“The Naked Cookbook” by Tess Ward. Ten Speed Press, $24.99

This is the story of someone who chose a cookbook by its cover and then regretted the cover, but not the cookbook.

“The Naked Cookbook” is the work of Tess Ward, a London-based food blogger who previously wrote “The Naked Diet.” The “naked” in the title refers to her belief that it is best to eat “food in its most naked form,” meaning fresh and not processed. This is not new, of course. The era when people ate and fed their families casseroles made of Fritos, hamburger and cream of mushroom soup (Hi, Mom!) is long past.

Also long past is the time when you could name a cookbook, say, “The Joy of Cooking,” and call it a day. You must now have, it seems, an angle. Ward promotes nutritious “naked” eating based on some vague generalizations and her own health history.

“The Naked Cookbook” is divided into seven chapters: raw, pure, stripped, bare, nude, clean and detox. The detox chapter is really about detoxing but the other chapters are filled somewhat haphazardly. The “pure” chapter contains a recipe for ginger porkballs and the “bare” one has lamb meatballs. If there is a rationale behind this, I couldn’t find it.

The greatest weakness of this book is its cover. In keeping with the nude theme, this book seems to have been published with almost nothing on it. The cover is made up of what looks like the cardboard stiffening of most bound books and it has no spine. Just taking it home with me bruised and marked the cover. If something spilled or spattered on it (I am a messy cook), the cover will either melt away or, at the very least, lose its trendy, edgy design and appear not clean and pure but unkempt and possibly unhygienic.

All this nitpicking can be set aside, however, when you cook from this book. Many of the recipes appealed to me. They are, for the most part, simple and fast. I was tempted by a Prune + Bitter Chocolate Frozen Ricotta dessert and a salad of Tomatoes with Capers, Almonds + Herbs, but settled on the Green Cauliflower “Couscous” with Pumpkin Seeds.

Two small warnings: This recipe requires a food processor (or a cook who is willing to reduce a head of cauliflower to tiny bits by hand). It also calls for fava beans, which I was unable to find. I substituted shelled frozen edamame, which I boiled for a few minutes before using. They worked very well.


Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, stem and florets, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 garlic cloves, chopped

7 ounces thawed frozen or cooked fresh fava beans

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

2 handfuls of mixed herbs (such as mint and basil), minced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Scant 1/2 cup crumbled soft goat cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the cauliflower in a food processor and process to a fine couscous- or ricelike texture, in batches if you have a small food processor.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden. Add the cauliflower, tossing it to coat with the garlic oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until heated through. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the fava beans, pumpkin seeds, herbs, lemon juice, goat cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss until mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.