Kristina’s Bookshelf

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
By Samin Nosrat with illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton
(Simon & Schuster, 2017)

Chef, writer, food visionary, Chez Panisse alum, and Berkeley resident Samin Nosrat says it up front in her new book: “As you can probably tell, this isn’t your typical cookbook.” And she’s right. With a foreword by Michael Pollan, a charming layout, 150 illustrations (no photographs), lots of personal stories and anecdotes, and more narrative than recipes, Nosrat instructs readers on how to master four basic elements essential to good cooking: salt, fat, acid, and heat. Salt enhances flavor, fat delivers flavor and generates texture, acid balances flavor, and heat determines food texture. With the right balance, whatever you cook will be delicious.

Weighing in at over 450 pages, it’s a detailed book that includes 100 recipes and dozens of variations for putting the lessons into practice while preparing essentials like dressings, roasted vegetables, braised meats, and light, flaky pastry doughs. Especially engaging is the way Nosrat weaves together her cooking education and philosophy with her personal history—family outings, overseas travels, and work in the Chez Panisse kitchen. In Nosrat’s words, “This book will change the way you think about cooking and eating, and help you find your bearings in any kitchen, with any ingredients, while cooking any meal.”

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.