cover image Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Samin Nosrat, illus. by Wendy MacNaughton. Simon & Schuster, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5383-6

In this excellent, accessible cookbook, Nosrat leads readers through the cooking process. She didn%E2%80%99t set out to become a chef, but was so moved by her first meal at Chez Panisse that she wrote Chef Alice Waters a letter asking to bus tables. Amazingly, she got the gig, and she jumped into the deep end of the culinary spectrum, soaking up as much knowledge as she could. In even, measured tones, she explains how salt%E2%80%94even the shape of the crystals%E2%80%94can affect a dish%E2%80%99s overall flavor as well as specific proteins, how fat results in a food%E2%80%99s crispness, how heat influences flavor via caramelization, and, perhaps most importantly, how to balance all these elements when composing a dish or a meal. Basic techniques and recipes, such as Vietnamese cucumber salad and pasta al ragu, prove her points. Over the course of the book, readers will learn how to make the perfect Caesar salad, break down a chicken, boil an egg to the desired doneness, and put those skills to use in creating many other dishes. MacNaughton%E2%80%99s whimsical illustrations, charts, and graphs add to the experience. This exceptional debut is sure to inspire greater confidence in readers and enable them to create better meals on their own. (Apr.)