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

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Do we really need more recipes for beef stew, polenta, and ratatouille? If they're the work of famed restaurateur and "food activist" Alice Waters, undoubtedly. In The Art of Simple Food, Waters offers 200-plus recipes for these and other simple but savory dishes, like Spicy Cauliflower Soup, Fava Bean Pur®¶e, and Braised Chicken Legs, as well as dessert formulas for the likes of Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp and Tangerine Ice. In addition, readers learn (or become reacquainted with) the Waters mantra: eat locally and sustainably; eat seasonally; shop at farmers markets. These are the rules by which she approaches food and cooking, and hopes we will too. Organized largely by techniques, the book is a kind of primer, designed to free readers from recipe reliance.

Some readers may look askance at advice that they search out sources for locally produced food, for example, given the everyday exigencies of shopping and getting meals on the table. Yet it is precisely the need to "remake" our relationship to food that, Waters contends, determines the ultimate success of all our cooking and dining, not to mention our health and that of the planet. This relatively small book has a large message, and good everyday recipes to back it up. --Arthur Boehm

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 of timeless, approachable recipes chosen to enhance and showcase great ingredients, The Art of Simple Food is an indispensable resource for home cooks. Here you will find Alice’s philosophy on everything from stocking your kitchen, to mastering fundamentals and preparing delicious, seasonal inspired meals all year long. Always true to her philosophy that a perfect meal is one that’s balanced in texture, color, and flavor, Waters helps us embrace the seasons’ bounty and make the best choices when selecting ingredients. Fill your market basket with pristine produce, healthful grains, and responsibly raised meat, poultry, and seafood, then embark on a voyage of culinary rediscovery that reminds us that the most gratifying dish is often the least complex.

Customer Reviews:

  • Very disappointing
    I was very excited to received this book since I had read so many positive reviews about it. Unfortunately, it was a pretty big disappointment. To start with the layout is, in my opinion, terrible. The pages are very crowded and since there is no ingredient list in teh beginning of every recipre, you need to read the whole recipe to make sure you have all of the ingredients. I have only made a few of the recipes so far but I found them to be just average. ...more info
  • Excellent book and received with excellent service.
    I love this book- it is one of the first guides I reach for in the kitchen when I want to get something good cooking properly. I am not a seasoned pro, and cooking is a fairly new venture for me. For this reason, the lengthy descriptions of particular techniques are very, very helpful. I like that the book is sprinkled with philosophy about healthy relationships with food, and the value that goes into making healthy, fresh foods. Definitly a great addition to any kitchen....more info
  • Very good book but not without it's challenges
    I bought this book to add to my collection of other Chez Panisse books. It's very well written and has some good ideas for both the novice and the experienced cook. The only main gripe that I had with the book is that all of the recipes are scaled to feed 4 persons -- not a problem in itself but if one doesn't pay attention one could accidently double or triple a recipe and end up with an obscene amount of food. It appears as though the quantities were not completely well thought out or Ms. Waters is advocating that we eat larger portions of protein than one actually needs to. ...more info
  • Recipe for Pate Sucree doesn't work.
    I wish I had a video camera so I could let you all see the mess I ended up with when I tried making Alice Waters' SIMPLE FOOD's Pate Sucree. It was all crumbs, too dry to roll into a crust. And this was the second time I made it, with the same results. I very carefully followed the directions for creaming, having everything the right temperature, letting the dough set overnight, letting the dough sit outside the fridge again for awhile before rolling it, etc., but I still ended up TWICE with nothing but a bunch of crumbs.

    The 1-2-3-4 cake was wonderful, OTOH -- better, even, than I imagined it. So, I gave the book three stars.

    I'm going to try Martha's recipe for Pate Sucree in her Baking Handbook (the orange one from 2007)....more info
  • Wonderful book- excellent education on cooking for a family
    I bought this book looking for new ideas for cooking for my family of 4, especially on weekends when we have time to slow cook a great meal. The recipes in this book are phenomenal- we love the short ribs, the beef stew, and the roast beef. Each chapter covers a different type of food and preparation method. As is expected from a food expert like Alice Waters, the recipes are simply delicious. The thing I like most is that as an amateur cook I can actually cook special meals that everyone in my family loves. This is truly a great cookbook!...more info
  • Better than good.
    I went to Pastry & Baking School. I thought about going to the Culinary side and then I found this book. I have no desires to be a professional chef, but this book has taught me that I don't have to be fancy to produce "Wow!" inducing food. I'd recommend everyone learning the important lessons she continually preaches:
    1) Ingredients matter. Buy fresh, buy local. If your ingredients are crap, your finished meal will be, as well. I have to be honest, I can't always do this (buy fresh and local), as others have stated. The simple cooking techniques helps bring out the flavor to it's fullest, however.
    2) KISS - I like her simplicity. Anyone can make these recipes with a minimal kitchen. When you start getting complex, I wonder what you're hiding?

    One reviewer complained that these are the foods we ate prior to refrigerated trucks. I'd argue that that's precisely the appeal of this: Returning to our roots. I'd argue that our current obesity epidemic might be directly traceable to the over-abundance of our current fast-food culture. Maybe it's time to go back to a time when obesity was a rarity. It wasn't because people were starving, but because they had no choice but to eat locally grown, whole foods.

    But that's neither here nor there.

    This book is a very simple book on basic cooking techniques. She teaches a very simple cooking philosophy that's ingredient centered and describes why things work the way they do and how to play around to get different flavors through substitutions. Work through the recipes and pay attention to the notes. Pretty soon, you'll be able to figure out, on your own, how to substitute things in and out. Come across something new at the store/farmer's market? Chances are, you'll be able to apply one or two simple cooking techniques that will give you a better idea of how to treat it in the future.

    I don't know about the rest of the world, but I'm tired of over-wrought, fancy for the sake of fancy food. Sometimes I just want a bowl of simple, well-seasoned soup and a piece of bread. I'm confident that with this as my guide, I'll be able to accomplish this with ease.
    ...more info
  • deceptively simple, the recipes are gems
    I flipped through the pages of this cookbook 3 or 4 times at the bookstore before I was even interested in cooking from it. When you browse the book, it looks so boring--all these recipes that you've cooked already, though not Alice Waters' version. But once I tried a few recipes, I was hooked. These are simple little gems, many of them easy, but they are so well thought-out and perfectly balanced in their flavors. It's really a foundational book for the Chez Panisse style of cooking.

