Vegetables — they’re what’s for dinner in a crop of new cookbooks.Produce takes a starring role in recipes for entrees, both vegetarian and omnivore-friendly, in these spring and summer releases that celebrate the bounty of the seasons.Here’s a closer look at some fresh, new cookbooks, as well as a few plant-happy main courses that range from super simple (grilled kimcheese) to more advanced (crepe cannelloni with mushrooms and zucchini) that’ll have your family happily cleaning their plates.The Glorious Vegetables of Italy By Domenica MarchettiChronicle, $30 About the book: Food writer and cooking teacher Marchetti penned this hardcover book of more than 100 recipes (with beautiful photography by Sang An) with inspiration from childhood memories of summers spent in Italy. Recipe examples: Cherry tomato and red onion foccacia; spring risotto with green and white asparagus; zucchini blossom, tomato and mozzarella panino. Root-to-Stalk Cooking By Tara DugganTen Speed Press, $22 About the book: With an eye toward reducing food waste, San Francisco Chronicle food writer Duggan gives cooks creative ways to use every part of a plant. The book includes a useful and thrifty scrap vegetable pairing chart (which can be used to make stocks). Recipe examples: Pan-roasted cauliflower steaks; shaved broccoli stalk salad with lime & cotija; avocado lassi. Eat Your Vegetables — Bold Recipes for the Single Cook By Joe YonanTen Speed Press, $24.99 About the book: Yonan, The Washington Post’s food editor and author of the single cook-minded Serve Yourself, offers 80 vegetarian, flexitarian and vegan recipes specifically portioned for one eater, and easily adapted for two or more. Includes helpful information on shopping for, storing and finding new uses for ingredients. Recipe examples: Spicy basil tofu fried rice; one-peach crisp with cardamom and honey; chicken-fried cauliflower with miso-onion gravy. Cooking Light Pick Fresh Cookbook By the editors of Cooking LightOxmoor House, $21.95 About the book: Developed from the Cooking Light Garden Project with the help of gardener Mary Beth Burner Shaddix, this book offers insight on buying, growing, storing and cooking 50 of the most common fruits, vegetables and herbs. It’s packed with gardening tips, as well as 150 recipes. Recipe examples: Apple, goat cheese and pecan pizza; royal blueberry gazpacho with lemon and mint; corn pancakes with smoked salmon and lemon-chive cream.
Crepe cannelloni with mushrooms and zucchini
Makes 8 to 12 servings
“‘Crespelle’ is the Italian word for crepes, and although they are mostly associated with French cuisine, they also figure prominently in the traditional cooking of my mother’s native region of Abruzzo,” writes the author. “In this recipe, they are stuffed with a savory filling of mushroom and zucchini, bathed in porcini-flavored ‘balsamella’ sauce (the Italian version of béchamel sauce), and baked until beautifully browned and bubbly. This is definitely a dish fit for company.”
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more as needed for the crepe pan
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot (2 ounces), minced
1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, such as cremini, portobello, and shiitake, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 pound zucchini, cut into thin half-coins or diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 1/2 cups well-drained whole cow’s milk ricotta cheese
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 1/2 cups whole or 2-percent milk
Reserved liquid from reconstituted porcini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Unsalted butter for the baking dishes, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. To start the crepes: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and parsley. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, salt, a few grindings of pepper and nutmeg. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, whisking all the while to avoid lumps. Cover the crepe batter with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Melt a little butter in a 9-inch nonstick skillet placed over medium heat (I use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet). When the pan is hot, pour in 1/4 cup of the crepe batter and quickly swirl it around to completely coat the bottom of the pan, forming a thin pancake. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds, until just set. Use a small angled spatula to lift up one edge of the crepe. Flip the crepe and cook on the other side for 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer the crepe to a plate. Continue to make crepes until you have used all the batter, making sure to grease the pan from time to time with a thin film of butter. You should end up with 24 crepes. Cover the crepes with plastic wrap until you are ready to assemble the cannelloni.
3. To make the filling: Put the dried porcini in a small heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain the porcini in a fine-mesh sieve lined with a damp paper towel, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.
4. Warm the oil and butter in a large skillet placed over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted, add the shallot and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is softened but not browned. Add the porcini mushrooms and the mixed fresh mushrooms and stir to coat them with the oil. Sprinkle the parsley and salt over the mushrooms and toss gently. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes, or until the liquid released by the mushrooms has mostly evaporated. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with pepper. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms and zucchini are tender and there is little liquid left in the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Let it bubble for 1 or 2 minutes, until most of the wine is evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Transfer the mushroom-zucchini mixture to a medium bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes.
5. In a separate medium bowl, stir the ricotta with a fork until it is creamy. Fold in the mozzarella and Parmigiano. Then fold the cheeses into the mushroom-zucchini mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
6. To make the sauce: Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Pour the reserved porcini liquid into a glass measuring cup, and add enough water so that the liquid equals 1 cup. Pour the liquid into the pan with the milk. Bring just to a boil over medium heat and then turn off the heat.
7. Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot milk mixture in driblets, whisking constantly and taking care to eliminate lumps and avoid scorching. The mixture will look like it’s breaking but it will come together again and become smooth. When all of the milk mixture has been added, cook the sauce, stirring it frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and remove from the heat.
8. To assemble and bake the cannelloni: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Have the crepes, filling and balsamella sauce at the ready. Lightly coat three 8-by-12-inch baking dishes with butter. Spread a thin layer of balsamella sauce in the bottom of each dish.
9. Place a crepe on a clean work surface. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mushroom-zucchini filling across the bottom third of the crepe. Roll it up, jelly-roll style, and place it seam-side down in the baking dish. Continue filling and rolling the crepes, arranging them side by side in a single layer in each baking dish. You should be able to fit 8 crepes in each baking dish.
10. Divide the remaining balsamella sauce among the three baking dishes, spreading it over the filled cannelloni. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmigiano cheese over each assembled dish. Cover the dishes with aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese and balsamella sauce are bubbly and the top is golden brown. Serve the cannelloni piping hot from the oven.
Cook’s note: This dish is not difficult to make, but it is a bit labor intensive. The good news is that it is worth every bit of effort, and most of the work can be done in advance. The crepes may be made in advance and refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. The filling may be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. The dish may be assembled in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring it to room temperature before baking.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 766 calories, 38 grams fat, 77 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 308 milligrams cholesterol, 1,226 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber, 43 percent of calories from fat.
— “The Glorious Vegetables of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle, $30)
Makes 1 sandwich
“Since its punch reminded me of the pimento in the classic Southern cheese dip, I thought, why not try [kimchee] in a sandwich with cheese?” writes the author. “So simple, so perfect. The play between spicy, crunchy kimchee, sharp cheese and sweet pear has made this one of my go-to meals whenever my fridge is emptier than usual. Omnivores, the sandwich also takes nicely to the addition of a little ham, but it’s gorgeous without it.”
2 slices multigrain sandwich bread
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Cabbage Kimchi (Page 163 of the cookbook) or spicy store-bought kimchee, drained and chopped
1/4 to 1/2 small Asian pear, cored and thinly sliced
1. Brush the bread slices with oil on one side. Layer the bare (nonoiled) side of one slice with cheese, kimchee and pear slices. Drizzle with a little Sriracha if you want the sandwich to be particularly spicy. Top with the other bread slice, unoiled side facing in, and press with your hand to flatten.
2. Set a medium skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, then lay the sandwich in the pan and cook, pressing with a spatula from time to time, until the underside is golden brown and the cheese starts to melt. Repeat on the other side, transfer to a plate, and eat.
Nutritional analysis per sandwich: 362 calories, 21 grams fat, 34 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 736 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 50 percent of calories from fat.
— “Eat Your Vegetables” by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press, $24.99)
Corn-pancetta puddings in corn husk baskets
Makes 18 small puddings; serves 6 to 9
“These savory puddings work as a brunch or side dish, with their corn husk ‘handles’ making them look like cheerful sunflowers,” writes the author. “After you remove the kernels from the cobs, you scrape the corn milk from the cobs with the back of a knife, then simmer the cobs in cream and milk. This mixture forms the base of the pudding batter, which you pour into corn husk-lined muffin tins. The result is part corn muffin, part souffle.”
2 ears corn
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
3 ounces pancetta, diced small
4 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter or a mixture of butter and rendered pancetta fat, melted and cooled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup polenta or cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup seeded and diced tomatoes
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin plus 6 cups of an additional tin.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the leafy tops of the husks from each ear of corn and slice through the bottom of the cob to more easily remove the husks. Discarding the tougher outer husks, trim off any extra curved part of the more tender inner husks, and tear the husks in half lengthwise until you have 36 strips about the width of your muffin tins. Blanch in the water until softened, 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
3. Holding the cobs upright on a cutting board, cut the kernels off the cobs, then measure out 1 cup; reserve any extra kernels for another use. Place the cream and milk in a small saucepan, and use the back of a knife to scrape any remaining corn and juices from the cobs into the pan. Place the cobs in the pan (break them in half to fit), bring to a simmer, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.
4. Place the pancetta in a small saute pan over medium heat and brown until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels (save the remaining fat to replace some of the butter, if you like).
5. Before mixing the batter, press a strip of corn husk into a muffin tin, and top with a thinner strip to make a cross pattern with the ends sticking up. Repeat to use the remaining husks (if the husks pop out of place, just poke them down again) until you have lined 18 cups.
6. Remove the cobs from the cooled cream mixture and place the mixture in a large bowl with the eggs, butter, flour, polenta, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Fold in the 1 cup of corn kernels, tomatoes, and half of the pancetta, then pour into the prepared baskets. Top with the remaining pancetta and bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Use a narrow silicone spatula or dinner knife to remove the puddings from the pan and serve immediately, or slightly warm.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6: 412 calories, 24 grams fat, 37 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 217 milligrams cholesterol, 774 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 52 percent of calories from fat.
— “Root-to-Stalk Cooking” by Tara Duggan (Ten Speed Press, $22)
Bacon, kale, and butternut pasta
Makes 8 servings
“Bacon, pasta, cheese and sweet winter squash are not what you’d expect to see on the light menu, but indulge,” the authors say. “The Test Kitchen tried multiple variations of greens: Kale, with its earthy heartiness, helps to balance the sweetness from the squash. Also, try Swiss chard or, for a more peppery bite, mustard greens.”
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed, peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta), campanelle, or other short pasta
4 cups chopped kale
2 bacon slices
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese (about 1/3 cup)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine squash and oil in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.
3. Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Add kale to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture.
4. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
5. Bring 1 3/4 cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and red pepper to broth. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; stir in creme fraiche.
6. Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and sauce in a large bowl; toss gently. Place pasta mixture in a 13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 375 calories, 14 grams fat, 52 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 34 milligrams cholesterol, 355 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 33 percent of calories from fat.
— “Cooking Light Pick Fresh Cookbook” by the editors of “Cooking Light” (Oxmoor House, $21.95)