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.