L.A. is a home cookâ€™s paradise, with farmers’ markets galore, fantastic cheese shops and butchers, and even quality kitchen-supply stores like Surfas that can satisfy your sudden need for cannoli molds. Weâ€™ve also got an impressive collection of local cookbooks on our library shelves. There are so many great ones to choose from â€” Nancy Silverton alone has half a dozen books, and we’ve lost count with Wolfgang Puck.
For a restaurant cookbook to avoid the coffee table, the recipes need to inspire but not overwhelm. Here are a few of our bolognese-stained favorites, including a cooking tip from each. If we missed your favorite local cookbook, please comment with the deets.
New Classic Family Dinners by Mark Peel with Martha Rose Shulman (hardcover, $34.95)
Curried Waldorf salad, pommes boulangÃ¨gerie (country-style potatoes with leeks and bacon) and tweaked family classics like veal scallopini are the focus of Campanile chef Mark Peelâ€™s latest book, which just hit the shelves a few weeks ago. That home-style fried chicken recipe was penned and tested by local cookbook writer Martha Rose Shulman, so you can bet it will fry up crispy.
How to purge clams and mussels: Just before cooking, place live mollusks in a large bowl of cold water, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt, until it tastes like sea water, and let the mollusks rest in the bottom of this makeshift ocean until they spit up any sand. Rinse thoroughly in water and cook immediately.
Celebrating with Julienne by Susan Campoy (hardcover, $40)
Celebratory meals, from Thanksgiving dinners to Hollywood bowl picnics, are the focus of Susan Campoy’s luscious book, which she finished not long before succumbing to breast cancer last spring. The longtime caterer and proprietor of Julienne in San Marino shared almost all of her recipes, including many of her mother’s desserts, but the famed rosemary-currant bread remains a secret.
How to make almost any fall/winter dessert more elegant: Top with frosted cranberries, which you make by dipping each cranberry in beaten egg white, rolling in sugar, and letting dry on wax paper at room temperature.
The Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook by Amelia Saltsman (paperback, $22.95)
EAT LAâ€™s own Amelia Saltsman created a cookbook that’s as practical as it is inspired, with easy-to-make dishes featuring local, seasonal ingredients, most of which are found at farmers’ markets. Recipes include a rustic eggplant, tomato and herb casserole â€” featuring those creamy eggplants that are at their peak right now â€” and a pummelo, fennel and radish salad to highlight those Flora Bella Farms winter citrus fruits that are coming soon.
How to peel peaches: Itâ€™s as easy as peeling a tomato. Drop two at a time in boiling water for 30 seconds, and the skin will slip right off.
Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber (hardcover, $35)
Suzanne Goinâ€™s first cookbook is a venerable classic, starring recipes from Lucquesâ€™s beloved Sunday night dinners. The recipes, arranged by season, aren’t exactly complicated, although they do require a bit of time. The reason those Lucques short ribs are so good? Theyâ€™re marinated overnight, sauteed to a golden brown, then braised in port for several hours. While youâ€™re waiting, whip up broccoli with burrata cheese, pine nuts and an anchovy vinaigrette.
How to fix spaghetti carbonara: If youâ€™ve added raw eggs to your carbonara and the pasta looks soupy, place the pasta in a stainless steel bowl and put it directly over a very low flame. Stir for a few seconds to cook the eggs just enough until they coats the pasta (too much and the eggs will scramble).