Cookbook Watch: 'The Art of Cooking With Vegetables'
Alain Passard is teasing me. I leave for Paris next week, and the one three-star meal I have booked is at his restaurant Arpege. You might say I'm looking forward to it. Several years ago, he converted the restaurant to all fruits and vegetables, most of them grown on his own farm. What could be better for a farm-to-table geek like me? Well, Thursday I got a copy of his new cookbook "The Art of Cooking With Vegetables." That's what could be better. I'm taking it home this weekend as a warm-up, and I’ve already got half a dozen recipes I want to try.
It's a surprisingly slim book, an even 100 pages, but there are so many great ideas. Passard has the knack for making dishes that sound at the same time surprising and completely natural. Let's start with the way he cooks artichokes: slipping bay leaves between the leaves, wrapping the heads in plastic wrap and cooking until tender. Bay and artichoke -– I can taste that now. (See jump for the recipe.)
For something a little showier, how about serving beets on a pool of pureed blackberries flavored with just a little bit of lavender? Are you there? How about serving new potatoes in butter flavored with sage and green garlic? When the weather gets warmer, melon served with blue cheese and black pepper?
The one criticism is that each of these dishes sound like they must have some amazing presentation, but there are no photographs. Instead, there are very stylized color-block illustrations. Beautiful, to be sure, but I really want to know how he plates these dishes.
I guess I'll just have to wait until next week to find out.
-- Russ Parsons
4 large globe artichokes with tightly packed leaves
12 large fresh bay leaves
6 to 8 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Fleur de sel or salt of your choice.
Trim back the stalks of the artichokes. Cut the bay leaves in half length-ways. Tuck the bay leaves into the artichoke leaves, distributing them evenly and hiding them well. Wrap each artichoke in several rounds of cling film.
Fill a deep stock pot, or deep saucepan, half full with unsalted water and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, have ready a saucepan lid that is slightly smaller than the stockpot and, also, some small weights. Lower the artichokes into the boiling water. Allow them to float, and then submerge them with the saucepan lid held in place by the weights. Simmer the artichokes for 1 1/2 hours. [NOTE: This is per the recipe; I'd probably start checking at about 45 minutes.] During this time, add more water to the pan if it evaporates.
Remove the artichokes from the water with a slotted spoon and leave them to cool for 1 hour in their cling film. Meanwhile, make a dressing by mixing together the olive oil and lime juice. Put this in a sauceboat and set it aside.
To serve, unwrap the artichokes and arrange them on four table plates, adding a small mound of quality sea salt at the side of each. Toasted wholemeal bread makes a perfect accompaniment for the inimitable artichoke hearts.