When you go grocery shopping and peruse the produce department do you find that there are vegetables and fruit that are unfamiliar or that you have never used? If so, Michelle McKenzie’s book, Dandelion & Quince, may be an inspiration and guide to a culinary adventure. Believing that “the less familiar and more unique your produce, the more exciting the dish and ,often, the deeper the flavor, “McKenzie takes you on a journey to discover new or unappreciated foods, and learn to cook them in new and exciting ways.
The recipes are organized into groups by major ingredients such as Budda’s hand, nettles, and sunchokes. For each group, Mckenzie gives background information on the ingredient, a color photograph, and several recipes for it. For example, the section on burdock tells us that it is a Japanese root vegetable that can be found in the fall and winter at farmers’ markets, Japanese grocers, and “specialty” supermarket chains. She goes on to describe how burdock is best bought, stored and cooked noting that it is high in soluble fiber and antioxidants and can be used as an herbal medicine to detoxify the kidneys, liver, and blood. The recipes that follow are: poached chicken and burdock broth, braised burdock, burdock fritters, and burdock and mushrooms on Danish rye. Each recipe has an introduction giving tips and advice on making and serving the dish, a list of ingredients, and detailed directions for completing the dish. Most of the indigents are available in large grocery stores but a few might be more difficult to find. Thirty six similar entries cover foods such as bolting herbs, edible ornamentals, and weeds, as well as ramps, tomatillos, and fig leaves (if you have never made smoked fig leaves here’s a chance to learn.)
Mckenzie’s love of food and enthusiasm for trying new recipes are evident on every page and encourage the readers to widen their palates as well as stretch their imagination and skills. She urges cooks to be curious and find pleasure in cooking in creative ways thus acting as a mentor. If you have a sense of adventure in regard to cooking, this is a wonderful book to take with you.
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