VEGETABLE SIMPLE by Eric Ripert

Vegetable Simple: A Cookbook
by Eric Ripert
(Photography by Nigel Parry)
Appetite (Random House) — 20th April 2021
ISBN: 9780525610793
— Hardcover — 256 pp.


I received a copy of this through a Goodreads Giveaway and was excited to discover some new ideas and inspiration for vegetable-centered dishes from a chef I’ve seen appearing on various TV shows. At first glance the stunning photography by Nigel Parry really pops out and grabs the appetite. However, flipping through the recipes made me realize this didn’t only have the type of cookbook recipes that I first thought there would be.

Popcorn… plantain chips… toasted coconut… cucumbers with some salt…

Well, I guess ‘simple’ is right there in the title.

You microwave some popcorn and add an interesting spice/herb/fat mixture. You cut some plantains, or buy some shaved coconut, and put them in the oven. You take cucumbers and put on some salt.

Do we need a recipe book for this?

Well, perhaps one does. Some out there don’t really know many vegetables. You might see them in the store or get adventurous and grow them in a garden, but have no real idea how best to possibly enjoy them. Even if you have had them, that doesn’t mean you know each technique – even if simple – that might change them subtly into a delicious surprise. I’ve never had a rutabaga, for instance, but maybe I could try this rutabaga gratin now.

The salted cucumbers are a good example of a simple thing that seems obvious and needless, but reveals its import upon inspection. Ripert describes a Japanese technique that enhances the cucumber flavor while also providing a firm texture to them. How do you apply salt? How long? What do you do after, leave the salt on, or remove? Simple things, but it might change how you enjoy cucumbers, or cause you to realize you like a vegetable that was always insipid for you before.

For the popcorn recipe Ripert even recommends just using the microwave, but then gives ideas for flavorings that will elevate into something that would easily impress a movie-night date. It’s meant to take something obvious and common, and inspire it toward something unique and memorable.

Now, not all the recipes in here are so simple, and despite the title, some are actually somewhat complex, particularly in terms of number of ingredients. But there are soups, salads, dips, stews, quesadillas, dumpling, savory parfaits, foams, desserts, and those single vegetable showcases. I look forward to trying the French breakfast radishes (from my garden) with butter and salt. I’d also like to make the Vietnamese Pho or Herb falafel for a dinner one night.

Some of the recipes in here don’t really feature vegetables – particularly in the deserts (e.g. chocolate mousse), but could classify as vegetarian at least. Carrot cake of course makes it in, as well as several fruit-based items.

The recipes are followed by a tips and guidelines section that echo some of the main points made in Ripert’s introduction. An index is included at the end. The one significant criticism I have of the cookbook is that there is neither a table of contents, nor is the book clearly divided into sections. The recipes do follow an order that contains elements of category of dish or seasonality, but this doesn’t seem completely consistent or clearly demarcated. The index can help, but a list of recipes at the start would have been useful as well.

This is a cookbook I’ll be keeping and turning through often to find easy little ways to enjoy my vegetables in novel ways.


Cooking Allergy Free: Inspired Meals for Everyone, by Jenna Short

Cooking Allergy Free; Inspired Meals for Everyone, by Jenna Short
Publisher: Taunton Press
ISBN: 1627103961
288 pages, Hardcover
Published 21st October 2014
Source: NetGalley

With family and close friends with myriad food allergies I am always on the lookout for new recipes of yummy dishes that spark inspiration and could conceivably made by the average home cook. While many of the dishes in this cookbook appear delicious, however, it isn’t the allergy-free recipe cookbook I expected it to be, and I didn’t find it personally useful. However, this cookbook is excellently designed and could be very useful for the right kind of person/home cook.
The purpose behind Cooking Allergy Free is to provide relatively simple and healthy ‘gourmet’ food that can be adapted to an eater’s particular dietary restrictions among the major 8 food allergens: nuts, wheat (gluten), soy, dairy, eggs, shellfish, fish, and corn. The key word here is ‘can’. The recipes collected by Short here (which cover salads, soups, sides, entrees, deserts, sauces, and baking) are for the most part NOT inherently allergy free. Most of these types of recipes could be found in a regular everyday cookbook without the ‘allergy-free’ theme.
What Short does here, however, is clearly highlight for what diet(s) each recipe is appropriate. This is done at the top of the recipe with consistent, colorful icons, and recipes are indexed at the end of the cookbook according to diet. In addition to allergy restrictions, the dishes are also classified by icon as vegetarian or vegan where appropriate. The design of this book therefore would be exceptionally useful for someone who isn’t remotely familiar with allergens, recipes, or when/how recipes could be altered according to dietary restrictions. As comparison, I could see this book fulfilling a role similar to the “Idiot’s Guide” of technology books.
The highlight of this cook book is really how it looks and the easy navigation/interpretations allowed by the design. You can tell that Short has experience and talent in design. The photographs of the food are high quality and whet the appetite for trying out the dish. These are important considerations for a cook book, but excelling just in these categories doesn’t hold up if the overall purpose or recipes don’t meet your need.
For me the biggest problems come down to that fact that so many of the recipes contain many allergens in them still. It is important to note that a key feature of the book is that variant instructions are offered at the bottom of each recipe (with icons) to highlight how the dish could be altered to make it fit the needs of additional allergy restrictions.
One issue is that not all of these substitutions will work particularly well for the dish in question. For example, not all grains can be substituted well with quinoa to make something gluten-free. Quinoa could be used, but the dish isn’t going to have the same flavors, texture, or basic experience. This issue becomes most prominent in the baking section – where gluten-free flour just simply can’t serve as universal substitute across the board.
The second issue is that so many of the recipes contained allergens for no logical reason. If you are writing a book with ‘allergy-free’ in the title, why would you include recipes with peanuts? Really? One of the worst offending allergens? Why would you garnish something with nuts and then put in the ‘alternate’ instructions ‘Omit the nut garnish’? Why not make the recipe nut-free and then at the bottom say that nuts could be added if you DON’T have a nut allergy. Another recipe mentioned that people with nut allergies often had soy allergies, so the recipe could replace soy with something else – but the recipe also included almonds.
In the end, if you are looking for a book of allergy-free recipes, go find books specific to the dietary restriction(s) in question. If you could use a lovely designed book of recipes with mostly well laid-out guidelines on how to adapt them to a particular diner’s requirements while keeping the food still taste decently acceptable, then this is worth looking into.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.