If meals were a movie, they’d probably be something like this: “Delicious Dishes,” starring Meat as the tasty plate protagonist and Vegetable, Meat’s unconditionally loving friend. In other words, veggies are often pegged as complementary to the main dish — an accessory to a dapper steak au poivre, like how a nice scarf brings out your eyes.
But to husband and wife Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, owners and chefs of Philadelphia-based vegetable restaurant Vedge, vegetables aren’t just a bed for a tender confit de canard to lie upon. Their new cookbook, “Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking” (The Experiment, $24.95), reintroduces vegetables, teaching home chefs how to cook them up, dress them down and enjoy their natural flavors, as they “move from the peripheral side dishes to the centerpieces of our tables,” the couple write in the introduction.
Most recipes are plucked right from Vedge’s entirely vegan menu, like many of the dishes’ ingredients pulled directly from the earth. Though some recipes may have lengthy ingredient lists and instructions, “Vedge” isn’t a pretentious chef’s textbook with impossible fancy recipes too laborious for the average person to handle. Each recipe includes ingredient tips and substitutions.
“Vedge” also features recipes from the restaurant’s “Dirt List,” dishes — like roasted cauliflower with black vinegar and kimchi cream — made from seasonal vegetables freshly picked from the garden. The large dishes are main menu items that have been modified so they serve as full-size courses and include foods from diverse origins with special twists like Korean eggplant tacos and Yukon Gold potato pierogies with charred onions.
And, like any great cookbook, a list of Jacoby’s cocktails follows the desserts, with recipes utilizing homemade syrups and bitters.
“Vedge” proves that vegetables aren’t just meat’s sidekicks. Landau and Jacoby put them “front and center” in ways that the herbivorous and carnivorous alike can appreciate.