    This is not a chatty, entertaining book. You have to sit with it and read slowly to imagine how the recipes will turn out. But if you do, you'll probably notice how Alice Waters has given most of these standard recipes a new twist--her take on a classic recipe, or an old favorite recipe. When I did this, that's when I remembered that before Waters became famous for her politics of sustainable, organic food, she caught the world's attention with her great food.

    And I mean great food. When I made the Linguine with Clams, that old warhorse, it was the best version of this dish I had ever tasted. And how many cornbread recipes have I made in my life? Waters' version may be the best I've ever tried. A dull sounding recipe, like Baked Sliced Onions, was a revelation. The onions cooked up chewy and sweet, so delicious. And when I made her ridiculously simple recipe for Marinated Beet Salad, I wondered why anyone would want to eat beets any other way. So far I've cooked over 20 recipes from this book, and I've been pleased with all of them.

    As with all Chez Panisse recipes, the quality of the ingredients is key. You'll have to invest in excellent meat and produce, plus the accoutrements of high-quality olive oil, fresh herbs and spices, and the like. Because many recipes are so pared down and simple, every ingredient matters--you taste it all.

    Before I bought my book on Amazon, I borrowed the book from my public library, xeroxed a couple recipes, and cooked them. I recommend doing this if you can, because this book will not appeal to everyone. Some people will think it's too easy (the recipes are DECEPTIVELY simple.) But I think the book is remarkable. For a home cook, this cookbook is probably Alice Waters' best ever.

    ...more info
  • Best Cookbook I Own
    This is the cookbook I return to again and again. The recipes are clear and simple and perfect for weeknight cooking, but the results are always fantastic. Often I have high hopes for a recipe and then it doesn't turn out so great, but everything I've made from this book has been DELICIOUS. You'll need to use high-quality ingredients to get those great results, but that's kind of what Alice Waters is all about. If you're a regular farmers' market shopper like I am, though, you'll never be disappointed by what this book has to offer.
    Furthermore, this book is perfect for beginner AND advanced cooks. Best of all, it's inspirational--it's written with lots of suggestions for how the recipes can be varied, and before long you'll be implementing your own variations. Many cookbooks make me feel limited--this one inspires my creativity as it teaches me new things. Greatest cookbook ever!...more info
  • The Art of Simple Food is exactly right
    Simple Food, simple style, simple recipes and techniques. Exactly what I was looking for in an everyday cookbook with a few special occasion cooking ideas included also....more info
  • on my book list
    I just learned of Alice's book and have it on my list of books to get. I was impressed by her recent appearance on "The Today Show," where she made a simple salad with local ingredients. She was very articulate and laidback. So, if that demeanor translates onto the written page, this should be a quality book. Her "slow food" philosophy has really caught on, including in my North Carolina community. So, some of us are trying to create our own Chez Panisse-like recipes with locally harvested ingredients.
    I look forward to plunging into Alice's new book....more info
  • Simply Good
    The author's underlying philosophy echos some things I always thought myself, with the main one being that cooking requires good ingredients which includes taking into account when certain foods work better (meaning the food is in season).

    There is a good overview of the concepts that re-occur for good cooking, proper equipment, herbs, spices, etc.

    Some of the things are obvious, the fresher the ingredients in the food the better the taste, but regardless having the guide and some very nice recipes that can be put together to make dishes (at least the ones I have tried so far) that you can be happy with (and which others will enjoy) makes the book worthwhile to have....more info
  • The Art of Simple Food
    How do you learn to cook like Alice Waters? This book is a great asset for all cooks. The simple recipes are time savers for the busy or new to the kitchen cook. The section on Alice Waters' favorite kitchen tools was very helpful; I bought a Japanese mortar & pestle called a suribachi and use it often for making salad dressings without having to use my knife and cutting board to finely chop garlic or shallots. The book makes a great gift!The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution...more info
  • Nice book for a beginner
    I bought this book after seeing it on Martha Stewart's show and being very impressed by the appearance of Alice Waters. At the time I was not familiar with her or any of her books. It was nice to read and I enjoyed learning about CSAs and local, sustainable food. Unfortunately it wasn't really useful to me beyond that. After I read through it the first time I put it on the shelf, and I never cooked from it. When I decided recently to cull some books from my cookbook library, I decided that this one needed to go. There was nothing I needed from it that I couldn't find in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian or Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I got rid of it to make room on my bookshelf for one of Ms. Waters' more inspiring books. This book might make a good first cookbook for someone, but there are also general cookbooks out there that are more comprehensive than this one and might be more useful....more info
  • Worth a read.....
    There are so many reasons I appreciate Alice Waters and the fact she is such a 'foodie'. The fact she supports eating local foods, is trying to educate school children in her area, and for the most part prepares food in a simple direct way, are all reasons I admire her.

    But lets not forget as she noted on the Charlie Rose Show, she hasn't cooked in her own restaurant since her oldest child, now in their twenties, was born. It does bother me that with all the emphasis on eating local, that many of the recipes call for ingredients from across the world.

    And it also bothers me that modern day 'foodies' can often have a snob element. But I try and overlook these negatives and appreciate the fact she is trying to educate folks on buying local, and organic foods. Would like for Ms Waters and other authors of food books, would remind readers that its ok to play around with recipes and punch them up to fit ones own tastes.

    But I would have liked her to write more on how do those working families, trying to keep their heads above water, afford organic foods where they live?

    Yes, organic is best in the long run, but so often those with money living in upscale areas of the community, don't really grasp what everyday folks working long hours with less money are up against.

    But I still recommend the book because I like new recipes and figure there is more positive than negative to what she has written. ...more info
  • comprehensive, tasty and extremely useful
    I use this book at least two to three times a week. How many recipe books can you say that about? Almost everything is delicious, if not brilliant; and these recipes seem like they were tested because everything I've cooked from this book feels foolproof. The best thing is that it's true to it's title. This is simple cooking with recipes for daily meals where you don't have lots of time to prepare the food. It also holds up for special occasion cooking. It's my first choice for a book on the shelf that I can use as a reference and as a source for a wide range of dishes using fresh ingredients, simply prepared....more info
  • basic and boring
    This book is very basic and uninspiring. There were only one or two recipes that seemed interesting. This book would be good if your are new to thinking about meals and cooking food and sharing it with others. An old Joy of Cooking would do as well, if not better. I am disappointed. ...more info
  • Amazing Book by Alice Waters
    I have always considered myself a gourmet cook. Alice Water's book. The Art of Simple Food, has brought me amazing knowledge, understanding, and has taken me back to the roots of Simple Food in its' splendor.

