Tag Archive for Alice Waters

My Favorite Cookbooks, Part 2

I have 8 cookbooks sitting in my virtual shopping cart right now and I’m sitting on my hands. I don’t know if I told you here, but I’m relocating with my business, myself, my dog, and my handsome butch to western Massachusetts in February so adding heavy (beautiful) cookbooks to my collection at this time isn’t going to work. Shopping for them works, though, and I’ll tell you what I discovered: although I have a pension for always wanting more of them, I still believe you can do wonderful things in a kitchen with a skillet, an oven pan, a sauce pan, a soup pot and one little cookbook. You may love fancy gadgets, but you don’t NEED them to succeed with your food. Just like I LOVE collecting cookbooks, but really, you can just begin with one. And don’t forget your local library! Take them out and audition a few before purchasing. That shit is FREE. So in chorus with this sentiment, I am continuing on with Part 2 of my favorites list for your enjoyment. I’ll begin with my personal bible which I’ve spoken of maybe, like, a billion times.

6. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters – I know you’re sick of hearing about this book from me by now but what can I say? It continues to bat 1000 from the plate. Since reading it, I have never again purchased salad dressing, mayonnaise or creme fraiche. I have a completely grounded understanding abut how to build my personal pantry of foods for the way I like to cook making whipping things up so much easier. The book not only taught me how to cook things but it helped me feel empowered to cook things. Ms. Waters clearly loves food and she has a more refines taster than I do, but she gives me a sense that as I move along, I too will develop into a person that detects the subtle taste and texture differences in the way a shallot might work vs. a red onion. Or why a lady might choose which oil to drizzle on a soup. Her care and yet simplicity is a combination I come back to over and over because it provides me with a kind of faith I can build in myself as a person who uses food to nurture my life and cooking to arrive as a place or creative expression. Plus, it’s a beautiful book, which I’m a sucker for every time.

7. Tender by Nigel SlaterSpeaking of beautiful books, I almost cried when this thing arrived on my doorstep. I’d been fondling it lovingly at one of the best places in America, Omnivore Books, and then while I was on vacation one time, I just couldn’t hold off and bought the thing online. British food writer Nigel Slater invites you into his garden and talks not just of cooking but of growing the food you cook and what it likes to do. Like Bryant Terry’s Inspired Vegan, this is also a tremendously personal offering. Mr. Slater is a wonderful writer and his attention to detail is actually emotional.When you sit down with him in his vegetable patch you feel encouraged to not only cook, but to go ahead and make a mess on your way. He’s all about the process of food, how things take attempt before they find their pinnacle and the pinnacle isn’t so much the point, but the journey there.The way he writes about pod peas made me want to kind of date them.

8. The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte and photographed by Hugh Forte - This is a whole foods book built around vegetables. Sure there’s a scallop here and there plus plenty of desserts, but the heart of the book is about vegetables and Ms. Forte clearly loves them. Her experience on the organic farm comes through in bright recipes that take beauty into account as an intrinsic part of the enjoyment of food alongside the taste. The photographs by her husband Hugh are fantastic and she makes it easy to go along with her. This is a fantastic place to start for beginner cooks or people who’ve felt intimidated in the kitchen. The introduction sets the scene, demystifies technique and invites you along for a gorgeous ride. The food is robust and healthy with fantastic pangs of flavor that punch each seasonal note. I think the beauty of this book as an object is a reflection of how this couple came together for the project. Something about their collaboration comes through and serves not just the recipes, but the readers beholding them as well.

9. The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter BerleyI got this book a few years back when I embarked on my first cleanse. I picked it in a haphazard way just because it had a fat gold James Beard Award medal on the front. I didn’t know Mr. Berley’s background as either the former chef of Angelica Kitchen in NYC or as a cooking teacher of many years. But his way with writing is telling of his teacher’s background. He speaks to both beginners and experienced cook at once somehow using his knowledge of technique and his experience to encourage his readers. It’s a really supportive book. It’s surprising to me I went with a book that’s got black and white photographs of food as I’m usually so easily seduced by the pictures in books, but this one was perfect for me. I found his work with whole grains in particular incredibly useful and come back to that over and over. Plus the drawings are wonderful.

10. Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson - I’ve been reading Ms. Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks forever. It’s been one of the best free resources my kitchen has ever had. I have to say, it’s maybe a little alienating to me in this way that has to do with money and what my friend Silas likes to call The Sheen of the Well-Off, and some days I can’t quite rise to the task of peeking in at what appears to be a perfect photograph of perfect food arranged in a perfect dish in a perfect kitchen in a perfect life. Now I’m not proud to say that reveals much more about me than it does about Ms. Swanson, but I like to level with you all. But I’ll tell you what, this lady knows her way around a vegetable. I have never made a recipe from this book I didn’t love. And I use it all the time. She makes food with great flavor, has no fear of richness, and takes you around the globe with her inspirations. (This is because she is often traveling around the globe.) This is her second book and it’s been out for a bit. Her first is just as lovely. In fact, most of the authors in Parts 1 & 2 have numerous books to check out so don’t be shy.

There you have it…. My top ten. I bet if I did it again in a month there would be some moving around, but I feel great about these.

 

My Favorite Cookbooks, Part 1

Some people might call it a problem. I call it a library. I know that there are so many cooking sites to visit online. The recipes are solid, they’re free, and you don’t have to pack them into boxes and lug them across the country when you move. (We’re MOVING in February!) But I’ll never get over books. I like the way the matte pages feel, I like the feel of flipping a page over, and with cookbooks, I love the photographs. I really feel wild about a good cookbook. People ask me all the time what my favorites are. I’m making a list my my ten more consulted here. I love many others, but this is part 1 of core group that I return to over and over. One of them is new and is an instant classic that I am currently in a deep love affair with. Since these are in no particular order, let’s start there:

1. Vegetable Literacy by Deborah MadisonThis book is the kind of book I always found myself looking for and could never find. But now here it is. Part encyclopedia, part cookbook, this volume tells you everything you might want to know about things that grow and then we eat them. She tells you how things grow and where, what kinds of nutrients they have to offer, how they like to be cooked and what they go well with. She tells you how to store things, what to look for when you shop. I read this thing like a novel, from cover to cover. The recipes range from incredibly simple to simple, but with some labor. Nothing is difficult and all her combinations that I’ve tried tend to sing. Her Red Lentil and Coconut Soup with Black Rice, Turmeric and Greens is one of the best soups ever. I could eat that jazz every day.

2. Clean Food by Terry Walters This book is the perfect introduction to clean cooking and eating. Ms. Walters has organized it by seasons. For people who are new in the kitchen, this is so helpful because the recipes match up with what looks good in the market. As you get accustomed to shopping and cooking, eventually your body will acclimate to its natural yens rather than feel confused by the general processed food that we often eat in the Standard American Diet. In addition to supporting beginning cooks and cooks new to this kind of cooking, Ms. Walters gives a great variety of choices for each season including desserts. Her sweet choices are always made with alternative flours and sweeteners making her recipes much easier on the system without skimping on flavor. She tends toward very simple preparations with pops of satisfying flavor.

3. A Year in my Kitchen by Skye Gyngell I would like to spend a year in her kitchen, too. This is one of my very favorite books for flavor. Ms Gyngell is from London so sometimes there are ingredients I can’t find in San Francisco, but WHO CARES?!? This is a woman who cooks like a painter. The flavors in each recipe hit all parts of the tongue and her preferences tend toward explosive color. She begins this book with her version of a toolbox, or what she believes are the staples a cook should have in their kitchens at all times. She talks about how flavors work together, what different components come together to work in shaping a taste experience, plus the book is gorgeous. It’s a small little thing with soft matte pages and dreamy photographs that make you want to follow all her directions to a tee. Her roasted tomatoes changed my life, even without the sugar, not to mention her pickled pear relish and her chilled almond soup.

4. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi This might be one of the most elegant vegetarian (not vegan) cookbooks in existence. The work in this book is so varied and covers so many different styles of cooking that it feels as much like a travel log as it feels like a cookbook. It’s downright romantic the thing is so gorgeous. The recipes range from simple to all day prep affairs. Some of these recipes will make their way into your No Big Deal catagory without even batting an eye, whereas others may stay on your When Company Comes list for a year or more. But even when the meals look over the top, they are so much fun to read and look at, that the very act of perusing them will ignite your creative kitchen fire. The Cardamom Rice with Poached Eggs and Yogurt just slays me and I’m not mad about the Cucumber Salad with Smashed Garlic and Ginger either.

5. The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry Bryant Terry designs the meal for you. Each recipe comes with a drink and damn soundtrack. Mr. Terry made this book so that each turn of a meal is designed around an entire experience, born from the inspiration of jazz and hip hop. I love this book for its intimate invitation to hang out with your chef. You get stories, you get a radical kind of politic, you’ll find yourself jamming out to his ideas about sustainable food cultures and social movements. This book is so much more than a standard cookbook experience and his success with it is deeply moving. Not many chefs offer you justice and compassion with their entrees but for Mr. Terry, his ethic about life is not separate from his cooking. He understands that food is a right and healthy food is a gorgeous experience that supports artistic, beautiful and creative living for all people. Cooking from this book, for me, has been not only a creative and fun experience, but each time, it feels like an honor to connect with Mr. Terry’s world. Plus the sweet potato curry is fabulous.

 

The Salad Dressing Compendium

Hello, Spring! Well, in California it’s Spring. I know many of you are still shoveling your cars out from under snow and I offer you my sympathies. I hold to the idea that when the crocuses and the daffodils finally push their valiant heads through the warming soil, the shock of joy you feel in your chests will be worth the wait. I swear, the earth is still spinning and the new harvest is on its way.

So my offering to you this Spring is the hope that you will NEVER BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN. This will save you money, which is nice, but also it will contribute to your health even more than you know. When we finally integrate the practice of fresh salads into our lives, incorporating more vegetables into our diets that way most health care professionals ask us to, often we then dump a bunch of bottled dressings onto them that are kind of like a bully’s kick to the newly found courage of the skinny kid on the playground. Name brand shelf-stable dressings are packed with crappy quality oils, preservatives, MSG and all manner of shit that has nothing at all to do with the goodness of eating food some nice farmer took the time to grow. Here: let’s take a look at what the Wish Bone people like to call “Italian Dressing”. Suffice to say, if I was Italian, I would be deeply offended by this kind of representation.

It’s hilarious to me that they are waving the Gluten-Free flag but really, I love the part where they say “CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY). What they may have meant to say goes something more like, “We like to call this Calcium Disodium  EDTA because it sounds like it might mean salt. But really it’s short for Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, which is actually made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine.” And that, my dear friends, is how corporations like to phrase Quality Control. I won’t get started on the maltodextrin because I’d rather get to the part where we make delicious things.

The first exciting thing is to share with you what readers are making! Let’s start with my friend Becky who is basically the hottest eyeliner butch in Los Angeles. She makes crazy art sets for things and obviously, she makes dressing. Becky says, ” I like a little twist on the typical balsamic for warmer weather, adjust for taste, of course:

2 parts WHITE balsamic
1 part grape seed oil
1/2t spicy brown mustard per serving.

The white balsamic/grape seed substitution really lightens up the flavor and tang” One of the great lessons Becky gives us here is that dressings can be made with general guidelines. Here she has a 2:1 ratio for vinegar to oil. Now our friend Alice Waters, the goddess who often watches over my kitchen experiments, always goes with a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Does this make her right? Nope. It means that from Becky to Alice, people like their salads all kinds of ways. And you can too.

