Eric Ripert’s new collection of vegetable recipes is maybe one of the least seemingly chef-driven cookbooks. And it holds true to its title, “Vegetable Simple.” What a delightful approach, especially with summer on the horizon.
Some recipes require as few as two ingredients (tomatoes or cucumbers with salt), and most have a short list, with almost none demanding secondary preparations before you get going. It took me less than an hour to have three dishes ready to eat (glossy seared shiitakes with a jolt of spice, buttery potatoes showered with chives and tender bok choy bathed in a soy-ginger vinaigrette).
“It’s the way I cook and entertain at home,” Mr. Ripert said. “I put bowls and platters of vegetables on the table and people help themselves. They’re not meant as side dishes.”
Among the center-of-the-plate ideas are thick rounds of watermelon treated like pizza and strewn with feta cheese and olives, halved hearts of romaine broiled with Caesar dressing and a veneer of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a hearty mushroom Bolognese for pasta, meaty roasted Portobello caps, skewered eggplant slices grilled with red miso, and layered vegetables for Grandma’s Byaldi, all clearly presented and enjoying bright close-ups page after page.
Like the recipe that evokes his grandmother, many of the others reach deep into his childhood in Provence. “My aunt and my grandmother were always cooking vegetables,” he said. “At Le Bernardin seafood is the star; I apply the same philosophy to vegetables.”
His approaches are fresh, with uncommon combinations or cooking techniques. He lets mushrooms simmer for three hours to make a consommé, allows for frozen peas to make soup, emulsifies butter with cooking water to produce a sauce for potatoes, dresses butter lettuce heads whole for salad, provides good advice for cooking bok choy and shows how dazzling a risotto just made with Vidalia onions can be.
At the same time, many of these recipes are celebratory. His excellent and traditional mayonnaise-based coleslaw has Fourth of July written all over it. “I love mayonnaise,” he admits.
Vegetable tasting menus featuring dishes from the book are served at the Aldo Sohm Wine Bar.
“Vegetable Simple” by Eric Ripert (Random House, $35); Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, tasting menus $35, or $70 with wines, 151 West 51st Street, aldosohmwinebar.com, 212-554-1143
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