Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
Simon & Schuster, April 2017
For the past 15 years, writer, instructor, and chef Samin Nosrat has been simmering behind the scenes: She studied at Berkeley’s needle-pushing Chez Panisse with Alice Waters (and continues to be among those the shepherd of California cuisine calls on when she needs a hand), was named “the next Julia Child” by NPR, and counts how-to-eat authority Michael Pollan among her students. After years in the kitchen, the Iranian-American cook has finally written a book. “It took me over a year of cooking at Chez Panisse before it hit me: All of the cooks, all of them, were following these rules that no one had written down,” Nosrat says.
“Salt, fat, acid, heat” theorizes how to enhance and balance the taste and texture of any food that goes from raw to cooked. In her new book, Nosrat breaks down that process: salt enhances flavor, fat delivers flavor and enhances texture, acid balances flavor, and heat (not an allusion to spice) determines a food’s final texture. Each chapter contains recipes, but it’s the method at the beginning of each section — what dressings pair with what leaves, the science of heat, how to layer acids, and the different cooking methods for different foods — that will be most valuable for either a beginner or a seasoned cook. Unlike similar manuals, Nosrat’s volume has hit upon a theory not only easy to remember, but also fun to learn in practice. Even more fun: the accompanying art by Wendy MacNaughton, which illustrates flavor wheels and pairing matrices.