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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Favorite Cookbooks: Fast, Fresh & Green

We've been excitedly waiting for Susie Middleton's vegetable cookbook, Fast, Fresh & Green, ever since we heard that she was writing it. Susie, a former chief editor of Fine Cooking magazine, is a great cook not only because of her formidable grasp of technique but because of the sheer excitement she feels for cooking and the pleasure she takes from it. She appreciates simple ingredients and unfussy preparations. And she's a really good writer.

Whenever we see a Susie-Middleton-bylined article in Fine Cooking, we dive in, knowing we'll read something good.

Our copy of Fast, Fresh & Green arrived just after we'd bought a big bag of asparagus at Costco. Normally, when we have an asparagus windfall, we roast it for an easy side dish or stir-fry it as part of an Asian main course. But this time we were interested in what Susie would do.

So we split our big batch of asparagus between two of her recipes: Brown-Butter Asparagus with Pine Nuts and Speedy Stir-Fried Asparagus with Toasted Garlic. Each recipe featured just a few ingredients beyond its vegetable star—a little butter or oil, a little lemon juice or garlic—and took just a few minutes to make. The result: amazing flavor. We still don't understand the alchemy, but we'll keep making these for a long time.

A couple of days later, we tried Susie's Sweet Potato "Mini-Fries" with Limey Dipping Sauce. Once again, she used just a few ingredients—oven-baked sweet potatoes that tasted for all the world like their fried cousins, and mayonnaise spiked with lime zest and juice—and came up with something extraordinary. (Tim used the rest of the lime mayo on his fish, with fine results.)

Some people might hear "vegetable cookbook" and think "Huh? I already know how to cook vegetables." But Susie's recipes take basic produce to a much higher level.

You won't be sorry if you buy this book.

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