An Illustrated Guide To Master The Elements Of Cooking — Without Recipes

Rachel Martin and Maria Godoy wrote . . . . .

Samin Nosrat has become known as the chef who taught Michael Pollan to cook, after the famed food writer featured her in his book Cooked and his Netflix show of the same name.

Now, she’s sharing her wisdom with the masses in her new, illustrated cookbook called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. The key to good cooking, she says, is learning to balance those elements and trust your instincts, rather than just follow recipes.

Nosrat’s own formal culinary education came at Chez Panisse, the legendary restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., founded by Alice Waters. She first went there as a diner, then asked for a job and got one, working her way up. And it was while cooking at Chez Panisse that Nosrat had the revelation that eventually led to this cookbook — that salt, fat, acid and heat are the fundamental elements to good food.

“The elements and the tenets of professional cooking don’t always get translated to the home cook,” she tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “Recipes don’t encourage you to use your own senses and use your own judgement. And salt, fat, acid and heat can be your compass when you maybe don’t have other tools.”

Nosrat frees her readers to use their own senses instead of measuring cups.

She says we should salt things until they taste like the sea — which is a beautiful image, but also sounds like an awful lot of salt.

“Just use more than you’re comfortable with, I think is a good rule for most people,” she says. You know, especially when you’re boiling things in salted water, the idea is that most foods don’t spend much time in that water. So the idea is to make it salty enough that the food can absorb enough salt and become seasoned from within. A lot of times you end up using less salt, total, if you get the salt right from within, because then the thing isn’t over seasoned on the outside and bland in the center.”

Nosrat’s conversation with Martin is excerpted below. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

RACHEL MARTIN: So, let’s get to fat, which is the next central element to cooking. This is something that people are afraid of. Even though we understand the difference between good and bad fat, fat still gets a bad rap in cooking.

To me, it’s a tragedy because I think fat has this remarkable capability to offer us all these different and very interesting and delicious and mouth-watering textures in our food. And it’s just about learning how to get those textures out of the fat that you’re already using.

When you talk about acid in our food, what do you mean?

For me, it is all about getting that nice, tangy balance in a bite, in a meal or in a dish. And you can get that through citrus and vinegar and wine, which are maybe the three most obvious and well-known sources of acid. But then there’s acid in so many other things. Almost every condiment we add to our food is acidic, which is why when you get a bean and cheese burrito, you’re always hungry for salsa and sour cream and guacamole to put on there, because those things will just perk it up and add flavor.

The last element we’re going to talk about is heat. You say a grilled cheese sandwich can actually be a great guide on heat. What do you mean by that?

I was trying to think of something that everyone has made. And the thing about heat, I realized, is that when you’re cooking a food, what it sort of boils down to — no matter what the food is — is to get your desired result on the outside and on the inside. And so your dream is to get that perfect grilled cheese, where the outside is crisp and brown and buttery and delicious, and the inside is melty and perfect.

I flipped through this book. There are some fantastic illustrations in there by Wendy McNaughton. But there aren’t any of the big, glossy photos traditionally found in cookbooks.

This book and this message is about teaching you to be loose in the kitchen. And I didn’t want you to feel bound to my one image of a perfect dish in a perfect moment and feel like that was what you had to make. So I didn’t want you to feel like you had to live up to my version of perfection.

Lastly, I want to ask you about the dedication in the book. You thank Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse, for giving you the kitchen, and your mom for giving you the world. What does your mom make of your career now?

It’s been an interesting experience being the child of immigrants and explaining this non-conventional path. But, I think once she could go to the store and buy a magazine that I’d written for or, now, this book — I think that she gets that I’ve figured something out.

Do you cook for her?

She doesn’t like my kind of cooking.

So when Sunday night dinner comes around, she does the cooking?

Like I said, she’s a good cook.

Source: npr


Peruvian-style Fish Chowder


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red onions, very finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons yellow chili paste
1 sprig oregano
1 corncob, cut into 1-1/4-inch slices
2 yellow potatoes, halved
2 liters fish broth (stock)
1/2 cup fava (broad) beans
2/3 cup chopped squash
2-3/4 oz cabbage, chopped
2-1/4 lb white croaker, grouper, or conger eel, cleaned and cut into 10 pieces
4 tablespoons whole (full-fat) milk
1/2 cup cooked white rice
salt and pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over low heat, add the onions and garlic, and saute for a few minutes until the onions have softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in the cumin and chili paste, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add the oregano, corncob slices, and potatoes and pour over the fish broth (stock). Bring to a simmer, add the fava (broad) beans, chopped squash, and cabbage, and cook for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.
  3. Add the fish, cover the pan, and cook for 8 minutes until the fish is almost cooked.
  4. Add the milk and rice and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  5. Ladle the chowder into large shallow bowls. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: The Peru Cookbook

Chart of the Day: Calorie and Nutrition

Same Calories but Different Nutritional Value

See large image . . . . .

