Thursday, December 18, 2008
I got an early Christmas present delivered to me this week from my favorite Mrs. Purl of Austin, Texas. She happens to know that I like cooking and chose her gift accordingly.
With a beautiful butter yellow hard cover and a bold vermillion spine: The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse Restaurant.
It's starting to dawn on me that I'm becoming a sort of food nerd. How do I know? Well, I read cookbooks cover to cover now. I'd say that is a sure sign of culinary nerdiness. What can I say...I guess I've just discovered that there is a lot of good stuff in the text between the recipes!
The book sat staring at me for a few hours while I had to devote my attention to making dinner, getting the kiddos clean and to bed. I suppose I could have flipped through it briefly, but I wanted to begin reading without interruption.
Introduction: organic, local, sustainable, farmer's market, plant a garden, eat together, cook at home, appreciate your food. Check.
Getting Started: Ingredients and the Pantry, Equipment and Getting Started. Oooo, I love pantry lists. I took a few mental notes of some items to stock up on. The list was complete with explanations on how to store different items including their shelf-life expectancy. And equipment! I was happy to note that I possess quite a bit of the equipment suggested...and Christmas is around the corner for some of the items that are missing. I could definitely use an update in the knife department, as well as a new baking sheet (mine pops and warps in a hot oven). Thankfully, Alice Waters is a minimalist in the kitchen and writes her recipes for the barest of electrical equipment--read: no food processor necessary (thank goodness).
What to Cook?: Planning Menus, Everyday Meals and Friends for Dinner, Picnics and Packing a Lunch. I'm already a menu planner, but I did note her advice when planning for guests...KEEP IT SIMPLE! How many times have I planned something complicated and then been unable to enjoy the prep and the company??
Four Essential Sauces: Vinaigrette, Salsa Verde, Aioli, Herb Butter. Finally a good ratio for making vinaigrettes! Salsa Verde caught me by surprise. What I assumed was a Mexican green salsa turn out, in fact, to be "the classic green sauce of Italy." There are no peppers, tomatillos, etc. Instead it consists of:
1/3 c coarsely chopped parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, pounded into a puree
1 TB Capers, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c olive oil
Let it sit for a while to develop the flavors. I also added some lemon juice. When I first tasted it, Wow--very salty. But, when it was dispersed throughout the fresh fettuccine noodles I just happened to whip up, yum. Just perfect.
She recommends Salsa Verde for roasted meats, vegetables, and fish (Ooooo, doesn't that sound good?). So, there you have it...salsa verde is an Italian sauce. I shouldn't have been so surprised...the languages of Italian and Spanish are quite similar. I remember having most of my high school Spanish replaced by the Italian counterparts when I studied abroad in Florence for a semester in college. (Como se dice vs. Come si dice)
I can't wait to continue my reading...I sense the section on soups will be quite helpful. In fact, I think one of my goals for the next year is to become really proficient at making soups--good soups. Wow, have you ever had orange and olive salad? This is going to be fun.
Thanks Texas Purl!