Anyone with even the most passing interest in what goes on your platter needs to seize hold of Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food: Notes lessons, and Recipes From a Delicious Revolution (2007, Clarkson Potter), the first book the famed chef and slow-food champion has written for the home cook.
Filled with 19 lessons for learning core culinary principles—including cutting techniques, if you can't tell your mince from your julienne—as well as more than 200 recipes running the full gamut of sauces, pastas, breads and grains, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and desserts. Familiar dining staples such as mashed potatoes are placed alongside more-involved dishes such as Provençal-style fish soup with Rouille, although Waters generally shies away from the exotic, preferring to present familiar standbys, including Italian meatballs, creamed spinach, and pumpkin pie. This makes Simple Food the perfect primer for the beginner cook or for the seasoned gourmand who wants to return to basics.
"I'm convinced that the underlying principles of good cooking are the same everywhere," she writes in the introduction. "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."
Waters also dishes advice on evergreen essentials your pantry needs, from spices, salts, and beans to perishables such as garlic, olives, and shallots. She further offers menu suggestions so you can combine seasonally grown ingredients into a variety of options any time of the year.
The nine tenets of Waters' revolution are:
1 Eat locally and sustainably
2. Eat seasonally
3. Shop at farmer's markets
4. Plant a garden
5. Conserve, compost, and recycle
6. Cook together
7. Eat together
8. Remember food is precious
"I believe that if you follow them your cooking will be transformed," writes Waters. "They are the principles of a delicious revolution, one that can reconnect our families and communities with the most basic human values, provide the deepest delight for all our senses, and assure our well-being for a lifetime."