Person: Lulu Hunt Peters – the Los Angeles Physician Who Played a Major Role in Popularizing the Use of Calorie Counting for Weight Loss

Standing before a room of women in Los Angeles, Lulu Hunt Peters wrote a word on a blackboard that she said held the keys to empowerment. It was a word most of her audience had never heard before. Peters insisted it was just as important as terms like “foot” and “yard,” and that if they came to understand and use it, they would be serving their country and themselves.

The word was “calorie.” It was 1917, and although the calorie had been used in chemistry circles for decades — and is often credited to scientists such as Wilbur Olin Atwater and Nicolas Clément — it was Peters who was responsible for popularizing the idea that all we need to become healthier is knowing how much energy is in our food and fervently cutting back the excess. But her teachings weren’t all academic. She also referred to overweight people as “fireless cookers” and accused them of hoarding the valuable wartime commodity of fat “in their own anatomy.” Nevertheless, Peters’ weight-loss program has become so popular that some experts worry it now eclipses more important aspects of nutrition.

Yet while Peters’ concept of calories has managed to stick around for 100 years, few have heard her name. As one of a handful of female physicians in California at the turn of the 20th century, Peters occupied a tenuous role as a health authority. After initially opening up her own private practice, she struggled to feel satisfied with her career. It was only after America entered the first World War that Peters had the opportunity to find her voice — first as a leader of a local women’s club and finally as America’s most enduring diet guru.

‘Hereafter, you are going to eat calories of food’

Lulu Peters was the picture of 1920s fashion. She wore her dark hair in the flapper style, bobbed and adorned with glittering headbands, and sported luxurious furs. Her ears were decorated with gleaming pearls. She wasn’t rail thin, as the social mores of middle-class white America said she ought to be, but she was 70 pounds leaner than she had been when she’d graduated from medical school — a point she emphasized with pride in a pamphlet she sold for 25 cents and later turned into the world’s first best-selling diet book.

When it came to the science of nutrition and weight loss, Peters was in many ways decades ahead of her time. While ads in local newspapers pushed women to try everything from smoking (“Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet!”) to wearing medicated rubber garments to lose weight, Peters was breaking down complex scientific concepts like metabolism into accessible ideas that could be used to slim down.

In 1910, when the average life expectancy was 49 years, most Americans had never heard of things like calories, proteins, or carbohydrates. Even the science of vitamins was a fledgling endeavor characterized by a great deal of pseudoscience. Through her newspaper columns and clubhouse talks, Peters introduced hundreds of people to these ideas, and even began to link unhealthy eating with specific diseases. She went so far as to recommend intermittent fasting for those struggling to lose weight, a topic that is only now beginning to emerge in the scientific literature.

Still, it is what Peters taught her followers about calories that has endured the longest, that all you need to do to lose weight is consume fewer than you burn.

”Instead of saying one slice of bread, or a piece of pie, you will say 100 Calories of bread, 350 Calories of pie,” she wrote in 1918. “Hereafter, you are going to eat calories of food.”

‘How dare you hoard fat when our nation needs it?’

In 1909, Peters was one of about a thousand women across the country to graduate as a doctor of medicine. War and its demand for medical workers had helped temporarily ease some of the barriers blocking women from entering universities, and in 1910 the percentage of women physicians was at an all-time high at 5%. Shortly after receiving her degree from the University of California, Peters got a job leading the Los Angeles County Hospital’s pathology lab. Several years later, even as the percentage of women medical school graduates receded to below 3%, she secured a role as the chair of the public-health committee for the California women’s club federation of Los Angeles, a position that a local newspaper described as having “more power than the entire city health office.”

Still, she occupied a tenuous position in a society led by men. Even as a leading physician with two medical degrees, most of Peters’ roles were unpaid, including a one-year stint with the American Red Cross in 1918 during World War I. Many of the public-health events she attended were derided in local newspapers as nothing more than “supper parties” for “female physicians.” And these roles, which were already constrained by gender, were made even more exclusive by the fact that they were volunteer-only. Women who didn’t have access to money — many of them women of color — were simply barred from participating. Those who did attend made a show of their wealth. With her high-society flapper fashion, Peters was no exception.

Whatever signs of excess she displayed when it came to clothing, however, Peters made up for in her approach to eating.

