By Cara Mangini
Formats and Prices
- ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD
- Hardcover $35.00 $44.00 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 19, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
A root-to-leaf guide to vegetable butchery, with 150 recipes. Winner, IACP Cookbook Awards for Single Subject and People's Choice.
Applying the skills of butchery to the unique anatomy of vegetables—leafy, lumpy, stalky, gnarly, thin-skinned, or softly yielding—Cara Mangini shows, slice by slice, how to break down more than 100 vegetables for their very best use in the kitchen. Here's how to peel a tomato, butcher a butternut squash, cut cauliflower steaks, and chiffonade kale. How to find the tender, meaty heart of an artichoke and transform satellite-shaped kohlrabi into paper-thin rounds, to be served as a refreshing carpaccio.
And then, more than 150 recipes that will forever change the dutiful notion of "eat your veggies"—Grilled Asparagus, Taleggio, and Fried Egg Panini in the spring; summery Zucchini, Sweet Corn, and Basil Penne with Pine Nuts and Mozzarella; and Parsnip-Ginger Layer Cake with Browned Buttercream Frosting to sweeten a winter meal. Plus everything else you need to know to enjoy modern, sexy, and extraordinarily delicious vegetables—and make the the center of the meal.
vegetable butcher (n) \'vej-tә-bәl \'bů-chәr\:
1. a trusted professional who breaks down vegetables with knife lessons, insider tips, and approachable preparations.
2. this book; a resource full of produce-inspired recipes that deliver over-the-top flavor without sacrifice (or apology).
Selection. Storage. Washing.
Before you butcher anything, you have to take care in selecting, storing, and washing your vegetables. This will maximize their shelf life and set up your prep work and cooking for success. Determine your personal sourcing philosophy to focus your options and streamline shopping. Are you interested in joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or do you prefer shopping at the farmers' market, a local specialty store, or the supermarket? Is certified organic produce right for you? My best advice: Get to know a general growing calendar for your region atand always pay attention to the time of year.
No matter where you're shopping, take some time to choose the pick of the crop. Seek out brightly colored, fresh-looking produce that is in season. It may seem obvious, but take care to avoid vegetables that are discolored, limp, overly soft, shriveling, or dry. (Don't be afraid of fresh-looking but irregularly shaped vegetables. Nature produces vegetables that are perfectly imperfect, and just fine to eat.) Veggies in their prime have a much better chance of lasting longer and remaining in good condition until you are ready to cook them. Shopping at farmers' markets and specialty produce stores is a good guarantee of freshness. At the supermarket and big-box clubs, look for in-season vegetables or items that last a long time if stored correctly, like onions, beets, cabbage, carrots, and rutabaga. Procure the season's best and most vibrant vegetables from the start, and much of your work is done for you. Not only will your vegetables last longer, but they'll offer incomparable flavor.
Organic Produce and GMOs
By United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, certified organic vegetables must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). For me, whether at the grocery store or at the farmers' market, buying organic feels right for the environment and for my personal health. If it matters to you, look for the USDA organic seal on produce tags or twist ties to identify certified organic vegetables. Remember, just because you are shopping at the farmers' market doesn't mean that you are buying organic. Talk to vendors about their farming practices. Do they use genetically modified seeds or apply chemicals to their crops? The certification process takes time and money so some small farms may not be interested in certification or are in transition, turning over a conventional farm to an organic one.
Overall, I encourage you to buy organic as much as possible, and especially when it comes to vegetables that have been found to retain the highest levels of pesticides when conventionally grown, including bell peppers, celery, lettuces, potatoes, spinach, collards, and kale. (Apples, blueberries, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, and strawberries are on the naughty list, too.)
So What are GMOs?
GMOs are plants or animals created through biotechnology, not through nature or traditional cross-breeding methods. These products are genetically engineered by altering and merging DNA. They are extremely controversial. Proponents suggest that genetically modified crops aim to provide benefits to farmers and consumers, while others question their safety and are begging for more regulation. Personally, I do not trust the safety of GMO crops, including canola, soy, and corn. Buying organic is the best way to avoid them.
Visitto learn more about GMOs and crops that are at risk of becoming genetically modified.
