‘Real Food’ cookbook reveres veggies and organic ingredients

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Real (good) recipes:</span> “The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks” by Nina Planck ($32).
Real (good) recipes: “The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks” by Nina Planck ($32).

Main dish

Pot Roast

1 bottle red wine, perhaps Burgundy

3 pounds bottom round or boneless chuck

2 bone-in beef shanks (optional)

salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 large onions

4 carrots

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

a few sprigs of thyme

1 quart beef stock

Set aside 1 cup of wine. Pour rest of wine over meat and marinate for 2 hours on the counter or overnight in the fridge. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat meat dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat some of the olive oil and brown the meat in a large, oven-ready pot with a lid. Remove the meat and set it aside. Slice the onions and put them in the meat pan. Add more olive oil and sauté until they are completely soft and brown on the edges; spend at least 20 minutes on the onions — a prime example of the Maillard reaction at work. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits off the bottom. If they’re stubborn, a splash of wine will help. Peel and chop the carrots and garlic. Add the meat, carrots, garlic and aromatics (in a cloth bag if you like) to the onions. Cover the meat with the reserved cup of wine and the stock. Put the lid on the pot and put it in the oven. Gently poke the roast from time to time, and add more beef stock if necessary. In 1 to 2 hours, the meat will be falling-apart tender. Serves 8.

Source: The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks” by Nina Planck ($32, Bloomsbury)

Main Dish

My Tomato Soup

1 onion

2 celery stalks

2 small carrots

1/3 cup olive oil

1 large clove garlic

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

sprinkle of paprika

grind of black pepper

whisper of cayenne

1 cup milk

crème fraiche (optional), for garnish

Dice the onion and slice the celery and carrots in thin rounds. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the vegetables until soft. Chop the garlic, add it to the vegetables, and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes. A little water or a little more simmering would not go amiss. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, paprika, black pepper and cayenne. Let the soup cool in the pot as long as you like. Remove the bay leaf and whiz the soup in the food processor until it’s completely smooth. Add the milk. Mix well or whiz briefly. Garnish with the optional crème fraiche.

Source: The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks” by Nina Planck ($32, Bloomsbury)

Experienced cooks who don’t shy from the expense of farm-fresh foods and organic ingredients will like The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks by Nina Planck.

Planck’s Virginia farming family raised produce and sold it at farmers’ markets in Washington, D.C. After moving to London in 1999, Planck was so homesick for fresh veggies that she persuaded some local farmers to truck their harvests into the city. This venture, she writes, became London’s “first modern farmers market.”

Planck, a former vegetarian, said she came to realize that a low-fat, vegetarian diet wasn’t the only healthy one. She decided to learn to cook and eat “traditional foods from land, sea and sky.” With Real Food, she aimed to create the cookbook she didn’t have when she ventured beyond vegetarian fare.

Leafing through it, I concluded I am not Planck’s “modern” cook. I tend to be thrifty, having been raised by Depression-era parents. I avoid unfamiliar recipes with expensive ingredients that will be wasted if the dish is a flop. But what could be more “traditional” than pot roast? I decided to give Planck’s version a go.

In deference to Planck’s directions, I marinated the roast — bottom round, instead of my usual chuck — to tenderize it. Rather than use red wine, which we don’t enjoy, I tried the German method Planck mentioned: I marinated the roast in buttermilk for a couple of hours. Not a pretty sight: After the roast had its bath, the red-tinted buttermilk was so grisly it convinced me skip marinating altogether next time.

Planck advises browning and braising beef shank along with the roast to add richness to the broth. Amen to that. Preparation also includes long, slow sautéeing of an enormous heap of sliced onions. After browning, the roast is covered with liquid and put into an oven. “That smells great — is it done yet?” my husband kept asking. But the meat took almost twice as long as the recipe said it would. Next time, I’ll do it on the stove top — Florida in the summer is plenty hot enough without running the oven for two or three hours.

The result? The meat tasted like . . pot roast. But the broth was a triumph worth the time and effort. I am happy to say I still have some of that marvelous stock in the freezer.

Planck’s tomato soup recipe is genius, an uptown take for soup-and-grilled-cheese night. The ingredients are simple, it’s easy to prepare, it’s fast and it’s delicious. I had every ingredient on hand, from half of a leftover Vidalia onion to a can of diced tomatoes.

After the veggies are sautéed and seasoned, but before the soup is puréed, it’s a terrific vegetable ragout. I stood at the stove eating chunks of it out of the pan. After puréeing, I added (I confess) half-and-half instead of milk. Yum.

To use up the leftovers, I tossed it into homemade vegetable beef soup. It was one of the best pots of soup I’ve ever made. (And at an age where I can liquidate an IRA without paying a penalty, I’ve made an ocean of soup.)

Real Food is a well-designed and beautifully photographed book. It’s not for beginners. Planck assumes knowledge of techniques and terms, and even a touch of clairvoyance.

There’s a list of what she considers staple pantry items and what to look for in selecting them. A “shopping list” helps locate grass-fed and pastured meat and organic ingredients.

Vegetables are treated with reverence. There’s even a chapter for the family Seder table, including an impossibly rich-sounding flourless chocolate cake.

Planck deftly explains the Maillard reaction, a bit of chemical magic that happens as the amino acids in meat and the sugar in vegetables interact over high heat. Who knew? It’s why meat and onions smell so good when they are fried together. Information like this and the book’s conversational style make Real Food educational and readable. But if you’re on a budget, this is a cookbook for special occasions.

By the Book is an occasional feature that tests recipes from new cookbooks.

Read more Food stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Spices galore: </span>Chipotle carrot soup topped with cumin roasted chickpeas.


    Spices of life: Seasonings every home cook should have in their pantry

    From adobo to za’atar, 26 spices to lively up your every meal. Plus: Where to find them.

  • Shopper’s Dictionary

    Hot sauce to try: Piri Piri

    What is it? Swahili for pepper pepper, piri piri is a small, bright-red, very hot bird’s eye chile that originated in Portugal before being spread to parts of Africa, South Africa and India. Also spelled pili pili or peri peri, the pepper is most commonly found in a hot sauce that includes garlic, lemon juice, paprika and other spices. It is fantastic slathered on roasted chicken and grilled fish.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Try it at home: </span>The roasted carrots and avocado from Huckleberry restaurant in California can now be made in your kitchen.

    Culinary SOS

    Restaurant recipe: Roasted carrots with avocado

    Dear SOS: Ever since trying the roasted carrots and avocado from Huckleberry Bakery and Café in Santa Monica, California, I can’t stop thinking about them. They taste more like French fries, even though they are just roasted carrots. I’m dying for the recipe. Any help here would be greatly appreciated.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category