Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant
Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed, Aug 21, 2012 - Cooking - 224 pages
From chef-owner of the popular all-vegetable New York City restaurant, Dirt Candy, a cookbook of nearly 100 vegetable recipes for home cooks everywhere.
Amanda Cohen does not play by the rules. Her vegetable recipes are sophisticated and daring, beloved by omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan diners alike. Dirt Candy: A Cookbook shares the secrets to making her flavorful dishes—from indulgent Stone-Ground Grits with Pickled Shiitakes and Tempura Poached Egg, to hearty Smoked Cauliflower and Waffles with Horseradish Cream Sauce, to playfully addictive Popcorn Pudding with Caramel Popcorn. It also details Amanda’s crazy story of building a restaurant from the ground up to its success, becoming one of the most popular restaurants in New York City—all illustrated as a brilliant graphic novel. Both a great read and a source of kitchen inspiration, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook is a must-have for any home cook looking to push the boundaries of vegetable cooking.
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Comics and food are two of my favourite things, and Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant blends the two in an exciting way. It's part autobiography of a restaurant owner and chef, part learning resource for kitchen skills, part history book and part cookbook. It's entirely rewarding.
Dirt Candy includes explanations of complex cooking terminology and clearly explains, through comics, how to do many of the steps called for in advanced recipes. There are cooking methods explained within that I hadn't attempted in part because of intimidation, but after reading I feel I have a good grasp of concepts such as blanching and shocking foods. The comics format is perfect for this kind of instructional material.
The book is full of great surprises, such as a section on why hiring illegal immigrants is valuable to everyone involved. It included the heartbreaking story of a family who had immigrated illegally. The book is about food broadly; it covers a lot of what it takes to operate a restaurant, food history, how meals are priced and reveals some of the challenges faced before the doors opened.
I usually gravitate to simple recipes and there are not many of those in this book. It has actually been nice to explore some food ideas outside my normal comfort zone. The dishes tend to be complex and have suggestions for presentation; the cookbook is decidedly coming from restaurant culture, and that has been an interesting shift to make when working with them. The recipes are vegetarian but usually have suggested modifications for making them vegan, which I appreciated.
Dirt Candy is packed with content and the comic format makes it very easy to digest. It has joined the ranks of both my favourite cookbooks and my favourite comics.