Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Cookbooks

The apèritif hour: Egg & anchovy crostini from Chris Cosentino

CosentinoI recently got hold of a PDF excerpt of Chris Cosentino’s new book, “Beginnings: My Way to Start a Meal.” It took me awhile, but I finally peeked inside — what a beautiful book! The photography is stunning, but the design and recipes are made much more personal by quirky drawings that illustrate techniques or how to plate a dish.

Cosentino is best known for his tenure as chef at Incanto in San Francisco. He’s also been on television, competing on "Top Chef" and other shows, and has just opened the restaurant PIGG in Umamicatessen downtown. He’s something of a salumi king, proprietor of Boccalone Salumeria in San Francisco. And he tweets under, get this, the moniker @offalchris.

The book actually comes out May 8 in both hardcover and electronic editions. He’ll be at the Los Angeles Festival of Books this weekend at USC too, where he'll be giving a cooking demonstration on the cooking stage at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. 

Because "Beginnings" is all about Cosentino's favorite ways to start a meal, it has a Egg TWO (1 of 1) number of recipes that could be served at the apèritif hour--and probably many more than I was able to see in the book preview. One that spoke to me is his simple and beautiful recipe for egg and anchovy crostini.

“There is no better way to eat an egg with a runny yolk than on a nice piece of grilled bread," writes the chef. "Topping the egg with briny anchovy fillets and fresh herbs makes a great bite, and the bread turns the whole package into an extraordinary handheld snack.”

I made it last night and loved the rich flavor of the egg (make sure you invest in free-range eggs) against the anchovy and olive oil. New trick: he rubs the lemon on the toasted baguette to scent it with lemon zest.

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Cookbook watch: Jim Lahey's 'My Pizza'

PizzaJim Lahey skyrocketed from near-unknown to culinary all-star on the strength of an amazingly easy technique for making amazingly good bread. His first book "My Bread" was based on his now-famous no-knead technique, where very fluid bread doughs are slowly fermented, then roughly shaped and baked in a cast-iron pot to mimic the action of a brick oven.

Now the owner of New York's popular Sullivan Street Bakery is back with a pizza book that is based on a similar dough. He uses the same slow rise (meaning you have to plan your pizza dinners a day in advance), but from there on things go pretty quickly -- divide and shape the dough into balls and rest for another couple of hours, then stretch the dough, top and bake at high heat.

The book is amply illustrated with step-by-step photos by Squire Fox that are not only practical, but actually beautiful and Lahey carefully explains the fine points of ingredients, shaping and baking. The latter is particularly important as he emphasizes quick baking at high heat, so there are directions for getting the most out of various types of ovens and broiler placements.

Because this is pizza and not plain bread, there are plenty of recipes for different types of toppings. And if you're still stuck on his amazing no-knead bread, there's even a chapter on "Toasts" that use thick slices topped with things like homemade ricotta or cannellini beans.

"My Pizza" by Jim Lahey (Clarkson Potter, $27.50).

-- Russ Parsons

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Refreshing endive, tangerine and kumquat salad from Bradley Ogden

Endive saladThis weekend I was poking through cookbooks looking for something new to do with the tangerines weighing down our 3-year-old tree. It's armed with some powerful thorns and getting at the fruit in the center of the tree involves some deft maneuvering, not to mention thick gloves. I managed to pick a small basket. Now what?

In "Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden," I found this recipe for endive salad with tangerines and kumquats. Especially lovely if you use both regular and red endive. Trader Joe's actually packages them in three -- one white and two red. Added bonus, the recipe enabled me to use the kumquats on the potted tree outside the kitchen door. I needed to pick them so the new crop will come in.

I love the sweetness of the tangerines with the bitter crunchy endive and sweet yet tart kumquats. Peeling the tangerines is easy: just remember to remove any stringy pith. Endive isn't the exotic green it once was and can be found at most markets, which makes last-minute less of a chore.

Adapted from "Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden: 150 Festive Recipes for Bringing Family and Friends Together" (Running Press, 2011, 280 pages, $30).

To make six servings, separate the leaves of six heads Belgian endive. In a medium bowl, mix 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice with 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add the endive leaves and toss to coat. Peel six tangerines and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Cut 18 kumquats into 1/8 inch slices. Arrange the leaves on six salad plates, top with tangerine slices and sprinkle with the kumquats. Serve immediately.

