So far I’ve lived in three different parts of Canada and Nova Scotia’s spring seems to come so late! To support this point I observed something interesting one year while visiting Eastern Ontario in May when we flew out then drove back. While Ottawa was beautiful and oh-so-green as we drove further and further east towards Halifax I couldn’t help but notice that the trees became more bare until we hit our own street and the trees were just starting to bud. While itsounds like I’m complaining I’m not. Really! With the snow long gone and as I gaze out my window there are a smattering of forsythia in bloom but not much green. There’s the key: green. No other colour is reserved for health and well-being as green is. To be honest, I’ve kind of taken cooking with greens for granted. I’m sure my spinach or kale cries a bit knowing it will going into a same-old-salad or “green monster” smoothie. And even now I know that there is a world of greens beyond spinach and kale but every home cook falls into a rut sometimes. This is where Jenn Louis’ The Book of Greens: A Cook’s Compendium comes in.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Louis, she is an acclaimed chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer from Portland, Oregon. Book of Greens is her second cookbook and it is a beautiful, encyclopedic look at the world of greens. Right from the beginning Louis’ connection to greens is apparent — growing up in Southern California her family grew their own food. I can’t imagine what it was like growing up and having a yard full of citrus trees, avocado trees, along with peach and plum (did I mention a grape arbor??).
She also speaks in her intro about traveling and being interested in the regional cuisines of the countries that she visited. I think this is what makes Book of Greens so special — each recipe is highly influenced by her upbringing and her travel experiences thus giving the reader recipes that are interesting and innovative. One of the first recipes I tried were the Green Pancakes which were inspired by a chef-friend of hers from Miami. This recipe caught my eye because she explains in the recipe head notes that her friend gets his children to eat greens by throwing them into pancakes (“a pancake is a pancake”). Perfect! As I am always trying to get my tot to eat more greens anything to entice her is welcome! This is where instead of taking the easy route, it’s clear that she has experimented with the recipe because it contains not only spinach but fresh mint! Who knew that these flavours would be so complimentary? Serving it with a spiced plum-pear compote really made for an unexpectedly Spring-y weekend brunch (because when it looks this fancy it’s not just a breakfast anymore). As an aside, I made these egg and dairy-free by subbing in coconut oil, a mix of coconut and almond milk, along with a commercial egg replacer (I use Bob’s Red Mill). Also, as with most of her recipes she offers “Other Greens to Try” at the end of the recipe — once you’ve tried one version she’s given you ideas on what other greens would work (for example in this recipe she suggests chard or mache). Little details like this really help home cooks to branch out and try new ingredients.
As I mentioned earlier, I get caught up in buying the same-old-ingredients and forget that the grocery stores and markets do offer more than just spinach. Going further along this idea, often times I forget that many plants are edible — root to tip. Now that farmer’s markets are gearing up for a new season, while I look forward to beets and their greens, Louis’ also has gotten me to go out of my comfort zone and examine the uses of radish greens. When I made her Radish Greens and Mango Smoothie w/ Curry and Yogurt I was amazed at the flavour of the greens. Unlike some, radish greens do not have a really pronounced “green” taste and paired with the mango, curry, and yogurt made for a mild and sweetly delicious combination. It is here where I can see how her travels inform her recipe development. I even shared this smoothie with my friend who was leery about having curry powder in a smoothie but was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed it. Speaking of root-to-tip uses, one recipe I’ll be excited to try is her Tomato Leaf-Egg Pasta w/ Butter and Fresh Tomato Sauce.
Recipes in the book are divided by section and each section focuses on a different green — 40 greens in all, 175 recipes. Common greens are easily sourced — such as cabbage, chard, spinach. Other more rare greens such as: Gai Lan, Mizuna, or Agretti are given the same care and attention, although not as easy to come by. She provides a seasonal chart in order to help understand when greens are at their best and she also delves into “The Basics” so that if you’re unfamiliar with greens she provides information on how to approach cooking with them. As in with most cookbooks nowadays she offers
a pantry section on common ingredients and I found that I didn’t really have too much trouble sourcing items for the recipes I tried. When I made her Nori and Coconut Flour Buttermilk Biscuits w/ Sesame Shichimi Butter I found both the Nori and Shichimi spice at a national-chain grocery store. It should be said that the Book of Greens is not a special diet cookbook and has meat ingredients which should appeal to many different types of cooks (I think if I ate meat the first recipe I’d try is her Dandelion Greens, Prosciutto, and Olive Picnic Cake — it sounds so intriguing!)
Book of Greens has been the perfect addition to my cookbook library because I don’t have another book like it — Louis’ has taken the time to explore a little explored subject (imho) and offered something truly original. All of the recipes I’ve tried have been amazing from the most delicious Pesto I’ve ever made (her Pesto 101 provides a perfect template to concoct any type of pesto imaginable!) to the surprising Lettuce and Carrot Cake. Who knew you could bake Iceberg Lettuce into a dessert?! I think if I try it again I’ll add less oil but the overall flavour knocks the humdrum carrot cake we are familiar with right out of the kitchen. If you want to see what else I’ve made you can check out my custom IG hashtag #BookofGreenssse or my Facebook page. Remember that same-old-spinach-salad I mentioned earlier? Replaced! I made her Simple Dandelion Greens Salad w/ Grilled Pears one night for dinner and it was enjoyed so much! No worries about buying greens I have no idea how to cook (or deal with) — Book of Greens has got me covered.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ten Speed Press for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.