Gourmet gardeners share secrets of good harvests

Gardeners who like to cook, cooks who like to garden, and anyone who likes to serve fresh vegetables with style, imagination, and simplicity, will enjoy ''The Victory Garden Cookbook'' (Knopf, $25; large paperback, $14.95), by Marian Morash.

It is by far the best current cookbook of its type, a wonderfully illustrated vegetable encyclopedia which originated as an answer to those watchers of public television's Victory Garden series who followed the gardening instructions with more than ordinary success.

Thousands of zucchinis, baskets of leeks, and pounds of peas grown by viewers prompted letters asking for ways to cook the foods they were growing in such profusion.

Marian Morash, in collaboration with Jane Doerfer, a friend and free-lance writer, provided the book to solve the problem. Over the past three years, hundreds of recipes for more than 40 vegetables were tested, tasted, and researched.

The result is a very relaxed book full of fine culinary variety, along with beautiful photographs of vegetables in and out of the garden, and 800 original recipes.

Starting with A for asparagus, the chapters progress alphabetically with all kinds of ideas to give optimum flavor to each vegetable.

Salsify, sorrel, the new sugar snap peas, sweet fennel and broccoli de rabe, arugula - almost any vegetable that can be grown in a backyard garden gets attention.

Unpopular vegetables, if there are any, are made interesting in such dishes as Lacy Pancakes with Jerusalem artichokes, Kohlrabi Pickle Chips, and rutabaga combined with creamed spinach.

There are basic gardening facts, comparisons of varieties, names of seed companies, and special marketing tips for nongardeners.

Although her father was a professional chef, Marian Morash started cooking seriously under the spell of Julia Child's television show and later became executive chef on the ''Julia Child and More Company'' series of the Public Broadcasting System.

She writes with a personal approach, giving us glimpses into her own tastes and living style, as when she gives garden advice and includes recipes from friends and neighbors.

The garden information comes from her husband, Russ Morash, producer of the Victory Garden television show with gardening expert Bob Thompson, who was assistant to Jim Crockett on the original show, called ''Crockett's Victory Garden.''

As you will read in the book, the produce Marian uses is from Russ's garden, with occasional support from Alan and Lynn Wilson, friends and neighbors, whose Wilson Farms is the best market-garden in the area.

She writes also about her friend Chef Joe Hyde, who trained under the legendary Fernand Point at the Restaurant de la Pyramide in France. She writes about the dishes she cooks as chef at the Straight Wharf Restaurant on Nantucket Island.

In a wonderful summery photo of her staff at the restaurant, the crew, in T-shirts and cook's aprons, sit on the pier with fishing boats in the background , peeling carrots spilling out of wooden packing crates.

She then tells how to shred carrots for slaw, to mix them with cranberries and apples, to julienne them with chicken breasts, to make carrot souffle, fritters, and timbales, spicy carrot cake, orange yeast bread, and even carrot pickles. Here is one recipe from the book.

Here's a filling meal ideal for a hot summer day. Prebake the pie shell, saute the zucchini and tomatoes ahead of time, and have nothing left to do but assemble the dish. Or you can omit the pie shell altogether and bake in a buttered 9-by-12 dish.m

Zucchini, Tomato, and Cheese Pie 10-inch pastry shell 11/2 pounds zucchini Salt 3 medium-size ripe tomatoes 4 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon oil 3 eggs, separated 2 cups grated Swiss cheese 1/2 cup feta cheese Freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or mint

Prepare and cook pie shell and set aside to cool. Wash zucchini, trim and cut into 1/4-inch slices if large. Cut small ones lengthwise. Salt, drain, and pat dry.

Peel tomatoes, halve horizontally, remove seeds. Heat 2 tablespoons butter with oil in saute pan and lightly brown zucchini on both sides; drain on brown paper. Lightly brown tomatoes until slightly soft but not limp. Cool.

To assemble, beat egg yolks; set aside. Place half the zucchini in the pie shell. Sprinkle with 1/3 the grated cheese and 1/2 the feta cheese, dot with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and half the basil or mint.

Beat egg whites and fold into yolks, then spread half the mixture over cheeses. Slightly flatten tomatoes and spread over pie, then sprinkle with 1/3 Swiss cheese and 1/2 feta cheese and remaining basil or mint.

Top with remaining zucchini slices, salt and pepper, remaining egg mixture, cheese, and dot with butter.

Bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees F. 20 to 30 minutes or until eggs are set. Cover pastry with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning. Makes a 10-inch deep-dish pie.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.