Chef Samin Nosrat is a foodie with an appreciation of the fundamental elements of great cooking. A celebrated food writer and educator, she shares what she’s learned from the formative food experiences in her life—such as her initial training at the lauded farm-to-table landmark Chez Panisse—and guides food fans through the essentials of cooking with contagious enthusiasm for the extraordinary ingredients, masterful techniques, and vibrant cultures she celebrates.
Today, we’ll look at the message of her acclaimed cookbook and current docuseries on Netflix and see what makes it such an appetizing treat for foodie readers and viewers.
Nosrat’s illuminating yet common-sense explanation of salt is that, quite simply, salt makes food taste more like itself. Often when a dish lacks flavor, what it really needs is additional salt to bring out flavors that we don’t even recognize as salty. And not all salts are created equal. In the salt episode of the Netflix series, Nosrat travels to Japan to learn how salt is harvested from the sea and how different types of salt impart unique flavors and surprisingly varied degrees of saltiness. The artistry involved in making soy sauce and miso illustrates the intricate techniques involved in Japanese cuisine and highlights salt’s transformative effects over time.
It’s a gourmet foodie’s paradise when Nosrat explores the flavor-enhancing qualities of fat in Italy. From fresh-pressed olive oil to handcrafted cheese to lovingly raised prosciutto, Nosrat enjoys the nuances of these different fat sources and teaches the viewer all about how the type of fat in a food (whether inherent to the food itself or used in a cooking technique) determines the ultimate interplay of flavor and texture on the plate. Bonus points ought to be awarded for the way she fearlessly jumped into butchering a hog and examining the marbling up close!
The importance of acid, Nosrat explains, is frequently misunderstood. Yet it’s what provides contrast, brightness, and balance to the foods we eat. Chefs and home cooks alike understand this in Mexico, where Nosrat travels to sample a variety of tart produce at a citrus market and even braves the intense spiciness of several local salsas. Adding acid to a dish, Nosrat explains, can be as simple as squeezing a lime wedge over your tacos, garnishing an entree with sour cream or sharp cheese, or adding pickles to a sandwich. The acid brings the flavors into balance by cutting through rich creaminess, bland savoriness, or otherwise overpowering sweetness.
With almost poetic reverence, Nosrat describes the miraculous power of heat:
Heat is the element of transformation. It triggers the changes that take our food from raw to cooked, runny to set, flabby to firm, flat to risen, and pale to golden brown.
In the heat episode, Nosrat returns to her home stomping grounds in Berkeley, California and demonstrates the magic of harnessing heat for effective cooking technique. Her mom even joins in the fun by visiting the kitchen and teaching the proper way to prepare a delicious-looking crispy Persian rice dish from her home country of Iran.
To learn more and try Nosrat’s recipes for yourself, pick up a copy of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat—last year’s James Beard Award Winner for Cookbook of the Year—and enjoy her innovative and enthusiastic approach to the most essential elements of great cooking.
And, of course, for something a little weird…
While it’s certainly not weird in a bad way, Nosrat’s tremendous success with her debut cookbook is the best kind of unusual! Here’s a trailer for the Netflix docuseries based on her culinary adventures that is sure to delight curious, travel-loving foodies everywhere.