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Books for Cooks: Eric Ripert shows how to welcome spring with the season's best asparagus

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Vegetable Simple

“Vegetable Simple” by Eric Ripert. Copyright © 2021 by Eric Ripert. Excerpted by permission of Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Task a Michelin-starred chef with writing a vegetable cookbook and you are likely to get multiple-ingredient and complex-instruction recipes. Not so with Eric Ripert’s “Vegetable Simple.”

Chef and co-owner of New York’s Le Bernardin restaurant, renowned for its exquisite seafood-centered cuisine, here Ripert offers 100 recipes created to "pay homage to vegetables … in a way that enhances their best qualities.”

His brilliance is clear in the simplicity and ingenuity of the preparations. In the recipe below: the use of sesame oil, sparkling water and cake flour create an unforgettable tempura. Random House. $35.

Asparagus tempura

From “Vegetable Simple” by Eric Ripert. Copyright © 2021 by Eric Ripert. Excerpted by permission of Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Green asparagus tempura

You need thick asparagus for this, and the tempura is not difficult once you learn the technique. The goal is to get the coating crisp and the asparagus al dente. A little trick the chef Jean-Louis Palladin, my mentor, shared with me: If you don’t have tempura or cake flour, add a tiny pinch of baking soda to all-purpose flour for a super light, crispy batter.

Ingredients

Rice bran oil or canola oil for frying

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1¼ cups Japanese tempura flour or cake flour

1 cup ice-cold sparkling water

1 large egg, beaten

20 asparagus spears (about 6 inches long), peeled from the tip down

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Fine sea salt

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Directions

In a deep pot, pour 4 inches of rice bran oil or canola oil and the sesame oil. Heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a deep-fry thermometer.

In a bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the sparkling water and gently mix, leaving the batter slightly lumpy. Stir in the egg.

Dust the asparagus with the remaining ¼ cup flour, patting off the excess, then transfer to the batter.

Line a sheet pan or large plate with paper towels. Working in batches (to avoid overcrowding), use chopsticks or tongs to gently transfer the asparagus to the hot oil. Cook until the asparagus spears have floated to the surface and are no longer bubbling, about 2 minutes.

They should be pale in color and very crisp. Remove the cooked asparagus to the paper towels to drain. Season with salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin and lime juice. Divide this mixture among four small bowls and serve alongside the asparagus.

Excerpted from “Vegetable Simple” by Eric Ripert. Copyright © 2021 by Eric Ripert. Excerpted by permission of Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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