    I continue to read, and reread, and learn and share with others. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who loves to grow their own produce, harvest, cook, or just gather an experience about the foods we eat every day of our lives!...more info
  • The Art of Simple Food
    This is a wonderful cook book. She starts with the basics, yet the recipes are gourment quality. I like that she cooks with fresh herbs yet not many ingredients. Easy recipes for delicious results....more info
  • My Desert Island Cookbook
    I choose cookbooks very carefully, I take it quite seriously. If I could only keep one, it would be The Art of Simple Food. The best version of everything. Give it as a wedding or house warming gift....more info
  • Making Love With Food
    I love to cook because I love to eat great food. And this cookbook is awesome. It gives any cook (wether you are experienced or not) the permission to experiment with food....creating meals that are just so delicious. Thank you Alice for your wonderful inspirations, I will continue to share this work of food art with all my foodie clients and friends.

    And if you are on the fence about purchasing this will not regret it...

    Vanessa Tricoche, CHHC, Education Specialist
    www. info
  • Much more than I expected!
    To begin with, I live in Thailand, and so almost all of the "seasonal" advice in this book is useless --- except for the general idea, which is all-important: buy high-quality ingredients when they are in season. In Thailand, that would translate to "wait for the hot season before gorging yourself on mangoes, or mango-with-sticky-rice." Most Thai fruits have seasons when they are at their best, so pay attention.

    This includes the basic idea of "don't just go to the market and buy an onion." Some folks see an onion and grab it instantly, checking off that chore. Others inspect the onions carefully, waiting until they see a really gorgeous (and delicious-looking) batch. If all the onions look like junk, it might be time to put off onion soup to another day!

    I have tried just one recipe so far: Braised Chicken Legs. It was very good, and I already know how to make it better next time. Talk about simple! Four chicken legs run about $2 over here, and then add garlic, onion, tomato, some chicken stock, plus a bay leaf and a pinch of rosemary. You're probably looking at a total cost of $3-$4, and this recipe fed three people! Next up is probably the Chard Fritatta, which will become a Spinach Frittata over here.

    My biggest surprise: I think I have actually found a replacement for my venerable "James Beard Cookbook." This book is better, and it's just jammed with recipes. I also think that it dusts "How To Cook Everything."

    Of course, on nights when I'm cooking Thai food, this book is pretty much useless, except for the general advice noted above.

    ----- REVIEW UPDATE -----

    The "Spinach Frittata" was devoured instantly, and very yummy. I made the "Braised Chicken Legs" with my changes: first, throw in some cayenne or hot pepper (NOT A LOT, just a hint!). Second, add some chopped potatoes and turnips to the final braise. Third, put in some salt and pepper before it goes for its 45-minute final cooking. Results: everyone loved it! This may be the best chicken I have ever cooked in my life, or at least tied with that lovely Persian dish, "Fesanjan." (Walnuts and pomegranate juice, oh yum!)

    This book is a real winner!!!

    Highest recommendation!

    ----- ANOTHER UPDATE!----------

    By the way, Alice Waters agrees about the salt. For most meat, if you intend to salt it, you might as well salt it when you bring it home. This will accomplish two things: first, it will retard spoilage, but more important, it will make the meat taste "seasoned" rather than "salty."

    So, for "steak au poivre," buy some yummy steaks, salt them when you get home, put them in the fridge, and then take them out 2-3 hours before cooking and rub ground pepper into them. The 2-3 hours will ensure that the meat is not chilly when it goes into the pan, and will enable the pepper to get into the meat and flavor it....more info
  • 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. ...more info
  • Disappointing if you know how to cook.
    As an experienced recreational cook I am very disappointed by this book. It has been getting alot of press from the NY Times and the Today show. Alice Waters is no doubt a wonderful cook and I have her other books - especially usefull is her book on vegetables. No doubt she has access to fresh and wonderful produce living in California and running a successful restaurant. We all want to buy the freshest ingredients possible. There is nothing "revolutionary" about this book - instead it is a basic book for people who are just learning to cook and/or put together a kitchen. The recipes are basic and somewhat boring. For anyone who would like to learn cooking basics I would recommend James Beard's Theory and Basics of Cooking instead. ...more info
  • Very little that is useful for non-meat eaters
    As someone who loves simple food and local food, I love the concept behind this book. As someone who is trying to eat less meat, I have hardly used this book because there are very few recipes that are not meat-centric. I have learned that just roast vegies taste fantastic, but was disappointed that so much of the rest of the book relies on meat as the major part of a meal. ...more info
  • Excellent cookbook
    If I could only have one cookbook, this would be the one! Waters explains techniques with such clarity that a novice cook can get started in the kitchen, while an experienced cook can learn plenty of new things. She gives excellent, basic recipes that cover what most home cooks would want to make. (Every one I've tried has become my standard recipe!) She adds enough detail and suggestions for variation that you would never need another cookbook....more info
  • Much Talk Little Information
    I purchased Alice Waters' seminal Simple Food hoping to find great, smart, creative recipes. I didn't find any of that. I found lots of preachy chats about food, and self absorbed blather about stuff I already knew. If you are 16 and just starting to cook and wanting a guru to look up to, this is a great book and you might treasure it. If you are 50 and have been cooking all your life, you have heard all of this before. In short, if "California Cuisine" holds charm for you, you may love "Simple Food". If you are past that, head elsewhere. There are tons of great cookbooks which are creative, entertaining, and healthy. Try Vegetarian Times Low Fat and Fast, or even Hungry Girl. Cooking should be fun, not like an afternoon with Cotton Mather....more info
  • Simple food = Delicious Food
    I have been cooking regularly for about 18 years now, and for about the last 9 years or so it has become a real passion for me. I also have a personal library of hundreds of cook books. But I still found this book to be both an enjoyable and an educational read. The book has filled in some gaps in my cooking knowledge that I didn't even realize were there, or maybe more exactly, crystallized my thinking about some cooking ideas and techniques that I was somewhat fuzzy about. Reading this book also made me realize that somewhere along the way I had unconsciously developed the belief that if preparing my food was too simple, it wasn't "real" cooking. This was starting to take a lot of the fun out of cooking for me and turning it back into a chore. Ms. Waters has given me permission to explore all the ways that delicious food can be prepared with just a few steps and top notch ingredients. Cooking is fun again.

