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Taste Pure and Simple: Irresistible Recipes for Good Food and Good Health Hardcover – October 15, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is a classic culinary redemption narrative that's sure to find its way into a home kitchen: a French-trained chef endures a family health crisis, then rethinks cooking. Nischan, whose young son has type 1 diabetes, revamped his cooking style from top to bottom. Except in his very short, fruit-oriented dessert section, Nischan uses nary a speck of butter, relying instead on canola and grapeseed oil for cooking fats. For flavor, he calls on a battery of rich stocks and reductions: golden beet syrup, rutabaga syrup, roasted garlic stock, rich mushroom stock, chicken "glaze." In addition to coaxing the most intense possible flavor out of generally mild ingredients, Nischan goes for the culinary jugular with the pantry's flavor giants, as in Pan-roasted Quail with Peach and Porcini Mushroom Hash and Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate-Date Chutney. Though the vegetarian entrees seem less than inspired, sides and soups are twisted and tweaked into intriguing forms: Green Tomato Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes and Vidalia Onion Garnish, Tamari Pecans, even "Marshmallow" Corn, pre-soaked in vanilla and milk. This volume is beautifully photographed and elegantly designed, and Nischan's narrative is hard to resist, especially as he caramelizes, roasts and glazes his way to low-fat nirvana.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Michel Nischan isn't French. He's a child of the Chicago suburbs whose first name made him something of a target on the playground but, eventually, a natural in haute cuisine kitchens. And it wasn't just his name that made his early life the chronicle of a chef foretold. Nischan's parents had fled their respective family farms in the South when industrialization made them obsolete, but the couple preserved a slice of rural life in the middle of suburbia. "In Des Plaines, Illinois, we had less than a quarter acre," Nischan says, "and my mother rented two rototillers from Ace Hardware, dug up the backyard and side yard, and planted what our neighbors called 'the farm.' We had a small brick patio with a couple of lawn chairs and a table and rows and rows of vegetables. My mom taught me how to cook, but the fact that I knew what good ingredients were did more to rapid-fire my career than anything."
Nischan never forgot the magnificence of his mother's fresh vegetables, but for a few years he kept her lessons in simple, pure flavors simmering on the back burner. As a chef at various French restaurants and at his own place, Miche Mache, in Connecticut, he often masked the food's true taste with complex, multilayered sauces. "The French 'mount' sauces with fat, usually butter," he writes in the introduction to his new cookbook, Taste Pure and Simple. "This means they thicken and smooth their sauces by adding small amounts of fat during cooking, letting the fat emulsify rather than melt, and then add more until the sauce achieves the velvety texture and superrich flavor that have made French sauces famous the world over. I embraced this technique wholeheartedly."
But eight years ago, the Nischans' 5-year-old son, Chris, was diagnosed with diabetes. The outpouring of empathy made Nischan realize how many people around him had diet-restricting health problems. All those diners who time after time would request the same chicken and fish dishes, sauce on the side the "narrow-minded" ones who Nischan wished would "live a little" - were, he says, "ordering food that way because there was nothing else on the menu for them. They were trying to live a little."
He decided to cook for them. He got his big chance in 1998, when he was hired as chef for a new restaurant in New York called Heartbeat. As he tried to create a menu with no butter, cream, or saturated fat, he realized that fat was overrated as an imparter of flavor. He saw that if you didn't "mount" a sauce, you wouldn't have to dismount it, so to speak - that is, if you didn't thicken a corn sauce with butter, cream, and flour, then you wouldn't later have to add vanilla, nutmeg, and brown sugar to reawaken the flavor of the corn. Instead you could, from the start, bring out the corn's true flavor by squeezing the kernels in a vegetable juicer (Nischan is really big on juicers) and adding just a dash of lemon and seasonings. Drizzle some of this creamy but creamless sauce on scallops, and you'll be showered with gratitude. Pureed pistachios allow you to avoid processed starch in a simple, rich sauce for roasted chicken. Asian flavors like ginger and lemongrass make a robust yet light sauce for grilled snapper.
Nischan found that piling fewer ingredients atop one another saved time as well as calories, and allowed the main ingredient to sing out full-throatedly. But, he points out, "the less fat you use, the more exceptional the quality of your ingredients has to be." To that end, he left the restaurant and committed himself to bringing organic, healthy food to everybody. With a couple of cohorts, he started the New American Farmer Initiative, which introduces immigrant farmers (Cambodian, Chinese, Latin American), with their own growing techniques, to successful small farmers. The organization then links the farmers to chefs, who order their produce. It's a clearinghouse for farmers, and, he says, "the field is the warehouse."
Nischan dreams of the day

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; 1st edition (October 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811833771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811833776
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
These recipes look delicious and healthy, but I didn't know they would be so involved. I have never even heard of some of the ingredients, so I doubt I'd find them at my local grocer. I do love the idea of using vegetable juices instead of butter, etc.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you care about good food and like to cook, if you want to heat healthfully and like to serve seasonal food, Taste, Pure and Simple is the book for you. The photos are gorgeous but it's Nichan's fresh, enthusiastic, and reassuring voice that convinced me to cook these dishes. They are easy but sophisticated and all of them taste great. This book is fantastic for anyone who cares about their time in the kitchen, the environment, and their health.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
the preperations are not difficult, but they do take a while- involving many steps. however, i wouldn't want to skip a thing because there is a reason for the preperations and it comes out in the taste. the vegetable lasagne was one of the best i have ever made and it had a substantial taste to it that satisfied my meat-loving and veggie-hating husband. this is one of the better cookbooks on healthy gourmet cuisine.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By blintz on March 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I tried to make the squash pancakes with fig syrup on page 133, and i came up with a squash colored mess. basically it's an egg white pancake, and it stuck to my non stick pan.

still hungry, i whipped it up again, and baked the whole recipe as a souffle in a small springform, and it was delicious.

but i would not expect the average home chef to be able to make this recipe successfully....

the book is beautiful and i love the idea of it, and maybe i'll try to make something else...
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By Lori Mims on March 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This has very tasty recipes! It's not for the beginner or timid cook. If you're looking for interesting, clean healthy recipes you'll love this.
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