Post # 299 The Art of Simple Food, A Review

October 22, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog longer than a week that I like simple, tasty foods.  It’s best put by one of my brother’s in law who, when we were all at a restaurant, asked the waitress for his meal without any sauces.  “I like the flavor of food.” he said.  I understood immediately.  He wanted to taste the meat and veggies, not the sauce, or the herbs, or the spices.  It made sense.   Several posts ago, I wrote about current and changing trends in the food community.  One of those, which is gaining more popularity, is Farm-To-Table.  Rather than going to the supermarket to get your food, get it direct from the people who are growing it.  Or grow it yourself.  It’s cheaper, fresher, and it tastes more like what it is.  It tastes like food.

I’m not certain when we heard of this particular book, or where, but I’m sure it was on a cooking show somewhere.  It’s The Art Of Simple Food, by Alice Waters.

Simple Food

The book itself is more than a collection of recipes.  It’s a discussion of the simplicity of cooking, as well as a course in how to cook simply.  Ms. Waters believes that when you use the freshest foods, cooking simply is the natural course to follow since it allows the flavors to shine.  She says that cooking the world over is basically the same thing.  It’s not dependent on technique or recipe, but on pure, simple, fresh foods that taste good.

It’s hard to get more simple than a baked potato.

Baked Potato

As a kid, I hated potatoes.  Now I love them.  It was actually my sister who taught to appreciate potatoes.  When I lived with her and her husband while in college, they showed me not only the different varieties of potatoes, but the different ways to cook potatoes so they tasted wonderful.  Baked is the best way.  Except maybe all the other ways.  However, there a bunch of ways to bake a potato.  The most important thing to remember is to prick the skin a few times to allow steam to escape, otherwise, they’ll explode.  It’s happened to me.  In my house, we have to primary ways to bake a potato.  The first is clean the potato, prick it, and put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour or until it’s done.  This crisps up the skin and a small portion of the inside.  While you’re eating the potato, the butter melts all around and softens things up a bit.  The other way is after cleaning and pricking, I drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the potato and wrap it in foil then cook.  The potato comes out with a soft skin and the flavor of olive oil throughout.  Yummers!

One of the simplest ways of cooking I’ve ever encountered is the Brazilian form of barbeque called churrascaria.

churrascaria 01

It’s high quality meat on a skewer. rolled in salt, and sizzled over an open fire so only the out half-inch or so is cooked.  Then it’s brought to the table and sliced directly onto the plate.  It’s then returned to the fire with more salt added.  It’s always perfectly seasoned, and perfectly rare.  They have other things to enjoy, soups, salads, veggies, bread, but it’s the meat that brings people back.  It’s a carnivore’s delight.  I never leave without that stuffed-to-the-gills feeling.  It’s truly one of the most delicious ways of cooking I’ve ever tasted.  It’s also the simplest I’ve ever seen, although you have to be certified to be able to actually cook in one of these restaurants.  It’s as Ms. Walker says, though.  Cultures the world over do the same thing.  Simple cooking with the freshest foods result in the best meals.

Another truly simple food is the tomato.  Some people don’t like tomatoes.  I don’t understand them.  I think there’s a missing chromosome somewhere.  I was 28 before I ran into someone who didn’t like tomatoes.  However, a vine ripened tomato is so good, John Denver wrote and recorded a song about them.  Chilled, sliced, and sprinkled with a small amount of salt between two slices of bread and you’ll never go hungry!  Or, one of the simplest and best tasting salads ever.

Caprese Salad

Slice the ripest and freshest large tomato you can get ahold of.  Slice mozzarella in the same size and number.  Pick an equal number of fresh basil leaves, the larger the better.  Arrange on a plate as shown above and drizzle with a high quality olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste and you’re done!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Italian cooking delights in using the freshest ingredients.  One of my favorite recipes was one I encountered in a hotel in Africa back in 1997 when I did one of my first trips to that continent.  I don’t recall the specific country I was in, but since I was by myself and was there for such a short time, I tended to eat in my room.  One of my “go to” meals was the pasta al pesto.  Now, pesto sauce is fresh basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts whipped to a frenzy with olive oil and drizzled over fresh pasta.  It’s pretty good stuff when it’s done right.  This place did it different.  The put cooked spaghetti in warm olive oil that had fresh minced garlic infusing in it and tossed it about.  They put the hot pasta on a plate and sprinkled it with fresh basil chiffonade, freshly grated parmesan, chopped pine nuts, and finely chopped tomatoes.  I’ve been making it that way ever since.  Totally good stuff!

Spaghetti Al Pesto

 

That’s not to say complex and saucy aren’t good.  But if you truly like the flavors of the food, the actual ingredients to stand out, simple and fresh is the best way to go.  Alice Waters said it best, it’s an art.

Enjoy!

 

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