For the second piece in the Taste for Books series (last time we discussed Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed), we take a look at the blog turned cookbook “Love & Lemons.” Of course, we bought and read this book as part of the monthly cookbook club at Archestratus (160 Huron Street), but it’s one of those cookbooks that’s gone mainstream – featured at Whole Foods and on store shelves at Anthropologie. So what is it that makes this book so popular? Let’s explore together after the jump.
This book is . . . Simple, and that can be good and bad. There’s definitely something to be said for a cookbook that’s practical. I valued the simplicity of the ingredient lists, useful order (categorized by vegetable), and tips and tricks embedded throughout for how to make healthy, colorful meals quickly. However, there was something about the simplicity of the tastes that left me yearning for more. I can’t help but think the author thought this might be the case. As the introduction notes this book is intended to “give you ideas” encouraging folks to “put their own unique spin on things.” I’m all about trial and error and getting your hands dirty in the kitchen and I just wish the book helped get me there rather than to just say it’s okay.
Keywords*: Gluten-free and vegan. While the book is neither, at the bottom of every applicable recipe are recommendations for how to alter to make it vegan or gluten-free. Season is another keyword. At the bottom of every section (i.e. key vegetable), the author tells you when each item is in season (think cauliflower in the winter, eggplant in the summer).
Content: The book starts with some basic guides – how to cook with what you have, what to make when you have many vegetables, and what to have on hand at all times. The book is sectioned by vegetable in alphabetical order (stars with apples ends with zucchini). This is intended to allow readers to find an ingredient at the farmers market (depending on what’s in season) and then use this cookbook to develop a meal. The book closes with recipe variations. For example, it lists out different ways to make salsa – salsa fresca, creamy tomatillo, mango basil or spicy peach.
The food break down: The food was filling and fresh. Some highlights included the green gazpacho made with honey and Serrano pepper, a nice marriage of sweet and spicy. A good sweet and savory combination was the cauliflower and pear pizza with feta or Gorgonzola cheese and a handful of arugula. It has the right combination of decadence and sustenance.
Some frequent Ingredients: Lime or lemons (as the title implies). Several recipes incorporate citrus, peanuts seemed to be popular as well.
Unique ingredients**: Pepitas, another word for pumpkin seeds; Cotija, a hard, aged, cow’s milk cheese originated from Mexico; and amaranth, an ancient grain known to be a good source of fiber.
Avg number of ingredients*/ease**: Many recipes have 10-15 ingredients and this includes items many people might typically have on hand (e.g., pepper, garlic, butter, rice vinegar).
A word on style/photography**: The cookbook has a lot of white space and yellow accents, giving it a fun and colorful aesthetic. Each recipe appears on a circular white plate that has a dash of color, usually along the brim. The plate is then placed on a white marble background. Several photos also include a patterned napkin, adding color and texture to the composition.
Best used for**: Cooking on the fly. This book is great if you are a member of CSA or like to try different vegetables from your neighborhood farmers market.
Key moments/topics from book club: We didn’t discuss the book itself that much, but I left with a lot of literary recommendations, though.
Stay tuned for the next meeting of Archestratus’ cookbook club on Tuesday, July 5th, when we will be discussing and eating from Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Of course, copies are available at Archestratus, which is located at 160 Huron Street and is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10am-10pm, and Sunday, 10am-6pm. For the next review, I’ll make a point to focus more on what the group liked and didn’t like, as well as seeing any trends in what local greenpointers are shopping for and cooking up.
* Note, This is merely an estimate from my rough math; this did not include any algorithm and is not statistically significant (yup, that’s a fun word for you mathletes).
**Full disclosure this is my opinion only and this could be a polarizing topic, so proceed with caution