Jeremy Fox's cookbook, On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen (Phaidon, $49.95), has been a long time coming. The Rustic Canyon chef originally signed a book deal in 2010, based on the reputation he'd gained as chef at Ubuntu in Napa Valley. But as Fox explains in the new book's deeply personal introduction, he was in no place at that time in his life to write a book. He was professionally aimless and struggling with anxiety and other personal demons.
It wasn't until Fox had spent a couple of years at Santa Monica's Rustic Canyon that he found the focus to turn to the book. And it appears to have been worth the wait. On Vegetables is a gorgeous and ambitious book, which encourages the reader to look at produce and plants in a different way. It is not, as Fox says in his intro, a book of easy weeknight recipes, nor is it a book about vegetarianism. While Ubuntu was a meat-free restaurant, Fox now cooks and eats meat quite happily. But his recipes here capture the way he thinks about ingredients, and the lack of meat takes away the crutch many of us use in our cooking, a crutch that can overwhelm the more subtle joys of edible plants. These recipes showcase just how elegant and inventive food can be when you take away that crutch and think deeply about the potential of your ingredients.
Fox is now in the process of opening two new restaurants on the Westside — one, a Mexican restaurant called Tallula’s, which should be open in a matter of months, and another that's farther off and more mysterious but which Fox has described as "the restaurant of my dreams." And his new cookbook is out next week, on April 17. Here's a sneak peek; a recipe for carrot juice cavatelli, which I want to eat right this minute.
CARROT JUICE CAVATELLI, TOPS SALSA & SPICED PULP CRUMBLE
Adapted from On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen by Jeremy Fox
Note: Start cooking the day before you intend to serve this. The carrot pulp and cavatelli dough will need overnight to dehydrate and rest, respectively.
For the Carrot Juice Cavatelli:
4 ¼ cups (530 g) “00” flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water
1 cup (240 ml) fresh carrot juice (from orange carrots), pulp reserved
¾ cup (180 ml) Carrot Puree (see below)
4 tablespoons Salsa Verde, using the leaves of young carrot tops (see below)
4 tablespoons Carrot Crumble aged gouda cheese
Make the Carrot Juice Cavatelli:
In a food processor, blend together the flour and salt. With the machine running, slowly add the carrot juice (you may not need all of it), until the dough comes together. Be careful not to overwork the dough in the food processor: The dough may well look crumbly, but if you press it together with your fingers it should very easily combine into dough. You are looking for a texture similar to Play-Doh: elastic, pliable, and not sticking to your fingers when you touch it. If the dough is too dry, add more juice; too wet, add more flour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with the heels of your hands for about 1 minute, until you have a smooth dough.
Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.
Place the carrot pulp on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 135ºF (57ºC) overnight.
About 1 hour before you plan to make the cavatelli, let the dough come to room temperature –– this will make it much easier to work with. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Lightly flour a work surface. Working with one piece at a time –– and keeping the rest of the dough covered –– roll the dough into a long, thin rope, about 1/8 inch (3 mm) in diameter. Cut the rope crosswise into ¼-inch (6 mm) pieces.
Using a cavatelli board, or the tines of a fork, gently but confidently roll the dough pieces against it. The cavatelli may not come out perfect right away, but soon the motion will find its way into your muscle memory.
Once the cavatelli are shaped, lay them in a single layer (not touching) on a baking sheet lined with a tea towel. Repeat this process until all of the dough has been turned into cavatelli. These are best cooked when fresh, so if you are going to be cooking them the same day, you can just leave them out. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season your water with salt so it tastes like the sea. I think it’s important to taste the pasta water to make sure it is seasoned properly. Once seasoned and boiling, add the cavatelli and cook until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. If you’re not sure whether they are done, the best test is just to eat one.
While the pasta water heats up, gently warm the carrot purée in a small pan over low heat and keep covered (and warm) until serving.
Using a sieve, scoop the cavatelli out of the pasta water and into a wide bowl. Immediately dress them with the carrot top salsa verde and toss to combine. Ladle in some of the starchy, seasoned pasta water, a little at a time, to open up the flavors and create a very light sauce that will coat the cavatelli. Don’t add too much water or it will make for a thin, diluted sauce.
Place dollops of the carrot puree on 4 warmed plates. Spoon the cavatelli on top and sprinkle the carrot crumble over the pasta and the plate. I like being able to drag the cavatelli through more of the crumble as I’m eating it. Shave ribbons of Gouda over the top and serve immediately.
Makes: 1 cup (240 ml)
2 pounds (910 g) carrots
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
Peel the carrots and then cut the carrots into rough 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. These do not have to be perfect, as they will all eventually be puréed.
In a bowl, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil and the salt and set aside for about 10 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a food processor and blend until broken up.
Transfer the mixture to a saucepot or large sauté plan. Set the pan over medium-low heat, cover, and cook, undisturbed for 40 to 45 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can smear it with a spoon. (If you take it off the heat too early, you will find the texture of the purée to be somewhat grainy after you purée it.) Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on low speed, then gradually increase to high speed while slowly frizzling in the remaining 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil. Blend the purée to the consistency of mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt; it should have a pure carrot flavor. Store in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Makes: ¾ cup (180 ml)
½ cup (25 grams) chopped carrot tops
½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pickled vegetable brine or lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
In a bowl, combine the carrot tops, olive oil, garlic, pickle brine (withhold this ingredient if not using the salsa right away), and lemon zest and whisk thoroughly until combined. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If storing to use later, don’t add the brine (or lemon juice) until right before serving. The sauce may separate a bit, so just give it a quick whisk again before using.
Makes: About ¾ cup (100 g)
2 cups (480 g) carrot pulp (from 3 pounds/1.3 kg orange carrots that have been juiced)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons Fox Spice (see below)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Spread the pulp evenly on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 125º to 135ºF (52º to 57ºC) for at least 8 hours, or until completely dry. You should get about ¾ cup (53 g) of dehydrated pulp.
Transfer the pulp to a mortar and pestle and grind until you have the rustic texture of a fine breadcrumb. (A food processor will turn your breadcrumbs into more of a uniform powder.) Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar, spice, and salt and stir together.
Store in an airtight container indefinitely at room temperature. Stir in the olive oil until combined.
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Makes: 1/3 cup (80 ml)
2 ½ tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons ground mace
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
In a wide sauté pan, combine the peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, coriander seeds, and cloves and toast over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the spices to a spice grinder and process until very finely ground. Transfer the spice blend to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months. When the blend loses its fragrance, make a new batch.