Book Review: Koreatown


Koreatown: A Cookbook, by Deuki Hong, is a wonderful mix of delicious recipes and guide to the Koreatown food scene.  Chef Hong is chef at the popular New York City K-town restaurant, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong.  So far I have made the kalbi (grilled beef short ribs), Korean fried chicken, kimchi fried rice (that includes a ton of bacon), and various sides including a delicious potato salad, jap chae, kimchi, bean sprouts, and spinach.  I have made the kalbi twice already, the marinade imparts a ton of flavor, and it goes amazingly well with the ssam jang, an intense mix of gochujang (red pepper paste), garlic, and fermented soybean paste (doenjang).  The Korean fried chicken was also outstanding, crispy, hot, and tossed in a soy-garlic coating.  There was even a quick recipe to doctor up some Shin ramen with American cheese and an egg, which is actually a pretty good meal in a pinch.  I probably won’t make the kimchi again – the fermenting daikon, cucumbers, and even pineapple made my entire refrigerator smell like kimchi.  Luckily, there are some Korean grocery stores in the Bay Area that prepare many varieties of kimchi.  Overall, I would highly recommend this cookbook for some delicious Korean home cooking.

Link to Koreatown: A Cookbook here.

Breakfast in LA: Sqirl, Huckleberry, Eggslut, The Larder


LA has a number of great breakfast spots.  My favorite is Sqirl, run by Chef Jennifer Koslow.  At Sqirl they serve unique grain bowls that are savory, brightly acidic, herbaceous, and deliciously well-balanced.  I really liked their signature dish, the sorrel pesto rice, which comes with tangy goat cheese, pickled radishes and a runny egg.  Another delicious grain bowl is their crispy rice with herbs (add an egg and sausage).  Here in the Bay Area we have $4 toast, and at Sqirl they make an incredible avocado toast with creme fraiche and pickled carrots, and a brioche toast with homemade jam and ricotta.  They also make some specials, salads and sandwiches for lunch, and baked goods (cakes, cookies).  As in LA, one must drive there (on Virgil near Silver Lake), and I have always been able to find neighborhood parking.  There is seating both inside and out, and usually a line (get there early). Several of Chef Koslow’s recipes have been published in a feature in Bon Appetit, and a cookbook will be published Fall 2016.

Another of my favorites is HuckleberryI have been baking regularly from Chef Zoe Nathan’s beautiful cookbook before I tried the actual restaurant, which is a bright and cheerful place in Santa Monica.  They have a display case with all of their delicious baked goods, and one can also order breakfast dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Eggslut is located in the bustling downtown LA food hall Grand Central Market.  They make egg sandwiches and their signature coddled egg on top of potatoes that is poached in a small glass jar.  Delicious.

I am a big fan of Chef Suzanne Goin and her collection of restaurants in LA.  The Larder, in Hollywood, serves up delicious breakfast fare and baked goods in a casual atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

Cookbook Review: Huckleberry


Someday I would love to open a place like Huckleberry, a bakery/breakfast/lunch venue in Santa Monica, CA.  I first became aware of Huckleberry when they were featured in Bon Appetit several years ago with a recipe for a delicious cornmeal blueberry cake.  Now Chef Zoe Nathan has chronicled many recipes in the Huckleberry cookbook, and I have thoroughly enjoyed baking from the book for the past few months.

The book is divided into several sections including muffins, cakes, scones, breads, fried pastries, sandwiches, and grain bowls.  What is immediately noticeable is the use of various different kinds of flours.  All-purpose flour is still the mainstay, but other flours are incorporated including whole wheat, rye, bread flour, wheat germ, and nut flours like pistachio and almond.  These different flours result in a more complex crumb and flavor and hopefully healthier recipes as well with the use of whole grains.

Healthy does not mean lack of flavor.  So far the recipes have been outstanding, with excellent versions of chocolate-chip muffins, chocolate walnut banana bread, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and whole-wheat raisin scones.  The most impressive were the pistachio-lemon cake, the cara cara orange galette, and the pear whole-wheat crumb cake, all of which drew raves.

