Chez Veggies

Visionary California restaurateur Alice Waters made a whirlwind tour through Austin in late May, signing copies of her new book, Chez Panisse Vegetables (Harper/Collins, $32.50, hardcover) at a benefit for the Sustainable Food Center, and promoting farmers' markets at the Whole Foods Gateway store. When a customer described Austin's wealth of great grocery stores and suggested Waters visit them, the restaurateur graciously replied, "I'm not really interested in grocery stores, show me your best farms instead." More than any other restaurateur, chef, or cookbook author in the country, Waters understands the connection between the farm and the table. The focus of her restaurant is to bring the freshest, highest-quality ingredients to the kitchen, and to prepare them as simply as possible. Her newest work extols the virtue of choosing the best organically grown vegetables in season and allowing their true flavors to shine.

Each of the more than 40 vegetables featured in the book is preceded by an essay that describes how the vegetable is cultivated, how to shop for it, and how to prepare it for cooking. Many of the recipes are longtime favorites of the clientele at Chez Panisse and most translate well to the home kitchen. Waters' previous works had been criticized for being entirely too esoteric for the average home cook, but there is very little of that problem here. A few of the vegetables and ingredients may be unfamiliar and/or unavailable in some parts of the country, but most of the recipes are relatively simple. From time to time the directions are somewhat sketchy, assuming knowledge that some home cooks may not possess. Cooks who share Ms. Waters culinary philosophy will appreciate the bold flavors of her new collection of vegetable recipes. -- V.B.W.

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