I received a review copy of The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook and was blown away by how much I didn't know about the varieties of leafy greens out there. In part, I think I'm a product of using greens that are easily accessible in Canada. This book makes me want to go on some scavenger hunts to find and cook with leafy greens like Chinese Celery, La Lot Leaf and Purslane (to name a few).
I like the way this cookbook is organized. Separate sections are devoted to each green. Each section starts off with some background information, the varieties, where to buy, how to store, how to prepare and how to consume the green. Then, some recipes, often vegan-friendly, are provided.
I'm a visual person, so I really like that simple colour pictures of the greens are provided throughout. I also like how the information is laid out in separate text boxes. It reminds me of when I used to study my textbooks in university. There's something about separating out information into different boxes and colours that makes it more digestible (don't mind the pun). I used to look through my textbook chapters and make visual milestones for myself (e.g., ok -- I am going to read from here to the text box three pages from now). Pages that didn't have any visuals or text boxes were always challenging for me to get through. Kind of like the month of January (long, cold and nothing to break it up). Anyways - I am digressing.
Another thing that I like about this cookbook is that each recipe contains the usual suspects (ingredients, quantities, directions), but there is also a "Tips" section on the left sidebar of the page. It never really occurred to me, but having this tip section made me realize how often I have to Google information to understand a recipe. Whether it be an unfamiliar ingredient, technique or figuring out substitutes, there can be a fair amount of research that goes into not screwing up a recipe. With the tip section, these questions were answered.
I still have a lot of reading to do before I can fully comment on the recipes. But, in general, I like the diversity and quality of recipes. Many of these greens are mainly found in certain ethnic cuisines. So, I like that these uses are reflected in the cookbook (e.g., African Sweet Potato Leaf Stew, Taiwan Lettuce Mei Fun, West Indies Pepper Pot Soup). Here's the recipe I decided to make:
Thai Curry Noodle Bowl
6 oz snow peas (3 cups, loosely packed), trimmed and halved (the snow peas at the store looked really sad, so I opted for snap peas)
12 oz dried chow mein noodles
2 tbsp oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste (I used more like 3 tbsp)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 oz baby spinach leaves (about 5 cups)
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro (we tend to never use this up, so I excluded this)
2 large green onions, slivered (not a fan of green onions, plus recipes has shallots, so I excluded)
kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 cup crispy shallots (basically deep fried shallot rings -- I pan fried minced shallots)
1 red finger chilli (couldn't find, so I got Thai chilli peppers)
1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water over medium heat, blanch snow peas for about 1 minute, until tender-crisp. Using a mesh scoop, transfer to a colander (leave cooking water in a pan) and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain peas and set aside.
2. Return pan of cooking water to a boil over medium heat. Add noodles and cook for about 10 minutes or according to package directions, until tender but firm. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until warm. Stir in garlic and curry paste for 30 seconds. Stir in stock, coconut milk and sugar until smooth. When mixture comes to a simmer, reduce heat to low and add spinach, cilantro and green onions. Cook for about 1 minutes, until heated through.
4. Divide prepared noodles among 6 wide, shallow serving bowls. Top with equal quantities of snow peas. Ladle hot broth with spinach over noodles. Pile crispy shallots in center of each bowl. Scatter chilli slices over each serving. Place a lime wedge at the edge of each bowl, to squeeze over the noodles. Serve immediately.
Verdict: We both liked this dish. Even E liked it. I figured the sauce might be too spicy for her, but she was having a meltdown (didn't nap at daycare, don't want to sit in a highchair moment), so I had her sitting on my lap through dinner. She pushed away her plain noodles and ate mine that had the broth on it.
My main beef with the dish is that I still cannot get my dishes to have the flavours I would get from a Thai restaurant. I've tried to make my own curry paste before and that didn't work either. I don't think this is the fault of the recipe because all it really says is to use a tablespoon of Thai red curry paste. I think I need to take a trip to Thailand and take a cooking course. OK - problem solved.