Musings

Too Simple? Nah.

Yesterday, I got the new issue of Bon Appetit in the mail. It’s actually kind of sick how much I enjoy this magazine.  Although I do find that I it’s hard for me to read it before bed.

See, I’m a before-bed reader. Even if it’s just a few pages, I always need to read before I close up shop for the day. Part of the ol’ routine for me. It helps my mind settle and there is nothing I love more than being curled up in my nest under my big, puffy duvet. As it’s been so muggy, I’ve had the A/C at 65 and I swear I can see my breath. Oh, is it delicious to curl up in. But the Bon Appetit…when I flip through those pages of Bon Appetit, I find that everything looks so amazing and delicious that I want to cook it….N-O-W. My brain starts percolating with getting the ingredients, when I can cook them…it’s like my equivalent of handing a 3-year old a Pixie Stick before naptime. Too stimulating. Novels before sleep, not cooking mags. Where 50 Shades fits into all of this, I don’t know.

The issue that arrived yesterday is all about “summer’s bounty”. Tomatoes, berries, zucchini, corn, peaches. The heavy hitters of the summer garden. On the cover are such scrumptious, juicy, and colorful tomatoes that you almost want to lick it. Taste the juice, the sweetness, the pinch of salt, the freshness of the herbs the creaminess of the cheese that is layered in with those tomatoes. Hurt me.

As I was flipping through the mag and the copious recipes about tomatoes, I discovered one of my pet peeves. Recipes with virtually no ingredients. What?

Take this for example…Sliced Tomato Salad. Ingredients: tomatoes (a variety in color and size), olive oil, salt, pepper, topped with herbs of your choice.

Really? I do that when I can’t think of anything else to do or it’s one of those nights when I have to get dinner on the table in 15 minutes before everyone runs their different directions.

Did that “recipe” merit space on the page? Not sure. Yes, it looks delicious but sometimes these uber-simple recipes just smack as filler to me. You couldn’t come up with anything else? I find that happens in cookbooks, too. Uh, need one more recipe….hmmm…Arugula with Parmesan (and that’s it). Granted, everyone is not skilled in cooking and has to start somewhere I guess. Maybe that’s what those are…the basics. Cover the simpler and then you can graduate to stuffing, roasting and dreaming up  other crazy solutions for the basket of tomatoes on your counter.

BUT, then I thought this….simplicity. Those recipes are teaching simplicity. They are teaching us that you don’t need the bells and whistles all the time. Find a perfect tomato. Drizzle it the best olive oil and a scattering of a wonderful, briny sea salt. Perfection. It’s like what I wrote about recently in finding a perfect peach. It is sublime.

Enter Alice Waters. Founder of the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Having a meal there is on my Bucket List. I mentioned one of her books in my recent post called Book ‘Em, Dano. One of the things that she does at her restaurant, which was pretty unusual when she started it (and still is by some folks’ accounts), is to offer a bowl of fruit for dessert. Beautiful copper bowls on pedestals, somewhat hammered and rustic in their design. Whatever is most perfect that day is what is offered as a dessert option. A copper bowl of apricots? Whole apricots. Nothing on them or around them or drizzled on them. Just apricots. Or golden raspberries. Or blushing figs. But perfectly ripe, taste-the-fullest fruits. Alice hopes to educate people in the glory of food, at it’s most simplest, most elemental. To appreciate the land and the farmer who grew it. Then to take it further and appreciate it within a meal that is brimming with other flavors. God, I love this woman.

I know I’ve offered up this quote before, but dang, it just meshes so well here. And frankly, it’s worth repeating.

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each”- Henry David Thoreau

Someone. Get me a tomato. With a tad of olive oil and sea salt, please.

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