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Farmers' Market Desserts
By Jennie Schacht

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The Cuisine of California

By Dianne Rossen Worthington






The Bible of California Cuisine

The "bible of California cuisine" is back. Chronicle Books has just reissued "The Cuisine of California," the 1983 cookbook that summarized in one volume the innovative cooking style then emerging from the kitchens of now-legendary chefs including Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck.

The signatures of California cuisine -- lots of grilling and very little cream; combinations of ingredients from Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, French and Italian cuisines; and a heavy emphasis on seasonal, locally grown produce -- are on full display in the 250 recipes in the book. The recipes include Eggplant Pizza, Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup and Orange, Kiwi and Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing.

The book reads as if it were written for an audience that might take some convincing that "cuisine" and "California" deserve to be uttered in the same breath. So author Diane Rossen Worthington is unrestrained in proclaiming the astonishing virtues of her home state and the culinary skills of its top chefs. The result is a book that might make most other regions of the nation feel inadequate in comparison.

"Spring is a year-round phenomenon in California when it comes to the availability of produce," she observes in the introduction to one recipe. "Fruit desserts are often served in California because of the year-round availability of a large variety of fresh fruits," she observes in another chapter. "California has the largest agricultural output of any state so it is no wonder that fresh vegetables are key ingredients in California cuisine," Worthington writes at yet another point in the book.

California’s innovative farmers and emerging new outlets for their crops helped fuel the evolution of California cuisine. Many of the new varieties of produce she mentions are by now old hat among regulars to the larger farmers markets – items such as shiitake mushrooms, elephant garlic, hydroponically grown limestone lettuce, arugula and radicchio.

The reissued classic would make a worthy addition to the cookbook collection of any aficionado of seasonal produce who missed it the first time around.

Chez Panisse Vegetables
By Alice Waters

If These Are Peas, It Must Be May

This book by Alice Waters is a must-buy for any hardcore aficionado of California farmers markets. Waters, proprietor of the famous Berkeley restaurant, has been a regular at California farmers markets for years and could probably name the month and day from a glance at the produce on display. This expertise is reflected in every chapter of the book, each of which is devoted to a different vegetable, organized in alphabetical order from "Amaranth Greens" to "Zucchini and Other Summer Squashes." The chapters begin with several pages of text describing the different varieties of the particular vegetable, how to select the best specimens, and how to store and use them. The chapters conclude with half a dozen or more recipes, all of which have appeared at one time or another on the menu at Chez Panisse.

Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook

By Alice Waters

Chez Panisse Manifesto Cookbook

This book, first published in 1982, is as famous for the five-page introduction written by Alice Waters, proprietor of Berkeley restaurant named in the book’s title, as for any of the recipes in the rest of the 300-page volume. It is veritable manifesto all about the alienation inflicted on society by "fast food giants" and supermarkets. Gourmet cooking, too, drives a wedge between people and the food that sustains life by emphasizing all manner of flashy gadgets and utensils, she asserts. "I strongly believe that much of what has gone wrong with American food has been the result of mechanization and the alienation that comes with it….When learning to make pesto, you need to rub the olive oil into the pounded garlic and the basil with your pestle in hand. You need to be able to stick your finger into the mixture to feel the transformation of the ingredients," Waters asserts.

As for the recipes in the book, they come grouped in complete menus, illustrating another tenet of Waters’ view of food -- that "marrying the elements of a meal correctly" is as important as the preparation of any of the particular dishes.

Each menu comes with extensive text describing how it all fits together, making the book as a whole more a cookbook to read than to cook out of.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef