for the Cook, with pantry and storage information. Looking for Meatless Monday inspiration or just more ways to love vegetables then you’ll want to add Vegetables: A Love Story to your cookbook shelf!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Touchwood Editions for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.