Welcome to this year's Piglet Community Picks! Until the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks kicks off in March, we'll be posting weekly reviews of the best new books you cooked from in 2018—written by you. To see other reviews, head here. And to catch up on the books that made it into the main tournament, look no further.
California brings with it images of colorful, fresh produce in farmers’ markets, a wealth of diverse and varied cultures, and time spent with family and friends hanging out in the seemingly endless sun. This is the California that Gaby Dalkin seeks to convey in all of her recipes found in her book What’s Gaby Cooking, from the gorgeous Heirloom Cherry Tomato Tart on the front cover to her K-Town Melt-in-Your-Mouth Baby Back Ribs.
Now, this winter has been one of the coldest and rainiest winters in Southern California in a long time and I’m already ready for summer, so I decided to start with Gaby’s Summer Chipotle Chicken Cobb Salad. This cobb is packed with corn, avocados, and fresh strawberries, which give the salad a great balance of sweet, tangy, and bright flavors. The chicken calls for a marinade made with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce that leave the chicken spicy, smoky, and oh-so-moist. I would happily make and serve the chicken on its own! Although the recipe was a bit time-consuming after cooking bacon, chicken, and fresh corn, it was absolutely delicious. (Besides, I think I can cheat a little next time to cut down on the prep).
After breaking the rules and cooking out of season, I tried Gaby’s seasonal pizza for the winter: Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza. At first, I questioned what seemed like an obscene amount of garlic for two individual-sized pizzas (eight cloves!), but then I tasted this amazing pizza, the perfect marriage of garlic and bacon. I started to feel this way as the smell escaped from my oven, and it was confirmed after my first bite. The Brussels sprouts roasted in the fat of the bacon, growing soft and caramelized, and the garlic on the edges became crispy as the pizza cooked. I will absolutely be making this recipe again!
For dessert I enjoyed Gaby’s Raspberry White-Chocolate Cheesecake Cookie Bars. After letting the dessert sit for the requisite two hours in the fridge, I dug in to this crunchy, yet creamy bar. I’ve never used cream cheese in cookies before, but they were well-matched! The cheesecake layer almost melted into the cookie layer, creating the right balance between the crisp outside of a cookie and the soft interior. The raspberries added a fruity tang that complemented the cheesecake beautifully.
And what is a visit to Los Angeles without enjoying some of its amazing local food? Koreatown is one of the best places in the city to get a good meal, so I decided to try out the K-Town Beef Bowl with Kimchi. The beef, which was marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger, was deliciously sweet, which paired well with the bite of the pickled veggies and kimchi. I didn’t expect to like the herb salad much, as I’m not a huge fan of raw scallions, but I couldn’t get enough of it with the rice! The variety of flavors and textures in this bowl show Gaby’s skill in understanding the fresh and clean flavors of California produce. I really enjoyed this take on a Korean bibimbap bowl.
This book is a beautiful homage to the California that I love. Its many photographs inspire me to better enjoy the places and the people around me, as I share my favorite recipes with them. Gaby’s approach to hosting is encouraging; and in fact, my only gripe about this cookbook is that I wish it could've been filled with even more hosting advice! I appreciate Gaby’s approach to seasonal cooking, suggesting seasonal variations in most of her recipes—and I will definitely be enjoying riffs on dishes from this book in the seasons to come! Summer Fruit Galette, anyone?
"Let's talk about that Risotto With All the Variations. While Gaby went to culinary school, this is a book for people who cook at home for their families. She acknowledges that some people can get 'freaked out' by risotto because it has a reputation for being difficult to make. She then immediately calms us all down by letting us know, 'it's essentially all stirring.' And she's right. And there's really not even that much stirring! By instructing us to cook the risotto in a skillet we are able to use basic heat dispersion to do most of the work for us, meaning we only have to stir the risotto every minute or so. After thirty minutes and the addition of your favorite toppings you have a beautiful, flavorful dish to impress your friends and family, or enjoy in peace by yourself." —Amy
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