Q&A: This Isn't a Reading Rainbow, This is an Eating Rainbow!
When we talk about our traditional diet pyramids we, of course, talk about the cornucopia of foods they represent – fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains – a variety of vibrant and colorful ingredients. This is the sensory approach that allows us to eat with our eyes first and then enjoy the flavors that nourish our bodies and satisfy our senses. So when we read about the new cookbook Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables (Running Press, 2012) which is arranged by color and was created with photographer Paulette Phlipot, we could not wait to get our hands on a copy and start exploring what author Cheryl Sternman Rule had to share. We were even more excited when Cheryl agreed to do this Q&A to talk with us about her book, her unique approach (what she refers to as, “sensory, pretty and practical”) and, of course, her food!
OLDWAYS: For those who may not be familiar with your writing, – from your professional journalism career to your award-winning food blog – can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to write Ripe?
CHERYL: Of course. First, I don’t actually consider myself a journalist. While I’ve written plenty of research-based articles on food throughout my career, I think of myself more as a creative food writer.
I do have culinary arts training, and I’ve been writing about food since 2004. When I met Paulette Phlipot, we decided to create a book that would combine my writing and recipe development skills with her photography skills and aesthetic. Ripe is the colorful result.
OLDWAYS: Your affection towards fruits and vegetables comes out in the pages of this cookbook. We love how you exclaim, “Embrace the vegetable, behold the fruit…Canoodle them because you crave what they offer – freshness, color, snap and taste.” Can you talk to us about how your penchant for produce began?
CHERYL: I’m one of those people whose heart flutters at the farmers’ market. When I catch a glimpse of someone’s beautiful salad in a restaurant, I want to go up and take a bite. I rarely get that urge with a stranger’s turkey cutlet.
I ate a lot of meat growing up, but my mother gardened, so we had fresh produce as well. That said, the intensity of my affection for the fruit and vegetable kingdom skyrocketed when I became an adult and started cooking for myself.
OLDWAYS: We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the lush photography that represents the colors, each key ingredient, and every single recipe in Ripe. Can you tell us a bit about Paulette Phlipot, the photographer who brings your cookbook to life?
CHERYL: Paulette is an artist in the truest sense. She has her own unique vision and style, and this comes through vividly in the pages of our book. Paulette lives and works in the mountains of Idaho. She is, in some ways, an enigma to me – she works incredibly hard to get the perfect shot, and yet her outlook and demeanor are completely centered and relaxed. She’s the yin to my yang.
OLDWAYS: We know you must have some great tricks of the trade that made you think, "Oh my gosh, how did I ever live without knowing this?!" Can you share one or two of your favorite tips with our readers?
CHERYL: Zucchini. Never steam it. I don’t understand people who steam zucchini, and I don’t understand cafeterias that steam squash and zucchini on those giant steam tables. A lot of people hate zucchini and I think this is why. And beets and Brussels sprouts? Do not boil them, unless you want to punish someone.
Think outside your normal prep methods when it comes to common vegetables. If you always cut carrots in coins, shred them in a food processor or ribbon them with a peeler instead. Same goes for cooking method. If you normally eat apricots or peaches out of hand, toss them on the grill or roast them in the oven instead. Keep changing things up.
OLDWAYS: We would kick ourselves if we missed this opportunity. Can you give us permission to include one of your Ripe recipes in this blog post and on our website?
CHERYL: But of course! I think you and your readers will enjoy these Green Beans with Smoky Pistachio Dust from Ripe. And anyone who wants to learn more about the book can find all the info here: http://ripecookbook.com/ and can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Enjoy!
Green Beans with Smoky Pistachio Dust
This dish has it all: beauty, flavor, and a unique texture from the pistachio dust. In our family, we eat them like French fries, not stopping until we’ve cleaned the bowl. Sprinkle the extra dust over boiled potatoes, steamed cauliflower, or grilled asparagus.
Serves 4, with extra pistachio dust left over
1 pound (454g) green beans, rinsed, stem ends snapped
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup (90g) dry-roasted, unsalted pistachios, toasted and cooled completely
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fill a bowl with ice water.
Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Drop in the green beans and boil until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Transfer the beans immediately to the ice bath to set their color and stop the cooking process. Drain again, pat dry, and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil.
Combine the pistachios, smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process for 30 seconds, or until finely ground and reduced to “dust.” Sprinkle 1/2 cup (60g) dust (reserve the rest for future use) over the green beans, adjust seasonings, and serve at room temperature.
Tip: When grinding the pistachios, use a full-size food processor if you have one, as it will give you the finest, “dustiest” consistency. A mini chop is fine in a pinch but won’t break the nuts down quite as much.
Recipes reprinted with permission from RIPE © 2012 by Cheryl Sternman Rule, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.
Photography © 2012 by Paulette Phlipot.