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This week's recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

April 14, 2012 |  8:32 am

Joanschocchipcookieskirkmckoy

This week, chef Tom Colicchio holds a Master Class on salt-roasting:

With cooking, it’s often true that the humblest ways of doing things are also the best. I take a lot of pleasure in this fact. For instance: Chiles ground with a mortar and pestle. Pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven. Fish butchered by hand with nothing but a well-sharpened knife. These are tools and methods that haven’t changed a whole lot in 5,000 years of eating. The technique of salt-roasting fits into that category: ancient, modest and pretty unbeatable.

For those unfamiliar with the method, here’s the general idea: You encase a given ingredient, such as fish, in a shell of wetted salt, place it in a hot oven to cook, then break open the salt crust and eat what’s inside. The salt works to seal in moisture and gently steam the food in its own juices, seasoning it slightly in the meantime. The finished product is invariably moist, succulent and bursting with flavor.

And deputy Food editor Betty Hallock finds out what makes Joan's on Third -- and the Joan behind it -- so successful:

The 3,000-square-foot spic-and-span cafe is outfitted with a bakery, gelato bar, olive bar, deli, cheese counter and a small kitchen for hot breakfast and lunch items. It is as thick with foodies as it is models, angling for lattes, chocolate chip cookies, short rib sandwiches, chicken Milanese or, really, any of the 1,200 dishes that are part of the cafe’s repertoire. More than 2,000 customers a day come through the doors.

The woman behind it all is Joan McNamara, a hip, cherubic, black-clad grandmother who drives a black-and-white Mini Cooper and lives in a nearby loft on Melrose Avenue.

No worries, Betty was able to wrangle the secret recipes for Joan's giant chocolate chip cookies (pictured above) and her sea bean salad!

This week's recipes include:

When you try one of this week's recipes or any L.A. Times recipe, let us know! Upload a photo onto the "Our recipes, your kitchen" gallery to share your take on the recipe and tell us about yourself. Your photo will be posted online and may be selected to run in print with our weekly section.

ALSO:

Go behind the scenes at the Test Kitchen

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-- Noelle Carter
Twitter/noellecarter

Photo: Chocolate chip cookies from Joan's on Third. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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