“When I cook vegetables today, my goal is to showcase their natural flavors and qualities, so simplicity is key,” writes chef Eric Ripert in his newly published cookbook, “Vegetable Simple.”
Simple has certainly been a defining element in my manner of cooking in the past 13-plus months, but sometimes, those preparations don’t produce results that are beautiful to behold. The vegetable dishes that Ripert shares from his repertoire are as artful as they are easy.
I was drawn to the butter lettuce salad because it calls for a pastry brush, used to paint the lettuce leaves with an herby vinaigrette. The notion of a lettuce head as canvas is a lovely reminder that cooking is a form of art, an expression of creativity.
In the headnote, Ripert remarks that “your guests will enjoy cutting into the lettuce head with a knife and fork, as they would a wedge salad.” Mine certainly did.
The bright broccoli soup takes advantage of the entire plant, stems included. I served it warm, but one of my dinner guests, who took leftovers home that night, happily drank it cold for breakfast the next morning. Top it with croutons if you desire crunch and some color contrast.
Butter lettuce salad
2 teaspoons aged sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head butter lettuce, washed and patted dry (it’s important to clean the lettuce thoroughly of soil and sand), core trimmed but head left whole
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
In a small bowl, combine the sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and salt and white pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
Season the lettuce lightly with salt and white pepper. Using a pastry brush, paint each lettuce leaf with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the herbs. Quarter and serve immediately, on chilled plates.
Makes 4 servings. Nutrition per serving: 75 calories (88% calories from fat), 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 33 milligrams sodium.
Silky broccoli soup
Fine sea salt
1 large or 2 small stalks broccoli, florets separated and stems thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper
In a medium to large pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt, then add the broccoli stems and cook until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the florets and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Once the florets and stems are tender, drain them in a sieve set over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Transfer the broccoli to a blender, adding enough of the reserved liquid to cover. Add the butter and puree until very smooth. You can adjust the consistency with more of the reserved cooking water if it’s too thick.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper. Serve in 4 warmed bowls, or chill immediately and reheat later, to keep the soup’s bright green color.
Makes 4 servings. Nutrition per serving: 66 calories (79% calories from fat), 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 6 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 15 milligrams cholesterol, 43 milligrams sodium.
— Recipes excerpted from “Vegetable Simple” by Eric Ripert with permission of Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
By Eric Ripert
Penguin Random House. 256 pages. $35.