The vast majority of cookbooks follow a fairly straightforward formula: a collection of solid recipes, some appealing photographs and a few charming anecdotes to spruce things up. Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat abandons that formula entirely. The first recipe doesn’t even appear until more than 200 pages in. Instead, Nosrat dedicates the first half of the book to a fascinating crash course in nearly everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the way food looks, feels, smells and tastes.

For example, she explains the chemical processes by which salt is absorbed and how it affects each type of food, from meat and eggs to vegetables and fungi. Then, after demystifying the finer points of the Maillard reaction, oxidation and everything in between, Nosrat turns the reader loose. Recipes include building blocks like salsa verde and pesto variations, as well as fully fledged dishes such as pasta alle vongole (pasta with clams in white wine and butter) and roasted radicchio and Roquefort.

By Samin Nosrat,

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