Open the cover and let the fruits and vegetables seduce you.
From beets with bedroom eyes to come-hither coconuts, the new cookbook “Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables” reads like a love letter to produce.
Created by food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule and photographer Paulette Phlipot, the gorgeous book bucks the current trend of cookbooks organized by season and instead takes a chromatic approach to food with chapters devoted to red, orange, yellow, green, purple/blue and white.
On Tuesday, Rule comes to the Kennebunk Free Library for a talk and tasting event featuring recipes from the cookbook. During the event, Rule will talk about the process of creating the book and read a few passages.
Meanwhile, guests will sample recipes from the book prepared by Kitchen Chicks Catering. These tempting tastes will include avocado tangerine salsa, open-faced smoky tomato grilled cheese, peanut-strewn purple cabbage slaw, gremolata fingerlings, corn with cilantro-lime salt, blueberry nutmeg cake and smashed cherries, and amaretti with ricotta.
Rule hopes the book will encourage readers to eat more fruits and vegetables, but in a non-preachy, non-nutrition-focused way.
“We wanted to draw people in who were on the outskirts of this (nutrition) issue, who were not being inspired by messaging from the health food industry or the environmental community,” Rule said. “There is a whole group of people in our society who respond well to those messages. But I’ve met many people in my own community who don’t respond to those messages.”
To reach people who aren’t moved by antioxidants or fiber, the book relies on the inherent sex appeal of fresh, colorful, whole foods.
The hardcover book with color photographs on every other page is made for the kitchen, but would be equally at home on a coffee table.
“Part of the intention with the recipes was to create fruit and vegetable recipes that had interesting flavors, but were still doable in a short amount of time,” Rule said.
When she and Phlipot were creating the book – a process that took 14 months – they had the “competent home cook” in mind who would appreciate simple, straight-forward recipes.
“We didn’t realize how well received it would be,” Rule said. “We’ve gotten lots of media attention, and I’ve gotten lots of emails from people saying it’s changed how they shop or that their children love looking at this book. It didn’t occur to me how appealing this book would be to children.”
Each color section contains short, breezy essays on a particular ingredient, such as cranberries or cauliflower, accompanied by a mouth-watering photo. Rule then offers three simple uses for each ingredient. For example, the entry for Swiss chard lists three ingredients needed to make roasted chard chips, followed by seven ingredients for a saute featuring pine nuts and raisins, and finishing with the six ingredients needed to make a pasta dish with ricotta and toasted walnuts.
Rule said her intention is to leverage the wealth of recipes available online and encourage readers to search for recipes that utilize the featured ingredients. “There’s no reason a cookbook has to be so self-contained anymore,” she said.
All the recipes in the book were created by Rule, with a few exceptions. She said the process of developing recipes to fit a color wheel of food helped her expand her repertoire of culinary favorites.
For instance, prior to working on the book, Rule rarely used turnips. But after she came up with the recipe for turnip and Yukon gold puree with buttermilk and chives, it’s become one of her favorites.
Rule experienced a similar vegetable conversion when she set about developing a leek-centered recipe. After she created the recipe for gruyere-crusted leeks and apples, she “learned to love leeks as an entree instead of as an ingredient.”
With a masters degree in education from Harvard, Rule later attended the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. She’s now taken her recipe development skills and paired them with her flair for the written word. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, Body + Soul and Serious Eats. Her blog, 5 Second Rule, won the 2012 Culinary Blog award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Rule grew up in New York and lives in San Jose, Calif. Her brother, Mark Sternman, summers in Kennebunk and serves on the library board, and it was this connection that brings her to Maine.
“I think people do glorify the lifestyle of a food writer,” Rule said. “It’s an art and a business. It’s difficult to make a living as an artist. But it’s OK, because I make a choice every day to spend my time writing about food and cooking food instead of being in an office. Writing is a craft, and it takes time and practice, and so does cooking.”
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]