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The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution Hardcover – Oct 2 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter (Oct. 2 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307336794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307336798
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 3.3 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The delicious dishes described in the latest cookbook from Chez Panisse founder Waters, such as a four-ingredient Soda Bread and Cauliflower Salad with Olives and Capers, are simple indeed, though the book's structure is complex, if intuitive. After a useful discussion of ingredients and equipment come chapters on techniques, such as making broth and soup. Each of these includes three or four recipes that rely on the technique described, which can lead to repetition (still preferable to a lack of guidance): a chapter on roasting contains two pages of instructions on roasting a chicken (including a hint to salt it a day in advance for juicy results), followed by a recipe for Roast Chicken that is simply an abbreviated version of those two pages. The final third of the book divides many more recipes traditionally into salads, pasta and so forth. Waters taps an almost endless supply of ideas for appealing and fresh yet low-stress dishes: Zucchini Ragout with Bacon and Tomato, Onion Custard Pie, Chocolate Crackle Cookies with almonds and a little brandy. Whether explaining why salting food properly is key or describing the steps to creating the ideal Grilled Cheese Sandwich, she continues to prove herself one of our best modern-day food writers. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

She continues to prove herself one of our best modern-day food writers. Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I love this book. I return to it time and time again. It teaches basic cooking skills, which you can add your own creative flair to. The recipes are simple, using ingredients that a basic pantry would contain.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of those must have books for any serious cooks. Second only to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Page after page of delicious, truly easy recipes. Looks great on a coffee table too. Simple food at its best!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just what I wanted!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9c88e054) out of 5 stars 247 reviews
669 of 702 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c6ce84c) out of 5 stars "Cooking 101" from the mother of modern cooking Oct. 4 2007
By Joseph Adler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.) Honestly, I have dozens of books that cover the same set of recipes as this book, but I have no other book that makes me want to cook every recipe. I would recommend this book to anyone who cares seriously about food.

[Update on 8/1/2008. I've now tried a number of recipes from this book, including the short ribs, apricot jam, many of the salads, pork chops, and sauerkraut. Every recipe I've tied has worked, and most of them have been very straightforward. This has become my "desert island" cookbook; it's the first place I turn when I don't know how to make something. I strongly recommend this book to anyone, experienced or not.]
153 of 161 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c6d30f0) out of 5 stars This Is It! Nov. 7 2007
By Diane Rocha - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
155 of 164 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c6d30b4) out of 5 stars Our generation's finest cookbook Oct. 6 2007
By Cookingwoman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
147 of 162 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c6d35ac) out of 5 stars very nice cookbook Oct. 3 2007
By Steven Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A few preliminary comments from the author that put the book in context. From the author (pages 4, 5): "This book is for everyone who wants to learn to cook, or to become a better cook. . . . I'm convinced that the underlying principles of good cooking are the same everywhere. These principles have less to do with recipes and techniques than they do with gathering good ingredients, which for me is the essence of cooking." Key aspects of her "philosophy" are printed on pages 6-7, among which are: eat locally and sustainably (use small, local producers as sources of fruits and vegetables, for instance); eat seasonally (a companion rule to the previous one); shop at farmer's markets; etc.

The start is nice, in that she lays out what ingredients (herbs, for instance) and equipment should be on hand for effective cooking. One simple example: the author's emphasis at several points on the value of a good supply of fresh aromatic foods to enhance flavors in a recipe (e.g., onions, carrots, and celery). Then, she discusses how to plan menus and entertain friends for dinner. Not recipes, but useful context.

The recipe sections begin with a rendering of how to make several essential sauces, including vinaigrette, salsa verde, aioli, and herb butter. None of the recipes calls for rocket science knowledge, but they are well explained and doable. One nice feature--some possible variations on the recipe. E.g., with vinaigrette, she notes that one variation could be to beat in a bit of mustard before you add the oil; alternatively, she suggests that one could a fresh nut oil for the olive oil.

There is a nice discussion of sautéing as a technique, with a nice example immediately thereafter (sautéed cauliflower). Another example of technique--poaching. Following the general discussion, she uses an example quite familiar to me: poaching salmon. I have a handful of recipes featuring poached salmon (the fish cooks through, satisfying my family, and still stays moist, satisfying me).

There are a sampling of recipes for poultry, fish/seafood, meat, etc. While the recipes are nice, I wish that there had been more. One thing I like in cookbooks is abundant choice!

Anyhow, this is a nice reference for those who enjoy cooking; it's probably also apt to be useful to those who don't like much cooking but want some doable and good recipes when called upon to fix up a meal. Worth taking a look at.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c6d3444) out of 5 stars A gem of a cookbook Oct. 13 2007
By snd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.


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