Well, if mother dearest likes to unwind in the kitchen, (or if, perhaps, her go-to frozen broccoli could use a little makeover), how about a seat at Williams-Sonoma’s latest Cookbook Club presentation, “A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals From the Garden.”
In this newest volume from acclaimed chef April Bloomfield, the author turns her attentions from the nose-to-tail cooking of meat for which she has become well known to her other passion: preparing fresh vegetables with simplicity and flair, and making them so delicious you won’t notice the meat is missing.
Bloomfield is best known for holding two Michelin stars – one for her New York City gastropub, The Spotted Pig, and another for her second restaurant, The Breslin Bar and Dining Room, also in New York.
As of 2012, she was one of only ten female chefs in the United States to hold a star.
Bloomfield came to cooking in a roundabout sort of way. Initially, she planned to become a police officer, but missed out on enrolling in the academy. So, she decided to attend a catering course with her sister, and discovered a career she wanted to pursue. Born in England, she worked in many restaurants before landing at the River Café in London.
It was here, under the tutelage of chefs Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, that Bloomfield says she truly learned to cook. Absorbing the pair’s passion for fresh vegetables, she tried new dishes over and again until she discovered the nuances that made her mentors love them so. It was her position here that also served as a springboard for her own career.
On a recommendation from fellow British chef Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali scouted Bloomfield as a chef for a new restaurant he wished to open. After being flown to New York, Bloomfield underwent a ten-hour job interview, during which she and Batali ate at various restaurants across the city. By the end of the day, she had secured a spot as the chef that would go on to open The Spotted Pig.
Known for having a fondness for using the whole animal in her cooking, including the “not so tasty bits,” Bloomfield has the same approach when cooking vegetables.
She says, “As a chef you’re trained not to waste anything. It’s respect for the thing that you’re eating or growing…It’s also a soulful thing. Using all the stalks and leaves lets the vegetables shine.”
While she includes many tempting whole-vegetable recipes, such as Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto and Burrata, this should not be confused with a vegetarian cookbook. Bloomfield is not opposed to using animal products, such as pork fat, anchovies, or pancetta to help take the vegetable stars of her recipes to the next level.
Saying anchovies lend the vegetables a delicious umami flavor, she is fond of using them in recipes such as Whole Pot-Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Anchovies. Other recipes rely on a couple of glugs from the bottle, such as Pot-Roasted Artichokes with White Wine and Capers.
Attendance at the presentation will allow participants to indulge in a tasting menu of some of its best dishes, prepared by the Williams-Sonoma chefs.
Scheduled for Wednesday, May 13, at 6 p.m., the 1½ to 2 hour class costs $75 and includes cooking tips, the hearty tasting menu, and a copy of the book, as well as a ten percent discount on any purchases made that evening.
Reservations are required, and can be made at williams-sonoma.com. You may visit the website for more information, or call 714-540-1397 for the South Coast location, or 949-464-2168 for the Crystal Cove location.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected]