In the midst of the holiday season, it’s hard to think about simple food. With recipes for gravies, roux, and elaborate pies running through my head — since Thanksgiving is just a few days away — it’s refreshing to think about the art of simplicity, especially when it comes to … food.
The woman responsible for this revolutionary school of thought: Alice Waters, someone who’s taught chefs, communities, and children the value of fresh, local produce through her cookbooks, her restaurant, and most notably, her Edible Schoolyard Project.
I had the pleasure of meeting Alice last Friday at a book-signing event, where she shared her thoughts on her latest book, eating with intention, and her favorite go-to meal.
On the Book
Appropriately titled, The Art of Simple Food II truly embodies Alice’s vision for eating what grows from the earth all year long. She shares her understanding of the whole plant, from the root up, and reveals the link between farming and gastronomy. Until last week, it hadn’t occurred to me that a farmer might consider how their crop was actually going to taste. But why not? Isn’t that the whole point?
On Eating with Intention
Know thy farmer. It’s as simple as that.
If sowing seeds in your own window box seems daunting, head down to the market and introduce yourself!
On Her Go-To Meal
For Alice, it’s pasta with sautéed garlic, freshly picked parsley, and sometimes, only sometimes, anchovies. Did you think it would be complicated?
After the signing, I was inspired to make a market-driven meal that celebrated the whole vegetable. After finding the most beautiful bunch of turnips at the Greenmarket, I discovered a recipe for turnip and turnip green soup from The Art of Simple Food I and decided to give it a shot. I made a satisfying dinner out of them, and barely had any part of the turnip left for my compost bin. Simplicity is delicious. Simplicity is seasonal. Simplicity is green.
Turnip and Turnip Greens Soup
- Remove the greens from 1-2 bunches of young turnips with greens.
- Trim and discard the stems from the greens.
- Wash and drain the greens and cut them into 1/2-inch strips.
- Trim the roots from the turnips. If needed peel the turnips (taste one to judge if the skins are tough), and slice thin.
- Warm 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.
- Add 1 onion, sliced thin and cook until soft, about 12 minutes.
- Add the sliced turnips with 1 bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs, and salt.
- Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
- Cover with 6 cups chicken broth.
- Bring to a boil, then turn the soup down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the turnip greens and cook for another 10 minutes or until the greens are tender.
- Taste for salt and add more as needed.
- Add a small piece of prosciutto or smoked bacon with the sliced turnips and herbs.
- Garnish the soup with grated Parmesan.
- Cook the soup in water instead of broth and stir in a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil at the end for richness.