I am in love with Sweeter Off the Vine by Yossy Arefi. Arefi grew up in Seattleand moved to New York, but she has the Pacific Northwest orientation toward fresh, seasonal vegetables. As a transplant myself, I will never forget the revelation of eating a fresh peach, picked ripe right off the tree. I thought peaches were relatively flavorless, tough fruits until that moment. There was no turning back.
Arefi organizes Sweeter Off the Vine by season and by fruit. If you wished, you could cook your way around the calendar with this cookbook and now would be a good time to start since it begins in spring. Her Persian heritage ensures that the flavor profiles of her recipes are balanced with contrasting flavor elements and infused with aromatic herbs. These are not Persian desserts, though. These are traditional fruit deserts elevated with Persian-influenced flavor combinations.
These are not treacle-sweet recipes. She also uses a lot of alternate grains like buckwheat, spelt and my favorite, rye. My aunt made these amazing Swedish Rye Cookies and I am so glad to see someone else using rye in desserts because really, rye belongs everywhere, not just with ham and cheese.
Another thing I love about this cookbook is that she uses the same basic elements in many of her recipes and has a section of the back with all of these essentials like pie crusts and tart shells. In addition to the basics, she adds instruction for making homemade vanilla extract, cranberry juice and preserved lemons. She has a recipe for vanilla sugar as well. I make vanilla sugar all the time, I love it for my morning tea. It is also a great Christmas gift.
I am eager for the blueberries to arrive so I can make the cobbler and will love to try the lime bars when winter returns. and wow, I will definitely be trying the watermelon granita with chile and lime in the summer. I know I like lime with watermelon and lime with chile, but watermelon, lime and chile sounds fabulous. As a squash lover, I am pleased that she included squash in its rightful place as a fruit.
Arefi does not bring a lot of specialized knowledge of fruit. This is not a book for learning new things, just new recipes. Her introductions for the different sections and chapters are short and focus on suggesting specific varieties of a fruit and occasionally providing tips on picking the best, juiciest or ripest fruit. She introduces each recipe, making them all sound delicious
This is a fun and visually exciting cookbook. The recipes are fresh and exciting. Many of them are quite simple recipes that beginning bakers can handle. The pictures are gorgeous, large and generous. There are so many pictures! She is also the photographer, which is unusual, except she is a food blogger and usually food bloggers are their own photographers. What I liked about her photos is that they made her food accessible. There were little drops of cream on a plate here and some crumbs from the tart there. There is none of the intimidating perfection that makes a home baker feel like nothing they make will be good enough. Her donuts were not all perfect! I think recipe book publishers have no idea how encouraging it is to see slight imperfections, not quite regimented slices and a crumb here or there. The only thing that would make this book better would be more recipes.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.