Food among friends

Morrice Florist hosted a gathering for the launch of cookbooks "Feeing a Family" and "Simple Green Suppers" by local authors. —Arletta Charter

The cookbook scene on-Island just got a whole lot tastier with the launch of cookbooks from two local authors, Susie Middleton and Sarah Waldman. To celebrate, Morrice Florist in Vineyard Haven hosted a cookbook panel with not only the authors, but their local photographers as well, Randi Baird and Elizabeth Cecil. The panel was moderated by well-known author Ali Berlow, and the event was standing-room-only as Islanders crowded around the gorgeous florist shop for a chance to hear the ladies speak about the process of creating a cookbook from start to finish.

As a food writer and author of a blog called “Cooking with Books,” I was happy to be at this particular event — the energy, motivation, and inspiration that one gets from just being around women like Susie, Sarah, Randi, and Liz is intoxicating. The gorgeous setting at Morrice Florist, where floral designer Emily Coulter and her team curate a space that’s not just about flowers but all living things, was set up for the launch with pristine white chairs and a snack area tucked in the greenhouse.

Guests greeted each other as they arrived; it was a cookbook-loving crowd that knew each other. While one was pouring wine, the others were sampling the treats brought in by each author. Susie served Roasted Butternut Squash on Whole Wheat Toast with Cranberry-Citrus Herb Butter and Crispy Shallots (page 142 of her book, “Simple Green Suppers”), and Sarah baked her 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies (page 250 of her book, “Feeding a Family”). I grabbed a plate and grabbed a couple of each of the stellar recipes as I took my seat. Thankfully, I had saved a spot in the front, because by the time I came back to my seat, the space was packed. As Ali Berlow called us to attention, the crowd quieted down, munching on their cookbook treats. Each team of ladies had a chance to discuss their own process, and it was refreshing to hear about the making of a cookbook from a firsthand perspective.

Feeding a Family: A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work

By Sarah Waldman, photographs by Elizabeth Cecil

Available on Amazon or locally at Bunch of Grapes.

“Feeding a Family” is a cookbook organized by seasons, starting with winter and taking the reader through the year. With 40 seasonal meals, 100 recipes, and a great amount of tips and strategies on how to make weeknight dinners work, Sarah helps everyday families put dinner on the table in a delicious and efficient way. “As a mom of two, I would get stopped in school by other moms asking what I was making for dinner — it was an everyday struggle for everyone, so I wanted to create a book that would solve the dinnertime dilemma of what’s for dinner,” Sarah said.

As I browsed the book, being someone without children, I realized it’s not only a book for the moms and dads of the world, but basically any adult who needs a little help making a healthy, composed meal every night. She has recommendations on how to adapt the recipes for younger palates, but “Feeding a Family” is more than that. Because families come in all shapes and sizes, it’s a book that caters to everyone, so don’t let that deter you. Each season also has a guest family menu, where Sarah and Liz share and photograph another family’s staple dinner menu. It’s a book that brings seasonality and family dinners together, making it a must for your kitchen. Elizabeth Cecil’s photography in the book brings it all together, with authentic photos of not only Waldman’s family, but of the gorgeous food created in her home kitchen.

Recipes I’m excited to make from the book: Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken with Sweet Peas, Diner-Style Smashed Beef Burgers, Cheesy Butternut Squash Casserole, and Honey Marshmallows.

Simple Green Suppers: A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals

By Susie Middleton, photographs by Randi Baird

Available on Amazon or locally at Bunch of Grapes.

I’m not a vegetarian, so why would I ever pick up a book that’s only about vegetarian meals? Well, after listening to Susie and Randi talk about their cookbook process, how the recipes were created, and eventually how they ate some of the best lunches ever after those cookbook shoots, I was enthralled. I love vegetables, don’t get me wrong, but like most of you, I grew up with meat or seafood being the shining star of every meal, with vegetables taking a smaller, supporting role. In comes Susie, with a book packed with vibrant recipes that any meat eater would love to consume. Her book is divided into sections like Veggies + Noodles, Veggies + Grains, Veggies + Beans, and Veggies + Toast, among others, but first it takes you through how to create a pantry strategy for making these meals.

Susie’s all about technique, with her background of cooking and recipe developing for Fine Cooking magazine. Her focus is on teaching the reader how to be prepared, because preparation is key to creating a delicious vegetarian meal. She teaches us how to design our own one-dish veggie supper. Her formula (you can read more about it in the introduction of her book) is all about adapting to a “veggie + 1” recipe. Whether it’s using grains, beans, toast, or tortillas as a plus-one, she’s put together this strategy of ways to make vegetarian meals efficiently; most recipes can be done in under an hour. Randi Baird’s colorful photography pairs perfectly with the style of this book, and really showcases the fresh vibrancy of Susie’s recipes.

Recipes I’m excited to make from the book: Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Crispy Shiitakes, and Green Rice with Crunchy Pepitas, Warm Ciabatta Toasts, Baked Egg Pizziola, and Miso-Ginger Broth with Cauliflower and Baby Kale.