Marian Morash is to vegetables what Willard Scott is to weather. She is folksy. She is funny. Take one look at her garden and you know she's a pro. If anyone can make a bumper crop of zucchini look good, it's Morash, author of "The Victory Garden Cookbook" (Knopf, 1982) and now the star of "Victory Garden Recipes," the $29.95 video based on the bestselling tome.
The slickly produced tape takes viewers from the garden to the table in a series of 71 fast-moving vignettes, opening in spring with Morash digging up parsnips, and ending, 90 minutes later, with the author harvesting kale for a Portuguese soup from her snow-covered garden.
Never mind the great cookware, the well-equipped kitchen. All of us should have gardens as beautiful and varied as Morash's: a rainbow of bell peppers, corn, beets, peas, beans, leeks and much more are within a few feet of her kitchen sink. It looks as if the only thing she doesn't grow is weeds.
One doesn't require a garden to benefit from Morash's useful advice on how to prepare vegetables. Her imaginative way with the ordinary is inspiring. Take plain old parsnips, for instance. Instead of boiling them like everyone else, the author shows us how to fry them a` la home fries, and how to turn a pure'e of parsnips into -- believe it or not -- a tart resembling cheesecake. A few scenes later, she's stir-frying spinach with garlic (adding a dash of sugar to cut its metallic taste) and roasting asparagus. "Instead of steaming, creaming and cheesing" cauliflower, Morash livens the vegetable with a blend of ginger, cumin, cardamom and cayenne. Similarly, she tosses thinly sliced cabbage with curry and butter. And for a welcome change of pace, she transforms a rutabaga into slaw salad.
The viewer learns early on not to waste a thing -- even the tops of the turnips are used to make a spring vegetable soup. And the author demonstrates how to use an entire head of broccoli. "You worked hard enough to grow the broccoli, there's no sense throwing any of it away," she explains, cooking the tough stems first, followed later by the more delicate flowerets.
From the video comes the following, an impressive corn and yellow pepper chowder that's remarkably simple to make. All you'll need to have on hand before a trip through the express lane are butter, salt and pepper.
Express Lane list: onion, yellow bell pepper, corn, chicken broth, sweet red peppers MARIAN MORASH'S CORN AND YELLOW PEPPER CHOWDER WITH RED PEPPER PUREE (4 to 6 servings)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups diced yellow pepper
3 cups corn kernels
3 cups chicken broth or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound sweet red bell peppers (for about 1 cup pure'e)
Melt the butter and cook the onion in it to soften. Add the diced pepper and corn and cook for 5 minutes to pick up the butter flavor. Stir in the chicken broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook gently, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
When the corn and peppers are cooked, pure'e the soup mixture roughly in a blender or food processor. Reheat, taste and season. Garnish with red pepper pure'e.
To make red pepper pure'e: Place the peppers under a hot broiler and keep turning them until they are blackened on all sides. Place the peppers in a paper bag, close it tightly, and let them steam for 10 minutes. Remove from the bag and peel the skins off with a knife.
Pure'e peeled peppers in a food processor or blender to make a thick sauce.