Christopher Boswell: Verdure

Christopher Boswell

Verdure: Vegetable Recipes from The American Academy in Rome (Little Bookroom 2014) is one of a series of four book about a revolution in Rome:

The goal of the RSFP (Rome Sustainable Food Project) was to bring people to the table and encourage a true cross-pollination and exchange of ideas over delicious and nourishing food. Verdure, or vegetables, are at the heart of the food revolution.

Alice Waters, Mona Talbott and author and chef of the American AcademyChristopher Boswell (with Elena Goldblatt) were responsible for bringing local, seasonal, sustainable vegetable cuisine to nourish the artists and scholars of the American Academy. That’s a goal that should be shared by all organizations – for it is often a great meal that brings together people, inspires conversation, and bridges cultural or academic divides.

Verdure by Christopher BoswellThe recipes are side dishes or antipasti, but they can be put together to make a vegetarian meal. They are organized by the four seasons, punctuated by the photographs of Annie Schlechter of the dishes, plants, the people enjoying the food, and the collecting of vegetables. The Primavera chapter starts with a description of Spring in Rome:

Cooks scramble to make the most of its wonderful bounty before it gives way to summer in the blink of an eye. The microseasonality here is wildly apparent: you can actually notice a change from week to week, and in some cases, from day to day. (p. 119)

New green garlic appears in late winter and is used in Gagiolini Con Aglo Nuovo (Sauteed Green Beans with New Garlic) (p. 121) or in Vignarola (Roman Style Spring Vegetable Stew) (p. 122) with artichokes, peas, spring onions, and mint. In the photo it is topped by a fried egg, something Romans often do to turn a vegetable dish into a main meal. If you are lucky enough to find baby artichokes in the market, make Carciofini Sott’olio (Baby Artichokes Preserved in Oil) (p. 133), similar to the Turkish preparation in olive oil and lemon. Although Verdure is largely a vegetable book, the authors use meat to flavor vegetables, as in Piselli Con Prosciutto (Peas with Prosciutto Di Parma, Cream & Mint) for early sweet peas – later summer peas are served with a tomato-based sauce.

Reading the recipe notes in Verdure is like joining the cook in the kitchen – wondering how the guests will respond to each dish. The recipes are simple to follow, but only worth while doing so if you have excellent, in season vegetables. Get inspired at the farmer’s market – or your own vegetable patch and then follow Verdure.

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