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Book Review: Ripe

Photo of cover of cookbook "Ripe" by Cheryl Sternman Rule for book review by Charis Freiman-Mendel, author of "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T."

Ripe, a PAEAN to produce, is the product of a collaboration between an omnivore food writer and a pescaterian photographer. I had to spend a good amount of time with this book to figure out exactly how to characterize it. It’s a cookbook, but not really. It’s a photo essay, but not really. It’s a handbook of fun food facts and healthy eating ideas, but not really. Actually, it’s all of the above. It finally hit me that the book doesn’t neatly fit into any once category. It’s really a love poem celebrating the wonders of fruits and vegetables. The book has an unintended, extra added bonus for SATgourmet followers: some seriously good vocabulary.

Photograph of honeydew salad with poppy seed dressing by photographer Paulette Phlipot for cookbook "Ripe" review by Charis Freiman-Mendel, author of "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T."

Ripe: Honeydew Salad With Poppyseed Dressing

In her introduction to the book, author Cheryl Sternman Rule declares that being a food marm is not her intention: most likely you already know the importance of healthy eating. Her mission is to help you find the joy and beauty of produce, experience flavorful dishes, and spark your imagination to create some recipes of your own.

Photo of colors of the rainbow or electromagnetic spectrum known as "Roy G. Biv" for Charis Freiman-Mendel review of cookbook "Ripe"

Rainbow of food colors in "Ripe" AKA "Roy G. Biv" AKA the electromagnetic spectrum.

The book is organized by color rather than season, which is unusual for a produce-focused cookbook. Sternman Rule features 76 fruits and vegetables in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, purple/blue and white (which physics students such as me will recognize as “Roy G. Biv”). Each one is introduced with chatty insights and observations by the author, followed by a recipe and a “simple uses” suggestion.

Photograph of toasted edamame with garlic chili oil recipe by photographer Paulette Phlipot for review of cookbook "Ripe" by Charis Freiman-Mendel

Ripe: Toasted Nori Edamame With Garlic-Chili Oil

Most of the recipes are easy to prepare and range from fairly standard (Grilled Asparagus With Chopped Egg and Champagne Vinaigrette, Ginger Cashew Cauliflower, Peanut Strewn Purple Cabbage Slaw), to unique and different (Jicama with Peanut Sriracha Dip, Cremini Farro Hash with Poached Eggs, Persimmon Apple Radicchio Stacks). Photographer Paulette Phlipot’s painstakingly perfect images show REVERENCE for food. Have a look and I promise, the pictures will make your mouth water.

Photograph of eggplant romesco rigatoni by paulette phlipot for cookbook "ripe" review by charis freiman-mendel, author of "cook your way through the s.a.t."

Ripe: Eggplant Romesco Rigatoni

The most unique and possibly most useful aspect of the book is the “Simple Uses” suggestion that follows each recipe. The list of 3 practical uses and/or flavor ingredient combinations is meant to prod the inner chef out of your culinary comfort zone and help you get creative.

Photograph of Radicchio salad by paulette Phlipot for cookbook "Ripe" review by Charis Freiman-Mendel, author of "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T."
Ripe: Radicchio Salad WIth Tahini Lemon Drizzle

If food is your muse, this is your book.

“Ripe” is available nationwide in bookstores and through online booksellers.


Thanks to Cheryl Sternman Rule for the LITANY of SAT vocabulary in her book.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Perhaps there’s no point in MALIGNING a peach to build  up a nectarine: both fruits have plenty to offer and similar culinary applications.”
  •  “Given blueberries’ DIMINUTIVE size, you can pile them on with irresponsible, reckless abandon.”
  1. PAEAN = praise
  2. REVERENCE = respect
  3. LITANY = catalogue
  4. MALIGN = berate
  5. DIMINUTIVE = small