Monday, September 16, 2013

REVIEW: 50 Best Plants on the Planet by Cathy Thomas


This encyclopedic guide to cooking the 50 most nutritious fruits and vegetables in the world comes from Melissa's Produce, the largest supplier of specialty produce in the United States. Cooks of all skill levels will love these 150 recipes for simple sides, breakfasts, dinners, and healthful desserts that make the most of fresh, accessible produce, from memory-boosting blackberries to antimicrobial chili peppers to vitamin A–rich watermelon. Featuring health and nutritional information, tips for buying and storage, quick recipe riffs, and gorgeous shots of finished dishes as well as photographs of individual fruits and vegetables, this impressive package is an indispensable resource for home cooks looking to put more fruits and vegetables on the table every day.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Chronicle Books
ISBN 145210283X (ISBN13: 9781452102832)

My Thoughts

The rest of the title on this book is "the Most Nutrient-Dense Fruits and Vegetables, in 150 Delicious Recipes", and that is just what this book does. It presents 50 fruits and vegetables in alphabetical order. Each section has a description of the food, nutritional information, and other health benefits like it fights cancer, builds your immunity, or helps control your cholesterol. It then lists cooking and prep suggestions, some suggestions for ways to "try it!" (simple things like sauteed in oil with carrots and red onions, or cooked with potatoes and drizzled with balsamic), and then has three detailed recipes-- some with photos, and some without, but all with nutritional information.

One recipe I tried, that I looooved, is the one for Peachy Oatmeal.

Peachy Oatmeal with Bittersweet Chocolate Bits
Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
pinch of salt
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 tbs agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used about 1 tbs semi-sweet chips per serving)
2 ripe peaches cut into thin slices

Bring milk and and salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Mix in oats, agave, and vanilla. Lower to medium heat and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Divide mixture into four bowls, sprinkle with chocolate and press lightly into mixture and top with peach slices.

I used semi-sweet chips, and used about 1 tablespoon rather than 1/2 tablespoon per serving. So good! It was like eating dessert!

I also tried a recipe for sugar snap peas. It was very pretty. However I found the shallots and watercress lent too strong of a flavor for my taste.

So I jotted down a variation to try next time, and that is what I will share here, since there were aspects of the recipe that I liked.

Sugar Snap Peas with Warm Vinaigrette (my variation)
Serves 4

12 oz sugar snap peas
Arugula (optional)
2 tbs oil
1/2 cup thinly-sliced sweet onion
2 tbs seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
Coarse salt
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Add 4 cups water to large pan. Bring to boil on high heat. Add the peas and blanch until tender-crisp, 30-60 seconds. Drain and refresh the peas with cold water. Remove strings if needed, when cool. (Can toss in a medium-sized bowl with some arugula, if you like. I found the watercress to bitter for my taste, and think I will try arugula next time.)

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and reduce to medium-low. Cook until light brown, 10-12 minutes. add vinegar and sesame oil and season. Cook until heated through, about 30 seconds. Add pea mixture and toss, heating for another 30 seconds or so. Serve topped with sesame seeds.

The book also has an index that is sorted by ingredient as well as recipe, and those handy folding flaps inside the cover that are great for marking the spot of your next cooking adventure.

This book is filled with recipes I want to try, and a wealth of information on the health benefits of the plants deemed the "most nutrient-dense". I think this one is destined to become one of my favorite cookbooks (and I have lots and lots of them)!

My Rating:

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