I added ribbons of fresh mint.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Endive salad. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Cooking with: Ross-on-Wye Perry

PerryWorking my way through British food writer Nigel Slater's "Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard," I came across a recipe for pork shoulder roasted in perry.

Perry? Made from fermented pears, perry's common in Britain, especially in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Commercial perry recently also has been called "pear cider," but some still make a distinction between the two. Traditionally, they're produced slightly differently. Specific varieties of pears are grown for perry (with names such as Mumblehead and Red Huffcap). 

My corner wine shop happened to carry Ross-on-Wye Perry. From the little town of Ross-on-Wye, it's a traditional rustic perry made by cidermaker Mike Johnson, fermented in barrels with naturally-occurring, wild yeasts. Ross-on-Wye is known for experimenting with a variety of barrels, such as rum, whiskey and brandy, for fermenting its pear juice. 

The Ross-on-Wye Medium Dry Still Perry isn't carbonated and no sugar is added, so it isn't bubbly and isn't much sweet. It recalls mead or a dry white port. It's suited for cooking. "Perry is an astonishing drink -- refreshing, dry and fruity," Slater writes. "A small bottle upended into a pot roast will ensure a moist result and leave you with a decent amount of fruity pot juices to spoon over." And it did.  

Ross-on-Wye Perry, about $9 for 500ml, available at Buzz, 460 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, (213) 622-2222, www.buzzwinebeershop.com. 

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Photo: Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times

New cookbook: 'Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard' by Nigel Slater

Ripe1The U.S. edition of Nigel Slater's latest cookbook, "Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard," is pretty irresistible. Starting with the cover -- a photo of juicy baked apricots in a syrup of lemon verbena, star anise and vanilla pods that makes you pine for late-summer stone-fruit season. The book, to be released April 10, is the companion to British food writer Slater's "Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch."

Each chapter is an ode to a fruit from his 40-foot garden: apples, apricots, blackberries, black currants, blueberries, cherries, damsons, elderberries, figs, gooseberries, grapes.... And on. There are 24 chapters in all, including one on medlars and sloes (or blackthorns). 

I'm already staining my copy. On Sunday, I baked blueberry batter pudding, which is a clafoutis. And it's a clafoutis just how I like it: more eggy and custardy than cakey. Straight from the oven, its edges are puffy and browned but its interior is loose and silky; when it's still hot it's almost a dessert version of the Japanese savory custard chawanmushi. The batter has little sugar and flour, lots of blueberries, whole milk and light cream (I used half-and-half) and four eggs. I'm glad I had fresh eggs from Kendor Farm that I picked up at McCall's Meat & Fish. I ate more than half of the batter pudding last night with vanilla ice cream. This morning, I had it cold for breakfast with my coffee (Trystero's Rwandan), and it was just as delicious.

A majority of the recipes are on the sweet side (they're also rustic and, I'm guessing, like the clafoutis, not too sweet): a cake of pears, muscovado and maple syrup; a crumbly, upside-down tart of figs; rose water meringue with black currants and cream. A handful of fools and bettys. But there are also plenty of savory dishes. Like plum tabbouleh; twice-cooked ham with damson gin sauce; a salad of chicken, mint and peaches. From the walnuts chapter, I made "a 'new' Waldorf salad," which gets a tangy bite from folding crème fraîche in with the mayonnaise for the dressing, which also has mint and parsley. 

Some straddle the line between sweet and savory: goat cheese and thyme scones to eat with pears, black grape focaccia or raspberry cranachan. "The magical combination of oats and raspberry is experienced nowhere better than in the classic Scottish cranachan," Slater writes. I like his head notes. 

Next recipes I'm going to try are a Sunday roast of pork, perry (pear cider) and pears and the deeply appley apple crumble. It sounds promising. Still can't wait for apricots. 

See the jump for the recipe for blueberry batter pudding. 

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Photo: "Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard"; Credit: Ten Speed Press.

Continue reading »

Bakespace and Cookbook Cafe out to 'democratize' the cookbook world

Cookbook_cafe_Hey you -- you look like a cookbook author.

