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(mostly) Meatless Monday: José Andrés’ Vegetables Unleashed

Welcome to Mostly Meatless Monday – a series of cookbook reviews focussing on books that are “vegetable-forward” (if not completely vegetarian) for those of us who are trying to reduce our meat consumption (or at least, eat meat more consciously).

Vegetables Unleashed on eatlivetravelwrite.comYou might know Chef José Andrés from his restaurant empire. Or because he was on Time Magazine”s list of “100 most influential people” in 2018 (and 2012). Or from his recent humanitarian efforts with World Central Kitchen. Or from countless TV appearances. Or from his previously published books. His energy is boundless, it seems. Earlier this year, Andrés published Vegetables Unleashed, which might seem curious for a chef who is “not even close” to being a vegetarian himself!

From the publisher:

From the endlessly inventive imaginations of star Spanish-American chef José Andrés and James Beard award-winning writer Matt Goulding, Vegetables Unleashed is a new cookbook that will transform how we think about—and eat—the vast universe of vegetables.

Andrés is famous for his unstoppable energy—and for his belief that vegetables are far sexier than meat can ever be. Showing us how to creatively transpose the flavors of a global pantry onto the produce aisle, Vegetables Unleashed showcases Andrés’s wide-ranging vision and borderless cooking style.

With recipes highlighting everything from the simple wonders of a humble lentil stew to the endless variations on the classic Spanish gazpacho to the curious genius of potatoes baked in fresh compost, Vegetables Unleashed gives us the recipes, tricks, and tips behind the dishes that have made Andrés one of America’s most important chefs and that promise to completely change our relationship with the diverse citizens of the vegetable kingdom.

Filled with a guerilla spirit and brought to life by Andrés’s globe-trotting culinary adventures, Vegetables Unleashed will show the home cook how to approach cooking vegetables in an entirely fresh and surprising way – and that the world can be changed through the power of plants.

Per the Introduction, this is “not a book about not eating animals. It’s not even about eating less meat. It’s a book about eating more vegetables in the most diverse and satisfying ways possible.” I’d say it’s the perfect cookbook for people who truly want to make vegetables a bigger part of their diet but just don’t know how. People who don’t want to go completely vegetarian for whom a completely vegetarian cookbook might be off putting and feel restrictive. Nothing about Andrés (his personality or his writing) feels restrictive. And the book does feel like “a feverish journey through José’s vegetable kingdom”!
 
Vegetables Unleashed contains some sections you might not find in other cookbooks. “Decoding José” includes some of his stock phrases and sayings which you will be familiar with if you’ve seen him on television. “What I believe” and “Rules for the New Vegetable World” outline José’s food (and life) philosophy. I particularly liked this passage:
Do you want a one word approach to eating that will never fail you? Balance. We should celebrate vegetables without preaching about the perils of protein. Don’t count out carbs. Don’t banish butter. Leave everything on the table and take it one bite at a time.
This, in a nutshell is Vegetables Unleashed. Celebrating food. Celebrating vegetables. If you’re afraid of vegetables because you had a bad experience as a child with, say, Brussels sprouts or overcooked beans at your grandma’s house, this is the book which will change your mind.

“The Plant Index” contains some fascinating facts and numbers… Did you know that 40% of American children’s vegetable consumption comes from French fries? Did you know that $1 can buy you 420 calories of soda? Or that that same $1 will buy you 39 broccoli calories?

“How I cook” introduces us to Andrés’s way of cooking and includes a whole section on “How to Boil Water” (the “invisible hand of the culinary world”) and “Mastering Stock”. There’s information on “Moves that Matter” (choices and decisions you make when cooking that make a difference) as well as pantry and equipment staples that will get you set on the road to vegetable success in your kitchen. Any great vegetable begins its life in a great garden and there’s a whole section on gardening (including a recipe how to cook your potatoes in compost – seriously, even Andrés admits this might be the most insane recipe he’s created!).

And then, there are the recipes. I’ve not seen a cookbook make vegetables look sexier. The gorgeous photography is lavish and lush and makes you want to read the recipes to find out how to make the dishes. Dishes which include simple classics like Tomato Tart or Cauliflower with Béchamel. As well as some new takes on old favourites like “Beetsteak” Burgers. Cauliflower Tabbouleh. Nori Tacos. Carrot “pasta”, Microwave Cacio e Pepe or an Heirloom Bloody Mary… There are of course, some Spanish classics – Gazpacho (so many different ways!) and Sangria (classic and with variations) and that staple of many tapas bars, marinated olives, again, so many different ways. Meat does make an appearance in a few recipes (hello bacon and chicken, for example) but the majority of recipes are absolutely “vegetable forward”. Scattered through the recipes and stories (a day in the life of José? There is no such thing as a typical day…) are profiles of farmers. Andrés, generously, includes a list of “sources of vegetable inspiration” for those wanting more and at the very back of the book is a list of “Recipes on the Back Burner” which will make you laugh (some crazy – and not so crazy – ideas Andrés had that didn’t make it into the book!).

What comes across in this book in both the writing and the images is Andrés’ love of food (and life) and excitement about food and feeding people. If you’ve seen him on television, you will know how he speaks and how excited he gets about tasting new foods and creating new recipes. You’ll most likely read the book with his voice in your head and it’s impossible to NOT get caught up in that infectious enthusiasm.

Vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians and even committed carnivores will find something of interest in this book. And those committed carnivores might even be more willing to introduce more greens (and other colours) into their diet after diving into this wild journey. Highly recommended.

Vegetables Unleashed on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Purchase Vegetables Unleashed  for yourselves on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store closest to you). Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.

Please note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This post also contains affiliate links from The Book Depository. This means that if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!

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Disclosure: I purchased this cookbook for myself. I have not been compensated for writing this post.

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