    More concretely, as a result of reading this book I find that I am wasting much less food, and finding much more creative ways to use the things that I have in my refrigerator and pantry, which is translating into spending less money at the grocery store.

    For me, the real value of the book was not the recipes, but the discussion of ingredients, cooking techniques and Ms. Waters' personal approach to preparing delicious food for her family and friends....more info
  • A wonderful book for the kitchen-lover
    This book is wonderful, a fascinating look at the basics of cooking with fresh insights that will please even an experienced cook. Of course, all these tidbits are supported by the author's long experience with fresh and local foods. I am not a "high" cook, but I do enjoy the kitchen and would recommend the book to anyone....more info
  • So far I'm happy with the book
    This book would make a wonderful present. For me it's like having a basic cookbook, but feeling like you're getting cooking secrets that make your cooking better. It's changed the way I think about cooking. The recipes I've tried so far are yummy. I've tried the Bolognese sauce, which I highly recommend. My husband had four servings, I kid you not. I was hoping for leftovers, no such luck. The carnitas and the roasted chicken. All were excellent. Even my kids 4 and 7 enjoyed them. It makes you want to experiment and try new things. I feel inspired when I menu plan each week. It's taken the doldrums out of cooking and brought in new enjoyment. You also get information about the importance of buying local and there's more, but that's what I remember most.

    I've only tried three recipes, but I look forward to trying more....more info
  • Great "Food" book
    This book goes beyond being a cookbook. Alice Waters has included many helpful facts and methods for foods and food preparation. Its a great book and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in "good" cooking and food prep....more info
  • A wonderful approach to food
    It's funny -- about six months ago I was wishing for a cookbook that focused less on recipes than on cooking techniques. I don't much like cooking from a cookbook, really. I like to get some ingredients and then figure out how to bring them together, so this book really spoke to me.

    It's organized by cooking technique, and Waters speaks of the experience of cooking more than the step-by-step instructions -- although she includes those as well. In the section on roasting, for instance, she talks about how she knows a bird is done, what she is looking for as she observes and then tests the bird with her fingers. There is a palpable love for food in her words, as she walks you through her process of cooking, deciding what and how to cook and then creating it.

    If you enjoy cooking, I would definitely recommend this book....more info
  • The Art of Simple Food
    I bought this book for my wife, but it turned out to be as much of fun for me as for her. The book arrived just before we were leaving on a long car trip. I drove, and she read aloud. The book is beautifully written. The miles passed and I listened while she read about local foods and careful, loving preparation. Reading a good book can certainly be a group activity. Even better was when we got home and words were turned into meals....more info
  • Better than review
    I ordered this book because of a fantastic review I read in the New York Times. The book is all of that and more!!!...more info
  • the ONLY cookbook you NEED
    i LOVE LOVE LOVE Alice Waters. The Art of Simple Food is an inspiring, empowering book that will turn you into an at home gourmet. Last year we joined a CSA for the first time, and each week we came home with something we'd never cooked before, Alice Waters was our go to- we were never disappointed! Everyone who loves their kitchen should own this book!...more info
  • great for a busy mom of 3
    Love it! Yes it is simple..but that's great because with three kids under seven simple is the order of the day. My favorite thing is it is real food. No processed short cuts. Yet the recipes I've made have been fast-even with beans the actual hands on time was minimal. More importantly my kids love it. Also it is very budget friendly. Her list of staples and the numerous recipes you can make from them are a godsend. It is so great to have a list of dishes I can make from a few different panty.
    It is often said that budget friendly and healthy don't go together, however I find with this book the opposite is true. Seasonal foods are often on sale, and because she has so many simple bean and grain based foods I can cut down on expensive meats. ...more info
  • Great Instructional Cookbook and Recipe Collection
    The first half of the book explains some of the basic techniques of cooking, without assuming the reader is either an idiot or an experienced cook. I have only had a chance to make a few of the recipes so far, but the sections on roasting a chicken and making a stock were very useful. The second half of the book is a wonderful collection of recipes and I look forward to trying more of them over the holidays.

    I plan to give this book to a few people for Christmas....more info
  • The Basics for Everyone
    Alice Waters combines her famed cooking skills with the ability to write clearly for both beginning and more advanced cooks. The organization of each chapter and the sample dishes to prepare will enable you to gain skill and confidence in your cooking ability. Her book gave me the confidence to try something new on guests - without fear of failure. ...more info
  • Socalocavore Loves Simple Food
    I first encountered The Art of Simple Food in early December, 2007. I immediately connected with the book's philosophy which is illustrated by nine fundamental guidelines: eat locally and sustainably, eat seasonally, shop at farmers' markets, plant a garden, conserve compost and recycle, cook simply, cook together, eat together, and remember that food is precious. I was thrilled with the principals, and being a novice cook, I was also encouraged by the idea of simple cooking.

    In The Art of Simple Food, Waters has outlined the fundamentals of cooking well. The first half of the book is filled with lessons that range from the foundations of stocking a working pantry, to making a perfect omelet, to executing a flawless risotto. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, and have really helped to build my confidence as a cook. Many of the recipes come with suggestions for seasonal substitutions. While each lesson presents it's recipes in basic form, Waters also suggests variations to dress them up. Her simple recipes help you to gain a deep understanding of your food, which then gives you the freedom to be fearlessly creative with your ingredients. I learned to make my own mayonnaise, simmer a delicious pot of minestrone, and successfully roast a whole chicken.

    The second half of the book offers more great recipes that build on the basic techniques. While the recipes are a bit more advanced, they should seem easy if you have read through the lessons. This section also provides some information that was not covered in the first half including an extensive section on vegetables which outlines the growing season and what to look for when purchasing. Those of you familiar with the widely used Joy of Cooking cookbook will find quite a bit of overlap in the information. However, I think The Art of Simple Food is easier to read, and organized in a way that has more continuity.

    I highly recommend The Art of Simple Food to any aspiring cook who seeks a boost of confidence in the kitchen, or seasoned cook who would like to brush up on the basics. Cook simply; eat seasonally. I couldn't agree more.

