The analogy here is just too clear to miss. Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. Alain Duccase, in Simple Nature, begins with Ten Principles. Here’s the First:
“Try to get close to nature and respect its season.”
In explaining that principle, Alain is blunt with his examples. When considering year-round tomatoes, he writes:
“The ones I find in winter have absolutely no flavor; nothing but water. They’re grown of the sun, in overheated greenhouses. A total waste of energy!”
When it comes to cooking and culinary recommendations, there is nothing subtle or fuzzy about Alain Duccase. You know where he stands and his food is the best in the world.
Those grand food ideas are on display in 150 recipes here, arranged by the season of the year. You get a list, by season, of the fruits and vegetables to shop for. This is not a vegetarian cookbook — there’s protein here. But another of the Ten Principles is to eat less meat and more produce. So, this book is vegetable-centric.
And French. This is a very French book. You have the photos of French street markets that make you want to reach for your passport. And there are the lovely, simple recipes that come page after page. Simplicity is another of the Ten Principles but simplicity often means you achieve greatness with amazing ease.
Here are some of the recipes in the book that have my stickies on them already:
Braised Carrots with Lemon, Cilantro and Chili
Braised Endives with Blackberries
Crab Coquettes and Spicy Avocado with Passion Fruit
Grilled Vegetable Terrine [look at the picture at the end of this post!]
Pasta and Artichoke Gratin
Roasted Onions Stuffed with Mint and Anchovies
Sweet Potato Salad with Candied Lemon Zest
Vegetables Cooked in Salt [only salt, lots of salt, pound of salt]
The Grilled Vegetable Terrine is about the most complicated recipe in the book, but looks unbeatable. The Vegetables Cooked in Salt is about as easy as cooking can be. Yet, in true Duccase style, it provides an exceptional dining experience.
Simple Nature is filled with recipes you have not seen before, like his Leek and Skate Terrine, a rainbow treat with layers of leeks, carrot, celery and poached fish. This dish takes an hour to prepare, but a half day to chill. Most dishes in the book take about an hour to prepare, cook, and then serve. These may be “simple” recipes, but this is not food in a mere 20 or 30 minutes. These are great dishes and even greatness needs a little of your time.
With his insistence of fresh and local, this book is truly one for all the seasons, a book to be your companion the year round. So, keep it next to the bag or basket you use to visit your farmer’s market. They were made for each other. It’s simple nature.