Most vegetables are at their best as close to picking as possible. Try to use them within a few days of purchase. The refrigerator promotes a humid, moist environment that will help extend the life of most vegetables, but they still must be cared for properly in order to avoid mold and decay. Pierce storage bags or leave them open enough to allow air to circulate (unless otherwise indicated). Some items, like winter squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and avocados, store better outside of the refrigerator. Keep these veggies in the coolest part of your kitchen to extend their life. If you store any vegetables a bit past their prime, try to salvage them by cutting away any discolored, wilted, or soft spots just before using them.
Always wash vegetables just before using them no matter how they will be prepared (even if you are peeling off the skin and even if they are organic). Make sure to take extra care with all raw vegetables that will not undergo cooking. Some of the recipes in this book include washing instructions when I think the reminder is important, but washing is assumed in every recipe.
Hands-on contact is part of the joy in working with vegetables—ripping leafy greens from stems, snapping asparagus spears, popping beans out of pods, pulling apart florets, tearing herbs, stripping leaves, peeling your way into the heart of an artichoke. The next-best tool—and the essential tool for most vegetable prep—is a good-quality chef's knife.
An 8-inch chef's knife is an all-purpose utility knife that can take on almost all cutting jobs. It should be as comfortable to hold as it is to work with, so it's a good idea to shop for your knife at a kitchen store that will allow you to test the grip and performance of several options.
A paring knife with a 3- to 4-inch blade is an invaluable knife for precise maneuvering and detailed work like coring a tomato, pulling skin from a clove of garlic, and stringing cardoons. (I like a 3½-inch blade.)
A long serrated knife, 8 to 12 inches, with moderately deep, pointed serrations, is essential for cutting some vegetables like artichokes and tomatoes.
I also like a Japanese-style vegetable cleaver, which, unlike a long, pointed Western chef's knife, has a shorter, rectangular, almost completely squared-off blade. It's a fun (and nonessential) addition to my knife collection—most certainly a splurge—but I enjoy using it and rely on it for clean, smooth, and precise cuts. Its broad surface is also helpful for picking up and transferring just-cut vegetables from the cutting board.
You will find knives in a range of prices and materials, but most of the best-quality knives on the market today are made of high-carbon stainless steel. They combine the best of carbon-steel knives (a razor-sharp edge) and of stainless-steel knives (resistance to stains and corrosion). Most reputable manufacturers will offer a lifetime guarantee.
You don't need as many knives as those big block sets make you think. I recommend three essential knives and one that is nice to have, but not mandatory.
Once you invest in the right knives, you must care for them properly. The edge can be damaged quite easily if it comes in contact with anything besides food and your cutting board. During prep when you aren't actually using it, keep a knife on its side, with the blade pointed away from you. If you wish, you can keep a damp cloth next to your work space to wipe it clean as you work through different vegetables. After you use a knife, immediately wash it with a mild soap and hot water (with the blade pointed away from you). Never put it in the dishwasher. Dry the handle and blade thoroughly and store it upright using a magnetic knife strip, or on its side covered in a protective plastic sleeve. I think countertop wooden storage blocks take up too much space, and the ones with vertical, angled slots will dull your knives. If you prefer to use one, turn the knives so that they sit on their spine, not on the blade, or use a universal or magnetic block that will hold a variety of shapes and sizes without dulling them.
Honing Your Knives
It is important to maintain the edge of your knife for performance and safety. (Not only will a dull knife mash or crush veggies instead of chopping them, it is more likely to slip and cause injury.) A knife's cutting edge is made up of very fine, almost invisible teeth that can easily get knocked out of alignment with regular use and especially when you are cutting hard materials like tough roots or winter squash. This will make a knife seem dull even when it is not. You can straighten the edge of your knife by running it along a metal rod known as a honing or sharpening steel. (The exercise is called honing or steeling.) Honing your knife is actually just a tune-up—it does not make it sharper. If you steel your knife and it is still dull and not performing, it's time to send it out for professional sharpening.
I steel my knife before almost every use to ensure an optimal and safe performance. If you use your knife on a regular basis, it's a good idea to get in the habit before prepping a recipe or as soon as you notice that it isn't up to snuff.
