30 August 2009

Chez Panisse Café Cookbook

It is hard to talk about "American Food" without mentioning Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. While it is hardly unusual to cook with fresh vegetables, it was unusual for a restaurant to insist on the finest ingredients from a few miles away. It was unusual for a restaurant to cook only vegetables that were in season and not flown in from thousands of miles away. It was unusual for a restaurateur to cultivate the local farmers and for them to reciprocate with amazing fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. Now, it's hardly unusual, in fact many cooks now have their own farms to provide for their restaurants.

Alice Waters was the spark for this revolution. Chez Panisse Café Cookbook features a collection of recipes from the restaurant, some dating back to its opening in 1980, while some are very new. waters not only presents recipes, but in this book she looks at those farmers that have been such and integral part of making Chez Panisse's signature style. She introduces us to Bill Niman who raises beef and to Nancy Warner whose family brings eggs and to many others whose day to day tending of the land bring it to life.

The book is beautifully illustrated with David Lance Goines colored block prints, making it a feast for the eyes as well as -- just a feast. A feast if you start cooking the recipes. Lets start with dessert.

Orange-Currant Cookies

10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks butter)
1 1 /2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup finely chopped candied orange peel

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Stir in the flour and salt. Finally, stir in the currants and orange peel. Form the dough into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and freeze. Slice into 1/4-inch rounds and bake at 350 F on parchment paper-lined baking sheets until the edge of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes.

I love a recipe you can make and then throw in the freezer and get back to it later. Seriously, in the evening when you are in the kitchen anyway, and the dishes are going to be dirty, and the cupboards open, think about making up some cookie dough that freezes. The next day, you can bake with almost no fuss at all.

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