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Hardcover The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution Book

ISBN: 0307336794

ISBN13: 9780307336798

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution

An indispensable resource for home cooks from the woman who changed the way Americans think about food. Perhaps more responsible than anyone for the revolution in the way we eat, cook, and think about food, Alice Waters has "single-handedly chang ed] the American palate" according to the New York Times . Her simple but inventive dishes focus on a passion for flavor and a reverence for locally produced, seasonal foods. With an essential repertoire...

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Customer Reviews

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This Is It!

I looked forward to this book with eager anticipation. I was not disappointed. I have followed Alice Waters' life and career for more than 20 years and have always looked to her for inspiration. I have all of her other books, and while "Pat's Biscotti" from her first book, The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, has been a staple from my kitchen, this new collection far outshines the rest. I have been cooking exclusively from this book for the past two weeks. Everything, absolutely everything I have made has been stellar! First, there was the minestrone, which included homemade chicken stock and beans cooked from scratch. I have made both for years, but was never really satisfied, and more recently have relied on boxed broths and canned beans. No longer. The chicken stock was not over-powered by too many vegetables as recommended in other recipes, the beans were tender and held together, and they were seasoned to perfection with Alice's direction to taste and salt along the way. This resulted in a minstrone that was as near to perfection as I have ever tasted. I added kale to mine, which added great color. As I write this review, I am eating my lunch, which is the Polenta Torta, which I made two days ago. It is still as fabulous as it was then. First, Alice directs us to cook the polenta for one hour - yes, one hour. I thought to myself, oh, I don't need to do that; 30 minutes will suffice. I had the time, so I let the polenta cook quietly on the back burner for the entire hour. What a difference! Unbelievable taste and consistency! I layered this goodness with the Simple Tomato Sauce and added a layer of sauteed mushrooms and a separate layer of sauteed zucchini. This is comfort food at its best! In addition, I've made the scones - light, sweet, but not cloying; the Bean Gratin, which I served alongside plain ploenta - great taste and texture combination; and the peach crisp - a juxtaposition of texture, with the soft peaches and raspberries contrasted with the crunchy topping (I used slivered almonds, which I chopped and toasted in a dry skillet. I also added the zest of an orange - an Ina Garten trick.) Tonight, I can't wait to get home to cook the Braised Chicken Legs with Tomato and Garlic. I've been cooking avidly and passionately for a long time, and I haven't been this inspired by a single cookbook for a while. It's great to get the spark back. Thank you, Alice. I've eaten in the Chez Panisse Cafe and Cafe Fanny (the breakfast bar) every time I get to Berkely. Someday, I will get to eat Downstairs. Until then, I'll just have to be content with this most treasured tome.

A gem of a cookbook

I agree with some of the other reviewers that this is a very special cookbook, and I don't say that lightly. I am an avid reader and user of cookbooks and have a collection of over 100 volumes. I have learned to discern the quality of a recipe by reading it and I am very keen on simple cooking techniques. At first blush the book may not appear to be so special, but a careful reading of the recipes proves otherwise. While I have always admired Alice Waters for her philosophy about food I am not an especial fan and have never bought one of her cookbooks before. From reading this book I can see that Alice Waters excels at using the simplest methods with the freshest ingredients to let the food's natural goodness shine through, and she is also a master at how to use just the right amount of subtle tweaking with herbs and spices or a special little technique that really makes the difference between a good dish and a great dish, but not a contrived dish. I especially liked her novel ideas about "shallow poaching" and "slow roasting" of salmon, two unique methods that require the minimum effort for maximum results. Many cookbooks claim to save time and effort or maximize creativity, but they usually result in mediocre food in my experience. Like any great artist Alice has mastered the foundation techniques such that she knows when to go beyond them and when to retain them for the best results. I also was impressed with her pared down lists of "pantry" and "perishable" staples (which has been done before, but not so well), which contain the most important ingredients upon which to build all recipes. With these staples in the cupboard & fridge all you need do is shop for the "ultra-perishables" such as fresh seafood, poulty, meat, fruit, vegetables and herbs. There isn't a recipe in this book that I am not eager to try.

Superb Tutorial on Home Cooking Techniques. Buy It!

