As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

May 11, 2013

DIRT CANDY by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey, and Grady Hendrix

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 currently being one of the hardest-to-get reservations 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. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Megan Hutchins

Dirt Candy may be the oddest book I've ever read.  Half of it is a comic-book that folds memoir with history and how-to.  The other half consists of recipes, also illustrated comic-book style.

Reading this book gave me a look at opening a restaurant and the tortured relationship Americans have with vegetables -- and did it via samurai oil droplets attacking broccoli and corn with their nunchucks.  This book made me laugh out loud.  It's also the reason I'm very full at the moment.

The book, like the restaurant that shares its name, is all-vegetarian.  Amanda Cohen decided on the name Dirt Candy because "I wanted people to think of vegetables as a treat.  As something fun.  Like candy from the dirt."

And she manages to pack that fun from appetizer to dessert, ending with recipes like Red Pepper Velvet Cake and Fennel Funnel Cakes.  Yes?  Please? 

I love cookbooks that do more with vegetables than shove them to the side.  Why shouldn't broccoli get as much love as a chicken cutlet?  I hoped this book would show me some new culinary delights, and it delivered in spades.  My only regret is that I'm having a hard time finding maple chips, or I would have already smoked and then oven-candied/crisped long slices of butternut squash.  I may have drooled on the book.

Fair warning: the recipes are incredibly awesome, and with that awesome comes preparation time.  But it's worth the effort.  I never thought a meal of essentially carrots and rice could be delicious and filling, but the carrot risotto in here (topped with carrot dumplings and deep-fried carrot strips) is divine.

Read it like a book.  Cook out of it.  Whatever you like.  Dirt Candy is a volume bursting with fun.

Market: Nonfiction
Language: None
Sensuality: Mild?  There's a salad that wants to be sexy and a discussion of the historical notion of vegetarianism encouraging chaste behavior.
Violence: Mild. Mostly against vegetables.  And pickle fairies.
Mature Themes: Vegetables!

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