It’s hard to imagine April Bloomfield cooking without meat.
Exhibit A: Her perpetually packed restaurant, The Spotted Pig, heaves with bacon wrapped dates and crispy pig’s ear salad, not to mention a world-famous burger.
Exhibit B: Her first cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig, whose cover featured a pig draped just-so over her shoulders.
But April’s new cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden ($35) offers a chance to get to know her in a whole new way.
The book serves up over 80 inspired, seasonal recipes from this internationally acclaimed chef who won the 2014 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: New York City. It’s also a wonderful reminder that she worked under ingredient-driven cooking pioneer and noted vegetable stickler Alice Waters at Chez Panisse.
The book is decidedly vegetable-centric, but it’s not wholly vegetarian. April declares, “I’m not saying vegetables should aspire to be like meat. I’m just saying that meat eaters will appreciate these qualities, and that vegetables can satisfy you the way meat does.”
The book is flush with personality, charming illustrations and April-isms like “inner fuss-bucket,” recipe titles like “If-It-Ain’t Broke Eggplant Caponata” and directions that instruct you to “smoosh” ingredients. Flipping through the book gives you the feeling that you are cooking alongside a friend (albeit one who’s an award-winning chef).
April reminds us that, “I like the limits that the seasons impose. I like having something to look forward to. I don’t even mind when nature disappoints me with a bad year for corn or tomatoes. You develop an almanac in your head—like, “Oh, peas were so bad that year.” When great ones return, you get to think, ‘Finally, lovely peas!’ Vegetables make you happy when they’re there, and miss them when they’re gone.”
With those peas rolling into a farmers market near you in mind, we snagged April’s recipe for crushed spring peas with mint. It’s lovely as a dip for raw veg, like radishes, carrots and wedges of fennel.
- 2 cups fresh peas (from about 2 pounds pods)
- 1 ounce aged pecorino, finely grated
- 1½ teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
- 1 small spring garlic clove or
- ½ small garlic clove, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
- 12 medium mint leaves (preferably black mint)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Scant 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more for finishing
- Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree, about 45 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and roughly stir and smoosh a bit so it’s a little creamy and a little chunky. Season to taste with more salt and lemon juice—you want it to taste sweet and bright but not acidic.
From A Girl and Her Greens by April Bloomfield. Copyright 2015 April Bloomfield. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.