May Cook the Books! Tarts, Favas, and Soups – Review and Wrap-up


Well that title sure was a mouthful! Yowsa! But, at any rate, we are closing out another productive month of Cook the Books after exploring Tender by Nigel Slater. Did you follow along at home? Have you used any of Nigel Slater’s books or recipes? We’d love to hear what you thought in the comments! Here in Seattle, we are just starting to eek our way out of the yearly kale/chard glut. Meaning, the timing of Tender was actually perfect to add a little variety to get us through the final hump into new goods from the garden. It was also a lovely book to pour over longingly and get inspired for the upcoming awesomeness of summer produce!

grow and resist cook the books Tender

But, hey, we’ve got rhubarb enough to hide a large 5-year-old!

The Cooking:

I already told you about the chickpea patties and beet tzatsiki; chocolate-beet cake with crème fraîche and poppy seeds; lentil, bacon, and chard soup; carrot and cilantro fritters; baked celery; creamed (fava) beans with mint; spring leeks, fava beans, and bacon; and sea salt-baked potato with parmesan greens. Good stuff, all of it!

Since then I busted out some cabbage soup (p.98) and while not a necessarily a new combination of ingredients (cabbage, chorizo, onions, and potato), the soup was fantastic and quick. The night I made it, we weren’t home until close to 6, and I still had this on the table by 6:45. Of course it was even better after a day or two in the fridge, but we all really enjoyed it that night. Bonus! Our bay shrub looks perfect and picking fresh bay leaves from the garden for cooking never gets old.

grow and resist cook the books Tender bay leave

beautiful bay

I also made sorrel with new potatoes (p.438). Nigel cooks new potatoes and adds them to a light dressing with quite a bit of shredded sorrel. I have loads (and loads and loads and loads) of thriving sorrel in the garden was hoping this would be the recipe to remedy my lack of ideas on how to use it. Alas, I didn’t love it. It was ok, but I likely wouldn’t make it again. They did make fantastic hash browns for another breakfast though, so all was not lost!

grow and resist cook the books Tender

No potatoes of our own yet, but the plants seem to be growing really well (with lavender and chives)

Dinner Party!

Cook the Books! Dinner Party returned this month. Briggs and I both had things going on with our own families over the long weekend, so we settled on Monday evening rendezvous. The Ladyfriend and I had my brother’s family, including their 3 kids and a puppy, to add to our usual mayhem, here until the afternoon of the party, so I chose things that sounded easy and fast. Your Cook the Book hosts weren’t up to our usual wild antics, but not to worry! A good time was had and we had quite a feast! Check in with Briggs on what they made later! She went on vacation, but I’m still dreaming about the eggplant bruschetta!

I made: a shallow tart of chard and cheese (p.188), chicken broth with pork and kale (p.281), and a salad of beans, peas, and pecorino (p.366). Now, I gotta say – aren’t tarts by nature shallow? Have you ever had an incredibly thick tart? I, for one, have not. Oh, Nigel and his funny recipe names. Some names are long and wordy (I’m looking at you “an extremely moist chocolate-beet cake with crème fraîche and poppy seeds“) others are so plain you might not even notice they exist (such as “cabbage soup“).

Cheesy tart crust and the very last remaining bits of overwintered chard from the garden. Just add fresh eggs and cream and you’ve got a winner!

Anyhow, I had the aforementioned shallow tart of chard and cheese recipe bookmarked from the start. Chock full chard I knew I had in the garden. Eggs from my happy lil’ hens. Thyme from maybe the most gorgeous thyme plant I’ve ever grown. Yes, it had to be made. Plus, much to my dismay, I have never actually made a tart. I know! Silly, right? The tart crust came together easily, and the whole thing cooked up beautifully. Perfect for brunch, light supper with a salad, or even a handheld-commute-to-work breakfast (like I did). I think it would be equally great with leeks or shallots, instead of green onions, or using any green of your choice instead of the chard. Versatile and delicious!

grow and resist cook the books Tender

Last of the overwintered chard that the leaf miners haven’t invaded.

The chicken broth with pork and kale (or Pork Meatball Soup with Greens, if Nigel had asked my opinion on things) was fantastic. Perfect even with store-bought broth. Yes, yes, I know. People love themselves some homemade broth and stock. But you know what? Making chicken broth makes me want to vomit. I have tried. And the smell and look of it cooking does me in. Shudder. So, I buy all my broth. And you know what? It is fine, just fine. And convenient. But, if you make your own stock, I applaud you! Maybe someday I’ll get there. But probably not with chicken because I can hardly eat chicken these days as it is. I’m becoming a veg-red-meat-a-tarian it seems. But anyway, about the soup. Ground pork is mixed with minced herbs and rolled into small meatballs. The meatballs are then well-browned before finishing to cook in the broth. Blanched kale is added and you are done. I already am planning on making meatballs ahead of time to freeze and have on hand for quick soup making.

I thought a salad of beans, peas, and pecorino would be perfect to go with the chardy-cheesy tart, and it was! I had already been hitting the fava beans hard and heavy this month and each recipe has been a keeper. For this recipe, fava beans and peas were mixed over a lightly dressed mixed green salad with mint leaves and bits of pecorino tucked in with small ciabatta toasts. It was perfect and will be my go-to spring salad. ‘Nuf said. Oh, and I used frozen peas. If they are good enough for Dorie, they are good enough for me.

grow and resist cook the books Tender

Our peas aren’t ready yet, but can I interest you in a game of hopscotch?

