I’d like to believe it’s because it was a gift from my one-eyed, then nanogenarian, deep Southern, dearly departed step-grandmother-in-law that I have a soft spot for Louise Pickford’s The Inspired Vegetarian… but I’m afraid it’s mainly the compliments. “Who brought THIS?” the parents rave at the winter fair potluck when they take a bite of Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Roasted Buckwheat. “Wow- you actually MADE these?” the garden partygoers exclaim in disbelief when the cheesy lemony nutty spinach and pastry goodness of those Stuffed Filo Triangles passes their lips. “Are you a gourmet or what?” the Passover seder guests graciously comment when they see the Layered Vegetable Terrine in its perfectly striped rectangle of green pea, carrot, and potato laid out like a banner from some exotic land on their salad plates.
A gourmand I cannot claim to be, though Ms. Pickford let’s me pretend. I am merely a follower of good recipes, and this book has plenty. Some take work, I won’t lie to you, but others are deceptively simple – that above-mentioned stew, for example, or the Red Pepper Soup with Cheese and Herb Floats, or the Beet and Grapefruit Salad. The book itself is a tight little tome of glossy, well-bound pages filled with beautiful photos and an easy layout. The author gives very little advice and such a spare introduction it’s apparent she assumes her reader knows a little about ingredients and preparation; style and presentation are more the emphasis here. But it isn’t just for entertaining. In honor of the splendid green peas we’ve been getting from the CSA the last couple of weeks, I am including below one of the book’s homier, less fancy recipes, which has come to be my staple summer salad. When the tomatoes in my backyard are finally ripening, this is the one I dream about making. And eating all by myself.
Ma’s Monday Salad
8 small new red potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup snow (or any sweet) peas, trimmed
3/4 cup corn kernels (1 medium ear)
6 large ripe tomatoes
1 cup cooked butter or lima beans
1/2 cup pitted black olives (optional)
2 slices thick white bread, toasted and crumbled (optional)
3 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and quartered
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T. crème fraîche or yogurt cheeses
1 T whole-grain mustard
2 t. chopped fresh chives
2 t. white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Remove the potatoes (saving the hot water for the next step), refresh under cold water to prevent them from cooking further, and pat dry.
Blanch the peas and corn in plenty of salted boiling water for 2 minutes, until just tender. Drain, refresh under cold water, and dry.
Mix the potatoes, snow peas, and corn with the tomatoes, beans, olives, and bread.
Blend the dressing ingredients together, pour over the salad, and top with the egg quarters.
Serve at once.