The one recipe I tried that failed was the cover recipe for blueberry brioche.  This recipe called for double the flour that was required, so there was not enough egg to bind the dough.  I saved it by adding two additional eggs, but the ratio of other ingredients like butter and sugar was then off.  Chronicle Books sent me the following list of corrections:

Huckleberry ingredient and measurement corrections:

Page 43: In the ingredient list, MUFFINS, 5th entry (1 tbsp cracked) “wheat, chai seeds,” should be “wheat, chia seeds,”

Page 105: In the ingredient list, 4th line (bread flour), “1 3/4 cups/185 g” should be “1 3/4 cups/215 g”

Page 108: In the ingredient list, 4th line (all-purpose flour), “+ 2 tbsp/280 g” should be “+ 2 tbsp/140 g”; 5th line (bread flour): “+ 2 tbsp/280 g” should be “+ 2 tbsp/140 g”

The corrected version made an excellent brioche punctuated by a ribbon of fresh blueberries that was delicious hot out of the oven.  Overall, this is a great book for impressive breakfast pastries and brunch recipes, introduces a unique use of different flours, and contains a bunch of keepers.  Huckleberry takes a place among my favorite baking cookbooks including Momofuku Milk Bar, Tartine, Flour, and Bouchon Bakery.

Link to Huckleberry cookbook here.

Cookbook Review: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


Jerusalem: A Cookbook is the third cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, following Ottolenghi and Plenty.  Ottolenghi is a UK-based chef who has several restaurants and take-out delis in London.  There was an amazing write-up in the New York Times in July 2013 about how Jerusalem was the cookbook of the moment.  I recently got a copy and can now understand why the book has been so popular.

In Jerusalem there is a convergence of Jewish traditions from Israel and Europe and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences.  One of the authors is Israeli, and the other is Palestinian, and the dishes in the book reflect those influences, highlighting unique flavors from the region.

The book is divided into sections based on ingredient or type of dish, such as meat, fish, stuffed, and meatballs.  Like Plenty and Ottololenghi, vegetables often are the star of the dish.  The book has gorgeous photographs of the finished dish for most recipes as well as from the city of Jerusalem.

So far, every dish I have tried has been a winner, with bold but balanced and flavorful cooking, fragrant with exotic spices and herbs.  In terms of difficulty, the recipes are mostly all in the easy to moderately difficult range.  Look for upcoming individual recipe reviews with step-by-step photographs for hummus, kawarma, turkey and zucchini meatballs, chocolate krantz cake, and the fantastic chicken with caramelized onions and cardamom rice.

Some recipes requires certain equipment: food processor to make hummus, a stand mixer to mix dough for the chocolate krantz cake.  More importantly, the Jerusalem cookbook also requires many specialty ingredients that cannot be easily substituted: spices such as sumac and whole cardamom pods, pomegranate molasses, date syrup.  Most ingredients can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores.  I found many of these ingredients, including thick labneh yogurt at Crossroads Market in Palo Alto.  They also sell spices in bulk, which is a bargain.  Penzey’s Spices also carries cardamom pods, sumac, and za’atar.   Many recipes feature lamb, which can be somewhat hard to find.  Most supermarkets have lamb chops but not other cuts or ground lamb.  In the Bay Area, several farmer’s market sellers carry cuts of lamb.

Highly recommended.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

The A.O.C. Cookbook Suzanne Goin Book Tour


Chef Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Chef Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Suzanne Goin is a James Beard Award-winning chef, owner of four restaurants in Los Angeles, and author of one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at LucquesSunday Suppers was a massive hit, and I have cooked so many delicious meals from it over the years and still go back to it.  She thankfully resisted her editors’ wishes to make things simple a la 30-Minute Meals, because if you are going to take time to cook, it should be delicious.  Her food is seasonal, inspired by local produce, with layers of balanced flavors and textures. Eight years after coming out with Sunday Suppers, Chef Goin has just released The A.O.C. Cookbook, and was recently in the Bay Area for a book tour.  Chef Goin told the story of how she opened the restaurant Lucques in LA about fifteen years ago with the philosophy of serving food that she would like to eat, rather than targeting a specific demographic, and in a more welcoming environment than some of the stuffy fine dining restaurants in LA at the time.  At Lucques there was a lively bar scene, focused on wine, but it was limited to a small space.  She wanted to create that same type of atmosphere but in a larger venue, and thus the A.O.C. wine bar and restaurant was born.  There they serve cheese, charcuterie, salads, wood-fire oven cooked items, and desserts, all served on small plates to be enjoyed with wine.  For The A.O.C. Cookbook, Chef Goin has modified the small plates served at A.O.C. into more traditionally sized main courses serving six people.  Readers of Sunday Suppers will find the format and layout of the recipes very familiar.  There is more explanation on why different flavor combinations appear in each dish and similarly, why specific wines are chosen, with wine notes for every dish by sommelier/co-owner Caroline Styne.

Chef Goin answered questions from the audience.  How does she split her time among four restaurants?  The menus at the restaurants change twice per season, and these changes are staggered such that she will often stay at one restaurant for one week for their change, then oversee the change at the next restaurant.  She has gone from focusing on perfection for every protein while working at the grill, to stepping back and enjoying the big picture with well-trained staff in place at each restaurant.  Where do they get their produce?  All sourced from local farmers in Southern California, from Santa Barbara to Inland to San Diego.  Often the farmers will bring new products that Chef Goin will then incorporate or make into a dish.  What about work-life balance?  There are trade-offs in juggling the jobs of chef, restaurant owner, author, wife, and mother, but she emphasized how important it was that when she is with her family she is present and focused on them.

Bookshop Santa Cruz is a great independent bookstore in downtown Santa Cruz and did a wonderful job hosting the event.  They served delicious recipes from the book (Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Red Vinegar, Persimmon Cake with Creme Fraiche and Candied Pecans), and later Chef Goin and Ms. Styne autographed copies of the book and chatted with attendees.  Chef Goin will be at Omnivore Books in San Francisco on November 8 at 6 pm.

Here is an Amazon link to The A.O.C. Cookbook, but use it only if you do not have a local independent bookstore that carries the book!

Cookbook Review: Tartine Bread


DSC07557Tartine Bakery in San Francisco is well-known for their rustic country bread as well as cakes, morning buns, and other baked goods.  Chef Emily Pruett released the Tartine Bakery cookbook, which has great recipes for brown butter shortbread lemon bars,  croissants, and tea cakes.  Chef Chad Robertson released the Tartine Bread cookbook two years ago, and it had been sitting on my shelf because the recipe for bread, at 37 pages, was quite intimidating.  But actually most of these pages are filled with step-by-step photos and explanations and adjustments of a bread recipe that, as I finally found out recently, is not that much more difficult than Jim Lahey’s super-easy No-Knead Bread recipe.

Unlike No-Knead Bread, Robertson’s recipe requires a yeast starter.  This can be started at home from wild yeast present in your kitchen, in a method explained in the book.  Or one can obtain starter from a local bakery.  I went to the Oakland Eat Real Festival earlier this year and obtained a starter from Sour Flour and have been feeding it in anticipation of finally using it to bake bread.  The starter should be fed every day, but it is pretty forgiving.  For example, it can be fed less often if stored in the refrigerator.  On the night before bread baking, a leaven made with starter, flour, and water is set up to aerate overnight.  The leaven is then mixed with additional flour and water, followed by a rest period of 25 to 40 minutes, and then a bulk fermentation of 3 to 4 hours.  During the bulk fermentation, the dough is turned every half hour.  The dough is then shaped into a round and then undergoes a bench rest for 20 to 30 minutes.  The dough then undergoes a final shaping and rise for 3 to 4 hours.  I had difficulty scoring the bread, so I used Ken Forkish’s method where he puts the bread in the baking vessel seam side up (this will make sense once you bake the bread).  Like with No-Knead Bread, the bread is baked in a Dutch oven to trap steam from the dough itself during the initial twenty minutes of baking.  The last twenty minutes of baking is performed with the lid removed, allowing for the development of a crackling crust.  This is a full-day project, but most of the time is non-active time.  The Tartine Bread recipe produces outstanding bread.  The bread emerges from the oven and fills the kitchen with a delicious aroma and the crackling sounds of the “music of bread.”  There is a crunchy crust and spongy, flavorful interior that makes the day well worthwhile.

The book has variations on the bread recipes, such as olive bread, and also recipes for baguettes, pizza dough, and brioche.  And there is a great section of recipes for using the bread in salads, soups, and sandwiches.  I tried the meatball sandwich recipe, with a very garlicky pesto, pillowy soft meatballs, a simple tomato sauce (add some salt to taste) and provolone that combined for a great Italian sandwich.

My favorite recipe from the book is the French Toast, the most amazing recipe for French Toast I have ever tried.  A thick slice of country bread is soaked in a custard of eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar, salt, and lemon peel.  The lemon peel I think is really the key flavor note that elevates this recipe.  The bread is cooked on a skillet until the bottom forms a seal.  Then more custard is added and the entire skillet is transferred to the oven for the additional custard to set.  The result is a beautifully caramelized crust and soft, delicious custard.  There is also an recipe for Maple-Glazed Bacon – I didn’t realize how easy it was – just cook some bacon, then coat with maple syrup and bake along with the French Toast.  Highly recommended.