    My complete story is available on my blog [...]...more info
  • Brave New World
    I've barely owned this book a few days now, but its importance too me has skyrocketed in that time. I bought it because Alice Waters wrote it, and I have all her other books, so I might as well own this one too. By the second glance inside I was certain that isn't just another book to add to the collection. This is a powerhouse of a cookbook

    Alice knows what she is talking about it and she gets right too it. The recipes are direct and have some of the most relevant text I've ever seen in a cookbook. She talks about what you need to do, and gives some fabulous instructions on how go about cooking what you want. She lacks a bit of the why you need to do things, but you can read Alton Brown or people like him to find that out.

    I especially like the binding. It feels like a real book, in addition to looking like a real book. It isn't plagued with color photographs either, which helps to give it credibility as a legitimate cooking text. Looking at pictures is great if you want to look at pictures, but cooking isn't about looking at nice pictures of food; content about cooking is far more useful than pictures of things that have been cooked....more info
  • Useful for any skill level
    Can you still use this book if you don't have a Meyer lemon tree in your backyard, a friend who makes artisanal cheeses and a farmers market overflowing with organic heirloom vegetables? Yes, you can. I have several of the Chez Panisse cookbooks and while I enjoy them, I only use them occasionally. This is not a restaurant cookbook but one with everyday recipes that I use frequently. I have made several of the salads, soups and vegetable dishes. The recipes are, as the title promises, simple and usually there are several variations given. I find these are particularly helpful as they give you a starting point but also encourage you to be a little more creative and use what you have instead of requiring a long shopping list. In addition to the recipes there is a lot of text, many detailed explanations of techniques and even an accomplished cook can learn something new. ...more info
  • 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 clich®¶s, 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', one achieves independent thinking by experiencing the patterns from great games. With Olney and Waters, the great exemplar is the very best home cooking.
    The subtitle of the book, `Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution' may have been just a bit more accurate if it had emphasized the `lessons', since these are the soul of the book. Almost half the book is filled with 17 chapters on important cooking techniques that every home cook should really know by heart. These are `Four Essential Sauces', `Salads', `Bread', `Broth and Soup', `Beans, Dried and Fresh', `Pasta and Polenta', `Rice', `Into the Oven (Roasting)', `Out of the Frying Pan', `Slow Cooking', `Simmering', `Over the Coals' (grilling), Omelets and Souffles', `Tarts, Savory and Sweet', `Fruit Desserts', `Custard and Ice Cream', and `Cookies and Cake'. In a very gentle, very motherly way, Miss Alice communicates something like `master recipes', however, they are generally simpler than the famous `Master Recipe' template used so successfully by Julia Child. But then, Alice and Julia are really not doing quite the same thing. The lessons in the first half of the book are so well presented, I would easily recommend this as a superb textbook for a course on home cooking. And, in spite of having read over 400 cookbooks, I still found new insights in this book.
    The second half of the book is comprised of recipes which emulate the model Alice creates in the first half of the book. The selection of recipes reminds me of Ted Allen's book title, `The Food You Want to Eat', in that we have great simple recipes for lots of everyone's favorite dishes. The `Salads' chapter, in its 27 recipes, includes `Hearts of Romaine with Creamy Dressing', `Caesar Salad', `Chicken Salad', `Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad', `Nicoise Salad', `Coleslaw', `Potato Salad', `Carrot Salad', and `Greek Salad'. Most recipes have multiple variations, except for the real `standards' such as Caesar's salad.
    The first chapter on `Getting Started' is as good as or better than most I've seen on basic equipment and techniques. In this area, Ms. Waters really does well as a model for the home cook, as she describes herself as a minimalist, and prefers to work with as few tools as possible. Her lessons here on knife skills are not as complete as Pepin's `Complete Techniques', but that is not what this book is about. It's about common sense cooking at home. The second chapter, `What to Cook' is another lesson in simplicity, with some inspired suggestions on how to get the most out of novel eating venues.
    The writing flows so smoothly, I'm surprised at how fast I get through its impressive 405 pages. I'm even more impressed by the fact that it seems Ms. Waters probably contributed more herself to this book than many others where she is listed as the author. Thus, this is a classic foodie treasure, in that reading it gives as much pleasure as cooking from it.

    ...more info
  • The one cookbook I'd keep . . .
    If someone told me I needed to eliminate my cookbook collection except for ONE cookbook, I wouldn't even hesitate: Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food is the one I could never give up. This book is a treasure, with one beautiful, simple, successful (and, of course, delicious!) recipe after another, not to mention lovely text and drawings. I have given this book as a no-particular-occasion gift to everyone I know.

    I particularly appreciate Alice Waters' non-fanatical approach to eating good food. Fresh fruits and vegetables? Sure. Butter? Sure. Cream? Sure. Meat? Sure. Flavor, balance, simplicity? Sure.

    One glorious recipe after another . . . each simple enough for family dinner (many even for last-minute family dinner) yet elegant enough for the most sophisticated company.

    I'm glad no one is asking me to purge my cookbook collection except for one, but if it happens, I'm ready!...more info
  • A new way of thinking about food and cooking.
    This is a fabulous cookbook that I've already learned a lot from. As I try to use fewer processed foods in my diet, this book makes that really easy. I definitely recommend reading the forward, staples list, and tool section. Each recipe is like a cooking lesson by itself.

    ...more info
  • Excellent First Cookbook
    I own several other titles by the author, so I was surprised to see that the contents were somewhat rudimentary by cooking standards. That does not mean is is not an excellent cook book. It would be my first choice to give to a college student or a teenager leaving home to live on their own.
    It's a great foundation for someone who is learning about cuisine (mostly French) at an early stage of their life....more info
  • Whatever...
    I really enjoyed Chez Panisse Fruit. So much so that I have asked my husband for it for my birthday. When I came across this book at the library, I got it out in high anticipation. Having read the reviews and having been so happy with the Fruit book, I can barely describe how disappointing this book is. First of all, Alice really needs to stop being so damn self congratulatory. I should have taken the title "Recipes from a Delicious Revolution" more seriously and realized that mostly the chatty comments are her saying how great she and her restaurant is.

    Am I wrong here or is local food pretty much what everyone ate before refrigerated trucks. So Basically she went back to cooking the way people cooked prior to WWII. Congratulations, how innovative.

