Simple cooking with fresh, organic ingredients

Review of 'The Art of Simple Food,' a cookbook by Alice Waters

When Alice Waters comes out with a new cookbook, home cooks and organic gardeners stop weeding and start reading. Her latest, "The Art of Simple Food" (Clarkson Potter, $35, 405 pp), was released last fall and is proving useful through the seasons. Ms. Waters continues to champion the "delicious revolution," stressing the value – and taste – of cooking the best, freshest, most flavorful locally produced foods available.

Back when "organic" was an enigmatic term and restaurants were sabotaging food by cooking it in microwave ovens, Waters was gathering produce at farmers' markets and encouraging farmers to grow organically, something she's been doing for more than 35 years from her legendary restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, Calif.

"Simple Cooking" contains more than 250 no-nonsense recipes, all of which stress that the best ingredients deserve to taste like what they are. A helpful addition is the number of suggested variations and alternate ingredients that follow most recipes.

For example, in her Semolina Soup, Waters gives the recipe, then suggests "adding cooked, chopped spinach, or floating a shaving of Parmesan cheese, or adding a dollop of herbed butter on top, or adding a cup of shelled peas."

If you don't have ready access to farmers' markets and must shop in local supermarkets, Waters suggests sticking to the periphery of the store, where most fresh and local foods are found, and avoiding the middle aisles of processed foods.

Waters's nine fundamental guidelines: Eat locally and sustainably. Eat seasonally. Shop at farmers' markets. Plant a garden. Conserve, compost, and recycle. Cook simply. Cook together. Eat together. Remember, food is precious.

[Editor's note: The original version gave the wrong title for the cookbook.]

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