Let's figure you already have a pile of fresh vegetables and are interested in cooking them. Even well-intentioned seasonal cooks can fall into a rut with vegetable preparation. This season, new market-based cookbooks aim to make sure that won't happen to you.
First, Madison's Fairshare CSA Coalition has followed its market bible, From Asparagus to Zucchini (produced when the group was known as MACSAC), with >Farm-Fresh and Fast ($25). While Asparagus to Zucchini is an encyclopedia, Farm-Fresh encourages the cook to think of vegetables in like groups that can sub for each other in preparations. These are: root vegetables; stalks and shoots; legumes and pods; fruits eaten as vegetables; sweet fruits; leafy greens; crowns, buds and flowers; and aromatic accents.
Within each section there's background and helpful storage-time info (the bad news is you probably have objects in your crisper drawer that are good only for stock). The heart of each section is a "master recipe" (slaw, pureed soup, risotto, for instance) that should function with any vegetable from that chapter. The intent is to enable home cooks to swap out ingredients with confidence or riff successfully off a concept.
Still, there's the homey community cookbook aspect at play, as it was in A-Z. Each chapter includes recipes contributed by local CSA members and farmers, REAP volunteers, other local food enthusiasts and maybe even your neighbor. These range from innovative to dishes you've probably encountered many times before at potlucks.
Minnesota's Bounty: A Farmers Market Cookbook by Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, $30) includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also grains, meat, fish and cheese - other common market-sourced foods. If the number of bookmarks stuck between pages to note recipes intriguing enough to try is an indication, this is a great cookbook to acquire. I'm not even a third of the way through and I have flagged enough to carry me to Thanksgiving.
Bounty has two other helpful features: a rough equivalency for each vegetable (for example, one pound of fennel is two large bulbs or two cups of chopped) and a "quick ideas" box that is a prompt for improvisation.
For those really into their vegetables, Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy (Ten Speed Press, $40) is a great pleasure. Madison's is a book to read before taking it into the kitchen, where she is always a literate and comforting companion.
As in Farm-Fresh, Vegetable Literacy groups like vegetables together. Chapters are devoted to botanical families: carrot, mint, sunflower, knotweed, cabbage, nightshade, goosefoot and amaranth, lily, cucurbit, grass, legume, and morning glory. "Mostly it's about connecting the dots between botany and the garden and the cook," Madison has written.
One of the most exciting aspects of Vegetable Literacy is Madison's advice on using and eating more parts of a plant than we're used to - a sort of "frond-to-root" approach. Oh, and the photography is by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. So the book's reverently beautiful, too.