I don't use my paring knife as often, so I steel it less routinely. The only knife that you cannot hone is the serrated one—instead, you'll need to take it to a professional sharpener when it seems dull. You can hone your other knives as often as you feel necessary.
Sharpening Your Knives
If you steel your knife and it is still performing poorly, it's time to sharpen it. Unlike honing, which essentially straightens the cutting edge (known as the burr), sharpening will remove metal from the blade, creating a new edge. Most reputable kitchen stores and cutlery shops offer sharpening services at around five dollars per knife.
If you really want the ability to sharpen your knives at any time, I suggest using an electric sharpener, which will help you hold your knife at the right angle against the stone. Steer clear of a whetstone sharpener, which can be quite tricky without a lot of practice.
How to Hone a Knife
1. The easiest and safest way to hone your knife is by holding the steel vertically out in front of you, firmly anchored to the board with the tip down atop a folded dish towel. Position the side of the heel of your knife at a 15- to 20-degree angle (imagine the angle of a closed matchbook) against the steel, blade pointing down. Applying pressure, firmly draw the knife across the blade, moving from the heel toward the tip in one motion.
2. Switch sides between each swipe, keeping your knife steady and firm at a 15- to 20-degree angle. Repeat these motions 5 to 8 times, lightening your pressure as you reach your final strokes. Use the kitchen towel to wipe your knife with the blade pointing away from you.
How Do I Know If My Knife Is Dull?
Your knife should be able to cut through vegetables cleanly and with ease—without much pressure. You can tell it's dull when you have to apply a lot of force to cut through a vegetable, it slips against the material, or the cuts are not clean and appear mashed, crushed, or jagged. If you are exerting a lot of effort without good results, your knife needs honing or sharpening.
You can gauge your knife's sharpness with a simple paper test: Hold a piece of paper vertically and carefully run your knife through it (top to bottom or at an angle along the side). A sharp knife should cleanly slash through the paper without force. A dull knife will struggle to cut through the paper or rip the paper, producing a jagged, uneven cut or perhaps even just bending the paper without cutting through it.
Holding a Knife
The ideal way to hold a chef's knife is with a "pinch grip" or a "blade grip." Place your thumb and forefinger just in front of the handle and pinch the blade near the point where it joins the handle (also known as the bolster). This will give you good control over the tip of the blade. If this is uncomfortable or takes getting used to, you can use a "handle grip." With this grip, your thumb and forefinger rest on the handle of the knife instead.
The weight and size of a paring knife allow you to alternate between these two grips to maneuver around a vegetable. When using one to peel an onion or remove the germ from a garlic clove, the spine of the knife should rest in the palm of your hand with the edge of the knife pointed toward your thumb. Wrap your forefinger and middle finger around the spine of the blade to secure and steady the knife in your hand, using your thumb on the other side as a counterweight.
I cannot emphasize enough just how essential the cutting board is to vegetable butchering. A cutting board should provide a firm and stable surface that will allow you to work with ease and control. For the majority of your prep work, you will want to use a large, sturdy board that won't slip and offers plenty of room to work comfortably and safely—get rid of those small, cramped boards! It should rest securely against the counter and grip your knife just enough to offer you excellent control. You can get away with a board that is 18 inches long by 12 inches wide, but really a 20-by-15–inch board is my recommended minimum.
A traditional wood cutting board or butcher block is my top choice. It is an ideal cutting surface (and a beautiful one) that makes butchering any vegetable a joy. Teak wood boards are my second choice, and offer great durability. These boards—especially the large ones—are expensive, but they should last a lifetime if you take good care of them. Look for a reversible board with built-in handles.
Thick plastic boards are less expensive alternatives and will get the job done, but they can scratch easily, seem to dull your knife faster, and aren't much of a pleasure to cut on. Place a damp paper towel underneath plastic boards and lightweight wood boards to keep them from sliding out of place. (Make sure to change out the damp towel between uses, as it can harbor bacteria.) Acrylic and glass boards offer a slippery surface with no control, and they dull and damage the edge of your knife; avoid them.
