I am a visual learner. Never is this more clear to me than when I thumb through a cookbook like Ripe by Cheryl Sternman Rule with its incredible food photographs by Paulette Phlipot.
The fruits and vegetables practically jump off of the pages in 3D, and my brain understands their curves, colors, and yes, ripeness in a way that description alone could not accomplish. It's enough to make a gal hungry.
Faith covered the main points of awesomeness with this book in her cookbook spotlight a few weeks ago. Briefly, Ripe is first a visual tour of fruits and vegetables, and second a cookbook for what to make with them. The intention is not so much to teach but to inspire. It's a cookbook intended to get us as homecooks to trust our instincts: our instincts for what is good, what is ripe, and what makes us happy.
I'd say that it accomplishes all these things. If the downright lick-able photos are what draw us in, it's Cheryl's words that invite us to stay. Her introductions are funny and make me — ever the nervous cook — relax into the idea of cooking what feels tasty to me that day.
That might be Cucumber Halloumi Salad with Licorice Notes. Or it might be Blueberry Nutmeg Cake. Or it might be striking out on my own with one of Cheryl's suggestions for a simple fig crostata or lettuce cups in my hand.
Or it might be as simple as these chocolate-dipped strawberries, which have the advantage of being both showstopping and insanely easy to make. I made these for a party a few weeks ago and they were gone in an instant. Now that I know how simple they are, I believe I will take them to all my backyard gatherings this summer. (As well as a certain Mother's Day brunch coming up.) Cheryl is right that the ripest strawberries are best for this. Happily, strawberry season has only just begun.
If you're the type who eats first with your eyes, you'll love this cookbook. I have had the chance to sample several of the dishes from its pages, and gone back for seconds. You'll love it.
• Buy the Book: Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables by Cheryl Sternman Rule with Photography by Paulette Phlipot
Related: Lentils with Broiled Egg: Cookbook Review and Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
White and Dark Chocolate Strawberries
Makes 40 to 45 Strawberries (Recipe may be scaled up or down)
I served these strawberries at a large potluck and plopped them on a table laden with tarts, pies, cookies, and brownies. The strawberries disappeared first.
8 ounces (227g) good quality dark chocolate, chopped
2 pounds (907g) impeccably fresh medium to large strawberries (35 to 45), rinsed and pat dry
4 ounces (113g) good quality white chocolate, chopped
Line two rimmed baking sheets with silicone liners or wax paper.
Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and wipe the underside dry with a tea towel. To make dipping easier, scrape the chocolate into a smaller bowl.
Hold each strawberry by its stem. Dip it into the chocolate about three quarters of the way up the berry. Drag it against the side of the bowl to stop any drips, then transfer to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strawberries. Pop the baking sheets into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the chocolate.
Meanwhile, set the white chocolate in a second heatproof bowl (or wash and dry the first bowl) and melt over simmering water as you did with the dark chocolate. Set a quart-size zip-top bag in a drinking glass. Open it so the edges reach halfway down the sides of the glass. Scrape the melted white chocolate into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out any air as you zip it shut.
Remove the strawberries from the fridge and condense them onto a single baking sheet. Snip off the tiniest corner of the zip-top bag, squeeze gently, and wave your wrist quickly side to side so the chocolate drizzles haphazardly over the berries. (You may have a bit of white chocolate left over.)
Set the berries back in the fridge for 5 minutes and serve.
Tip: Choose berries with impeccably smooth leaves. Shriveled or otherwise sad leaves ruin the visual impact of this lovely dessert.
Recipe reprinted with permission from RIPE © 2012 by Cheryl Sternman Rule, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.
Cover Image © 2012 by Paulette Phlipot. All other images by Emma Christensen