Bookshelf

Vedge Out

Veggie inspiration from the acclaimed vegetable restaurant's new cookbook

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Since it opened in the fall of 2011, Vedge has been one of the most celebrated restaurants in Philadelphia. Chef-owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby pride themselves on producing inspired cocktails, dishes, and desserts using only local, seasonal produce. And when I say only produce, I do mean only. No animal products of any kind are used or served at Vedge.

Vedge calls itself a vegetable restaurant, and it has transformed the way this city thinks about carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower (to name a few). So far, the only drawback to Vedge has been that in order to taste their transformational food, you had to finagle a reservation or lay in wait for one of the few coveted seats at the bar. Happily, now there’s another option.

With the recent publication of Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, you can now make many of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes at home.

The book opens with a heartfelt forward from Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan. Then, it proceeds to a discussion of basic building blocks that the authors regularly us in their kitchen (stocks, spices, and condiments feature prominently).

Once the groundwork has been laid, the book proceeds in much the same way the menu does. It starts with small plates, then moves on to soups and stews. After that comes “The Dirt List,” featuring recipes from the daily menu section showcasing the freshest produce.

In most other restaurants, these dishes would be labeled sides and given no further thought, but at Vedge, they are part of the main event. You get items like Savoy Cabbage Colcannon and Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce.

After a mini-section featuring a handful of recipes using oft-discarded greens, we move onto the mains. There are tarts, hearty stews, and even Korean eggplant tacos. Towards the back of the book, you get some desserts, breads, and cocktails.

In preparation to write this piece, I made three recipes (and a spice blend, though that hardly counts). Trying to be guided by season and the contents of my CSA share, I chose the Spiced Little Carrots With Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (page 49), Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade (page 54), and the Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce (page 98).

As I made my shopping list in advance of a day of cooking, I was surprised and appreciative to note that my kitchen had more than half of the necessary ingredients. I found that while the flavor combinations are often novel, the spices and condiments used to achieve them are not.

Throughout the time I cooked from the book, I was pleased to find that the dishes I was making matched my taste memory of items from the restaurant. I didn’t have a single flop and thanks to the carrot dish, plan to include sauerkraut in my hummus on a regular basis.

In fact, I have just one quibble with the book that has more to do with the house style of the publisher than the work the authors did. Often in recipe writing, if you include an ingredient that is used more than once in the course of cooking, you typically indicate such by putting the word divided after the ingredient in the list. This gives the home cook a clue that will need to be on the lookout in the text of the recipe for instructions on when and how much to add.

Vedge has forgone the divided indicator, but frequently does have instructions for the home cook to only use part of an ingredient at the beginning and add the rest later (particularly things like salt, pepper, and olive oil). It means that you have to be extra vigilant in reading the instructions to ensure that you don’t over-season. It’s not a big deal, but can lead to an extra half-teaspoon of salt or pepper on occasion.

Truly though, I’m entirely delighted by this book and plan on cooking from it throughout the fall and winter, in the hopes that I’ll be able to avoid the root vegetable doldrums this year.

Spiced Little Carrots With Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak Spice Blend
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 medium garlic cloves, 1 minced and 1 smashed
2 pounds young or baby carrots, tops removed, leaving 1 inch of stem intact (substitute “baby-cut” carrots if necessary)
2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¾ cup bottled sauerkraut with 2 tablespoons of its juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the steak spice blend, vinegar, ½ teaspoon of the salt, the cloves, and the minced garlic. Add the carrots and toss until combined.

Transfer the carrots to a sheet pan, cover with aluminum foil so that they will steam through, and roast until fork-tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to roast until the carrots are soft, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the carrots to cool.

Meanwhile, to make the puree, combine the chickpeas, sauerkraut and its juice, dill, mustard, pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the smashed garlic clove in a food processor. Process into a smooth, hummus-like consistency.

To serve, spread the bean puree onto a serving plate and arrange the carrots, either still warm or fully cooled, on top.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves 6 to 8

Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 heads cauliflower, leaves and bottoms of stems removed, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
8 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup jasmine rice
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
½ cup diced plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, smashed

Instructions

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large stockpot over high heat, then add the diced onions and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower chunks, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper, and continue to brown, stirring occasionally, for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the stock, rice, and Old Bay. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is fork-tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes.

Stick your potato masher right into the pot and crush the cauliflower to a rice-like consistency.

Stir in the saffron and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the persillade by chopping the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic to a paste-like consistency. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish each with a sprinkling of persillade.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

½ cup vegan mayo
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, 2 or 3 layers of outer leaves removed and bottom cores cut off
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Instructions

To make the sauce, whisk together the vegan mayo, mustard, 1 tablespoon water, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Run the Brussels sprouts through the slicer blade of a food processor or carefully shave on a mandoline.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Just as the oil starts to ripple, add the garlic and the shaved Brussels sprouts. Sear for 30 seconds, then stir to prevent the garlic from burning.

Add the remaining half-teaspoon salt and half-teaspoon pepper, then allow the Brussels sprouts to sear for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so they brown evenly.

Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving dish, drizzle the mustard sauce on top, and serve.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves 2 to 3

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