What’s the USP? As the title suggests, it’s a book all about how to cook vegetables written by a leading American chef.
Jeremy who? UK readers may not be familiar with the name, but American chef Jeremy Fox made quite a splash in the States back in 2007 with Ubuntu restaurant in Napa, California. The San Francisco Chronicle said the restaurant was ‘truly extraordinary.’ and that Fox was ‘taking vegetable-based cuisine to a new level’. Food and Wine magazine named him ‘Best New Chef’, the New York Times called the restaurant the second best in America and Michelin awarded a star. Fox is currently head chef and part owner of Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica where he continues to champion vegetables, (as well as serving up carnivorous delights like bone-in pork chop, babaganoush, beylik roasted tomato, fennel and olives).
What does it look like? Fox’s food somehow manages to be both elegant and minimal and homely and comforting at the same time. The pared-back food styling features beautiful crockery often shot against plain white backgrounds, letting the dishes speak for themselves, and what they say loud and clear is ‘Eat Me’.
Is it good bedtime reading? Fox tells his personal story – an award-winning chef wracked with anxiety and depression – with unbridled candour. There are engaging profiles of some of his favourite producers and he writes with great wit and insight about some of the key ingredients in his cooking, (no mean feat, believe me). On asparagus, he says, ‘getting it shipped in from the opposite hemisphere means it’s going to taste of jet fumes. You ever notice how funky your clothes smell after you get off a plane? Well imagine what air travel does to a porous plant that’s going to wind up inside your mouth’. The recipe introductions are peppered with little jokes, mostly of the Dad variety, making the book a fun read.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? If you live in California, no. Just pop down to your local farmer’s market and pick up some of that abundant, beautiful, fragrant and ripe produce. In the UK, if you pop down to your local farmer’s market you’re more likely to find cling wrapped meat and bad versions of street food. Although there’s nothing particularly obscure in the book, the recipes really are a celebration of the finest, freshest produce, something you simply won’t find at the supermarket. Befriending someone with an allotment would be your best bet.
What’s the faff factor? The food appears simple enough on the plate, the ingredients lists look short enough but start reading the recipes and you realise that often there are a number of other recipes elsewhere in the book that go to make up the completed dish. But this is food from the former head chef of three Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant, so what did you expect?
How often will I cook from the book? If you’re willing to put the time in to build up larder ingredients like homemade ricotta, confit garlic and mushroom conserva and you can get your hands on some decent veg, then the food is so attractive and delicious sounding that you might just fall down a gastronomic rabbit hole with this book.
Killer recipes? There are many, but a random few include country fried morels with green garlic gravy; fennel confit, kumquat, feta, chilli and oregano; pane frattau with fennel, strawberry sofrito, carta da musica and egg, and carrot juice cavaelli, tops salsa and spiced pulp crumble.
What will I love? The gorgeous images, the no-nonsense writing style, Fox’s original approach to cooking with vegetables and the endless inventiveness of the recipes.
What won’t I like? As Fox says himself, ‘If you’re looking for “10 Easy Weeknight Dinners for Vegetarians”, this book will not be of much use to you’.
Should I buy it? Its funny, moving, original and it will change the way you think about vegetables forever. Of course you should bloody well buy it.
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 5 Stars
Buy this book
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen