August 3, 2008

Food; Chain Read, Watch, Click



The Complete Herb Book. By Jekka McVicar. Firefly. $29.95.

This extensive study of herbs is a pleasure to read. It details the properties of more than 150 herbs. Each entry has instructions on the plant's cultivation, including propagation, maintenance and harvesting, its medicinal uses and its culinary possibilities. Entries are colorful and easy to read, many of them double-page spreads.

The culinary entries feature a picture of the part of the herb most often used in cooking (flower, leaves or root) and a picture of the finished dish.

Many of McVicar's recipes are simple to make; finding the ingredients may be a challenge in some cases, as the herbs described are rare or found only in specialty shops. But the adventurous may want to give it a shot.

Some of the more intriguing recipes include Curried Parsnip Soup, made from the leaves of the curry tree, native to India; Shiso, Mooli and Kiwi Fruit Salad, from the leaves of the Japanese shiso plant, known as beefsteak plant in the United States, where it is rarely used in cooking; and Stir-fried Vegetables using Vietnamese coriander.

One niggling complaint: Herbs are arranged alphabetically according to their botanical Latin names, an overly scientific approach for an otherwise very accessible book.


"Road Tasted with the Neelys" on Food Network

This new show with Gina and Pat Neely has the couple on the road, sampling foods produced at small, family-run businesses across the country. In most cases the foods can be delivered to locations within the contiguous United States.

New episodes air at 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, with repeats throughout the week. Today at 1:30 there is a repeat of "Minneapolis: More Than You Imagined," a title that sounds suspiciously like it was written by a New Yorker amazed, yet again, by the human wonders of fly-over country.

But the episode does do justice to the tastes of the Twin Cities, including the barbeque at Market BBQ, the honey from Ames Farm, the s'mores at Laura's Candy and the cheese at Faribault Dairy.


One of the most venerable wine sites on the Internet, it goes all the way back to 1981, when the Internet was a handful of computer geeks in a few scattered college dungeons. But they were oenophiles.

-- Mary-Liz Shaw

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