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Look for cookbooks that expand your food horizon

What’s Cooking in Illinois: From baking bread to roasting veggies to the Mediterranean and beyond, give a new book — and a new food — a chance.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

January 3, 2024

4 Min Read
A roasted squash dish with yogurt, walnuts and a spiced green sauce
ROASTED: Charlyn Fargo Ware’s husband says her cookbook collection might actually be an addiction. Ware is OK with that, because it brought her recipes like this Roasted Squash With Yogurt, Walnuts and Spiced Green Sauce. Photos by Charlyn Fargo Ware

True confession as we head into 2024: I have an addiction that can’t be overcome.

It started when I was food editor of The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill. One of the perks was receiving cookbooks to write about. This love for cookbooks may have been inherited from my mom. At any rate, I’ve fed the beast, told my husband there is no book budget and continued my collection. My closest friends recognize this addiction and enable me: I received four cookbooks for Christmas.

There’s a common theme to the books I buy. I am fascinated with bread baking, which is a bit like playing golf. I never feel like I have conquered it, so every loaf is a new game, something new to try. Sourdough is a big part of that. I’ve been to bread camp, taught bread classes and currently have a sourdough starter in my fridge.

My latest bread-baking book is “Celebrate With Bread Baking: Essential Recipes for Special Occasions” by Jenny Prior. Despite the book’s title, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t need a special occasion to make bread. First on my list from the book is her recipe for Skillet Cinnamon-Apple Bread.

I’m also fascinated with vegetables. I’m convinced the road to better eating must have many stops full of vegetables. As a dietitian, I can tell you vegetables are nutrient dense and low in calories, plus they’re versatile and packed with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. My favorite way to make them is roasted in my air fryer.

Two cookbooks have added vegetables to my meals, including “Up Your Veggies” by Toby Amidor. If you get it, check out the Bell Pepper Sandwich With Tuna. The second is “The Forest Feast: Mediterranean” by Erin Gleeson. I’ve made most of the recipes in the book — they’re quick, easy and tasty. A couple of favorites: Greens and Grains With Roasted Carrots and Broccolini Stuffed Flatbread.

I also received “Tenderheart,” a cookbook about vegetables and unbreakable family bonds by Hetty Lui McKinnon. It’s a top 10 pick of The New York Times for 2023. The book features 22 essential fruits and vegetables in 180 recipes. Some of the recipes aren’t what I grew up making, but that’s exactly what I want.

Don’t sleep on Southern Living Annual Recipes, an entire year of recipes that have been published in the magazine. 2023 has a bonus of favorite pies and cakes recipes. Recipes are different every year, and I always make recipes from these collections.

A stack of cookbooks on a counter

And one more: Josh McFadden’s “Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables.” I grew up with Midwestern cooking, so to grow, I have to step out of my Illinois kitchen. My favorite from this book is the recipe below, which features butternut and acorn squash with a poblano sauce. It’s a great side to a steak.

Roasted Squash With Yogurt, Walnuts and Spiced Green Sauce

1½ cups plain, whole-fat Greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 pounds winter squash, mixed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ cup Spiced Green Sauce (recipe follows)
¼ cup walnuts

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix yogurt, garlic, lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside. Trim top and bottom off squash; if tough skinned, peel away skin with paring knife. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut into ½-inch slices.

Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet(s). Roast until nicely browned, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on the texture and density of the squash.

Arrange squash slices on a platter, spoon a ribbon of yogurt over the top and sprinkle with the vinegar. Drizzle the green sauce over the top so it looks pretty. Scatter the walnuts over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves four to six.

Spiced Green Sauce

½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pinch ground cloves
½ cup poblano or Anaheim chiles, deribbed, seeded, roughly chopped
1-3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 cups lightly packed flat leaf parsley and tender stems
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
½ cup olive oil

Place chiles and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add spices, cilantro, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and a few twists of black pepper to food processor bowl and pulse until a rough puree. With the motor running, add olive oil in a drizzle until the sauce comes together. You want a slightly rough but drizzly texture. Taste, adjusting seasonings if needed. Serves four to six.

About the Author(s)

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Email recipe ideas to her at [email protected].

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