By now you know that one of my favorite food blogs is Laura Silverman’s Glutton for Life. I love it over there. She offers us a dressing of the ocean with anchovy paste. While you vegans and vegetarians may want to stay away, I say NO NO NO! Just substitute salted capers for the paste and you’ll still have that feeling of the sea. She mixes up anchovy paste, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard powder, chile oil, sea salt and garlic. Why are there no measurements? Because you, my friend, get to try them all out. You’ll notice she doesn’t use vinegar here and the lemon juice flies the sour flag for this recipe. Go easy on the chile oil as you experiment as a little bit goes a long ass way. This is a robust bangin’ dressing that will be able to handle dark spicy greens as well as steer the ship with lighter lettuces. I also think the color of some sliced radishes would be fantastic to highlight the contrast of flavors here. Don’t be afraid to cook by color. I have been known to assemble salads to go with the table linens. And it’s always just lovely.

What about when we are looking for a more eastern flavor, something from a Japanese kind of note? Well, one of my fantastic new clients sent me this one:

Miso Lime Dressing:
1/4 c white miso (you can use chickpea if soy is your nemesis)
1/4 c oil of choice
1/4 c water
2 T unsweetened rice vinegar
1 T honey (optional)
juice & zest of one lime
Blend in blender and keep refrigerated.

For me this recipe kicks some serious ass. Plus you can use it on a rice bowl as well. I would have at least 1T of toasted sesame oil as part of my 1/4 c and combine it with maybe a walnut, but that’s just me.

Up in the capital of the beautiful state of Washington, Olympia, food really does it’s thing. It’s not just where my Riot Grrrl youth sprang from. Although I’ve never lived in Olympia, in the shadow of the gorgeous Mt. Ranier, I’ve spent many a fine week entrenched in its never ending DIY spirit. Aside from getting my toes tattooed there (they say Lucky Devil), doing one my first ever Sister Spit shows there, and reveling in curating the spoken word for the legendary HomoAGogo for a few years, I have also watched people there just cook their asses off. My friend Sash Sunday (who is also presently my teammate for the upcoming Hood to Coast this August) grew up there. She lives outside of town now but blesses the town with the award-winning OlyKraut she co-founded. And never one to let anything go to waste, she uses the kraut brine for her veggies (that she grows). It’s simple she says.  Original Sauerkraut Brine, Grape Seed Oil, and one clove of crushed garlic. Mmmm. To me this clearly asks for some lightly steamed broccoli, blood orange, spinach, and toasted walnuts.

And me? I’ll leave you with this photograph for some inspiration. Do with it what you will. But please, don’t buy any more dressing. 


Cookbook Fiend: Episode 1

I love books. I love the feel of a matte cover, the heft of a hardback and the class of a hand-bound letterpress number. I love the feeling of my eyes skimming, my fingers running down a color plate of an image and knowing the weight in my backpack is a private metropolis of nirvana. I love books the way DJs love vinyl, the way photographers love a Holga, the way poets cling to their typewriters. While I understand the incredible convenience of digital technology, the ability to bring a billion books on vacation in one snappy device, I still continue to accumulate tomes in paper, mostly used so not feeling TOO bad about the trees. I like to hold them. And I like to cook from them. People have asked me a lot what my favorites are and since it is impossible to list them all at once, I am going to take a cue from one of my favorites, Heidi Swanson, and tell you few in my list every coupla weeks or something. Let’s start with two indispensable ones.

1. The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters This book is irreplaceable in my kitchen. I love it the way I love seeing an old friend. Time never passed, everything feels always confortable. The book itself is beautiful with its fat red cloth spine and Patricia Curtan’s elegant illustrations, so it’s a pleasure to pull it out and crack it open over and over. With easy to learn ideas about everything from stocking your kitchen to create a system to pairing flavors, Ms. Waters’ passion for the simplicity of food the way it really is changed everything about how I approached the kitchen. She really helped me change it from a heavy industrial chore reserved only for undertakings of parties or company to a simple act of creativity to support not only my health but also art. That word isn’t in the title by accident. The dishes turn out colorful, vibrant and gorgeous and her passion for the respect of natural cooking only enhances the information she passes on with this iconic work. I would tote it to my island.


