Man, I was so happy to receive this book! I requested it for review from Blogging for Books, and it seemed to take forEVER to arrive.
But it was worth it. Solid at 215 pages with a smooth hardcover, it's heavy but not imposing. It cracked when I opened it and had that smell like it had just come home from the bookstore. The cover image, plum slices and sunflower seeds on a nasturtium salad, drew my eye right in.
It's got sewn binding, and whichever page you open to it stays open and almost flat so you can cook with the book lying on the counter or propped up.
When I started flipping pages, I got my first shock: fresh, non-dried chick peas are edible- on toast in this recipe-and they're green! Uh-huh. I didn't even know you could eat them that way. :)
What's my cooking background, so you'll know where this review is coming from?
Basically, I'm an New England American who aims toward natural, whole foods as much as possible. (I don't shop at specialty stores, unless you count Market Basket. And I love mac and cheese and meatloaf.) A dozen different vegetables, two at a time and home grown in the summer, complement dinner each night and salads are main lunches. Cherries and blueberries have been known to appear at breakfast. Nuts are eaten raw or roasted every day.
Vibrant Food goes way beyond common vegetables and basic salads. That's why I wanted this book... to have available for when I wanted to shake things up and take seasonal cooking a step farther. Kimberley's book is inspired by the colors of produce, and the rhythms of growth through the year. It's all here- the orange melt in your mouth sweet potato and the intense green of snap pea, the flavor of a tomato soup and the cool sweetness of a blackberry ice pop. I think this book came to me at the perfect time... we've just planted our garden!
Sure, some of it sounds terribly exotic- Poached Apricots in Rosewater and Chocolate Truffles rolled in Bee Pollen, for example. Yes, it sounds far-out, but it looks absolutely beautiful. (The rose water gives a touch of elegance and the bee pollen benefits allergy sufferers.)
As far as I can tell, the ingredients used here fall into the "I can find it, but I don't typically buy it" category, not the "Do they even sell this in the Continental USA?" category. Most of the recipes really look very simple. Even the most complicated sounding ones are described in easy to understand steps.
In short, this book is inspiring with a capital I. Foodies and home cooks will get a kick out of the evocative photography and Kimberley's writing. "Summer's produce comes in big and loud and fun and full of boisterous color. It is the season of not holding back. There is an urgency to it; so much is available and so much of it is so briefly available. I want to eat every tomato, every berry, all the melons, and the corn, and the peaches, and the cherries, until there is none left. Which is what I do, for a few months every year."
If you're ready to get cooking with some beautiful vegetables and fruit, and are willing to track down some extra ingredients, then Vibrant Food will be a perfect kitchen sidekick. I would say the print size for the actual recipes is kind of on the small size, but that's my only complaint about this book.
Thank you Blogging for Books for my review copy!