The Review:

Recipe/writing style: I really enjoyed the entire book. I loved the garden diaries, as well as the anecdotes and stories. I nodded along with the discussion of each vegetable in the garden. I liked his detailed explanations of the vegetable in the kitchen. I found the seasoning ideas and general information (entitled “And…” in his chapters) helpful and, at times, surprising (in a good way). I liked all of it. His very British-ness. You see, I lived in England in my impressionable youth and I love British-ness. The humor. The speech patterns. Like I said, all of it.

  • Did the recipes taste good? Yes! Nearly everything I made and tasted was great!  
  • Would I use it again? Yes! I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes using other vegetables when they come in season. It is a perfect year round cookbook, with something new to try at any time. There is a mix of recipes that easily come together in a hurry for a weeknight, as well as more time consuming recipes. 
  • Is it reliable? Yes! The recipes were easy to follow, simple to modify to your own palate and/or what you have available, and the results were dependable.
  • Does it use real food? Yes! And encourages you to eat in season with what is mostly-local food.
  • Can I replicate the recipes and are the results worth the effort? Yes!

Other: I love that this is a cookbook that I can find inspiration in year-round and that it glorifies even the produce that I find myself very tired of come spring. I enjoyed the connection of growing your own food, as well as frequenting the farmers market, to eat seasonally and locally. This is a reader’s and gardener’s cookbook for sure! I found some new favorites (baked celery… who would have thought?) and there are loads of sticky notes throughout the book for later in summer. Can’t wait!

grow and resist cook the books Tender

Broody Annie. I forced her off the nest box to come hang out for a cocktail with me. Until she pooped on me. Naughty chicken.

The Participants:

I heard from a few of the prior participants that they weren’t going to participate this month, because they were tired of the available, seasonal vegetables and didn’t want to purchase to purchase the book. I totally get that. I urge you to check it out from the library, if nothing else, for other seasons! Good stuff! And, we’ll see you back next month for Street Food!

Aimée from Homemade Trade made chickpea patties with beet tzatziki, chard with olive oil and lemon, and pilaf of asparagus and mint (sans the favas). Those favas can be rather elusive, can’t they? There one minute, gone the next. Glad you enjoyed the pilaf without them! Aimée got to bust out her new food processor and everything! I agree – I loved how he presented everything from garden diary to seasoning suggestions.

grow and resist cook the books Tender

photo from Homemade Trade

Karen from Prospect: The Pantry was already a big fan of Nigel Slater prior to this month’s selection, but hadn’t really cooked many of his recipes. She more than made up for lost time I’d say! She made a salad of beets and apples sprinkled with walnut oil; chard braised in heavy cream with a tad of mustard; a pilaf of asparagus, fava beans and mint; chowder of mussels and leek; spring leeks, fava beans and bacon; kale with golden raisins and onions; and chicken broth with pork and kale. Karen offers up some interesting editorial thoughts as well. As this is my first cookbook of Nigel’s, I can’t speak to the recycled recipes, but I agree with you that the book has earned a permanent home on my shelves!

Casey from Salted Plates roasted asparagus, and made baked potatoes with leeks & fontina. I’ll have to try the asparagus the Nigel way – I don’t tend to cover mine while roasting either, but it sounds great! Glad your dilated-eyes mishap in cheese buying didn’t mess up your baked potatoes! (I don’t tend to eat baked potatoes either, but this month has renewed my love as well!) I also loved how Nigel embraces non-exact measurements!

Sarah from Eat Locally. Blog Globally. turned out some carrot fritters, though she had a difficult time getting them to bind together. I did too Sarah, but thought maybe it was because I didn’t adjust the egg quantity when I likely nearly doubled the carrots. I’ll have to try it again and see if I can get them to hold up. And, I’m with you! I am super tired of winter and overwintered produce and am dreaming of beans, tomatoes, and corn! Hang in there! It’ll come!

JK and Angela from Tea Time Adventures whipped up a beet cake (in a heart pan, no less!), plus creamed leeks, avocado hummus, fava bean salad. JK created a shortcut with the cake using canned beets and it seems like it worked out perfectly, so if you are short on time certainly give that a try for yourself! Angela conquered her past bad experience with fava beans and ended up really liking them. However, by the time of their Cook the Books lunch, fava beans were gone. No worries, she made substitutions with what was in season/available and made an avocado hummus (using avocado instead of favas), creamed leeks (again, leeks instead of favas), and got creative and combined 2 of Nigel’s recipes to make one salad that did use the fava beans! I believe they combined the green beans, cool white cheese, and hot radish salad with the spring leeks, fava beans, and bacon. Am I right Tea Time? Looks like it turned out great!

My partner in crime, Briggs, went on a fun vacation so I’ll update with their review and dinner party information as soon as it is up!

Next month is Street Food with Susan Feniger and it sounds fantastic! Briggs introduced it earlier in the week, so pop on over and check out what you have in store!


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