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Alice Waters’ 4 Essential Sauces

Alice Waters’ 4 Essential Sauces

These four sauces, though basic, add so much flavor, dimension, and color to meals that I can’t imagine cooking without them. Any one of them can pull a meal together and turn a simple plate of meat and vegetables into a finished dish; and they’re so easy to prepare that once you’ve made them a few times, you’ll never have to look up these recipes again.


Pour into a small bowl:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Fresh-ground black pepper

Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in, a little at a time:
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Taste as you go and stop when it tastes right.

Salsa Verde

Combine in a small bowl:
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley (leaves and thin stems only)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, chopped very fine or pounded into a puree
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
teaspoon salt
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
cup olive oil

Mix well and taste for salt. Let the sauce sit for a while to develop the flavors.


2 or 3 small garlic cloves
Separate into a mixing bowl:
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon water

Mix well with a whisk. Into a cup with a pour spout, measure about:
1 cup olive oil

Slowly dribble the oil into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. As the egg yolk absorbs the oil, the sauce will thicken, lighten in color, and become opaque. This will happen rather quickly. Then you can add the oil a little faster, whisking all the while.

If the sauce is thicker than you like, thin it with a few drops of water. Taste and add more salt and garlic, as desired.

Herb Butter

Stir together in a small bowl, mixing well:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
cup chopped herbs (such as parsley, chervil, and chives),
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne

Taste and adjust the salt and lemon as needed.

Serve the butter as is, soft and spreadable; or roll it into a log in wax paper, chill until hard, and cut it into coin-shaped pieces.

From The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, 2007).

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolutionbuy now


+ add your own
4:32AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

Ah the stinking rose -- AARP says you should not eat it before flying -- I unsubscribed!

1:27AM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

Love the recipe. Thanks.

12:43AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

Thanks for sharing the recipes.

9:18AM PST on Nov 25, 2010


1:40PM PDT on Apr 16, 2008

yeah, this salsa verde would not pass muster in texas! here we like the jalapeno-tomatillo-cilantro-lime-vinegar kind :) and it DOES go with EVERYTHING!

2:28PM PST on Feb 7, 2008

I would use aioli on raw or cooked vegs., the herb butter would go w/ different things, depending on which herbs you use. For example, commomn garlic butter is essencially an herb butter. I use butters on meat, veg. or bread.

7:17PM PST on Jan 18, 2008

They sound interesting... Just a few details:
1. Isn't aioli too high-calorie?
2. My family has a totaly different recipe for green salsa: parsley, lemon/lime juice, green tomatoes, garlic, and jalapeno or green chiles.
3. I know how to use the vinagrette and salsa... But how do I use aioli and herb butter?

10:20AM PST on Jan 17, 2008

I adore A. Waters & anything from her is greatly appreciated! I haven't seen this cookbook yet, but will be watching for it.

2:10PM PST on Jan 13, 2008

Jdrose, I can't tell if yours is a legitimate comment or if your main motivation is to show how wonderfully knowledgeable you are. In general, before sharing your sour grapes please keep in mind that the basics can be helpful to others.

8:51PM PST on Jan 10, 2008

Nothing innovative or worth the space here. How about getting something different, innovative, and surprising instead of the same ole, same ole.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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