Link to Tartine French Toast recipe here.

Link to Tartine Bread cookbook here.

Coming soon…


Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA (with branches in New York and Las Vegas) owned by Thomas Keller, is one of my favorite bakeries (along with Tartine and Sand Box in San Francisco; Bakesale Betty in Oakland; Flour, Clear Flour Bread, and Mike’s Pastries in Boston; and of course Momofuku Milk Bar in New York).  Bouchon Bakery makes perfect versions of classic French pastries and refined versions of American classics like ho-hos.  I have been there twice, and both times I told the person at the counter, I am going to need a bigger box…

October 23, 2012…just in time for Christmas or a belated birthday gift (hint, hint)…I will definitely be making recipes from this book when it arrives!

Link to Michael Ruhlman’s website about the making of the book here.

Cookbook Review: Momofuku Milk Bar


Momofuku Milk Bar is the new cookbook from New York-based Momofuku pastry chef Christina Tosi.  The cookbook delivers recipes for many famous items from Milk Bar bakery including Compost Cookies and Crack Pie, as well as plated desserts served at the Momofuku restaurants.  The cookbook is divided intro ten “mother recipes” like cereal milk, crunch, flavored crumbs, and liquid cheesecake that serve as the basis for many intriguing recipes.

Chef Tosi’s recipes update flavors that recall childhood, most famously cereal milk, and also successfully combine salty and sweet.  Some of the recipes have been published elsewhere, but the majority are revealed in this book for the first time.  Others are updated – for example, the cereal milk panna cotta recipe is substantially different from the one that appeared in the original Momofuku cookbook.  There are gorgeous photos.

Chef Tosi explains a lot of technique, including her method for creaming butter, sugar, and eggs to give Milk Bar cookies such great texture.  A stand mixer is essential as you have to mix for 6-8 minutes at a high speed.  She introduces some new ingredients for baking, at least to me, including liquid glucose and milk powder.   Measurements are given in grams as well as typical American measurements.  I bought a digital scale on Amazon that measures up to 1000 grams with an accuracy of 0.1 grams for around $10 that works great (as an aside, the recent popularity of small digital scales has probably not been driven by cooks alone).

I started by making the cornflake crunch, where cornflakes are tossed with milk powder, sugar, salt, and melted butter and then toasted in the oven.  Super easy, and the sweet-salty cornflake crunch clusters are really addicting and dangerous to have lying around. These can then be used as a garnish for Cereal Milk Panna Cotta or for the crust for Cereal Milk Ice Cream Pie.

I used the cornflake crunch for the Cornflake, Chocolate Chip, Marshmallow Cookies, which came out incredibly good.  Just as Chef Tosi described, the edges have a rich buttery sticky crispiness while the center of the cookies are soft.  Really impressive.

I will be making my way through the book (Blueberry and Cream Cookies, Red Velvet Ice Cream, Carrot Layer Cake) and posting recipe reviews from this outstanding cookbook.  Highly recommended.

Link to Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie recipe here.

Note on sourcing ingredients for Momofuku Milk Bar recipes in the Bay Area:  Milk powder can be found in a regular grocery store.  Trader Joe’s carries grapeseed oil.  Spun Sugar in Berkeley has the following: Valrhona Dutch-process cocoa powder ($8 for 8 oz), E. Guittard 72% and 55% chocolate in little discs that make it easier to weigh ($7.75 for 1 lb; the book recommends Valrhona chocolate, but the store did not carry the recommended percentages), 5000-count mini chocolate chips ($4 for 1 lb), citric acid, clear vanilla extract (but not McCormick brand recommended in the book), glucose syrup ($8.50 for 18 oz), rainbow sprinkles in a wide range of colors, and gelatin sheets.  Passion fruit puree I found at Crossroads World Market in Palo Alto ($14 for 1 kg).  I checked many places, including Whole Foods, for freeze-dried corn but could not find it and will probably have to order on-line.

Update January 2012: Having now made several of the recipes in the book (five different cookies, Cinnamon Bun Pie, Brownie Pie, Grapefruit Pie, Bagel Bombs), I can’t emphasize enough how on point the recipes are in terms of measurements, directions, and expected baking times.  Follow the directions and you will get something delicious.  They must have tested the hell out of these recipes.  Outstanding.

Amazon link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

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