Weekday Vegetarian: Book Review of In The Green Kitchen by Alice Waters


Photo: Kelly Rossiter

Alice Waters, the American doyenne of the green food movement just written this beautiful new book entitled The Green Kitchen. She and a whole host of chefs have a few ideas about how you can eat really well and become a good cook in the bargain:Keep it simple. This is a book filled with simple techniques, simple ingredients and simple pleasures.

You won't find any recipes for fancy mile high desserts, or molecular gastronomy and it won't give you any tips for wowing your guests with your culinary feats. It's about everyday cooking for people who want healthy, delicious food prepared without a lot of fuss or fanfare. The recipes are straight forward and generally illustrate a particular technique such as simmering a stock, wilting greens or roasting vegetables.

This is an excellent book for a beginner cook, because although it has a very firm point of view, there is nothing intimidating about any of these recipes. In fact, I found the book quite restful to read through. It's like having a favourite aunt invite you over so she could teach you how to make a great tomato sauce. Once you have the basics learned, you can embellish to your heart's content. And that is a big part of the message of this book. When you know the techniques, and start to understand the way flavours come together you can experiment a bit and work things out on your own, without having to slavishly follow a recipe.

I hasten to add that this could also be a great book for people who have fallen into the "foodie" trap of thinking that each meal has to be more complicated then the last and that only the most exotic foodstuffs from far flung places will do. This book might suggest that you take a deep breath and poach an egg.

Thirty chefs (some like Dan Barber, Rick Bayless and Anna Lappe are well known to TreeHugger readers) participated in the creation of this book and each of their recipes adds to a cohesive whole. The ideas behind each technique and recipes are the same. Use good quality, fresh ingredients in season and treat your food with respect.

This is also a terrific book if you are eating less meat. There are recipes for meat and fish here, but there are many more recipes featuring beautiful produce, beans, eggs, breads and pastas. In fact I chose a very simple pasta dish as an illustration of how you can make a satisfying and delicious meal with a very limited number of commonly found ingredients, in the time it takes for the pasta to cook.This pasta dish with garlic, parsley and oil is the contribution of Lidia Bastianich. I did add a bit of grated Parmesan cheese on top, and I think toasted breadcrumbs would also be good sprinkled on top. This made just enough for my husband and me for lunch. Feel free to use any shape of pasta you like.

Spaghettini with Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil

1/3 pound spaghettini
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
8 to 10 branches Italian parsley, large stems removed, leaves chopped

1. Bring a generous pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, and stir in the spaghettini. Stir frequently and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm.

2. Meanwhile, put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan and heat gently until the garlic begins to sizzle and release its fragrance; take care that it does not brown or burn. Add the parsley to the pan along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. When the pasta is cooked, use a skimmer to lift it out of the water and directly into the pan, or drain it, reserving some of the water, and then add to the pan.Toss the pasta and let it simmer briefly in the sauce to finish cooking and absorb the flavours; add more pasta water if needed to keep the pasta loose and saucy. Taste the pasta for salt and add more if needed. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

From In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters

More on Contributors to In the Green Kitchen

Darina Allen
Oliver Rowe
Bryant Terry
Deborah Madison

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