From JANIE SHEPPARD
Friday, Bill and I ventured to Berkeley where we had a lunch reservation at our favorite restaurant, Chez Panisse. I truly love the café, the cheaper alternative to the very posh upstairs restaurant.
Simple is the way it is, but Waters’ version of simple: white tablecloths covered with white butcher paper, flatware that is perfectly weighted so it doesn’t slip out of your hand, simple plates that are always spotless, servers– several who I recognized from previous visits.
The décor is craftsman with a big touch of Frank Lloyd Wright in the fixtures and furniture. The walls have posters of the old Marcel Pagnol movies, Cesar, Fanny and Marius. I have a sentimental nostalgic feeling for a life I did not live in Marseille about 100 years ago so the posters take me there. And I imagine what Cesar, Fanny and Marius ate in their little bistro/bar, anticipating the café food.
Waters’ cookbooks are things of beauty. The best known is probably Chez Panisse Vegetables, published in 1996. The color linocut images are gorgeous. The recipes are arranged alphabetically and according to season so that if you find perfect red and yellow peppers in the fall, you just might want to make pizza with them.
But I digress. In the Green Kitchen goes in a different direction. Thirty cooks contributed recipes that they use in their home cooking. There is no fussy food to be found here. The recipes mostly illustrate basic techniques, but with flair and lots of herbs. Examples of really simple stuff are a Cherry tomato & tofu salad, which, Waters informs us, “applies traditional Asian flavorings and methods to the foods of this continent.” There is a photograph of this simple dish that positively begs you to make it when the local tomatoes ripen. I can just taste Sungolds with just a bit of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds and some very fresh tofu. Yum, I’m sure.
Today I tried two recipes, finding they lived up to the pictures. First thing this morning I ventured to the garden for herbs, picking chives, marjoram, parsley and a bit of winter savory to use as a topping for fried eggs! The eggs were cooked sunny side up by Bill, chopped herbs on top, with a lid to cook them through. They were delicious.
Two little cauliflowers from the CSA begged to be eaten and so they were steamed, topped with herbs and toasted breadcrumbs with a minute amount of red wine vinegar and some olive oil. Again, totally satisfying and delicious.
Waiting for nectarines, blueberries and blackberries to make into a cobbler would be nearly impossible but for the fact that the biscuits that top the cobbler can be made right now for breakfast, or another meal. By the time the fruits are perfectly ripe my biscuit technique could be perfected.
To watch the chefs in action and who contributed the recipes for this book you can go to the Green Kitchen website and download videos, chef by chef. Deborah Madison made simple sautéed zucchini – with herbs and goat cheese; you can also see Rick Bayless, Charlie Trotter, and Anna Lappe, 18 videos all together.
Lots of cookbooks are for reading. This is a cookbook to cook by.