Renowned chef and restaurateur April Bloomfield is a girl who loves her greens. So much so she filled a book with her recipes and good advice, and then titled the book “A Girl and Her Greens.”
I don’t usually read introductions in cookbooks. I am after the recipes—that’s why I pick up a book in the first place. But I am very glad I took the time to read Bloomfield’s introduction. She has broken it down into sections.
One section, for example, is devoted to how to shop at a farmers market and why (for the best vegetables you can find). Another is called “simple things.” Here I found the best advice: “My hope is that you’ll start playing with vegetables on your own. … Never neglect the simple pleasures of cooking. … Try not to look at the process as a chore. If you think about how slow-cooked onions will ultimately transform a dish, the work itself becomes exciting.”
Testing the Recipes
First up was Butternut Squash Polenta. The photo of the dish made it look so appetizing. But as I read the short introduction and the cooking instructions I realized if I followed them exactly my dish would not look like the photo. But I am adventurous if nothing else.
The first snag I ran into was actually finding Anson Mills polenta (the recommended brand). I called around to three specialty stores in Manhattan, and while they didn’t have Anson Mills they had polenta—but not coarse stone-ground polenta. Undaunted I bought a medium-ground polenta. I was ready.
I followed the instructions exactly until it came time to mix all the ingredients together in the final step. It looked to me like an awful lot of polenta for the amount of squash, but what did I know, so I forged ahead putting all the squash into the pot of polenta. Oh dear. My squash disappeared into the polenta. And all I could taste was polenta—no squash, no cheesy taste, no garlic—just plain polenta. So I remade the recipe and cut back on the polenta—and wow! What flavor, what texture—smooth and grainy and buttery all at the same time. I would definitely do this one again.
Next up was the Spring Peas and Mint. I never had such an easy-to-make and delicious condiment. Between the clean taste of the mint and the tartness of the lemon juice this goes great on toast, crackers, and a side for chicken. I had it on pieces of naan bread and just spooned out of the bowl. Best of all it’s ready in under 10 minutes.
The next recipe of my experimenting was the Zucchini Bread. Imagine my disappointment when the piece I bit into tasted nothing like zucchini. I was expecting to taste zucchini—even just a little bit. Don’t get me wrong the bread was wonderful—moist, light, a little tart from the lemon zest and sweet all at the same time. I had brought a loaf into the office and a colleague of mine said she was expecting a lemon poppy seed bread, from the scents emanating from the piece she took. She was surprised to hear it was zucchini bread. But this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Good thing the recipe makes two loaves.
Then I made the Roasted Mushrooms with Pancetta, Pine Nut Breadcrumbs, and Goat Cheese. This was nothing short of amazing! And I don’t even like mushrooms. All the different textures were an adventure to enjoy.
The one problem I had with this recipe was the maitake mushrooms. I couldn’t find a store that sold them—even though I went to four.
The last recipe I tried was the Kale and Polenta. This was also a joy to eat. Like for the Butternut Squash Polenta recipe, I settled on a medium-ground polenta since I couldn’t find the Anson Mills brand or a course-ground polenta.
Delicious Recipes but a Few Flaws
On the whole the recipes were nothing short of delicious but the cookbook fell short in a few areas. Of the five recipes I prepared, the photos only accurately depicted the end result for the Peas and Mint recipe and the Zucchini Bread. If you are a novice cook or someone who relies on the photos to help determine what to prepare then for the recipes I tried the photos wouldn’t help.
In this day and age everyone is into gadgets—anything to make the job easier. Every recipe I tried made use of a food processor. But not everyone has a food processor. It would have been helpful if Bloomfield had mentioned an alternative to the food processing method.
For me a recipe shouldn’t have ingredients that are hard to find. One-stop shopping is the best. But the idea of having to search the Internet, or call stores, or go from store to store turns me off. Maybe the cookbook could have given some suggestions where to search for these unusual ingredients.
And these recipes are time-consuming to make—each running close to an hour with all the different steps and food processing. The instructions were easy to follow, just a lot to do. These are recipes to try on a weekend or on an evening when you have more time—definitely not for the end of a long workday.
While I felt challenged preparing the recipes the end result each time was a delicious treat.
Thank you April for the advice and the delicious recipes!