José Andrés gets right to the point in his new cookbook “Vegetables Unleashed,” (HarperCollins, $40): “Fruits and vegetables are sexy in a way that a chicken breast never can be.” No small statement coming from a chef who owns more than two dozen restaurants, including three in Las Vegas — one dedicated nearly entirely to meat.
If the magic of nightshades, legumes, roots and greens has eluded you thus far, this inspired collection of recipes is likely to make you reconsider.
Andrés’ charming conversational style introduces each of the chapters, which take up familiar topics such as pantry staples, but with touches that will elevate anyone’s home cooking game. (Sempio Yondu anyone? “Think of it as a vegetarian fish sauce,” he writes about the Korean barbecue-like savory sauce, “a concentration of plant-based glutamates that makes almost all savory food taste better”). There are two pages dedicated to how to boil water — not as simple as it sounds, but critically important, it turns out.
The recipes are divided by season, and while the first one may be a bit exotic for some (cooking potatoes in coffee grounds covered with “a few scoops from your compost bin”), the rest are delightfully accessible, delicious transformations of everyday vegetables into hearty dishes.
One example is Carrot “Pasta,” with long, ribbon-thin slices of the taproot tossed in a sauce of its juice and an oil made with the top greens, the veggie equivalent of the carnivorous “nose-to-tail” trend.
Even the humble microwave wins Andrés’ praise to his “everlasting surprise” as being his preferred way to cook corn because the kernels are uniformly tender and sweet and the silks and husks slide off perfectly. Another favorite: A fail-proof Cacio e Pepe, the classic pasta dish of butter, cheese, salt and pepper (and in this case, peas or corn) that can be zapped in six minutes.
The cookbook isn’t technically aimed at vegans or vegetarians, as several recipes call for bonito flakes, bacon or other meats, but most can be easily adapted to fit any dietary restrictions. It is, however, a terrifically tantalizing read from the first page to the last. harpercollins.com