Nearly 15 years ago, I read Dr. Andrew Weil’s 8 Weeks to Optimal Health and threw out all products in our house containing trans-fatty acids. Since then, we’ve gone through several nutritional changes in our home. We’ve had a vegetarian household multiple times; I’ve jumped on and off the Paleo and Atkins bandwagons; and there was a short-lived Ayurvedic period.
All these experiments have led me to the conclusion that Conscious Omnivore best describes my food philosophy. Fresh, organic, seasonal, pastured, sustainable, and local–those are my keywords. In the case of meat, humanely raised is as important to me as organic. I do not cook or eat pork, lamb, or veal (never have had veal; never will).* I believe that if we are going to eat other creatures, then it is important to not waste them. Last month, I cooked beef tongue for the first time and discovered that it is insanely rich but very good.
At the heart of the chefs and writers who have so greatly influenced my approach to food is Alice Waters, whom most consider the initiator of the American food movement. For more than four decades, she and her restaurant, Chez Panisse have stood by the philosophy of serving good, sustainably raised, in-season food.
Many influential chefs have passed through the Chez Panisse kitchen during their careers, including Jonathan Waxman, Jeremiah Tower, Mark Miller, Paul Bertolli, Deborah Madison, and many more. Those chefs became integral in the spread of the sustainable movement. Waters herself based much of her philosophy on the French / Provencal approach to fresh food food and cooking.
Waters has authored or co-authored many Chez Panisse cookbooks over the years. While these books have always centered on the restaurant, her most recent book, My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own, co-written with her daughter Fanny Singer, focuses on the homemade pantry staples that Waters finds personally important for her own kitchen. Published in 2015, this compact book is packed with recipes for homemade pantry staples, from spice mixes, preserved fish and meats, and condiments to pickles, sweet preserves, and homemade cheeses.
Most ingredients in Waters’ book are easy to find when in season, such as the quince in the Quince and Apple Paste or the cherries in Mary Jo’s Brandied Cherries. Some basic pantry recipes include an All-Purpose Pickling Brine, Corn Tortillas, Whole Wheat Flatbreads, Beef Broth, Chicken Stock, Masala, Red Wine vinegar, and Hummus.
While studying the recipes for Cumin Salt and Za’atar–and imagining myself making Panforte for this year’s last-minute holiday baking–I cooked her easy and delicious Lentil Soup for dinner. Everyone loved it—and I love this book. It will sit on an easily accessible kitchen shelf, right next to Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way.
My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own
would make a thoughtful gift for anyone who is interested in preserving foods through canning or fermenting, cheesemaking, and breadmaking.
166 pages (hardcover)
New York: Pam Krauss Books, 2015
6-1/2 x 8-1/2 | ISBN 9780804185288