Babette Pepaj, the L.A. entrepreneur who founded Bakespace, has created a D.I.Y. cookbook platform that turns everyone -- yes, including you -- into a cookbook author. The platform allows users to create both a searchable and interactive e-book and an iPad app that works across a variety of devices, no charge. The cookbooks are then made available at an online shop at Bakespace, called Cookbook Cafe, or on iTunes.

Pepaj says Cookbook Cafe aims to "democratize" the cookbook publishing landscape which, let's face it, leaves most of the food world on the outside looking in. (Unless you are a celebrity chef, a food blogger with a million followers, or the winner of Fox's "MasterChef," your chances of landing a cookbook deal are slim.)

"But everyone has at least one good recipe in them," says Pepaj. "This is a way to share that recipe with everyone, and get paid for it."

Cookbook Cafe only moved out of testing stage earlier this month, but it is already making a splash. It's a finalist at the International Assn. of Culinary Professionals Awards taking place on Monday in New York. It was nominated in the "Most Intriguing Use of Technology" category.

There is no charge for creating the cookbook, or making it available through iTunes via the Cookbook Cafe's storefront. "The only charge is if you make a sale," Pepaj said. However, Pepaj envisions that many of the cookbooks will be given away by charities looking to raise awareness about their cause, or food bloggers culling together their favorite recipes in a bid to build an online audience.

“We're finding that people have great ideas, but they can't get discovered. To even just get 'found,' to get past your friends and family, is really hard to do," she said. "With Cookbook Cafe, people can not only discover, they can get discovered."

Continue reading »

Seattle chef taps Kickstarter to fund app and ebook

 

Every week I get an email from Kickstarter highlighting three projects for possible funding. Former Los Angeles Times food editor and LA Weekly editor Laurie Ochoa’s literary journal Slake showed up one week. She and fellow editor Joe Donnelly were trying to raise enough funds to publish issue No. 4 of the Los Angeles literary journal. And they did: It’s due out soon.

Last week Seattle chef John Sundstrom of Lark had his project featured. He wants to build an app and ebook that features Lark recipes. I’ve been to his restaurant several times. It’s one of my favorites in Seattle.

"This will not be a traditional cookbook. It will be an app for both Apple and Android platforms, featuring over 90 of John's recipes inspired by the Pacific Northwest, beautiful photography, step-by-step instructions, and videos of John in the kitchen and in the field. An ebook and limited edition print version will follow."

What's interesting is that Kickstarter donors will have the chance to participate in the process. Seattle residents can take advantage of invitations to recipe tastings, preview events and behind-the-scenes video shoots. But everybody who signs on "will have a chance to 'test drive' recipes yourself as they are developed, and share feedback through exclusive access to 'Roughcuts' video clips."

Like most Kickstarter projects, pledging certain amounts will get you different benefits. Pledge $10 or more and you’ll get Lark Roughcuts (weekly access to new recipes, videos and updates on the progress of the project). Donors of $25 get all that plus their choice of a copy of the finished app, iBook or ebook. $100 or more? All of the above plus a custom letterpress print of a recipe from the cookbook. $250 donors get invited to an intimate cooking class. And bigtime donors ($1,000 or more) get a one-of-a-kind tasting menu for two with wine pairings at Lark. For the three backers (so far) who have donated $5,000 or more, the chef will throw a dinner party at their house. 

The project will be funded on Friday, April 6, so you still have 42 days to participate and join the 384 backers who have so far pledged to donate.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Video: Courtesy of John Sundstrom / Lark

 

Easy fix: Bay-smoked potatoes

Cookbook author Rozanne Gold flies a bit under the wire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned her cookbooks, especially her first one, "Cooking 1-2-3: 500 Fabulous Three-Ingredient Recipes," to be met with a blank stare. Her recipes are simple but sophisticated. That first book is designed for people who like to cook but may not have time to drive all over town searching out a kazillion ingredients.

Her latest is “Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors With Breathtaking Ease” (Rodale, 339 pps., $35.) It borrows just one recipe from her earlier tome, namely bay-smoked potatoes, which I’ve been making for years now. 

Bay leafHandy that I happen to have a big bay tree in a pot outside the kitchen door. I realize, though, that I’ve been making it all this time with bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), instead of California bay, which is more aromatic. And that she uses dried leaves rather than fresh (probably because it’s unlikely anybody can find fresh leaves on the East Coast, where she lives). 

