How to Get More Plants on Your Plate: A Cookbook Review
Chez Panisse Vegetables
by Alice Waters
Do you fancy yourself a chef?
Or, at least a wanna-be chef?
Cooking with Alice Waters is like visiting an artist in her studio.
You see the beautiful colors, smell the ingredients, follow the classic rules, employ the tools of the trade.
There is respect for the process.
But in the end, you don’t see the technique, only the art.
Follow her, like the master she is, and you will learn to take food to a new level.
What’s in Chez Panisse Vegetables
Organized: by produce type.
Variety: each chapter teaches how to use the vegetable in question in a broad range of ways.
Lovely: art prints of fruits and vegetables by Patricia Curtan.
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How Chez Panisse is going to improve your life
Master: cook the Alice Waters way and you will become a master at technique, not just recipes.
Classic: and not-so-classic flavor pairings will become your second language.
Inspired: a trip to the farmer’s market will become an experience, not just an errand.
Speed: simple is the rule of the day, most recipes are quick to prepare.
Who’s going to love Chez Panisse
Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Keto, Paleo, Slow-Carb?
Yes and no and yes, kinda – maybe.
Last summer I was standing at a famous coffee shop with our French exchange student. She scanned the menu and asked me, “What is protein tray?” As I explained it to her, it struck me how ridiculous (and so American) it is to name food after macro-nutrients.
I’m as hot on the trail of a good Keto recipe as anyone, but Alice Waters, she’s above labels.
She’s not a clinician; she’s a master.
This cookbook is for people who buy vegetables at the farmer’s market or produce stand by looking for what’s fresh and beautiful – then they decide on the menu.
There’s no nutrition data.
I don’t think the word carbohydrate comes up once.
What it’s missing
This book came out in the days before full-color photos were considered non-negotiable. You will have to use your imagination to see the food. Or, like a real artist, make it your own.
10 Examples Recipes in Chez Panisse
Asparagus with crispy gingerroot.
Black bean and roasted tomatillo soup.
Stuffed Savoy Cabbage.
Celery root remoulade.
Parsley and toasted almond salsa.
Marinated roasted peppers.
Butternut squash pizza.
Summer squash blossom risotto.
The recipe I’m trying first…
Let me explain how the book works…I have a big bag of sweet potatoes, so I turn to the sweet potato chapter. I read the introduction to all things sweet potatoes. After reading that I’m practically in awe of this homely root and want to treat it with the respect it deserves. Alice believes deeply in respecting food.
I also have a heap of limes.
A “recipe” combining sweet potatoes, lime and cilantro jumps out at me. I would not have thought of sweet potatoes and cilantro as partners.
About 3/4 of the recipes are in a standard cookbook format, the other 1/4 read like this…
Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Cilantro
“This recipe is an eye-opener to those who find sweet potatoes cloyingly sweet and unappealing. It is very fine served with Spinach and Yogurt Raita (page 270) and grilled fish.
Bake the sweet potatoes whole, in their skins, until tender, about 1 hour. When done, slit open the skin, and scoop out the flesh onto a serving dish. Season with salt, dot with a few pieces of butter if you like, squeeze fresh lime juice over, and shower with cilantro leaves.”
From Chez Panisse Vegetables pg 284
Is this a cookbook you want to own?
If you love fresh produce, in season, and want to be inspired to use it? Yes.
If you are looking for a cookbook that will free you from following recipes? Yes.
If you love classic food with a modern twist? Yes.
If you want to experiment with new flavor profiles? Yes.
If you can cook without step-by-step pictures? Yes.