I like to keep around a set of flexible cutting mats, which I place on top of my wood board for cutting small, soft vegetables—especially ones that yield messy juice. You can buy them at most kitchen stores.
The Care and Cleaning of a Wood Board
You must wash a wood board with hot, soapy water and dry it immediately. (Never soak a wood board or completely submerge it in water; it will cause the wood to split.) To sanitize your board more thoroughly, wash the board with a combination of 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water. To remove stains and odors from your board, sprinkle salt over the affected areas and let it stand for a few minutes, then use half a lemon to rub the salt into the board, and wipe it clean with a damp towel. (This works well after cutting garlic and onions.) You'll also need to rub a wood board with food-grade mineral oil (or cream offered by some board manufacturers) to preserve it and keep it from getting dry. If your board sees a lot of action, apply the oil every couple of weeks. With moderate use, oil it every month or so. Use clean hands or a towel to rub the oil evenly into the surface, and then let it stand for five to ten minutes. Use a towel to wipe off any excess oil.
Outside of the basics, these are the standout pieces of equipment and tools that I use on a regular basis. Some are not absolutely essential, but all will help support your work with vegetables.
• Bench scraper
• Box grater (or an extra-coarse or ribbon Microplane)
• Colander (standard and double-mesh)
• Collapsible steamer basket
• Food processor
• Handheld citrus juicer/squeezer
• Kitchen shears
• Mandoline (preferably a handheld, Japanese-style mandoline; my favorite is the Kyocera)
• Microplane (rasp-style)
• Scale (see)
• Salad spinner
• Spider (a mesh strainer attached to a long handle)
• Vegetable brush (with natural bristles and a short handle)
• Vegetable peelers (a swivel peeler and a Y-shaped peeler)
• Vegetable peeler with julienne blade
As you will learn in A Visual Guide to Basic Cuts (see), every vegetable requires an assessment of its size, shape, and texture in order to determine the best way to approach it. Each vegetable is different. Is the skin tender and thin enough to eat? Does it have rough, dry, or hard skin that will require peeling with a knife, or can a vegetable peeler handle the job? What is the best way to break down the vegetable to produce uniform pieces? This decision will impact how the vegetable cooks, how it partners with other ingredients, and how the final dish looks. Perhaps most important, the cut—a small, medium, or large dice; thin slices or strips; thick slabs; sticks or rounds—will affect each and every bite.
The Weight of It
Some recipes in this book simply call for one medium zucchini or two large tomatoes—that's when an exact size won't make a huge difference and you can use your instincts and the produce available to you to determine what seems right. Often, though, I list produce by weight when a specific amount will significantly affect the outcome or when it makes more sense to measure small vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and sunchokes by weight. A scale (preferably a digital one) will eliminate all guesswork.
Trimming and Peeling
Use a vegetable peeler, when called for, to peel vegetables with thin or stringy skins. I recommend a swivel peeler for carrots, cucumbers, some eggplants, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, and sweet potatoes. A Y-shaped peeler is best applied to roundish vegetables like radishes, rutabaga (unwaxed), sunchokes, and butternut squash, as well as celery stalks and cardoons.
A paring knife comes in handy to core, peel, and trim vegetables, especially ones with soft, papery, or stringy skin like tomatoes, tomatillos, cooked beets, garlic, ginger, shallots, onions, celery, cardoons, and rhubarb.
Use a chef's knife to peel vegetables with thick, hard, rough, or waxed skins: celery root, jicama (waxed), kohlrabi, rutabaga (waxed), and some thick and hard-skinned winter squash.
Chopping, Mincing, and Cutting Ribbons
You can coarsely chop vegetables when the final results don't have to be so precise, such as when simmering them in a stock or pureeing them. Although these are not uniform cuts, you want to get the pieces as close to the same size as possible (typically between ¾ inch and 1 inch) to ensure even cooking. You will also chop fresh delicate herbs such as parsley and hardier ones like rosemary leaves. Naturally, due to their form, they require much smaller cuts that still hold some shape.
Mincing is a much finer version of chopping. It requires a different hand position on your knife to create a unique rocking motion without breaking contact with your cutting board.
Leafy greens and large-leaf herbs can be rolled up and shredded with a chef's knife to produce fine, uniform ribbons (chiffonade).
