Since the mid-1970s, Alice Waters and her cooks at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, have been celebrated for their simple yet sophisticated approach to food, seeking out the finest organic fruits and vegetables for maximum flavor.
All these graces are on display in their excellent new cookbook, which celebrates fruit in every part of the menu, in salads and main dishes, beverages and desserts, pickles and preserves. The book is organized alphabetically and illustrated like the companion volume, Chez Panisse Vegetables, with 50 handsome four-color relief prints by Patricia Curtan. Waters and the Chez Panisse cooks provide 200 recipes for 38 fruits and their varieties, along with advice on choosing, storing, and cooking. Yes, there are recipes for apples, lemons, peaches, and plums, and also harder-to-find fruits like loquats, mulberries, gooseberries, sour cherries, and currants.
Some of the recipes are more formal, like Spit-Roasted Pork with Onion and Apple Marmalade and Grilled Cured Duck Breast with Pickled Peaches. Others -- Grapes Roasted in a Wooden Oven, or Stuffed Dates, Mango with Sauternes, Melon Gelato, and Moroccan Preserved Lemons -- are more informal; in fact, they read less like a recipe and more like the expression of a simple, great idea. I was also happy to see a handful of recipes for jams and jellies made in small quantities.
Waters and the Chez Panisse chefs do not burden the reader with many cross-references, because they think you can figure out for yourself that blackberries can replace boysenberries, that peaches can stand in for nectarines. Go to the farmer's market, talk to the produce manager at your market, they urge. If you concentrate your efforts on picking locally organic fruit at its peak, they contend, whatever you cook will be wonderful.
The back of the book helpfully contains the basic Chez Panisse recipes for Puff Pastry, Galette Dough, Pâte Sucrée, Sponge Cake, and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and all the other dessert things that go well with fruit. (Ginger Curwen)