I had an exceptionally good food week last week and wanted to share a few of my discoveries with you.
Three new cookbooks! The first is one I have been looking at on Amazon for a while, but kept hesitating; Bill’s Everyday Asian is by Aussie chef, Bill Granger. Apparently he’s quite the thing from Sydney to Tokyo – a self-taught chef turned celebrity down under. Recently he’s opened an airy all-day restaurant in Notting Hill and I stumbled upon it last week while out enjoying the first spell of springtime weather here. I was on my way to Ottolenghi to buy some of their fabulous seeds for salad and maybe a little meringue to nibble on in the sunshine, when I spotted a heaving crowd of people inside what has been a string of failed restaurants. I had to take a closer look. The name, Granger & Co. meant nothing to me, but a look at the menu slowly snapped everything into focus. I remembered reading about a new place with large windows that served famous scrambled eggs all day with some blonde Australian chef. I had tucked it way at the back of my mental Rolodex of things to do in London (because, scrambled eggs, really?) but now was intrigued by the crowds massing for early lunch mid-week. I managed to get a seat at the bar – another thing I greatly appreciate and London needs to catch on to more because as a single diner (which I often am) there’s a camaraderie that a barstool allows for that a table for one simple does not.
The menu at Granger & Co. is exactly what this city needs. It’s a breath of fresh air, lightening up the often stodgy, vegetable-deficient, homogeneous feel that is present in too much of what I find here. Granger brilliantly combines Asian and Mediterranean and California and South American flavors with Continental tastes. There are substantial salads (halleluiah) and interesting sandwiches and curries and breakfast. I could hardly decide. Finally I settled on the parmesan crumbed chicken schnitzel with fennel slaw. The cheerful bartender told me I had made a good choice (don’t you sort of hate it when they do that because are they going to tell you if you made a bad choice?) and I happily waited and watched the ladies who glycolic peel and botox, gossip and pick at their salad greens.
The food really was terrific. Somehow the chicken breasts, even in their flattened, schnitzeled state, remained juicy and the parmesan crumbs were full of flavor. I liked that they served it with a freshly grilled lemon half on top which filled my plate with a powerful lemon scent and the heated oils in the zest rubbed off onto the chicken perfectly. The fennel slaw had radish rounds, parsley, red onion, red chillies and mint in a light honey and orange dressing – lovely and sweet and cool and crunchy in contrast to the chicken.
On my way to the toilet I saw piles of Bill Granger’s books and decided I would finally quit hesitating and get his Everyday Asian. Over the weekend I made his Salt & Pepper Tofu with a lemon soy dipping sauce and his Chilli Green Beans. I will be coming back and dragging my husband along. Granger & Co. offers four different menus and if each is as deceptively simple and packed with interesting combinations as this lunch menu was, I may have found a new spot.
My other cookbook discoveries were a little less dramatic and delicious but they both promise many fun hours in the kitchen. First, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life is by Beatrice Peltre. She grew up in France and now lives with her husband and daughter in Boston. It is absolutely inspiring for any of you out there who enjoy cooking and she plays with really interesting uses of grains because these are gluten-free recipes. I love her food philosophy, her photography, and her culinary sensibilities. Another French woman who does it all with grace and style. Check out her blog here: http://www.latartinegourmande.com/
The jury is still out on my final cookbook, but I had read so much about it and it won the Piglet Award from Food52, that I caved and decided I had to join in the hype. The Art of Living According To Joe Beef, A Cookbook of Sorts. Hmmmmm? The recipes are not ones that I’ll be sharpening my knives in preparation for. They are a little too irreverent and too clever by half for me. Everything sounds terrifically rich and so laden with calories that they should offer coupons for an appointment with your cardiologist with every dish. But it is beautiful and the prose (what I’ve read so far – it’s dense!) is well turned. I’ll get back to you.
Other swoon-inducing culinary delights last week…..
Making any of Jeni Britton Bauer’s ice creams from her book. I made her Lemon Cream Ice Cream in preparation for husband’s homecoming and can barely keep myself out of the freezer the stuff is so good. I’ve also made her Salted Caramel Ice Cream, her Beet Ice Cream with Mascarpone, Orange and Poppy Seeds, her Chocolate. Run out and get this book and you will always want to have homemade ice cream in your freezer.
Blue Eggs at Borough Market (see the picture up top?). I have an upcoming Easter project that I will write about later, but it requires blue eggs and I was worried about finding them. There they were at Borough Market with chicken crap and feathers decorating their delicate blue shells. More on the market later this week and more on the eggs soon!
Chocolate Sables from Miette bakery in San Francisco. They are maybe the only thing from that city that I miss (besides my lovely sister and her husband). I was craving them this weekend and also thought they might go very nicely with the Lemon Cream Ice Cream I had in the freezer. What to do? Well, the recipe is available online and I’m posting it here because these are my favorite chocolate cookies of all time.
Makes about thirty-six 1-inch square cookies
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces 70 percent cacao chocolate, grated
1. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a bowl and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until lightened, about 4 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and grated chocolate and mix just to combine.
3. If the dough is soft, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (The dough will keep, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.) Otherwise, roll out the dough 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured work surface into a 6-by-7-inch rectangle. Using a ruler, square the edges as much as possible. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1-inch squares. Place them 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies until they are firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.