I received a few books for Christmas, and “Tender” by Nigel Slater is destined to be read and referenced often. This is a timely reading, as I am sorting through seed orders for vegetables. Experienced gardeners will tell you not to go overboard with your seed ordering, and will offer many suggestions on how to prevent over-ordering. Even after thirty years of seed ordering, I still have a basket of seed packets that were never used or partially used and still have spoons full of seeds left un-planted!
I have an idea that if I try to sort out my 2013 order with what I actually like to use in my cooking, I will prevent some of the whims that lead to mistakes in ordering. This is where Nigel’s book becomes useful. Nigel Slater is a British food writer who actually knows how to grow vegetables! One can admire a food writer who can source food by visiting farmer’s markets, but let’s revere a food writer who has become intimate and knowledgeable by actually growing the plants in the backyard!
How appealing does this chowder of mussels and leeks look? This recipe can be found in the leek section. The book is divided alphabetically by vegetable from asparagus to zucchini. The chapter on leeks, for example, begins with a discussion of the leek itself. “The leek is the vegetable of clear, white winter skies and kitchen windows fogged up with condensation.” the author begins. He brings the vegetable to life with rich description and then furthers our understanding with growing tips and instructions, “During the growing season, pile earth up around the shaft of the leek; this will encourage extra-long growth of the white part so useful in the kitchen.” He describes different varieties of the vegetable and finally takes us into the kitchen with fabulous color photographs and recipes. The recipes are given with both U.S. measurements and the original U.K. measurements, so you will see in this recipe, smoked bacon – 5 ounces (150g). There is some whimsy in this particular recipe – white vermouth – 2 glasses. So, how do you drink your vermouth? Surely not by the glassful, but if you did, what size glass would that be? A martini for example is best served with a whiff of vermouth, but a good stew could handle an 8 oz. cup? However if you get stuck on questions such as this, you miss the point of this book.
Besides being a great gardening read, the book is rich with photographs and helpful information on the veggies we should all be trying to grow or at least purchase from our local farmers!
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