Whenever I open a new cookbook, I ask myself one key question: who is this book for?
For The L.A. Cookbook, the answer is simple: everyone. Every one of us would benefit from this cookbook, everyone of us will find several recipes here that we are going to love and serve often in our homes. This beautiful book features 100 recipes from 100 restaurants stretched across Greater LA [Los Angeles and Orange counties].
LA and Orange counties are huge, the size of Connecticut. So, using this book to actually visit these wonderful new restaurants, you’ll want a full tank of gas and Goggle maps by your side. It would take a long time, and hundreds of miles, to sample these recipes.
Ah, but you don’t need that odyssey at all. You can bring this book to your kitchen and cook away. What kinds of food are here? Again, there is something for everyone. How about a homemade Watermelon Soda? Or Pistachio Mole made with tomatillos, serranos and cilantro? Your chips will never be the same again.
There is the Turkey Meatloaf with Ammo Ketchup. Ammo is the name of the restaurant and, as good as the meatloaf looks, it is the ketchup that will catch your attention: a mixture of cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, celery seeds, red pepper flakes, allspice, vinegar, onion, chiles, and cloves. Oh, yes, tomatoes, too. The headnote for this recipe is very clear: “I can promise Ammo’s ketchup will enter your pantry repertoire and never leave.” I’m making this recipe as soon as I can get fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes. No canned or limp winter tomatoes!
The best thing about this book is the inspiration it provides to try something new, something upscale, something that will challenge you. Have you ever salt-baked a main course? Probably not, but it is a classic way to make the best, most moist beef rounds or pork loin or fish. Look at this Salt-Crusted Branzino alla Puttanesca:
It’s gorgeous and inviting. Better yet, it’s easy to do. Truly easy.
Now, less easy, but surely satisfying are the dessert ideas in The L.A. Cookbook. How about a Meyer Lemon Gelato Pie with Champagne Vinegar and Candied Lemon Zest? You’ll need an afternoon for that one. Or, consider a vanilla cake, made with sour cream, and adorned with lemon and raspberry buttercream — plus some fruit, actually lots of fruit. This is the “Fallen Fruit” Cake from the most talented Valerie Gordon.
The L.A. Cookbook is a rich encyclopedia of contemporary food. L.A. has become a massive global marketplace and a culinary melting pot that rivals any city on earth. Part of the story of this book is tracing the paths of the chefs. After the economic collapse in 2008, serious main street restaurants closed, proposed restaurants were never built. A wave of talent flowed across Greater LA, filling little spaces in towns far and wide. The spaces may be small, may be out of the way, but the food is world class. And that wonderful L.A. table is open for you here in a terrific book.
I think if you pick up a copy and browse, you will find The L.A. Cookbook more than inviting. You’ll find it essential.