    The book lacks the charm of her Fruit book. There are only small paragraphs at the beginning of each section and not enough comments. I really liked how she would talk about the different fruit or the different recipe. I wish she had done that with this book.

    Also, the lack of pictures is also a major pet peeve for me. I didn't try any of the recipes. They just didn't inspire me. You want a good book on how to cook food simply, get something by the folks at Cook's Illustrated. ...more info
  • Enormously useful for any level of cook
    A terrific, versatile, useful book--- the best Waters have ever done. It lives up to it's name exactly. If you are looking for more complex fare then look elsewhere. This is for excellent simple food, with suggestions on ingredient changes to make different versions of same. I've cooked for many years from very challenging books, but this is a refreshing, unpretentious book, and one I now refer to regularly.. Highly recommended!!!!...more info
  • Wonderful platform for creativity
    I am hardly a novice to the kitchen, but this book opened up some new perspectives for me. Although I'm a fairly experienced cook, I often follow recipes to the letter, sometimes not even tasting them before serving because I've imagined (accurately) how they will taste. This book is more about techniques and a philosophy of fresh food than just a set of recipes. The recipes are good, but the "lessons" are better. How to make pilaf and why you do which steps when. Basics of a good chicken broth. How (and when, and what kind) to grill or pan fry meat.

    I enjoyed the book very much and continue to develop new ideas based off of the approaches presented. My only complaint is that although the recipes emphasize fresh food and using free range, in season and local ingredients, many of the recipes are not whole grain, using white rice and white flour most of the time. But that's a minor complaint. With some experience, you can substitute and have good results, which is part of the whole value of this book. ...more info
  • Short shelf life...
    Having been a fan of food and cook books for some years I was disappointed in the newest book from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food. My disappointment comes mainly from the fact that cookbooks should have covers and spines that can be kept clean or cleaned off with a damp cloth or sponge. A dust jacket would be helpful, too, in preserving a book that was meant to be used in a kitchen. But, this book has a cloth bound spine and no dust jacket and that means it will be prey to dust, dirt and grease and the covers and spine will have a short shelf life in a working kitchen. Catherine Pannell...more info
  • simple food, simply marvelous
    If I were to own just one cookbook,this would be it. This book teaches you the basics, and like everything of Alice Waters', the food is always authentic. I have cooked many recipes out of this book and they are all excellent. Be sure to try the lamb shank recipe....more info
  • Primer for those starting out
    I greatly admire Alice Waters and her leadership in the American food tradition. Her emphasis on fresh foods, cooking from scratch, eating family dinners, and buying from local growers and dairy/meat farms is helping to make this world a better place. These values and the desire to help everyone find a way to live this way infuse "The Art of Simple Food," a primer for beginners.

    "The Art of Simple Food" is half how-to, with a few recipes illustrating fundamental techniques like braising, roasting, steaming, etc., in the first section. The other half is more of a standard cookbook that offers recipes organized according to appetizers, soups, entrees, etc. It is meant to be read from beginning to end because of the emphasis on building a repertoire of skills.

    The good thing about "The Art of Simple Food" is that it calls for produce that is commonly found at most farmer's markets around the country or in supermarkets. As much as I admire Waters, I've not always gotten along with her other cookbooks because there is usually some deal-breaker in a recipe--usually an ingredient I can't get locally, like a Meyer lemon, golden beets or a blood orange, for instance. Though I have access to an abundant farmer's market 5 months out of the year, the selection is prosaic compared to what Waters can find 12 months out of the year in California. I've had better results cooking out of "Simple Food" but some dishes, like the braised Savoy cabbage, come out bland. Waters likes to emphasize the natural flavors, but she has access to more interesting flavors in the selection at her disposal than I do. Another issue is that for all the care in walking the reader through technique, some ingredient details are rather vague. How small is she thinking when she calls for a small head of Savoy cabbage? The smallest I could find was the size of a head and I don't think that's what she had in mind.
    ...more info
  • I've bought this for my whole family
    After buying this book for my girlfriend for Christmas - I then bought it for my brother (a brilliant chef) and my mom (mother of a brilliant chef).

    All three love it - i love it. it makes my mouth water....more info
  • New and different ideas for cooking
    I heard about this book in our local newspaper. I don't usually read cook books, but this one is really interesting and readable like a good novel. She describes many ways to use natural ingredients. I haven't cooked with this book yet, but it is good reading....more info
  • "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.) 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.] ...more info
  • very nice cookbook
    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 saut®¶ing as a technique, with a nice example immediately thereafter (saut®¶ed 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.
    ...more info
  • A Great Basic but Holistic Approach to Cooking
    After our trip to Italy this summer, we decided to take a more simplistic approach to cooking--better ingredients, fewer flourishes--inspired by italian cooking. I read a review of this book and a story on its author Alice Waters in the NYTimes just before it was released and I knew I wanted to get it immediately to help in our transition to easier cooking. This is not a traditional cookbook, it has no glossy pictures and builds on themes instead of just listing recipies alphabetically. It's good for mastering the basics, and has some good foundation recipies that it offers variations to (i've tried a few of the deserts and they are all very good). A lot of the recipies in this book are not geared towards people who are working on a limited time frame or budget. Simple food for Waters does not equal fast or cheap food. But the food is good, and you feel like its good for you. It is great for my husband and I though, since we live in an urban area and have access to lots of the things needed.

