Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weekend Cooking; Alice Waters and The Art of Simple Food II

Our holiday break includes two untraditional traditions; a shopping trip to Goodwill to find excellent second hand sweaters, flannels, etc. and an extended trip to Barnes and Noble to use gift cards and explore new books. I had a gift card from last year begging to be used. I love gift cards so much that  I tend to hang on to them until the perfect book is found.  Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food II is just such a masterpiece that I didn't mind trading gift card for book. I've been a fan of hers for years and am happy to add this book to my collection.  I'm sure my mother will want to borrow it as well.

Alice Waters is a chef, author, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA. She is an American pioneer of a culinary philosophy of good, fresh ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally.   In 1996 she created The Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School; a one-acre garden, a kitchen classroom, and a curriculum to pull everything together.  She is also the Vice President of Slow Food International, a nonprofit that celebrates local food traditions and boasts 100,000 members. (adapted from Chez Panisse’s website)

The first thing that drew me in is this list from the inside front cover:

 Treasure the farmer, Nurture the soil,  plant wherever you are, learn from nature,  cultivate your palate, make your own, eat whole foods,  share the harvest,  teach children the art of simple food.  These are all a part of my belief statement as well.

I haven't cooked anything yet from this book but I've read through the herb section and have selected several recipes to try.  Most of all it makes me hungry for Spring!

Look at the chapter headings and try not to get hungry for warmer weather...

1. My Kitchen Garden (growing what I love)
2. Fragrant and Beautiful (herbs and herb flowers)
3. Tender Leaves (lettuce and salad greens)
4. Hidden Flavor (garlic, onions, leeks, and scallions)

It is not categorized into seasons as many locavore cookbooks are yet she does have seasonal chapters. The recipe format is also unique as Waters' writes them as she might to a friend with the ingredients integrated into the recipe not set apart.  An example:

Basil Mayonnaise (15)
makes one cup

Pounded basil makes a beautiful green mayonnaise.  Serve it with a gilled fish or a tomato salad.

Pick the leaves from
     1/2 bunch of basil (about 1/2 cup lightly packed)
Coarsely chop the leaves and pound them to a paste in  a mortar with:
     1 egg yolk
     1 tsp water
Whisk the yolk, water, and basil together.
Into a cup with a pour spout, measure:
     1 cup olive oil
Very slowly dribble the oil into the egg yolk, whisking constantly.  As the egg yolk absorbs oil, the sauce will thicken, lighten in color, and become opaque.  This will happen rather quickly.  Then you can add the oil a little faster, whisking all the while.
     If the sauce is thicker than you like, thin it with a few drops of water.  Taste and add more salt, if necessary.

The bonus for this style of recipe is that it forces me to read the ENTIRE recipe to get the ingredients and to look at the recipe as a whole not as just a list of ingredients.

Other interesting recipes:

Rocket (arugula) Pesto, Corn and summer squash soup, Roasted brussels sprouts with sesame seeds and ginger, Lime syrup, Summer squash pizza with marjoram and fresh ricotta.

The last large section in the book is about gardening and that will be read and reread before Spring so I can be ready.  I'm sure she has some new tips and strategies that I can use.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click her link to see many other food-related posts.


(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I love your untraditional traditions.

Laurie C said...

Oh, yeah, I'm ready for spring weather and food from the garden already, and we've only had one big snowstorm.

Joy said...

Looks great! Basil mayonnaise would be a great use of the basil when my garden is over-producing it.

Joy's Book Blog

Beth F said...

I love Alice Waters!