If The Salad Glistens…

My first introduction to Jonathan Waxman occurred on the second season of Top Chef Masters. He has the title “King of American Cuisine.” On the show, he was given the second title of “Obi Wan.” He appears to be humble, pretends nothing, and it’s obvious he’s comfortable in his own skin. As I did a little googling I learned that he’s mentored some of America’s culinary best, opened several successful restaurants, and published the cookbook, A Great American Cook.

jonathan_waxman One of the reasons I read cookbooks cover-to-cover is to get to know the chef by understanding their culinary point of view and their favorite ingredients. From each cookbook, I want to be inspired by the recipes and learn something new from the author/chef. I’m not usually impressed by the foreword in a cookbook, but this one, by Chef Bobby Flay, was like a window into the life of Jonathan Waxman. Chef Flay has a great deal of respect and admiration for Chef Waxman and I loved what he added to the cookbook.

I must admit I have a bit of a culinary crush on Jonathan Waxman. As a result of his cookbook, I’ve gained a deeper respect for simple ingredients and their combination. In the foreword, Chef Bobby Flay says of Chef Waxman, “He taught me how to dress a salad, respecting each tender green that landed on the plate. Jonathan used to say that the leaves should look like they had just fallen from the clouds, light and individual.”

greatamericancook_300dpi200x250pxlOn page 72, in the “Salad” section, you’ll find this note before recipe for Garden Salad:

There is inspiration in compliments. It used to bother me when people at dinner parties asked me to dress their salads. Why in the world would anybody want another cook messing up the works? Finally, when one friend told me his dressings always tasted greasy and flat, I started to analyze what made mine different. What was that inexplicable detail that could make all the difference? First, have good ingredients (that seems obvious), and second, always add the vinegar first. “That can’t be all there is to it,” my friend said. He was right – there is a more difficult matter: how much dressing to use.

I love this cookbook and learned quite a lot about food and flavor combinations…and Jonathan Waxman. For the most part, the ingredients in the recipes are simple and easy to find. I started to list the recipes I liked and then realized I pretty much liked them all. In the cookbook you’ll find chapters on starters, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza, pasta, poultry, meat and game, fish, shellfish, vegetables, and desserts. And, edicts on selected ingredients and techniques.

First try the Guacamole and Fresh Chips on page 19. It’ll rock your world!


One Response to “If The Salad Glistens…”

  1. Keith on September 22nd, 2010

    Sounds delicious, but why vinegar first? Is it because the oil coats the container and so does not mix as well? I have drowned my salads too often…

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