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The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution Hardcover – Illustrated, October 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 Purée, 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

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The delicious dishes described in the latest cookbook from Chez Panisse founder Waters, such as a four-ingredient Soda Bread and Cauliflower Salad with Olives and Capers, are simple indeed, though the book's structure is complex, if intuitive. After a useful discussion of ingredients and equipment come chapters on techniques, such as making broth and soup. Each of these includes three or four recipes that rely on the technique described, which can lead to repetition (still preferable to a lack of guidance): a chapter on roasting contains two pages of instructions on roasting a chicken (including a hint to salt it a day in advance for juicy results), followed by a recipe for Roast Chicken that is simply an abbreviated version of those two pages. The final third of the book divides many more recipes traditionally into salads, pasta and so forth. Waters taps an almost endless supply of ideas for appealing and fresh yet low-stress dishes: Zucchini Ragout with Bacon and Tomato, Onion Custard Pie, Chocolate Crackle Cookies with almonds and a little brandy. Whether explaining why salting food properly is key or describing the steps to creating the ideal Grilled Cheese Sandwich, she continues to prove herself one of our best modern-day food writers. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307336794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307336798
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

654 of 687 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Adler VINE VOICE on October 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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149 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Diane Rocha on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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!
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149 of 158 people found the following review helpful By Cookingwoman on October 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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144 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Steven Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 sautéing as a technique, with a nice example immediately thereafter (sautéed cauliflower). Another example of technique--poaching.
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