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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Waters: The Art of Simple Food’

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

In some respects, I miss the point of Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food.

Alice Waters is the original proponent of seasonal, local, and organic foods. But because I grocery shop for a family on a budget, I can never justify going “organic.” I also live in Chicago suburbia, which means that there are about two feet of snow on the ground for four months of the year, so I can’t ever imagine relying wholly on seasonal and local foods either. I’m sure organic and local foods taste better; I just can’t justify the cost difference.

All that said, though, I love The Art of Simple Food. I find myself referring to her pointers and recipes often. The aspect I love is this: Food should taste like itself. Don’t complicate things!

I’m a person that thinks a few fresh strawberries make a perfect dessert, so I really like her emphasis on simplicity. Her recipes are very basic essentials, so experienced cooks may find them dull or “too simple.” But as a beginning cook who loves simple dishes (both for cooking and for eating), I find her recipes refreshing.

For example, in the section “Out of the Frying Pan,” she provides a recipe for Pan-Fried Pork Chops. The ingredients? Pork chops, butter, salt and pepper. Her instructions show us how to recreate it, including what it should look like and why you should let the chops rest for four minutes before serving (it tenderizes them). She also provides four “variations” for added flavor. These are likewise very simple, things like “parsley butter” or “garnish with chopped parsley, garlic, and/or lemon zest” (a gremolata) (page 122).

The Art of Simple Food is subtitled “Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution,” and Waters does a wonderful job of introducing “simple food” to the home cook. She begins with some essential thoughts about the kitchen and pantry. These ideas are pretty basic (such as basic foods with which to stock a pantry) and simple menus, both for a small family and for entertaining. I liked her thoughts on picnics, and how a picnic should still emphasis good food. Every time I read it, I want to go on a picnic!

In this first part of the book, Waters discusses the basic techniques for various types of food and food preparation. For each type, she also provides three recipes. The categories are these: sauces, salads, bread, broth and soup, beans, pasta and polenta, rice, roasting, sautéing, slow cooking, simmering, grilling, omelets and soufflés, tarts, fruit desserts, custard and ice cream, cookies and cakes.

The second part of the book has additional recipes in each category. The recipes aren’t as detailed, but the basics have already been outlined, so it is sufficient for our needs.

I have only read the first part in full, but I’ve also browsed through the recipes on the second half. I’m not sure I’ll go through and completely cook my way through the book (as I’d intend) but I certainly love the “variations” and technique overview that I find in this book. I’m all for simple food.

Do you eat organic or local food? What do you like best about it?

What simple foods do like best?

This review is for The Spice of Life Challenge. It’s cross-posted on Rebecca Reads.

Blog Post BINGO “review” post. Details here.

Parsley Butter

The first meal on our new grill was delicious stake. My husband generously seasoned it and cooked it over the charcoal. For a sauce, he made a simple parsley butter, which melted on the meat as we said a blessing on the food. It was absolutely delicious. Since herb butter is the next recipe in Alice Water’s book too, I thought I’d share.

Alice Waters suggests using parsley butter on meat, fish, or vegetables. She also includes some garlic clove and lemon juice, which we didn’t add to ours but may have improved it even more. (more…)

Where Do You Get Your Recipes?

Before I was married, I had a three-ring binder with family recipes stuck in it. It was a mess.

Then my husband created an Access database of those recipes; I now have them on my computer in an easy to search, sort, and review format. I can also print them out. It is wonderful!

But most of the time I resort elsewhere to get recipes.

Image representing Epicurious as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

One site I like to visit They have classy recipes that have been tested and reviewed by, usually, dozens of eaters. Those fellow eaters have good insights into the recipes: making them tastier or easier.

One favorite place I visit is It searches hundreds of food blogs for your specific search terms. For example, last week, I wanted to make French Toast. I know I’ve made it before, but I like to refer to a recipe; as I’ve mentioned, I’ve learned from experience that my cooking can turn out quite poorly if I don’t check before I start cooking. Well, epicurious only had “fancy” french toast options, but I found a great recipe for very basic french toast at Pinch My Salt, thanks to the Food Blog Search. I’d highly recommend using Food Blog Search; I”m going to add it to the sidebar for our convenince.

Cover of "The Art of Simple Food: Notes, ...

Cover via Amazon

The other day I also found myself refering to a book. I don’t normally refer to cookbooks. I find the internet so much easier to find just what I’m looking for. However, I’ve started reading The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, and there are so many basic recipes in there: just what I’m looking for. I wanted to make a basic white sauce, and I found it.

I’m still pretty new to cooking, and I look forward to discovering many more sites and cookbooks that can help me in my journey!

Where do you get your recipes? Any favorite sites or books you can recommend?

Do You Eat Local?

My husband gave me two cooking books for Christmas.

The first book (and the one I’ll focus on for now) is The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. My husband and I have read the first 40 pages together. This beginning provides a great introduction to simple cooking and the local food movement. Much of the rest of the book is guidelines to some important cooking basics and recipes for simple dishes. For example, the first cooking basic she covers is “vinaigrette.” I really appreciate her suggestions for tweaking the basic vinaigrette, and I look forward to trying them out with my husband, as well as the other recipes.

I appreciate Alice Waters’ call to return to the basics when cooking: food should taste like itself. However, I’m not particularly convinced of the “eat local” movement, and I don’t see myself searching for a farmer’s market. I live in suburban Chicago, and right now it’s cold and snowy. Sorry, Alice Waters! I’m avoiding time on the roads these days, so I don’t anticipate searching for a “local” source for my produce.

I have discovered a grocery store that has better variety, cheaper prices, and better quality produce. I’ll stick with that for now. It’s my new favorite.

What about you? Do you “eat local” and why? Do you think farmer’s market food is superior to supermarket food?