If you've ever worked in any of Goin's kitchens (disclosure, this writer has), it's not terribly surprising. Her dishes are always subtly, thoughtfully evolving from their California roots. They aren't in a hurry to be the next Twitter trend, there are no television tricks or fussy ingredients (though depending on your farmer's market access, some of the produce may be occasionally tricky to source). This is the sort of book where you'll find the hard-earned heirloom tomato, green harissa and marinated labneh salad tips your mom might have given you -- had she the culinary intellect and palate that Goin does.
The book's organization loosely mirrors A.O.C.'s menu, with chapters on Cheese, Charcuterie, Salads, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Form the Wood-Burning Oven, Desserts. As in her first book, each is then sub-divided by season. Every recipe includes wine notes from Caroline Styne, Goin's business partner and wine director. Read her wine entries, like one for the grilled leek and artichoke salad with burrata and salbitxada (a tomato-almond-chile salad from Catalonia), and you'll soon be wishing you had a Garnacha from the Montsant region in your wine fridge. (Lucky you!)
Get more, and a recipe for fattoush salad with fried pita, feta and sumac after the jump.
A sampling: The "Cheese" chapter includes young goat cheese with figs and Saba vinegar and a gorgonzola torta with walnuts in honey. Pork rillettes with pickled onions and cornichons, duck sausage with candied kumquats and speck with apples, apple balsamic and arugula inspire the "Charcuterie" pages. Later, you'll find and abundance of fish and meat dishes (striped bass with roasted beets, watercress and blood orange butter; braised duck with kale stuffing and Madeira) and vegetables (string and shell bean ragout sweet potatoes with bacon, spinach and romesco). And desserts, so many desserts. Tarts, crisps, crostatas, compotes, coupes.
Like every avid cook, even Goin still stumbles upon new finds throughout the book. Among them: a slow-roasted Romano recipe (p. 204) that evolved from her "near psychotic desire to never waste food," she jokes. The thick beans were a farmer's leftovers, so she bought them for a staff meal and discovered when slow-cooked until "completely wilted, shrunken, and concentrated in flavor" -- with red onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and as always, copious amounts of olive oil -- they were better than the tender haricots verts she was serving to guests. (Yes, it is a good idea to work the staff meal shift.)
Look closely, and you'll also recognize many of Goin's favorite ingredients. Saffron makes numerous appearances, here as arroz negro with squid and saffron aioli, English peas with saffron butter and pea shoots, and scallops with saffron potatoes and blood orange-Meyer lemon salsa. She is one of the few chefs who can make crème fraîche, for so many years touted in what seemed like every newspaper food section and magazine, still sound as tantalizingly rich and creamy as it deserves when spooned on top of crushed fingerlings or alongside sweet persimmon cakes.
This cookbook rendition is also more personal than her first, with cleverly written tales that offer a glimpse into Goin's life beyond the stove. Among them, Goin includes her 6-year-old daughter's salad dressing recipe (not surprisingly, it looks fantastic) and a hilarious lesson of evolving relationships on a trip abroad with her husband, David Lentz. "I am the goofy, overexcited, usually too-nice eternal optimist, and David is the cautious, critical, and chronically worried one who always thinks someone is breaking into the house at night," she says in the header to a lamb merguez recipe with eggplant jam, roasted cherry tomatoes and green olives.
So as not to spoil the anxiety-driven (happy) ending to that travel story, we leave you with Goin's fattoush recipe (on the next page). And better still, her philosophy on the two types of salads in this world, "those that need to be gently and carefully tossed, and the more rugged ones with bold-flavored dressings."
Turn the page for the recipe...
Fattoush salad with fried pita, cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta and sumac
From: The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin
Makes: 6 Servings
Note: From the book: "Fattoush is the Arabic word for a traditional salad made in most Middle Eastern countries, originally as a vehicle to use up stale leftover pita bread. I think I must just be a leftover lover, because so many of my favorite foods -- stuffings, daubes, terrines, meringues -- all evolved from using up excess or old product so it wouldn't go to waste. Traditionally, the stale pita is torn into bigger-than-bite-sized pieces, fried, and then tossed with lettuces and seasonal vegetables.
"I'm sure there are as many "recipes" for fattoush as there are cooks, but I credit the key to our delicious version to Brian Wolff--one of our A.O.C. chefs in the early days, who was determined to make a better fattoush than the one he ate every Sunday at the local Middle Eastern restaurant in his San Fernando Valley neighborhood. Besides, of course, the super-farm-fresh ripe and crispy ingredients, the secret behind this salad is the dressing--and it's the touch of cream in the dressing that really brings this fattoush to greatness.
"For me there are two types of salads, the ones that need to be gently and carefully tossed, and the more rugged ones with bold-flavored dressings--like escarole with anchovies and Parmesan, the farro salad with spring vegetables, and this fattoush, which I like to toss really well, almost massaging the dressing into the greens and other components. The flavors and textures really need to be brought together and integrated to create one glorious whole. It's amazing to me that you can give the same ingredients, and even the same dressing, to two different cooks, and, between the seasoning and the way the salad is dressed and tossed, you can end up with two very different results. So remember to toss this salad well; get your hands in there, make sure every element is getting well coated, and taste. You actually want the tomatoes to break up a tiny bit, so their juices meld with the creamy lemon dressing and bring all the flavors of the salad together."
3 pita breads
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 large heads romaine lettuce
1 small red onion
3 Persian cucumbers, or 1 hothouse cucumber
½ pint cherry tomatoes
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus ½ cup whole fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ pound feta cheese
¼ cup mint leaves
1 tablespoon ground sumac
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the pita bread into rustic 1-inch squares, and toss, using your hands, with 3 tablespoons olive oil until the pita is well coated and satu¬rated. Spread on a baking sheet, and toast for about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the pita squares are golden and crispy. (You can also deep-fry the pita if you like.)
2. Using a mortar and pestle (or the side of a knife on a cutting board), crush the garlic clove with a little salt, and then transfer it to a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and a heaping ¼ tea¬spoon salt to the bowl. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup olive oil, and the cream. Taste for balance and seasoning.
3. Cut each head of romaine in half lengthwise, and place them cut-side down on a cutting board. Make three long slices lengthwise, then turn the romaine and chop across the slices into ½-inch-sized pieces. Clean the lettuce, spin it dry, and place in a large mixing bowl.
4. Thinly slice the onion. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, and cut them on the diagonal into ¼-inch-thick slices. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Add the onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes to the romaine, and toss with the dressing, the chopped parsley, toasted pita, half the feta, ¼ teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Taste for balance and seasoning. Gently toss in the whole parsley and mint leaves, and arrange on six dinner plates. Sprinkle the remaining 2 ounces feta and the sumac over the top of the salads.
Wine notes from Caroline Styne
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"This is one of my all-time favorite A.O.C. salads, and one that I have prob¬ably eaten over a hundred times. Though the crispy pita adds an indulgent, rich crunch, the essence of this salad is very clean, calling for a wine that is similarly so. I've found that the best match for this dish is a white wine with a savory core and notes of bright-green herbs, like Assyrtiko from Greece, which is lean, refreshing, and kind of unfruity. The wine almost becomes an extension of the salad, creating a seamless connection between the two, while also allowing the sweetness of the tomatoes to shine through."
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