Pros: Colorful, creative, and inspiring!
Cons: Odd organizational scheme; you’ll have trouble finding some ingredients
Rating: 4 out of 5
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.
Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes, and Colors of Each Season is a lovely cookbook (and photo book) by Kimberley Hasselbrink:
[I]ts purpose is to start with color, employing flavor and texture to build gorgeous, dynamic dishes.
I find the organizational scheme of Vibrant Food to be a bit confusing. The larger scheme makes sense: it’s organized by season, into Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. It’s just weird to me to see very general categories like ‘berries’ or ‘tree fruits’ next to extremely specific ones like ‘persimmons’ or ‘dungeness crab’. The presence of recipes for unusual ingredients like pea shoots, nasturtium, bee pollen, and fresh nettles is excellent if you’re looking for that, but not so much if you just can’t source those ingredients; whether it’s a positive or a negative is almost entirely dependent on your individual resources. I do agree with the author that these recipes could inspire you to bring home other unusual ingredients to play with, so just be aware of this aspect of the book and decide for yourself whether it’s one you’d appreciate.
I absolutely love the gorgeous, colorful photographs. What I really appreciated, however, is that Ms. Hasselbrink totally succeeded in bringing both flavor and texture into play as well as color. The recipes we’ve tried from this book have been uniformly fantastic.
Spring: The very first recipes in the book are heavy on ingredients I have trouble finding, so I started off thinking I’d have trouble making the recipes in this cookbook. There are recipes like spring pea and pea shoot omelet, fresh chickpeas on toast, pasta with nettle pesto and blistered snap peas, nasturtium salad, and chocolate truffles with bee pollen. However, there are also things like roasted potato salad with asparagus and a boiled egg, rhubarb ginger fizz, and roast chicken with spring onions and salsa verde.
Summer: Plenty of the dishes from this chapter turned out to be doable for me: cherry ginger granola with peaches, cherry clafoutis (incredibly delicious!), summer berry and peach crisp, and sweet corn and squash fritters with avocado crema (the crema is surprisingly tart, which complements the sweet corn perfectly). I finally found harissa, so I may have to try the scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and harissa. I need to find some sort of substitute for halloumi cheese so I can make the delectable-looking grilled halloumi with strawberries and herbs.
Fall: There are two recipes each for grapes, figs, quince, and persimmons (back to that odd categorization scheme: the grapes, figs, and persimmons merit their own sections, but not the quince?). I need to use this as a prod to pick up persimmons, so I can make persimmon with broiled goat cheese. You’ll also find recipes for apple sage walnut bread, and the marvelous carnitas tacos with apple salsa (perfect timing–our local Whole Foods just started carrying ground ancho and chipotle chile powders!); the sweet-tart flavor of apple salsa with lime juice is the perfect foil to the savory pulled pork. I’m really looking forward to making the chile-roasted delicata squash with queso fresco.
Winter: The twice-baked sweet potatoes look marvelous: why have I not seen this suggested before? There’s a red beet risotto that looks quite creative and visually stunning. I can’t wait to make the cornmeal pancakes with kumquat syrup, sweet potato and three-bean chili, and black bean patties with avocado citrus salsa. In fact, it’s hard to find a single recipe in this section that I don’t want to make!
Vibrant Food is a visually stunning cookbook that produces delightful flavors as well. If you have a decent selection of produce available to you (or don’t mind getting creative) it’s well worth the purchase!