Book review: "The Renee's Garden Cookbook"

The Renee's Garden Cookbook: Delicious Recipes for Everyday Cooking With Growing Advice for Kitchen Gardeners by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff (Shepherd Publishing, 158 pp., $17.95)

by Susan Mulvihill

Whenever I get a new cookbook, the first thing I do is go through it and mark each recipe that catches my eye with a sticky note. In the case of "The Renee's Garden Cookbook," I quickly ran out of those sticky notes!

Here's just a sampling of recipes that I know I'll be making: Baked Cauliflower with Ricotta and Chives; Chard and Potato Soup; Orzo with Arugula and Mushrooms; Caramelized Leek and Onion Tart; Ginger-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables and Onions; Pam's Fresh Pea Soup; Deep Dish Summer Vegetable Casserole with Peppers, Chiles and Herbs; Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Sweet Italian Sausage, Fresh Herbs and Rice; and Fran's Orange-Scented Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

As gardeners, we are all blessed with an abundance of fresh,delicious produce that is a joy to prepare and savor. But if you're like me, I sometimes get into a rut with the way I prepare certain vegetables. This cookbook gives me the opportunity to expand my repertoire in a delicious way.

The cookbook is organized in two ways, making it easy to come up with recipes for seasonal veggies and herbs.

First, the main section is divided into all of the types of vegetables you can think of: artichokes, beans, beets and broccoli, for example. There is also an herb section that includes recipes using savory or sweet herbs.

Second, the extensive index not only covers all of the vegetables or herbs in the book but it also includes other ingredients found within the recipes. That makes it easy to either select a recipe based on the produce you have available or on what you have in your refrigerator or pantry, such as chicken or pasta. Won't that make meal-planning a breeze?

Since this is February, you might think there wouldn't be many recipes for what you currently have on hand. Not so! I still have plenty of winter squash, pumpkins, onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots and frozen chard available and "The Renee's Garden Cookbook" includes all sorts of recipes that use those very ingredients. So this is a cookbook you will use throughout the year.

It is filled with beautiful, colorful illustrations reminiscent of the attractive packets of seeds from Renee's Garden that you frequently see in garden centers.

A bonus for gardeners is that the book is also filled with advice on growing the types of vegetables and herbs found within it, so it's a good resource as well.

Renee Shepherd has graciously allowed me to reprint the following recipe for roasted pumpkin soup, which I made for dinner last night. It was absolutely delicious! The combination of curry powder, apple, fresh ginger and lime juice gave the soup a complex, rich flavor which I found very satisfying.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

2 pounds fresh pumpkin
1 large onion, unpeeled, cut in half
3 leeks, white part only
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
tablespoons butter
tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 cups chicken broth
tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks. Remove any seeds and pithy pulp. Place the pumpkin chunks and onion halves, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet along with the leeks and garlic cloves. Brush all the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the oil and cover with foil. Bake 25 minutes. Remove garlic cloves and reserve. Bake the pumpkins, onion and leeks for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until they are tender. Cool. Peel all the vegetables, including the garlic cloves, then coarsely chop.

In a 4 to 5-quart pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil with the butter. Add the ginger and apple. Saute until softened. Stir in the curry powder. Add the reserved baked vegetables and garlic and the chicken broth. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender. Stir in the lemon (or lime) juice. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot, add the milk and heat just until the soup is hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot in bowls, gardening each portion with chopped chives.

Serves 6.

"The Renee's Garden Cookbook" can be purchased online through Renee's Garden, at