    But if you're looking for fast easy recipies, or even recipies that you won't have to visit a nicer grocery store to make well, this isn't the book for you. ...more info
  • More than just a cookbook
    A great cook book and guide for simple food using fresh and local ingredients. I love the variation suggestions on recipes that she gives, as well as explanations as to why this or that works and not just a list of ingredients and instructions. The only thing I would have enjoyed more would be photos. Still a top notch cookbook even with out the photos!...more info
  • basic foods
    This is a good book for people who want good food with normal, everyday ingredients. Roasting vegetables is quick, easy, simple and tastey. Salt , paper. oil. No crazy expensive ingredients. Simple meat preperation, that gives yummy results. Life is complicated enough. A good book for a gift for someone who needs to learn, but a good book for people who have been cooking for years,too....more info
  • 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....more info
  • basic with a little more...
    that little more is added in that this book does have some great breakdowns of basic recipes everyone should know, that some chefs take for granted in writing a cookbook. I like the idea that you can give people these simple outlines, and then allow them to take it where they want to, letting cooking be the free flowing "make it how you like it" sort of activity it should be. The problem is some people are still stuck there and fear the "i like it, but it won't taste good" sort of problem. Maybe the second half of the book with more recipe-recipes so to speak, will help the people suffering that fate.
    Though very basic at parts, i enjoyed the conversational aspects and notes i forget don't even enter most people's minds. Local, sustainable, and seasonal are words in my everyday vocabulary and involvement with the food i make, serve, and study.... but that is not so for the general american population. I applaud Waters for taking the extra step to inform people of the importance of that, but i think breaking the second half of the book down into recipes by season could have provided support for that aspect of her approach.
    This should be a book people have, and literally, cook their way through it, mastering the skills as they go.Nothing is too complicated for novices, but some recipes take some time, as they should. For the more advanced chefs in your life? Maybe not the best choice, but still a good read...just as the title implies.. a lovely simple book to have. ...more info
  • Welcome addition
    This is a wonderful addition to a cook's library and to a fan of Alice Waters. It can often be used as a reference book for cooking with fresh produce and ingredients. Many great ideas....more info
  • An Excellent Basic Cookbook
    I signed this out of the library, renewed it as long as I could, returned it, signed it out again, and once again kept it as long as I could. I rarely buy cookbooks any more, but I'll be setting aside some money from next month's grocery budget for this one.

    I think this book will be most useful to a beginning cook, or to anyone who uses a lot of convenience and prepared foods at home and wants to start cooking more 'from scratch'. Alice Waters covers all the basics in Part I "Starting From Scratch" including choosing ingredients, planning menus, and a good set of 'foundation recipes.' Part II expands on the foundation recipes and includes plenty of interesting and tasty variations.

    I usually use recipes and cookbooks for inspiration and rarely follow recipes to the letter. However, I decided to use this book with my 10 yr. old who is learning to cook. Since she wanted to begin with dessert (naturally!) we made the 1-2-3-4 Cake, which turned out beautifully with the suggested variation of adding orange zest and juice and filling with whipped cream. We also tried several of the salads in Part II for our lunchtime. The Jicama Salad with Orange and Cilantro was good, but we increased the cilantro to twice the maximum amount suggested. We also enjoyed the Green Bean and Tomato Salad (we subbed Roma for cherry tomatoes, and added feta) and the Lentil Salad. I've never prepared a lentil dish my children liked until this one, so I was very pleased, and my daughter quite proud.

    Although I like Alice Waters' approach and enjoyed reading this book and trying the recipes, I've given it 4 instead of 5 stars. First, although I try to 'eat locally and sustainably' I'm awfully tired of reading/hearing chefs' admonitions to do so. Like a lot of people, I have to work within a strict food budget, and it is more expensive to get fresh local produce, dairy, and meat than it it to get it at the supermarket. It's a privilege to be able to choose this, and I'm grateful that I can, but it's also a struggle and I'm a little weary of people who talk about sustainability as a moral imperative rather than a privileged choice. Another criticism of this book is simply that many of the recipes are very restrained in their use of herbs and spices. Beginning cooks might not even detect these flavors unless they increase amounts, and beginning cooks are often reluctant to deviate from the recipe. However, to be fair, Waters' does encourage readers to cook with all their senses, and to adjust seasonings. A good method for learning how to cook herbs and spices is to add the seasoning incrementally, tasting after each addition until you can taste it and are happy with the flavor.

    So, buy this book and use it often, but don't feel guilty if your potatoes came from the supermarket and your eggs aren't organic, and be sure to follow Waters' advice about looking, smelling, and tasting as you cook. ...more info
  • Teaches you how to cook fantastic food
    This book is much more than a collection of recipes. It actually teaches you how to cook. From seasoning the meat at least a day in advance to taking its temperature and pressing with your finger to judge how well done it is, this book can make a cook out of anyone, including me. The slow cooking recipes make fantastic winter food. My 8 year old daughter called the braised chicken legs "the best chicken I ever tasted in my life, dad"....more info
  • Wonderful and problematic at the same time...
    Alice Waters book is both wonderful and problematic at the same time. Ms. Waters restaurant is justly famous for its high quality and also for being located in Berkeley, the bluest patch of the bluest region of the bluest state in the United States. She has taken what in France would be just plain common sense - go to market filled with the week's fresh produce, recently caught fish, just butchered meats and artisanal wines, cheeses and breads and take it home and make something good to eat with it - and has, in the context of both her local Berkeley environment and the industrialized, dumbed down, pre packaged American food system, converted common sense into a typically Californian food ideology. The first part of her book is suffused with odes to and politically correct suggestions for doing good in the world, supporting alternative farmers, being a force for change, and suggestions for how you ought to relate to and involve other people in your cooking. She is, in short, a classic Berkeley type.

    The fact that her perch in Berkeley has both nurtured her and made her ideas seem reasonable, and that the San Francisco Bay Area is both economically and logistically perfect for supporting the ideas that she promotes, while many other places, where many of her readers live for example, would be much less perfect, seems of no importance to her. Although her ideas are, once again, just plain common sense, and have risen to the level of faith and ideology only in the context of the awful food culture that most Americans live in, they are presented as pseudo political imperatives. The fact that a reader in any of the hundreds of drab towns across America that depend on Wal-Mart for food supplies would be hard pressed to follow any of her advice on sourcing ingredients is, evidently, unimportant. Julia Child, for example, in her first book on French Cooking, did everything possible to somehow convert her knowledge of French cooking into terms and ingredients that an American housewife of the day could have actually purchased close to home without becoming a food activist and general pain in the rear.

    All that said, once you get past the introductory sections, what you have is a lovely, wonderful cookbook. Whatever Ms. Water believes in, it doesn't matter as long as that belief and mission have caused her to become such a good cook, make such wonderful meals and share such great insights and recipes in this otherwise marvelous cookbook. She could believe n Batman and tiny elves living in her light sockets who give her secret instructions about butterfat for all I care. If the end result was this kind of cooking that would be fine with me. I just wish she could of spared us the side trip to the East Bay outlook and suggestions for socially responsible participation in society.

    I am sure there are many people who LOVE this kind of stuff, and have been very comforted in their local hamlets to know that Ms. Waters is on their side, thinking right, doing good, wanting a better world, believing in justice, having a small footprint, and involving people in your responsible lifestyle and your caring relationships to nurture a better world. That's just fine. But cooking is ultimately about making something good with what you have at hand. And although it's important for people to both know and always seek the best ingredients, it is more important that they know what to do with ingredients once they have them.

