Friday, April 13, 2012

Voluptuous vegetables and frisky fruit

New cookbook appeals to the eye as well as the palate

Express Staff Writer

Paulette Phlipot and her daughter Cassidy proudly show off “Ripe.” Phlipot became pregnant during the process of bringing her dream book to fruition and said Cassidy provided her with a lot of inspiration along the way. Photo by Willy Cook

As a rule, when we think of food porn, we think of decadent, high-calorie, high-fat dishes. There just aren't that many gushing, glorifying outpourings of culinary adoration aimed at celery.

Ketchum-based photographer Paulette Phlipot and her cohort, California-based food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule, aim to change that perception with the publication of their new cookbook "Ripe."

"Ripe" is the Playboy magazine of fruit-and-vegetable cookbooks. Phlipot's luscious, larger-than-life images of perfect peaches and alluring artichokes will draw you in, and, yes, you will actually stay to read the articles.

Rule's commentary on the perfection of fruit and vegetable sings almost as loudly as Phlipot's stunning photographs. Her style is light and witty but immensely practical. "Please do not boil full-sized Brussels sprouts whole," she writes. "No good can possibly come of that."

Published late last month, "Ripe" is flying off the shelves a lot faster than celery (the publisher just gave the green light for a third print run), thanks in part to some glowing national reviews. The Huffington Post proclaimed that "'Ripe' treats produce to the same sense of naughty decadence usually associated with cupcakes and cocktails. Paired with Rule's awesome recipes, bite-sized essays, anecdotes and kitchen tips are Paulette Phlipot's glam photos ... ."

When Phlipot dreamed up the idea for "Ripe," many moons ago in her own kitchen, she knew she wanted a book that would celebrate produce, not categorize it.

"I wanted to do a book that I really wanted to use in my own kitchen," Phlipot said in an interview with the Express. "It's a dream book for me—there's barely a day goes by that we're not using this in my house."

While the book doesn't discount the many and varied health benefits of eating plenty of produce, that is not its focus.


"It's not a 'you should' cookbook. It's an 'I want' cookbook," she said.

"But do embrace the vegetable; behold the fruit," Rule writes in the book's introduction. "Not because they're good for you, though they are. Not because their footprint is lighter on the earth, though it is. Not because a pound of snap peas costs less than a pound of tenderloin, though it does. Gorge on green beans and favas, pomegranates and peaches, Swiss chard and honeydew because they're beautiful, flavorful, versatile, and undeniably delicious."

After reading "Ripe," your first impulse may well be to grab that stick of celery and whip it up into a frenzied Black Lentil Celery Couscous with Jeweled Fruit-delight. All of Rule's recipes are inventive and easy, and possibly capable of turning the most hardened carnivore into a vegetable lover.

Unusually for a cookbook, it was the photographer who conceived the idea, and the visual inspiration is obvious in the book's unusual layout. It's themed by color, not season or course.

"I'm so visually driven that it just made sense to me," Phlipot said. "I look at fruit and vegetables first because of their color. The pigments that give food color also have health benefits, and looking back I remember this being my leading thought. I naturally cook and eat this way and thought it could be helpful for the reader if they were preparing a lot of green for dinner and wanted to have something yellow or orange on their plate, they could simply flip to the orange or yellow chapters."

Phlipot sourced a lot of the produce she photographed from the Wood River Valley.

"We grew the radishes in our backyard, the squash blossoms are from Wood River Organics and one of the apples came from Laura's (of Idaho's Bounty) fridge," she said with a laugh.

"Ripe", $25, is available at local stores. Phlipot will be signing copies at Iconoclast in Ketchum from 6-8 p.m., Saturday, May 26.

Watercress Butter

With hints of garlic and lemon, this emerald butter makes a stunning spread on simple crackers. Leftovers can be tossed through hot potatoes or noodles, or slicked on bread with cucumbers and mint.

1 bunch watercress (8 ounces or 227g), thick stems trimmed

1⁄4 pound (1 stick, or 113g) soft butter, at room temperature

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1⁄2 teaspoon honey

1 garlic clove, rough chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crackers, for serving 

In a food processor purée the butter, the watercress, lemon zest, honey, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the butter on crackers. Sprinkle with the lemon juice. Garnish each cracker with a watercress leaf. Refrigerate any leftover butter, covered.

Recipe reprinted with permission from RIPE © 2012 by Cheryl Sternman Rule, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.

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