Fast Review: Recipes to help guide you through the farmers market and may even inspire you to see how green your thumb can be. Read this book if you’re a fan of vegetables and looking for creative ways to serve them that highlight and compliment their fresh flavor.
Alice Waters is a James Beard award-winning chef. She owns Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe in Berkeley, California. She is a big advocate for sustainable agriculture. Her talent and passion are evident in the pages of The Art of Simple Food II. The front of the book begins with a mantra “Treasure the farmer, Nurture the soil, Plant wherever you are, Learn from nature, Cultivate your palate, Make your own, Eat whole food, Share the harvest, Teach children the art of simple food.” It is clear from the content of this book that this mantra is something Alice wholly believes in and hopes others are inspired by.
Who’s Kitchen Would You Find It In:
Veggie-philes, the home gardener, fans of educational cookbooks
Nuts and Bolts:
The contents of the book are split into two main parts: Flavors as Inspiration and Seed to Seed. There is also a large section of tools and resources, a glossary and an index of recipes. Flavor as Inspiration focuses on varieties in the home garden. Chapters in this section include: My Kitchen Garden (Growing What I Love to Eat); Fragrant and Beautiful (Herbs and Herb Flowers), Tender Leaves (Lettuces and Salad Greens), Hidden Flavor (Garlic, Onions, Leeks and Shallots); Growing Underground (Roots and Tubers); Crisp Stalks (Fennel, Celery, Asparagus, Cardoons, and Rhubarb); Fresh and Dried (Peas, Fava Beans, Green Beans, Shell Beans, and Peanuts); Meandering Vines (Cucumbers, Melons, Summer Squash, and Winter Squash); The Height of Summer (Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Corn, and Okra); Colorful Chicories (Frisée, Escarole, Radicchio, Belgian Endive, and Puntarelle); Essential Greens (Kale, Collard Greens, Broccoli Rabe, Chard, Spinach, Amaranth, and Asian Greens); Heading into Winter (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, and Brussel Sprouts); Ripe Summer Fruit (Cherries, Apricots, Plums, Peaches, and Nectarines); Just-Picked Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Huckleberries, Mulberries, and Red Currants); Autumn Fruits and Nuts (Figs, Grapes, Apples, Pears, Quince, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Almonds); Sweet and Savory Citrus (Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Grapefruit, Kumquats, Mandarin Oranges, and Citron); Preserving Vegetables and Fruits (Home Canning, Pickles, Jams and Jellies, Candied Fruit, Liqueurs, and Dried Fruit).
Part I is chock full of information on your favorite veggies and fruits but also introduces you to plenty you may never have heard of before. The recipes are written in a very conversational tone– as if Alice is speaking instructions to a friend. There are notes on each specific item before a recipe. This method is helpful in learning more about an herb you’re familiar with, or educating you on a fruit you’ve never worked with before. This may be the time to mention that the book has no photography at all. Readers will not see how a finished recipe looks or a stylized tablescape. There are beautiful illustrations by Patricia Curant that are reminiscent of pencil drawings– as if you were reading a gardening journal from a friend.
Part II is geared towards a home gardener (any skill level welcome). The chapters include: Plant Wherever You Are; It’s All About the Soil; Preparing the Beds, Seeds, Seedlings, and Healthy Plants; Harvesting Flavor; Fruit in the Garden. There are in-depth discussions about soil, how to select varieties, and details on watering. This section is a valuable resource even for people with a mild interest– you can finally keep that basil plant alive this summer.
The book ends with a section on Tools and Resources to help get you started, a glossary and an index of the recipes. The Art of Simple Food II will get you in the mood for your CSA, or to fill your basket at your local farmers market, or to even get out a trowel and dig a garden yourself!
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What to Make:
For Rich and Bold Flavors: Deep-Fried Romanesco Cauliflower (p. 235), Indian-Spiced Sauerkraut (p. 338), Yellow Romano Beans in Tomato Sauce (p. 122)
Light and Refreshing: Fennel and Meyer Lemon Relish (p. 102) which is perfect for grilled fish, Cucumber Agua Fresca (p. 141)
Sweet Tooth: Blueberry and Poppy Seed Butter Cake (p. 276), Wild Plum Jam Turnovers (p. 259)
For Your Drink: Candied Orange Peel or Lime Syrup (p. 348-349)