Call her what you will, but it's undeniable that Alice Waters is a pioneer in sustainable cooking practices. I personally had never even heard of eating locally or organic until I had a conversation about Waters's famed northern California restaurant Chez Panisse, which opened in 1971. Today restaurants and grocery stores are filled with the words "local," "organic," and "sustainable," as well as a laundry list of farm-sourced ingredients.
If eating simply prepared food culled from fresh ingredients is your thing, The Art of Simple Food by Waters is a must-have cookbook. There's nothing revolutionary about the 200 recipes within its pages — sauces, pastas, soups, veggies, meats, seafood, desserts, and so on, but when prepared the familiar recipes seem almost perfect in flavor, texture, and presentation. I also love that it's geared to the home cook and that most of the meals are extremely easy to prepare. If any recipe is remotely challenging, Waters does a good job of explaining proper technique thoroughly.
To hear why I love this cookbook, read more.
Dishes familiar to an American palate share space with staples found in French and Italian cuisine, and all the recipes feel slightly comforting and rustic. Though this is not a cookbook advertised as being lowfat or light, I do think the philosophy behind it is both mindful and healthy: food is precious, eat locally and seasonally, don't waste, and cook and eat together. Waters also pushes the importance of gardening, composting, and recycling. To me The Art of Simple Food is much more than a cookbook; it helps alter the way you look at your food.
If you are looking for healthy, light recipes, I still think this is great cookbook to pick up. The book stresses the use of fresh produce, whole grains, and organic meats. In those times where butter or fat is called for, I've been able to cut down on the amount without sacrificing taste. Woven throughout the recipes are great tips too — how to roast and bake, tips on cooking the best polenta, baking secrets, and more. It's a great mix of how-to and recipes that is destined to be a go-to cookbook on anyone's shelf.
Also, the roast chicken from this cookbook is hands down the best I've ever tasted. Simple but amazing.