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The Anatomy of a Dish by Diane Forley
Reviewed by Dean Tudor
 (February 7, 2003)

The Anatomy of a Dish (Artisan [Workman], 2002, 223 pages, ISBN 1-57965-189-5, $55) is by Diane Forley, chef at the acclaimed Verbena restaurant in New York city, with assistance from Catherine Young, a food writer.

Ms. Forley believes in building dishes and menus from the same botanical family of plants, for they exhibit a commonality of flavours and nutrition. She identifies twelve families, such as the "cruciferae" (kale, broccoli) and "cucurbitaceae" (gourds, melons, pumpkins), and then goes on to describe the members and their characteristics, along with graphs and charts and lots of Latin names.

The 200 recipes are arranged in a three-tier system, beginning with single vegetables (such as the six recipes for artichokes, the four for beans), each with a terrifically informative introduction. The next tier are vegetable combos in soups, salads, stews, and breads. This is followed by the third level of meats, e.g., sautéed salmon with corn sauce, braised octopus. Do try her braised short ribs terrine...

She shows a proficient design for recipe development, and also includes some wine recommendations with the menus as proposed by the restaurant's sommelier. The book has many flavour charts, so complementary and opposite flavours can be worked on. At the end, there is a botanical bibliography for further reading, and an extensive index.

What I don't like about this book: while there is one recipe on each page and there are some food photos, there is still a lot of white space.

What I do like about this book: a good botanical study, and even a cynic like myself learned something. She has a great hook: it sure grabbed my attention!

QPR rating: 90.

 

 

 

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