My RSS Reader is embarrassingly loaded. I have 1000+ unread items at any given time, but I can’t manage to edit the list of blogs I follow because I truly feel like I need to read all of them (even though I rarely have time to). When I feel desperately overwhelmed, I click the dreaded “Mark All as Read” button, which makes me feel awfully guilty (all that great content I missed!). But most of the time, when I have just 15 minutes to spare, I cherry-pick my favorite blogs and catch up.
One blog I always prioritize is Cheryl Sternman-Rule’s “5 Second Rule.“ What I love about Cheryl’s blog is that her posts are on the shorter side of things—so I can read many in a short amount of time—but her words pack a lot of punch. From one post to the next, she can be funny, serious, poetic, politicized, nostalgic, moving—most often in less than 500 words. I wish I could write half as well. In fact, she’s the kind of writer I’d like to become when I grow up professionally. But Cheryl isn’t only a great writer; she’s also a gifted recipe developer. Her food is simple and approachable, and her dramatic photography—colorful dishes contrasted against a black background—sets her apart.
All of these reasons explain why I was happy when I learned that she had a book on the way. I knew it would be unique, and I would love it. Ripe: a Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables was released at the end of last month. In her book, black is no more. Instead, her vegetarian dishes are set against a rainbow of colorful backgrounds, coordinated with the featured fruits and vegetables. Flipping through the pages of Ripe feels like walking through the best-stocked farmers’ market where everything is at its peak—or its ripest—all at once.
Cheryl credits photographer Paulette Phlipot with the original idea to create a book based on colors instead of seasons, courses, or cuisines. Phlipot’s work in Ripe truly brings the simple beauty of fruits and vegetables to the forefront. The recipes are categorized by colors and each produce item has its own full-page picture. The pictures of the dishes each deserve their own page too, with Phlipot’s macro photography showing off colors and textures in an in-your-face kind of way. It’s impossible not to become hungry while reading Ripe. The book literally provokes oohs and aahs, as I have been witness to since purposefully leaving it on my kitchen counter for all guests to see.
Fortunately, the recipes do live up to the book’s exuberant layout and pictures. I have already made around 10 dishes from the book, and they were all delightfully successful. At first (being the recipe addict that I am), I was disappointed to see just one recipe per fruit or vegetable presented in the book. Then I noticed the clever “Simple Uses” section, which presents three more suggested uses for each produce item. They are simple ingredients lists, without quantities, that provide quick flavor compatibility profiles to enable readers to start creating their own dishes, in a way that reminds me of The Flavor Bible. I love that this feature of the book helps me get more creative and independent in the kitchen—and inspires me to turn fruits or vegetables that I very rarely cook into stars of new dishes.
The book features a vast majority of savory dishes with many sweet options provided in the “Simple Uses” sections. Amongst the recipes I’ve tried so far, I love the Radicchio Salad with Tahini Lemon Drizzle (above), a simple and fresh salad that I jazzed up with grilled chicken strips and crunchy croutons (see link to the recipe in the “Interesting Links” section below).
The Radish Olive Crostini were a revelation: I would’ve never thought of topping buttery crostini with a combination of kalamata olives, radishes, thyme, and lemon zest—and the result is nothing short of amazing. It has become an instant classic; one I can’t wait to serve to friends over the summer.
Another truly great dish I tried is the Curried Red Onion Jam with Simple Dal. I’m a sucker for Indian food, so this recipe was at the very top of the ones I needed to try ASAP. The onion jam is a jewel that would be great in sandwiches or as a condiment with any Indian meal. The dal is made with red lentils simply combined with ginger, chile, and star anise that all cook together to produce a rich, porridge-like mixture with a taste that improves with age. In fact, it’s even better the next day, and the next, and the next! Because the recipe yielded a large quantity of dal, I enjoyed it many times without ever becoming bored with it. I served it with grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower, with sautéed shrimp, as well as topped with arugula and a poached egg. All dishes were fantastic, the dal becoming a chameleon-like flavor vessel, and the jam giving meaning to the whole thing.
Curried Red Onion Jam with Simple Dal two ways: on the left, with grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower; on the right, with a poached egg and arugula, lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
As you know, I’m not a vegetarian, and it’s important to note that this book should in no way be considered solely a book for vegetarians. In fact, Sternman-Rule is an omnivore, while Phlipot eats only fish. The book’s introduction says, “It’s not a health-focused prescription. It’s not an environmental screed.” It’s a celebration of the best nature gives us. I have effortlessly added (animal or vegetal) proteins to many of the recipes I tried because we wanted dishes that were a little more filling, and because this combination corresponds exactly to the way we like to eat: protein playing a supporting role to a plate full of tasty, creatively prepared produce.
There are over a dozen more recipes I flagged when I first flipped through the book, many of which I’ll have to wait for the right time in the season to try, such as Corn with Cilantro-Lime Salt, Green Beans with Smoky Pistachio Dust, and Blueberry Nutmeg Cake. I suspect these will be heavenly, but only when made with the best and freshest produce. It’s okay—perhaps it’s a good thing—that the seasons give me the opportunity to pace myself and make the novelty of this book last longer.
About the book
- Title: Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables
- By Cheryl Sternman Rule (Author), Paulette Phlipot (Photographer)
- Hardcover, 312 pages, 75 recipes, about 150 photographs
- Publisher: Running Press
- Buy the book
- Recipes from the bookthat were published online:
- Watercress Butter
- Toasted Nori Edamame with Garlic-Chile Oil
- Cucumber Halloumi Salad with Licorice Notes
- Honeydew Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- Eggplant Romesco Rigatoni
- Radicchio Salad with Tahini Lemon Drizzle
- Spinach Smoked Gouda Frittata with Tomatoes
- Avocado Tangerine Salsa
- Kumquat Arugula Salad with Currant-Walnut Vinaigrette
- Warm Fava Shallot Couscous
- Carrot Soup with Garam Masala Cream
- A sample of “Simple Uses” for cherries, coconut, corn and watercress
- A chat with author Cheryl Sternman Rule in which she reveals what are her favorite recipes from the book
- A glowing review by The Wall Street Journal
- Another great write-up by Sarah Henry for Bay Area Bites
WIN A SIGNED COPY OF RIPE: A FRESH, COLORFUL APPROACH TO FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
I had the chance to attend the book’s East coast launch in New York City, where Cheryl and Paulette were kind enough to sign a copy for one lucky reader to win.
Note: The book wasn’t given to me for free; I just thought it looked so fantastic that I bought two copies, convinced it would make someone else deliciously happy.
To enter the giveaway (open to US/Canadian residents only):
- Comment on this post: Tell me what is your favorite fruit or vegetable, and what’s your favorite way to enjoy it and get an entry;
- Follow me on Twitter and get an additional entry;
- Follow me on Pinterest and get an additional entry;
- Become a fan of Food Nouveau on Facebook and get an additional entry;
*** VERY IMPORTANT! *** Leave a separate comment for EACH of your entries or only one entry will be counted. For example, leave your first comment about your fave fruit or vegetable, then add another comment to say “I follow you on Twitter”, another to say “I follow you on Pinterest”, etc. If you already follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and/or Facebook let me know as well, since this counts as an entry.
Also: Please make sure to provide your current email address (which won’t be visible on the blog) so I can reach you if you win.
I will randomly draw one lucky winner on Friday, May 4 at 12PM EST.
Good luck to all!