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Cookbooks review – Georgeanne Brennan (+ bonus Creamy Peas recipe)

One of the food blogs I have read in the last month, has been raving about recipes from various cookbooks written by Georgeanne Brennan. So I checked my library and its newly massive cookbook collection, and I had a look at the two they have.

Down to Earth – her exploration of root vegetables. Instead of trying to be comprehensive, she instead offers a few recipes each for potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, jicama, lotus root, carrots, radishes, salsify, celery root, horseradish, turnips, leeks, sweet potatoes, and onions. And so if you are going, “OOoooo… I wonder which recipe she chose to highlight onions instead of just counting them as an ingredient as everything… maybe something with really sexy caramelization,” you’d be wrong (and you’d be looking for Smitten Kitchen, instead) – onions just sometimes show up in a lot of recipes, as they do, not really highlighted. I think, I ended up returning the book after looking through it for an hour. It didn’t even make it home. Because while it had a really lovely section talking about the ingredients, the food wasn’t anything I couldn’t figure out on my own. Jicama – apparently, no, there’s no way to cook it or give it flavor, just cut it into little strips and pretend you like the crunch while it bulks out your salad. Horseradish – did you know you could add it to sauces for meat? You get the idea. So by all means, you should grab someone else’s copy and look through the first chapter, but not so much spending money on your own copy.

Great Greens – Suffers from pretty much the exact same problem, but I can talk about it more since this one made it home with me, and I even bookmarked three recipes that might be interesting (Bacon-wrapped cabbage rolls with blue cheese and walnuts, Taco salad with cabbage and red snapper, and Shepherd’s pie with three greens). Actually, you know what? I was going to pan this one just as much as the other one, but then I went to the farmers’ market today – and there was a woman with greens I’d never seen before but recognized from this particular cookbook, so I bought them and have reached for the cookbook to give me ideas. So this one is not a total wash.

So her glossary of greens includes: arugula, bok choi (only one variety, I think), cabbage (many varieties), chard, chicories (belgian endive, radicchio, curly endive/frisee (which I hate with a passion, and she apparently loves with a similar passion), and escarole), kale (oddly, only the lacinato variety, instead of the kind I see cheap and plentiful at the stores), lettuces (crispheads, butterhead, iceberg, looseleaf, romaine), mâche, mesclun (separate from the lettuces), spinach, and watercress. With this variety, you’d think there’d be some pretty exciting recipes, yes? Well, I listed three for you. And that’s about it for me. I mean, there’s a lovely roast chicken with cornbread recipe, served with a garnish (kid you not! Just a garnish) of mâche. There’s some pretty standard soups you’d see anywhere. Salads… with lettuces. Starters such as: make a nifty dip and then serve it on individual leaves. And healthy side dishes like: gratin of belgian endive with pancetta or savoy cabbage gratin or creamed spinach gratin (isn’t that a little redundant?).

So, yeah, it’s not a keeper, but it’s worth a slightly longer term borrow.


Meanwhile, today for lunch I made fried rice. For some reason, it is ingrained into my psyche that fried rice must contain peas.

Well, about a year ago, I found a great sale on canned vegetables and I only really trusted two kinds: peas and corn. So I bought 5 cans of each. I have been very happy with having cans of corn on hand to dump randomly into soups – I only have one left. However, I have 3.75 cans of peas left.

The only recipe I have for canned peas is from Meghan:

Make some bacon. With the bacon grease, make a béchamel sauce. Dump in peas. Maybe half a teaspoon of brown mustard. If there are any pieces of the bacon still uneaten, crumble them on top. If you were being really fancy, there could be another pot getting dirty making some pasta to go with that, but we aren’t that fancy.

But for every other purpose, I have learned that I much prefer frozen peas.

I mean, sure, there are fresh peas, but I have only seen them in the early spring at the farmers’ market in Baltimore where you have to wake up early in order to fight your way to the head of the line before the peas run out.

So in conclusion, I think I can reconcile myself to losing $1.50 to donate the remaining three cans to some Thanksgiving food drive and then let myself buy some proper frozen food.