    I firmly believe that this is such a good cookbook that you could have the carbon foot print of Godzilla, personally emit an entire cow herds worth of methane gas every day, drive a SUV gas guzzler, never recycle and be politically incorrect from cradle to grave and still be able to go to Wal-Mart, or even worse, and still make lovely, tasty dishes with this book. The take away here is that you don't have to own a Prius to like Alice Water's Cookbook, although I am sure that's her target audience. It's a great cookbook, assuming she will leave you alone to work in a guilt free kitchen, doing, eating and acting as you please.

    ...more info
  • Great for chefs of all levels
    I am a big Alice Waters fan and this cookbook does not disappoint. Her narrative - to accompany instructions - is entertaining and helpful. I gave this to my daughter who is just learning to cook and she found it wonderful, too. Highly recommend for any level of chef....more info
  • mistitled subtitle
    A was expecting a lot more Alice and less recipes. And the recipes are all pretty pedestrian, not Chez Pannise uber-recipes. A better title would have been- "Learning to Cook with Alice Waters"...more info
  • 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. ...more info
  • simple food simply requires more time
    there has never been a simple time, even when there was simple food. even with food processors, william-sonoma, oxo and rachael ray, simple food requires more time to prepare. the reward is tasty, healthy, and supports local growers. but you have to decide what in your not-so-simple life you will forgo to take advantage of the opportunity....more info
  • Fabulous FOUNDATION Cookbook to Expand On - A Great Education
    I see a few complaints here and I think the writers of those complaints should realize that maybe while they're beyond this book (though I bet even they would find great things in it), many of us will find it the PERFECT foundation (and education!) from which to expand upon. (Indeed, on first thumbing through the book I was struck with what a great gift Alice Waters has made to us and to her family, passing down her hard-earned knowledge from one generation to another). I have bought well over 100 cookbooks in the past two years, and most are poorly written and make assumptions about what you know (or are all style and little substance). Alice Waters' new book, instead, gives the aspiring cook a great foundation upon which to build. All know is that (living in the Bay Area as I do, and eating at both Chez Panisse and Cafe Fanny many a time) you cannot go wrong with this book, if like me you have found most cookbooks very uneven or even impractical. This is simply superb and a great achievement. It's destined to be a classic in the not too distant future in the way that Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is looked upon today. I could not have asked for anything more than what I bought here, and at such a great price relative to what I got in return for my money. Thank you, Alice Waters. I am not an everyday cook but I do like to get adventurous on weekends, and over time I find great recipes that are solid and nearly foolproof and have extraordinary flavor (like your can't miss ice cream recipe in Fanny at Chez Panisse, which I doctor up with whatever's in season -- especially a mix of raspberries and blackberries, which makes a beautiful color as well as tasting superb)....more info
  • Refreshingly Simple
    Just as the title says. Appreciation of real simple food. I have over 100 cookbooks and I find this one refreshing....more info
  • Captures the Principles that Made the Restaurant Great
    Chez Panisse is a great restaurant that actually serves simple food, which is what makes this book a credible account of Alice Water's food philosophy. From dining at her restaurant a few times now, I have found that the majority of--and the best--dishes are the ones with minimal manipulation: garden salad with vinaigrette, baked wild salmon, a plate of three cheeses.

    This book gives you all the advice you need to replicate some of these dishes. Take the garden salad, for instance. It was visually stunning. The leaves were vital and beautiful. Each was dressed in the right amount of a subtle vinaigrette. In the book, you learn how all this is possible. The freshness? Waters stresses the short time from field to plate, the lettuce picked in the morning and served within the day. The quality? Grown using sustainable methods, the lettuces are a beautiful product. ("Go to the farmer's market" is her constant exhortation.) The dressing? To make the vinaigrette properly, she provides this insight: adding the proper amount of salt to the vinegar will produce "a wonderful balance" by rounding out the acidity.

    The book is part sustainability manifesto, part technique manual, part recipe collection. Collectively, they form the parts needed for a beginning cook to become proficient in making and appreciating good food. ...more info
  • Gift from An Elder
    Alice Waters helps cooks find their paths, while taking the snobbery and elusiveness out of the creation of a healthy, delicious, and stunning meal. She shares her methods, from the knives and pots and pans she uses to the ingredients she keeps stocked in her pantry and refrigerator. I felt like I was reading a guide passed down by an elder who understands both the spiritual and practical value of preparing wholesome food. As well, the recipes I tried are simple and outstanding. I'm thrilled that Alice wrote this book. This is a great gift for the experienced but jaded chef, a young person just exploring the meaning of a great meal, or anyone interested in simplifying their way of thinking about food and cooking. Big thanks, Alice!...more info
  • a good looking book, but the recipes are on the bland side...
    I am so sorry to give your cookbook such a low review Ms. Waters, but I was very disappointed with it. At first read, the book seemed very informative with a clean, new layout. But when you read the text closely, you will find that the information is not that groundbreaking and the organization of the book is a bit confusing.

    But more importantly, I was underwhelmed with the recipes in this book. I have so far cooked 3 recipes and they both needed a bit more zing. The author has at least stuck to the title of the book and provided us with recipes for "simple food", with very few ingredients and steps (a big contrast to the other Chez Panisse book I own) but the results of the recipes really needed a lot of help from sharp spices. I just read through the first few 5-star reviews and it didn't seem to me that any of those reviewers had actually cooked out of the book. ...more info
  • general info and specific recipes
    a useful addition to the Chez Panisse cookbook shelf. She begins with general information about types of foods and cooking methods with several example recipes for each, then moves to a more traditional cookbook recipe format. I have made 2 recipes from it so far:
    1) found the long-cooked lamb shoulder too sweet from all the carrots in the pureed vegetable sauce
    2) used the "fish in breadcrumbs" recipe for a salmon fillet and it was great.
    Certainly the book focuses on healthy foods sustainably grown....more info
  • TOO Simple
    I think the average cookbook reader/cook has really moved beyond these very basic techniques and recipes. It might be a better purchase for someone just starting out. None of the recipes moved me to try them--indeed, it felt as if I'd already done some variation on most of them....more info
  • Organic food movement
    This is a delightful book to read and use. If you are an Alice Waters fan, you will
    very much enjoy reading it and making the recipes....more info


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