Depending on the shape of the vegetable, slicing can produce round or oblong coins (as with a carrot); thin or thick slabs, rounds, or planks (as with an eggplant or zucchini); or thin strips (as with an onion, fennel, or pepper). You can use slices whole or butcher them further to produce sticks or very thin strips known as matchsticks or julienne (see). For paper-thin slices, you'll want to use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler (see or , respectively).
Before you break a vegetable into slices, assess its form and consider its relation to other similarly shaped vegetables. You can use the same general approach for carrot shapes, round roots like beets, and cylindrical veggies like cucumbers, as well as leafy greens, adjusting slightly to account for subtle differences. Other irregularly shaped veggies such as artichokes, cardoons, and peppers will require a unique approach that I cover in their respective chapters.
To slice, position your non-knife hand against the vegetable, with your fingers tucked back in a claw position to hold the vegetable firmly against the cutting board. Line up the side of your blade with your knuckles so they kiss. Now, a sharp chef's knife will do all the work for you. Just guide your knife through the vegetable, with a gentle rocking motion—tip of the blade down to the heel. Keeping your fingers tucked back, slide your knuckles back to make the successive cuts, spaced according to your desired thickness.
Try to keep a straight wrist while you slice so you create even cuts. To check yourself, look over your knife hand for a bird's-eye view: You should not be able to see the cutting edge of your knife. If you can, you are going to produce slices with varying thickness. Once you cut vegetables into uniform slices, you can execute all subsequent cuts in the same fashion.
Using a Mandoline
A mandoline is useful for producing very thin, uniform slices—typically from paper-thin up to ¼ inch thick—and makes quick work of cutting firm vegetables, such as beets (cooked or raw), carrots, celery root, cucumbers, fennel, kohlrabi, onions, peppers, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, summer squash, sunchokes, sweet potatoes, and turnips. If a vegetable needs to be peeled, you'll want to peel it before slicing. If the vegetable is wider than the mandoline's platform and blade, first cut the vegetable in half, then begin to slice with the cut side down.
Cutting Matchsticks (Julienne)
To cut very thin, uniform strips (⅛ or ¹/₁₆ inch wide), you can use a chef's knife, julienne peeler, or the julienne attachment on some mandolines. For cuts with a knife, see.
Apply the julienne peeler like you would a standard peeler to zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Turn the vegetable as you go or hold it in place on its side against your board. Press and slide the peeler along the flesh to create matchsticks.
To use a mandoline's julienne attachment, you will have to adjust or change the slicing plate, or flip a switch to activate it. Follow the steps, applying moderate pressure on the hand guard and gliding the vegetable back and forth to produce even strips.
Grating and Shredding
Use a box grater or handheld Microplane with large holes for jobs that require only a couple of ingredients. I especially recommend it for coarsely grating beets, carrots, cucumbers, daikon radishes, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and zucchini.
To grate a vegetable into fine shreds, use the smallest holes on a box grater or a standard rasp Microplane with very fine teeth. These tools work well for citrus zest, garlic, ginger, and horseradish. Do not saw a Microplane back and forth: Move smoothly in one direction.
Alternatively, a food processor fitted with a shredding attachment will quickly break down firm-fleshed vegetables into thin shreds—particularly helpful when shredding full heads of cabbage and multiple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and celery roots that will yield a large volume. Consider this when making slaws, vegetable cakes, and fritters.
Small quantities of cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and some chicories and endives with tight heads might call for shredding with a chef's knife instead.
1. To coarsely grate a vegetable, trim a small piece off the end and, using firm and consistent pressure, run it back and forth against the largest holes of a box grater to make shreds.
2. To finely grate a vegetable or zest citrus, use a rasp Microplane, running the vegetable in one direction against the cutting edge of the holes (for citrus, stop just before you reach the white pith).
With its spiky leaves and tightly formed head, the flower bud of an artichoke appears impenetrable, perhaps inedible. True—we must trim the artichoke's thorn-tipped leaves and remove its fuzzy choke, but the toothsome leaves and sweet, tender heart hiding within are worth the fuss. Once this prep work becomes routine, there are countless ways to enjoy this harbinger of spring.