2. super natural every day by Heidi Swanson
As readers of this page you already know I am CONSTANTLY being inspired by Ms. Swanson. Not only is she a wonderful cook and a beautiful photographer, but she is incredibly generous with her talent. Her blog, 101 Cookbooks, has HUNDREDS of free gorgeous recipe offerings with the same sublime work as her books. Every recipe I’ve tried from her works out just fine, her instructions are clear and easy and her ideas for endless alternatives to continue to transform the same recipes over and over support my idea that we just never have to get bored with food. Never. Her work is vegetarian with some vegan options but frankly, even as a person who still occasionally eats meat, I find that’s not the point. The point is the taste and the beauty in the work. This book gives you a sense that you can fix yourself a bowl of steel cut oats so uncommonly lovely that your whole day will feel like a few minutes at a quiet table, maybe penning a letter to an old friend while a bird sings a city song with traffic outside and only the fresh air reaches you and your pretty pen. 

I’ll be back with more later, but these two are so dog-eared and well-loved, I thought they’d be a good place to start. Now, I’m off to roast a portobello cap.

 

Cherry Cilantro Sunflower Dressing

photo (45)

Did I mention I am on a cleanse right now? Well, I am. Not only am I on the cleanse, I am leading the cleanse with 16 hilarious, devoted, disgruntled, creative and real people. Among our symptoms in the first 3 days are “screaming headaches”, stupifying fatigue (that’s my main one), intense cravings, crazy dreams and bouts of pointed rage. No one really feels too great yet. The first few days of a cleanse are kind of a shitshow. It’s like life, really: get through the shitshow to center stage, until inevitably, the tides turn again and then you gather your resources and sally forth.

The point is to give our bodies a break, let them reboot and do the real work of moving out all the toxins and stagnation to let new energy in. Once we spend a few short weeks slowing down, refocusing, and making choices based on what we’ve learned, our bottoming out doesn’t have to be as low after that. We being to crave healthy foods and activities. We have really great skin. We have way more energy. And we’re funnier. As if you thought that was even possible. Win/win/win.

As part of my intention setting, I’m in the process of kickstarting my novel again in preparation for some shows to promote the new Sister Spit Anthology, and also because I am going to finish the damn thing and publish it. The task of crawling back into the book is an emotional one, seeing what I left behind to languish and how coming back to it is also a reckoning with coming back to myself of that time. So here we are, and here we go. The Cleanse is a perfect time for this because I have a great deal of support from those people around me also doing it, PLUS, there is no way to lose when one engages a creative act. Even “failure” becomes its own reward, creating opportunity from nothing, an alchemy of art at each point of choice.

So as such, I eat an enormous salad every day. Bigger than my head. And these salads call for dressings. People: YOU NEVER HAVE TO BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN! I began my romance with homemade dressings from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food where she gives her basic vinaigrette recipe. Here it is.

Pour 1T Red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in a little at a time: 3 to 4 T extra virgin olive oil.

Variations: 1. Add a little pureed garlic or diced shallot or both to the vinegar. 2. White wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or lemon juice can replace part or all of the red wine vinegar. 3. Beat in a little mustard before you start adding the oil. 4. For part of the olive oil, substitute a very fresh nut oil, such as walnut or hazelnut. 5. Heavy cream or crème fraiche can replace all or some of the olive oil except not on this cleanse! 6. Chop some fresh herbs and stir them into the finished vinaigrette.

I’ve made about a hundred variations since then and for real have not purchased one bottle of dressing since I read this. Not one. Shelf dressings are expensive and more often than not, packed with crap you don’t need. Also not nearly as tasty as your home efforts will be and they are so easy. Yesterday’s went like this:

8 pitted ripe cherries
4T olive oil
1T sunflower oil
2T red wine vinegar
1T balsamic
1t raw sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 t crushed white peppercorn
1/4t ground cumin
small handful of fresh cilantro

Blend. Drizzle onto your salad and toss thoroughly.