Trip to ‘Bountiful’

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'Bountiful' by Todd Porter and Diane Cu

My standard for judging the worth of a cookbook has been all about the kohlrabi.

Which is to say, I’m less swayed by the quality of the photos than about the actual usefulness of the recipes. Does, for instance, the cookbook tell me what the crap I’m supposed to do with the kohlrabi that I stuff in my bag of food from the CSA?

It’s been a useful benchmark for years. But with the new release of “Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden,” from Todd Porter and Diane Cu, it’s a strategy I’m going to have to abandon.

You see, there’s nary a kohlrabi mentioned among its 304 pages — its 304 illustrated-with-glorious-color-photographs-by-those-talented-bastards pages. But of the coffee-table food-porn oeuvre of books, into which this loving tome clearly falls, it is absolutely practical, useful and inspiring.

Some might scoff that there are relatively simple recipes for things like cream of tomato soup or corn fritters. But for every one of the more common entries, there’s also a left-field option like butternut squash crumble or baked eggs in hollowed tomatoes. Hipsters also will find no hint of the sort of sarcasm or wry humor that they’re so accustomed to (which we serve up in spades on our blog, so come see us for that). But they will be pleased with unusual concoctions of familiar ingredients — beautifully staged by the couple, who are professional photographers and the food bloggers behind the wonderful whiteonricecouple.com.

The recipes are typically short on ingredients, heavy on vegetables, but light on fats, oils and cheeses. Many are vegetarian.

We’ve only had time to test drive a few, but with great results:

  • We tried that savory butternut squash crumble. It may look like a dessert, but it is a savory treat that’s good as a side or a main dish.
  • After making their recipe for sweet potato and chocolate squares, we had to ration the portions to avoid gulping them down in a single sitting. Yes, they’re that good.
  • Their recipe for habanero chicken tacos adapted well to chunks of battered catfish, and it. was. awesome.
  • There’s a recipe for smashed turnips — a healthier substitute for mashed potatoes that we’ve done before. It’s tasty, but this Southern boy finds it hard to replace a good old mashed potato. Whatever you do, don’t omit the Parmesan cheese. It’s key.
  • We attempted their grilled cabbage wedges with cabbages that were a little undersized for the job, but we made it work. And even though neither of us is a huge cabbage fan, we both liked this take, devouring the wedges while they were still steaming from the grill.
  • We threw together a wilted mizuna salad with shrimp inspired by the book. Jenn’s review: “It was freaking amazing,” and I don’t disagree. I caught her trying to do a shot of the dressing after dinner.

We found the simplicity of the recipes lends the dishes to experimentation and substitution — which is a good reminder that great ingredients make it easy to create great food. And the photos are stirring enough to provide the inspiration to spend an afternoon over the cutting board and the stove top.

“We’re hoping this book will provide you with many options for when your CSA box is brimming with exciting produce,” they write in the introduction. Indeed.

We’re likely to wear this book out.

 

About the book: 

‘Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden,” by Todd Porter and Diane Cu

$35; 304 pages (100 illustrations)

ISBN 978-1-61769-048-8

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