`The Art of Simple Food' by the one and only Alice Waters is a rare treat for foodie readers, and an even rarer treat for those who wish to master the craft of cooking effortlessly. I can think of very, very few cookbooks which succeed as well as this one at teaching good, creative cooking at home. Those very few are the last two books by Jacques Pepin, `Chez Jacques' and `Fast Food, My Way', a few of Nigel Slater's books, especially `The Kitchen Diaries', and Waters' mentor's book, Richard Olney's `Simple French Food'. As with Pepin's works, my initial reaction to any important culinary figure's producing a `fast' or `easy' cookbook is suspicion that they are trying to cash in on the popularity of Rachael Ray's 30 minute meal mantra or Sandra Lee's `semi-homemade' fast and easy rubrics. And, like Pepin's books, this book is the real deal, giving superb, original insights on SIMPLE cooking at home. One of the very first things to realize, as Olney stated it in his book, `simple' is not the same as `fast' or `easy'. The notion of `simple' food is itself complicated enough to require seven pages in his introduction to thoroughly explain. In a nutshell, it excludes complicated menus, elaborate plating, and fancy sauces. It does include baking bread, making our own pastry, making our own homemade pasta, and making our own stocks and broths. Each of these activities can easily take several hours. We cook simply not to save time or effort, but to avoid masking the great qualities of our ingredients. So, simplicity in cooking has a symbiotic relation to Ms. Waters' most famous doctrines, of using fresh, organically grown local ingredients, when they are in season. And, if there were anything at all with which to find fault in this book, it is the constant preaching on that topic. This is not entirely Miss Alice's fault, as reading this book is much like reading `Hamlet'. So many lines sound like clichés, not because Shakespeare was a hack, but because `Hamlet' is easily the most often quoted play in the English language. This book fits exactly into my perennial analogy between learning cooking and learning chess. The rules of chess are quite simple, and yet it is almost impossible to summarize the principles of good chess strategy. So, learning the deeper lessons of chess involves simply replaying the games of the great chess masters, and appreciating how they saw their moves. Similarly, almost everything written about how to cook involves simply reciting recipes. And yet, the very best writing on cooking rises above simply following recipes and reaches that way of thinking one achieves when they are finally able to cook without a book. Paradoxically, Waters begins with some of the very strictest recommendations on how to successfully follow a particular recipe, going far beyond the simple suggestions of reading through it and gathering all your ingredients together. But, like the famous little book on chess by Emanuel Lasker, `Common Sense in Chess', o

Our generation's finest cookbook

Nothing more to say: in every generation there exists one memorable cookbook behind which all others pale in comparison. In the early 60s, it was Mastering the Art of French Cooking; in the late 70s, it was Silver Palate. It's always been The Joy of Cooking, and Jean Anderson's Doubleday Cookbook. But for this generation, tired of overwrought recipes created by celeb TV chefs and meant for the restaurant kitchen, The Art of Simple Food is a brilliant instant classic packed with recipes that are as close to perfection as I've seen. This is a keeper that will endure for years and years.

"Cooking 101" from the mother of modern cooking

It's hard to write a review of a cookbook that you've only had for two days-- you have to actually try the recipes to know if they will work. (I have several beautiful cookbooks by famous chefs that omit important directions, or give wrong quantities of food.) However, I felt strongly enough about this book that I wanted to write an early review. For those of you who don't know, Alice Waters's restaurant, Chez Panisse, is probably the most important American restaurant in the past forty years. Waters pioneered the use of high quality, local ingredients. The restaurant itself is delightful; they've served some of the best food I've ever eaten. In the Bay area, where I live, farmers and artisans at local markets often proudly claim that their food is served at her restaurant. Waters begins the book by extolling her philosophy: buy local, high quality ingredients, and cook them simply. (Of course, simple for a professional chef is different than simple for a home chef. I consider 6 ingredients to be pretty complicated, especially if they are all fresh ingredients.) She then proceeds to give very explicit directions on how to cook things: roasts, vegetables, baked goods, reminiscent of the explicit directions given by Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One, or by Maida Heatter in Maida Heatter'S Book Of Great Desserts. Finally, she gives lists of recipes for many dishes. What makes her recipes unique are the variations that she provides for each recipe. Here's one simple example: for a chard frittata, she recommends substituting other greens, such as collards, rapini, or stinging nettles (I have alway wondered what to do with stinging nettles). Or, in a recipe for pancakes, she says to add one cup of whole grain flours, telling you to mix multiple grains including spelt, wheat, corn, or whatever else you feel like adding. (She does note that you need to use a minimum amount of whole wheat flour for the gluten to bind it all together.) I've seen other books that tried to teach you how to vary recipes (for example, Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed), but this one does a very good job of explaining where you should improvise and where you should not. Most importantly, this book gives you a real feeling of why each dish is great, and really captures the soul of each recipe. I've never seen another cookbook that had this much discussion of each recipe. This is a very good book about food. It's similar to other introductory cookbooks like The New Basics Cookbook, or The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes, but I think Alice Waters does a much better job explaining how to cook. (For example, I like the two pages she devotes to pan-frying pork chops. That recipe, incidentally, has four ingredients: chops, oil, salt, pepper.) She is not as good a writer as, say, Jeffrey Steingarden (author of The Man Who Ate Everything), but I don't expect her to be. (This is more of a cookbook than a book of essays.) Hon
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