It works either way, with the bay giving the new potatoes a haunting smoky, herbal perfume. The texture is creamy, no further garnish needed. Just stick the pan in the oven an hour or so before you want to eat.

Here’s Gold’s recipe, reworded slightly to save space.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub 1½ pounds very small white new potatoes; dry well. Do not peel. Toss with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Distribute the bay leaves in a heavy ovenproof covered sauté pan. Arrange the potatoes on top of the bay leaves in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil or a cover. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and wrinkled. Transfer the potatoes and bay leaves to a platter. Serves 4.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Bay-smoked potatoes. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.

 

A cookbook from David Chang's favorite restaurant: Joe Beef

Here's the book for all you David Chang fans out there. It's called “The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts,” and it's from his favorite restaurant in the world (and that's a quote). 

Joe beef 1Never heard of it? 

Neither had I. That may be because it's in Montreal. 

From the photos inside, it looks like a real guy's place, irreverent and fun. 

In his intro to the book, Chang describes his first visit there. “The decor had a rustic, lived-in feel — the kind that makes you never want to leave. It had personality. It was alive. Those are rare and typically fleeting qualities in a restaurant.” The food, he says, was amazing. He’s now good friends with co-owners and co-authors Fred Morin and David McMillan. 

“As far as this book,” Chang continues, “I don’t think anyone can replicate what these guys do. But it’s worth trying. The food, sure, learn it. Learn to love trains, learn to weld, learn to make your own smoker, learn anything you can from these guys. I think there’s some kind of Montreal black magic to it, that it might only work up there with all those crazy French Canadians. But after checking out how many good recipes, how much secret knowledge, how much humor, and how many good stories they’ve stuck between these two covers, I am ready to be proven wrong.”

So what are these French Canadians cooking that you can cook?

Pork fish sticks (pulled pork in the shape of fish sticks), porchetta alla Joe Beef (Boston butt wrapped with pork belly and seasoned with a paste of rosemary, garlic, chile, fennel seeds, vermouth, salt, pepper and olive oil), kale for a hangover (cooked with bacon, onion, garlic and white wine), filet de boeuf (cut into thick chunks, hog-tied and roasted, served with marrow bones, gentleman steak sauce and fries), chicken skin tacos. . . and on and on. Lots of great stuff here. 

Some of them, like Hot Oysters on the Radio, mackerel Benedict or sausage martini, are just a wee bit difficult to imagine. But with this book, you'll be able to try them out and save yourself the cost of a plane ticket to Montreal in the middle of winter.

Anybody been to Joe Beef? What's it like and what did you think?

"The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts" by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley: 2011, 291 pps., $40).

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: David McMillan at the bar at Joe Beef. Credit: Jennifer May / Ten Speed Press.

Jeremiah Tower's cookbook collection, and something else

Labonne_cuisineThis is how you can get lost in the great wide Web: I was checking in on the San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant news site Inside Scoop SF and I read a beautiful post from Michael Bauer in tribute to cookbook author and cooking teacher Marion Cunningham on her 90th birthday. Writes Bauer, "She did more for American cooking than just about anyone. Her 'Fannie Farmer Cookbook,'  'Fannie Farmer Baking Book,' 'The Breakfast Book' and her other works live on.  Happy birthday, Marion.”

When I checked back in the afternoon to look at the photo of Marion in her prime again, I found a new item by Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco, revealing that Jeremiah Tower had contacted her about selling his collection of cookbooks, most of them signed. And she bought all of them. For those who don’t know the name, Tower was chef at Chez Panisse in the early days and later opened Stars in San Francisco, a glittering restaurant where all of the city's society wined and dined.

Curious, like Sack, to see what Tower's influences had been, I hopped onto Sierra_madre Omnivore’s site to see whether any of Towers’ books were left.  She still has his copy of the French classic “La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange" as well as “100 Recettes de Cuisine Russe,” a 1927 French cocktail book, and a few other regional French cookbooks from his library. 

I ended up rummaging around in the vintage category and found a 1929 cookbook from the Sierra Madre Woman’s Club for sale. “Great local ads and descriptions of subtropical fruits and their uses make this a gem. Light staining inside & out, else good. $30."

Somebody who has a sentimental attachment to Sierra Madre should pick it up for his or her collection. 

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 -- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: Courtesy of Omnivore Books on Food, San Francisco.

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.