Simple doesn’t mean boring when it comes to great food. When I say, “Keep it simple,” I’m talking about buying ingredients at the height of their flavor and preparing them in a way that lets them speak for themselves.
I was born in Italy, but my mother is French, so I spent a good portion of my childhood in the South of France. When my mother and grandmother cooked, it was always about using simple ingredients. I remember a pasta dish that was just roasted zucchini and zucchini flowers with olive oil and garlic. It seems like the simplest thing in the world, but when those ingredients are at the height of their season, you don’t need anything else—and it was truly delicious. Working with renowned chef Sylvain Portay in Monte Carlo as a professional cook reinforced what I had learned as a child. He was all about the ingredients as well.
The more important step to getting great ingredients is choosing what’s seasonal and hasn’t traveled a long way. Think fresh corn in the summer, crisp apples in the fall, and local varieties of seafood.
The secret to bringing out those amazing flavors is simple too: Salt! It really coaxes the flavor from food. But keeping it simple doesn’t mean you have to skimp on other seasonings. It’s about striking a balance: You want to bring out the flavor without overwhelming those fresh ingredients. In fact, I think seasoning is so important that I titled my debut cookbook Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking.
Making simple meals also means that you get to enjoy more time with your family and guests, especially in the summer. Sure, there’s a time for fancy, complicated dishes, but when you’re at the beach or hanging out in the backyard, simple—and delicious—is the way to go.