After having struggled with her weight for years early in her career, Peters lost 70 pounds by carefully restricting the amount of food she ate. Her diet was a seemingly logical extension of basic chemistry: If you want to “reduce,” you need to put less energy into your body than it uses up. To do that, a unit of measure she’d applied frequently as a student of child nutrition at several Los Angeles hospitals, was key. She and her peers had relied upon calculating the caloric content of baby formula to ensure premature babies and other infants under their care were properly nourished. Now, the measure seemed an easy way to calculate the energy needs of adults.

As a leading member of the women’s club federation, Peters became a diet guru, frequently sharing bits of her dieting wisdom with her fellow members. One day, shortly before leaving for her World War I service with the Red Cross, she delivered a talk about weight loss. In order for her audience to understand how she lost weight, she had to introduce them to the unit of measure at the foundation of her plan. The calorie, she explained, was a measure of what she called “food values.”

“You should know and also use the word calorie as frequently, or more frequently, than you use the words foot, yard, quart, gallon, and so forth, as measures of length and liquids,” Peters said.

Losing weight wasn’t merely about meeting societal expectations, though, at least in the way Peters chose to present it. Being severely overweight was also linked with chronic illnesses such as heart and kidney disease, she wrote. At the time, it was an idea that was just beginning to circulate among scientists. More important, Peters offered calorie counting as a moral, patriotic duty. Hungry troops at the front lines, Peters explained, needed the calories that women like her could do without. What was fat, she said, if not a high-energy resource that should be distributed to the soldiers abroad?

“In war time it is a crime to hoard food, and fines and imprisonment have followed the exposé of such practices,” Peters wrote. “Yet there are hundreds of thousands of individuals all over America who are hoarding food, and that one of the most precious of all foods! They have vast amounts of this valuable commodity stored away in their own anatomy.”

Peters even went so far as to describe the discomfort of dieting as a physical reminder of their American loyalty and an easier way to deal with rationing. If the food they didn’t eat didn’t go directly to the troops abroad, their leftovers could be used to feed their children: “That for every pang of hunger we feel we can have a double joy, that of knowing we are saving worse pangs in … little children, and that of knowing that for every pang we feel we lose a pound.”

Read more . . . . .

Food-borne Pathogens

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from food poisoning.

Bacteria, viruses and parasites are the sources of many food poisoning cases, usually due to improper food handling. Some bacteria, in small amounts, are not harmful to most healthy adults because the human body is equipped to fight them off. The trouble begins when certain bacteria and other harmful pathogens multiply and spread, which can happen when food is mishandled. Foods that are contaminated may not look, taste or smell any different from foods that are safe to eat. Symptoms of food poisoning vary and develop as quickly as 30 minutes to as long as several days after eating food that’s been infected.

As identified by the CDC, eight known pathogens (bacteria, viruses and parasites) account for the majority of foodborne illness, hospitalization and death in the United States.


Salmonella is the name of a group of bacteria that causes the infection salmonellosis. It is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrhea and the most common cause of foodborne-related hospitalizations and deaths. Salmonella is more severe in pregnant women, older adults, younger children and those with a weakened immune system. Because Salmonella bacteria can live in the intestinal tract of humans and other animals, it can spread easily unless you use proper hygiene and appropriate cooking methods.

Sources: You can contract salmonellosis by consuming raw and undercooked eggs, undercooked poultry and meat, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables (such as sprouts and melons), as well as unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. It also can be transmitted through contact with infected animals or infected food handlers who have no washed their hands after using the bathroom.

Prevention: Cook foods such as eggs, poultry and ground beef thoroughly to recommended temperatures. Wash raw fruit and vegetables before peeling, cutting or eating. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw or uncooked meats, poultry and seafood. Wash hands often, especially after handling raw meat or poultry. Clean kitchen surfaces and avoid cross-contamination.

Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens, also known as C. perfringens, is very common in our environment. It can multiply very quickly under ideal conditions. Infants, young children and older adults are most at risk.

Sources: Illness usually occurs by eating foods contaminated with large numbers of this bacteria that produce enough toxin to cause sickness in the form of abdominal cramping and diarrhea. C. perfringens is sometimes referred to as the “buffet germ” because it grows fastest in large portions of food, such as casseroles, stews and gravies that have been sitting at room temperature in the danger zone. If food isn’t originally cooked, reheated or kept at the appropriate temperature, live bacteria may be consumed and cause illness.

Prevention: Cook food thoroughly and keep it out of the danger zone, above a temperature of 140°F or below 40°F. Practice leftover safety by dividing roasts and stews into smaller quantities when refrigerating for faster cooling. Leftovers should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F or higher before serving.