Best seasons: Spring (also available in the fall)
Good partners: Asparagus, balsamic vinegar, breadcrumbs, chervil, fava beans, garlic, goat cheese, lemon, mushrooms, new potatoes, olive oil, orange, parmesan, parsley, peas, polenta, ricotta salata, shallots, tarragon, thyme, white wine
Varieties to try: Green Globe (large heads, meaty leaves). Purple (elongated heads, pointy purple leaves). Baby Artichokes (small heads, leaves and choke can be eaten; delicious cooked or raw).
Selection: Look for artichokes that are heavy for their size, with leaves that are tightly closed. Rub leaves to determine freshness: They will squeak if they are still fresh, and the small outer leaves around the base will snap. Avoid artichokes with leaves that are browned or black all over, dry, or split. A few dark spots are fine and won't affect the artichoke's flavor. The long stems may be blackened, but you can peel them; after a steam or a boil, they will turn out to be quite meaty.
Storage: Store artichokes in a plastic bag, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator. Use them as soon as possible (artichokes lose moisture soon after harvesting), ideally no longer than a few days after purchase.
To Prep Whole Artichokes
1. Fill a large bowl with acidulated water (see ). Remove small and tough leaves from the base and stem.
“The book is loaded with photos and is smartly designed. Readers will come away with plenty of new techniques and tips for breaking down artichokes, conquering the fear of prepping nettles (gloves, tongs, and kitchen shears are a must) in order to prepare nettle pesto and ricotta crostini, and prepping beets.” —Publishers Weekly
“For cooks flummoxed by fava beans or perplexed by purslane, Mangini (once a "vegetable butcher" at Eataly, an Italian marketplace in New York City) demonstrates the essentials of cutting and preparing more than 50 kinds of vegetables and herbs…Blending practical aspects found in such manuals as Jacque Pepin’s New Complete Techniques with the varied recipes familiar to titles such as Michael Anthony’s V Is for Vegetables, Mangini’s debut will augment most vegetable cooking collections.” —Library Journal
“People get so flustered by vegetables that I think it's best to start with the basics, and The Vegetable Butcher is a butchery bible and vegetable boot camp all in one. If you ever wanted to know how to slaughter a squash or eviscerate an eggplant, here's where you start.” —Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of Dirt Candy
“With step-by-step butchering instructions and a bunch of tasty recipes, The Vegetable Butcher demystifies a cornucopia of vegetables, including up-till-now esoteric ones like cardoons, crosnes, and stinging nettles. Hooray, more vegetables to play with!” —Sara Moulton, TV host and author of Home Cooking 101
“When things are done properly, they get easier. In The Vegetable Butcher, Cara Mangini shares simple recipes that highlight a vegetable's flavor, but more importantly, teaches you the proper…way to slice, dice, and julienne it.” —Epicurious
“Chef Cara Mangini’s forthcoming book, The Vegetable Butcher, is nothing short of a veg-o-pedia. It’s packed with tips for buying the best stuff, plus a haul of killer recipes and step-by-step instructions for slicing and dicing everything from artichokes to zucchini.” —Dr. Oz THE GOOD LIFE
“For someone new to cooking, this book will become a well-worn reference, while seasoned cooks may benefit from pieces on lesser-known produce, like crosnes and cardoons. All can enjoy the 150 recipes (mostly savory, but some sweet), which include some surprising yet effective cooking methods and intriguing flavor pairings.” —Fine Cooking
“While most Americans view preparing produce as a tedious chores—and a barrier to cooking veggie-heavy meals—chef Cara Mangini, who comes from a family of meat butchers, sees it as a pleasure. In her new book The Vegetable Butcher, Mangini shares the knife skills needed to break down a whole garden of vegetables efficiently enough for a weeknight dinner.” —TIME magazine
“If you love vegetables, this book is a must-have!” —Dorie Greenspan
“An encyclopedic guide to vegetables … full of revelations.” —The Washington Post
“It is THE guide for selecting, preparing, slicing, dicing and, of course, cooking all things vegetable.” —The Chicago Tribune
- On Sale
- Apr 19, 2016
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Workman Publishing Company