A few months back someone Tweeted the book trailer for a breath-taking cookbook all about fruits and vegetables. The book was Ripe and the author Cheryl Sternman Rule with luscious photography by Paulette Phlipot. I immediately shared the trailer with my Twitter followers and exclaimed my excitement over this vegetarian cookbook that looked like it would put all other vegetarian cookbooks to shame. I'm happy to report my gut feeling about the book was spot on.
Fortunately, both Cheryl and Paulette were at the IACP Book and Blog Festival so I was able to meet them and finally get my hands on the book. On my subway ride home I carefully turned each glossy, high-color page. Fruits and vegetables never looked so good. Cheryl's introduction is the perfect beginning. She explains that this, yes, is a vegetarian cookbook but that, no, she won't emphasize that fact throughout. Also, the book is not arranged by season, as many produce-forward books are. Instead the book is a rainbow of nature's bounty, organized by color and alphabetically by the names of the highlighted fruits and vegetables. There has even been discussion about fore-edge of the book since it creates a bright waterfall of color.
Each item has a corresponding recipe: Butternut Squash - Red Curry Glazed Butternut Squash with Coconut Rice (page 76), Blueberries - Blueberry Nutmeg Cake (page 240), Mushrooms - Cremini Farro Hash with Poached Eggs (page 294). Cheryl gets to the essence of each main ingredient while giving tips for how to buy, store and generally prepare. In addition to the main recipe every item has a list of three "Simple Uses"- recipes without directions. I love this part of the book- half the time when I look through food magazines, cookbooks, or blogs I see photos and get ideas about what to make and rarely follow the given recipe if I have a sense of how to make it already. This amplifies the amount of recipes in the book from seventy-five up to three hundred. And isn't the main thing we're always trying to get more creative with in the kitchen our produce?
So, I love this book. And I highly recommend you check it out in your book store and give in to the urge to run home with it, make a list, then run back out to the farmer's market. When I got off the subway I ducked off to Fairway on the way to scoop up a mix of produce to get started. I ended up making a few Chocolate Covered Strawberries (page 60) [a genius, fruit based lunchtime dessert during the work week] and marking the Polenta-Stuffed Chard with Bubbly Parmesean (page 222) for a later date.
That date came to pass this week after seeing a nice bunch of large rainbow chard leaves at the store and a hankering for polenta that comes around monthly. The photo is enticing in the book, but the idea of wrapping a big green leaf around cheesy polenta with a little tomato sauce sounds too smart and satisfying to pass up.
Firstly, Cheryl's polenta turns out incredibly creamy. I could've sat there eating spoonfuls of it all night without ever rolling up a single chard packet. I usually follow Giada De Laurentiis' basic polenta recipe, but for now I will use the recipe from Ripe becuase its easier and better. After resisting my desires to devour the whole pot of polenta I managed to allow it to set and started getting read to assemble the packets.
A few tips if you make this recipe yourself: heed Cheryl's advice to cut out the stem of the leaf as instructed, as well as the instruction to "have several layers of paper towels on hand" as drying the leaves is important for cooking, and would be made difficult with insufficient paper towels.
Now, assembly and the finished product:
This makes for a very satisfying dinner definitely akin to lasagna as Cheryl says in the book. If this intrigues you, just wait until you see all the other treasures waiting for you in Ripe. I look forward to cooking from this book for years and years to come and keeping it as my go-to for inspiration when it comes to fruits, vegetables and cooking on the whole. The vegetarian cookbook I never imagined could exist, but for which I had secretly been pining. For this, I am very thankful to Cheryl Sternman Rule and Paulette Phlipot.
Ripe Website: http://ripecookbook.com/
Follow Cheryl on Twitter: @sternmanrule
Follow Paulette on Twitter: @paulettephlipot
Cheryl's Food Blog: 5 Second Rule
Paulette's Photography: P3 Images