Campylobacter is a common cause of diarrhea. Most cases of campylobacteriosis, the infection caused by Campylobacter bacteria, are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry and meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Freezing reduces the number of Campylobacter bacteria on raw meat but will not kill them completely, so proper heating of foods is important. Campylobacteriosis occurs more frequently in the summer and is most common in infants and young children.

Sources: Sources include consuming raw and undercooked poultry and other meats, unpasteurized dairy products and untreated water or contaminated produce.

Prevention: Cook all foods thoroughly, prevent cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards when handling raw and cooked foods, don’t drink unpasteurized milk or untreated water and wash hands frequently. Wash raw fruits and vegetables before peeling, cutting and eating.

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is commonly found on the skin, throats and nostrils of healthy people and animals. Therefore, it usually doesn’t cause illness unless it is transmitted to food products where it can multiply and produce harmful toxins. Staphylococcal symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea. Staphylococcal toxins are heat resistant and cannot be destroyed by cooking. Anyone can develop a staph infection but certain groups of people are at greater risk, including people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, eczema and lung disease.

Sources: The bacteria can be found in unpasteurized dairy products and salty foods such as ham and other sliced meats. Foods that are made or come in contact with hands and require no additional cooking are at highest risk, including:

  • Salads, such as ham, egg, tuna, chicken, potato and macaroni
  • Bakery products, such as cream-filled pastries, cream pies and chocolate éclairs
  • Sandwiches.

Prevention: Wash hands with soap and water, do not prepare or serve food if you have a nose or eye infection or if you have wounds or skin infections on your hands or wrists. Keep the kitchen area clean and keep foods out of the danger zone.

E. coli O157:H7

Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli, are a large group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, some can make you very sick. One strain, E. Coli O157:H7 (STEC) is commonly associated with food poisoning outbreaks because its effects can be extremely severe.

Sources: These include eating raw or undercooked ground beef or drinking unpasteurized beverages or dairy products.

Prevention: Wash your hands, cook meat (especially ground meat) and poultry thoroughly; avoid unpasteurized dairy products, juices or ciders; keep cooking surfaces clean; and prevent cross-contamination. Also, don’t swallow water when playing or swimming in lakes, ponds, streams or pools.

Listeria monocytogenes

Eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria causes listeriosis — a serious infection that primarily affects individuals who are at a high risk for food poisoning: older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems. Listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures where most other bacteria cannot grow.

Causes: Listeria is found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs, deli meats, unpasteurized milk, raw sprouts, dairy products and raw and undercooked meat, poultry and seafood.

Prevention: Cook all foods to proper temperatures and reheat precooked foods to 165°F; wash raw fruits and vegetables before peeling, cutting or eating; separate uncooked meats and poultry from foods that are already cooked or ready-to-eat; wash hands thoroughly; store foods safely; maintain a clean refrigerator and kitchen area; and wash reusable grocery totes regularly.


Norovirus is one of the leading causes of food poisoning and often results in symptoms similar to stomach flu such as stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus spreads easily by coming in contact with someone who is infected, especially in crowded areas. Foods, drinks and surfaces also can become contaminated with the norovirus. Anyone can get sick with norovirus, but the illness can be especially serious for young children and older adults. You can contract norovirus many times in your life.

Sources: Fresh produce, shellfish, ice, fruit and ready-to-eat foods, especially salads, sandwiches and cookies that have been prepared by someone who is infected are sources of norovirus.

Prevention: Do not cook, prepare or serve foods or beverages while you are sick. Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Keep foods and utensils clean by washing all fruits and vegetables, cutting boards, knives, kitchen surface areas, table linens, cloth napkins and reusable grocery bags.

Toxoplasma gondii

Toxoplasma is a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis — a disease that can result in serious health problems in individuals who are at high risk for food poisoning: pregnant women, infants, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms can be similar to flu and include swollen lymph glands or muscle aches and pains that last for months. Other symptoms affect the eyes, causing vision to be reduced or blurred or cause pain, redness or tearing.

Sources: Sources include eating undercooked, contaminated meat or using utensils or cutting boards that have had contact with raw meat; coming into contact with feces from an infected cat when cleaning the litter box; or drinking contaminated water. Toxoplasma also can be spread to infants if a mother has become infected before or while pregnant.

Prevention: Cook food to safe temperatures — a food thermometer should be used to ensure food has reached a safe temperature. Also, freeze meat properly; wash fruits and vegetables before peeling, cutting and eating; avoid unpasteurized dairy products; maintain clean cutting boards; and always wash your hands with soap and water. In addition, wear gloves when cleaning a cat’s litter box or touching soil in case it is contaminated with cat feces, especially if pregnant or are at a higher risk of getting sick.

One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of food poisoning is to practice safe food handling at home. Consult a physician if you think you or someone else has been sickened by food poisoning.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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