High resolution (HR) near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is one of the youngest and less explored fields of astronomical research. The few dedicated instruments which are presently available worldwide have remarkably limited capabilities in terms of spectral coverage. In this paper we discuss some of the most important scientific applications of HR-NIR spectroscopy and present the design of "SIMPLE", a simple (hence its name) and very powerful instrument specifically designed for the E-ELT but which can be easily interfaced to existing 8-10 m class telescopes. We also provide detailed information on the expected performances and limiting magnitudes of SIMPLE on different telescopes.© (2008) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.