Italian vegetables go from garden to plate

"Vegetables From an Italian Garden" (Phaidon, $39.95)

If you've dreamed of eating what you grow, but your green thumbs have proven clumsy (or are simply unproven), may we direct you to fagiolini — aka the humble green bean.

Green beans are one of the easiest vegetables for the novice gardener — sow in the spring, and two months later, they're ripe for the picking — and they dress up summer cuisine by tossing with pesto, topping with smoked provolone or mixing with red currants in a frisee salad.

The new, gorgeously photographed "Vegetables From an Italian Garden" celebrates the garden-to-plate journey of green beans and 40 other vegetables traditionally used in Italian cooking, famous for simple preparations that allow fresh, seasonal ingredients to command center stage.

The cookbook features more than 400 traditional Italian recipes organized by season and dedicates a page to each vegetable with descriptions of how to choose it, use it and grow it. So you might welcome spring with an artichoke lasagnette, celebrate summer with a cold cucumber cream soup, mark fall with pumpkin gnocci with orange butter, and toast winter with a radicchio and pink grapefruit risotto.

A chart showing when to sow and harvest the vegetables can help guide ambitious gardeners. But it is not a gardening manual, so if you don't know what a tomato cage is this book won't enlighten you.

For those without the time or space to cultivate a vegetable garden, the book shines with unfussy, eminently doable recipes and tips on how to pick the best produce at the markets.

Buon appetito. Viva fagiolini!


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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

AP-WF-06-20-11 1208GMT

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