I have to be honest here. There is no way I could not love anything with José Andrés’ name on it. Or anything from the Anthony Bourdain imprint. So it is with extreme prejudice that I come to this review. If you are not familiar with Andrés, and the amazing work that he does, please visit his website: José Andrés
Andrés has a unique vision of food’s place in the world, as well as a very unique voice, which is on display here. I realized that before I even got to the first recipe. There is a page called “Translating the Language of José,” which has nothing to do with his English, but everything to do with his sense of humor and wonder. Like this:
LET’S GO! YOUR FAST IS MY SLOW: A rallying cry for all of those around José whose fasts are his slow.
Example: Just 108 more recipes to develop. Let’s go!
There are incredible (and unusual) photos throughout the book. Like this one with the table of contents:
Not only are there gorgeous pictures, there is a ton of information on all manner of vegetables, how we eat them, and why we don’t eat enough. There are astounding statistics:
Did you know that 87 percent of American adults don’t meet their daily fruit requriement? Or that 40 percent of kids’ vegetable intake comes from French fries? FORTY PERCENT!
Well, I was shocked. He even admits his own daughters prefer burgers to broccoli, which shouldn’t shock anyone. And this:
5.2 million annual deaths worldwide attributed to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Which makes this even sadder:
338 million pounds of produce Americans throw away every day
He gives advice on everything from gardening and composting, to kitchen tools and spices. And recipes. Lots of recipes.
Andrés introduces the idea of boiling your vegetables. You know, like your grandma used to. He claims it gives you the best method for maintaining texture and seasoning. He also admits that you will never see an Instagram photo of boiled cabbage. I’m not completely sold myself, I love roasted vegetables and do not want to move back to boiling. That said, I made his vegetable stock and it was wonderful. I made it in the Instant Pot and made enough to freeze for when I need some again. It was flavorful, not always easy to achieve with vegetable stock.
I like that at the end of the recipe, for instance Miso-Roasted Asparagus (yum!), he also suggests other vegetables that this would work with, along with other tips like if you want a sweeter finish, add a spoonful of honey or maple syrup. I like recipes with wiggle room. There are also some “chef-y” recipes like Carrot “Pasta,” which he indicates is not something “you’re going to serve on a Tuesday night to your hungry family of five.” True that. It is one of those recipes that consists of multiple recipes, the carrot sauce, carrot oil, and finally the carrot pasta. I have not attempted this.
I love the salad recipes, especially the ones where he explains the proper way to clean the lettuce. I know I’m weird but I avoid those bagged salads like the plague, or the ebola, or whatever horrible diseases they are contaminated with that scare me to death. I buy heads of lettuce. Different kinds, too. I love arugula, but my husband hates it. More salad for me that night. We all love romaine and butter lettuce and leaf lettuce and have you tried Little Gem? There is a recipe here for Little Gems with Warm Garlic Dressing that I have added to my list to try. It’s a very simple recipe with those flavor bombs, thinly sliced garlic and anchovies.
My daughter tried the Microwave Cacio e Pepe and it is now a favorite. Very simple recipe for one, made in the microwave. Now she has a new reason to use that oft-ignored appliance. I tried the Empanadillas de Espinacas (Spinach Empanadas) and they were really delicious, sort of a Greek spanikopita-like filling with spinach, scallions, feta and dill. I skipped the wonton wrappers and used the empanada wrappers I had in my freezer. I also tried the Vegetable Fried Rice, which was very good although my daughter said she would have liked it better with less “stuff” mixed in and more rice, which would have defeated my purpose in making it. That Beefsteak Sandwich was as good as it looks (see picture below) and super easy and quick, perfect for a no cooking night without ordering takeout.
All in all, I think this is a good cookbook and one I will be referring to often. As my vegetables start aging out of the fridge, I now have a good resource to help me avoid pitching them. Instead, I can turn them into something delicious.
9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
VEGETABLES UNLEASHED by José Andres & Matt Goulding. Anthony Bourdain/Ecco (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-0062668387. 368p.