9.21.2019

Something For Everyone + A Cookbook Review

I haven’t done a cookbook review on Cocoa & Lavender for a long time, but it’s not because I haven’t been asked. It is simply that none of those offered has appealed to me.

I’m a wee bit picky about which cookbooks I’ll review—I am not into fad diets, single-ingredient books (chia, for example), nor am I interested in some movie or television star’s favorite family recipes.

I want good food, creative use of ingredients, great flavor, and plated artistry. Is that too much to ask?

Recently I was approached by Figure 1 Publishing with a request to review their September 10 release: East Bay Cooks. A couple of sample pages were attached, and they were beautiful. For the first time in years, I said yes.

Note: I was sent a complimentary digital copy of East Bay Cooks by Carolyn Jung to review. All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this post, other than the PDF copy of the book, and some wonderful playtime in my kitchen.

East Bay Cooks has quickly become one of my favorite cookbooks. So much so, I have ordered a hardcover print edition for my home library. That is not something I often do when sent a review copy.

The East Bay (the area east of San Francisco Bay) has become a Mecca for fine dining. From my Bay Area friends, I hear this is because San Francisco proper has become so costly that food industry workers—chefs included—can no longer afford to live in the city. Thus, their migration to the East Bay.

The book features recipes from 41 restaurants (two from each), representing the work of 54 chefs, and a wide variety of cuisines, along with the chefs’ bios and their philosophies. (A full list of the restaurants follows the recipe.)

Some of the chefs come from the greatest kitchens in the United States, including Chez Panisse and The French Laundry.

Others bring family and cultural traditions from home and from the heart, each with their own stamp of individual creativity.

While none of the recipes is overly difficult, some are complicated and a bit time consuming. For me, that is a plus, because making a complicated recipe is like therapy that tastes good!

The recipes cover the full range including cocktails and starters, main dishes, sides, and desserts. Many international cuisines are represented, as well.

Truly, there is something in here for everyone. And a lot in here for you! This is a wonderful cookbook and I definitely recommend getting it if you enjoy creative, inspired, and flavorful food.

In preparation for this post, I made several of the recipes in the book, all of which were excellent. I have chosen to share the Lamb Larb recipe by chef Brett Halfpap from Belcampo in Oakland. This is his take on a traditional Laotian dish. Sourcing the ingredients was fun, as we have a great Asian market in Tucson. But if you don’t have an Asian market nearby, most everything is easily available online.

Lamb Larb
Recipe by Brett Halfpap, Belcampo from East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries, September 2019 by Carolyn Jung. Published by Figure 1 Publishing.

2 tablespoons glutinous (sticky) rice - a.k.a. Sweet Rice
1 tablespoon rice bran oil or grapeseed oil
1 pound ground lamb
3 small shallots, finely chopped
3 red Thai chiles, sliced diagonally (divided)
1 tablespoon togarashi (Japanese chili powder)
6 tablespoons yuzu juice *
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated palm sugar or dark brown sugar
1 small bunch mint, leaves only, sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 scallion, sliced diagonally (divided)
Butter lettuce leaves, to serve


* if you can’t find yuzu juice, use 5 tablespoons lime juice and 1 tablespoon orange juice.
In a small frying pan set over medium heat, toast rice for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool. Using a pestle and mortar, grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

Heat oil in a cast-iron frying pan over high heat, until it barely begins to smoke. Add lamb and sear for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottom is crisp. Using a spatula, break up the meat, add shallots and half of the Thai chiles, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn heat down to low.

Stir in togarashi and the ground glutinous rice and cook for 30 seconds. Add yuzu juice, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add mint, cilantro, and half the scallions.

Arrange lettuce leaves on one side of a serving plate and spoon lamb larb mixture onto the other side. Arrange remaining chiles and scallions off to the side of the plate. Spoon lamb larb onto a lettuce leaf, garnish to taste with chiles and scallions, fold up, and enjoy.

Serves 4-6 as a starter.




26 comments:

  1. Thank you David, this is priceless for me, since I drive through part of the East Bay when I come back from the mountains.

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    1. This book will be perfect for you, Gerlinde - I wish I lived closer!

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  2. Darn you, David Scott Allen - I was on a successful cookery book moratorium until I saw this ! Guess where I am going next Make larb often and your recipe will be faithfully copied soonest ! Interesting to see your ingredient labels none of which match ours. Also interesting that in Australia each and every one of your ingredients would be available even in the smallest country supermarket. I cook over 70% Asian but have not been in an 'Asian' supermarket over the past x years !! Shichimi togarashi I would use most days . . . a lovely Japanese spice mix but, David, I would not call it a chilli one with all the seeds and other stuff in it . . .it is NOT hot: well, Down Under it is not !!

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    1. I think you are so fortunate to have such grocery stores, Eha! I suppose your proximity to Asia helps! 😊 Still, in a way, having specialty stores to visit is like a mini vacation for me! The togarishi is actually quite spicy even thought it also has so many other flavorful ingredients! Enjoy the Larb and I’m sorry I ruined your cookbook moratorium!

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  3. I'm not sure how you do it. That dish sounds delicious, but would be difficult to photograph. Not for you, it looks fabulous.

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    1. I did have my concerns about the photo, Carolyne! Good lighting and a few good garnishes help!

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  4. Really delicious ! Thank you for recommending the book David !

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    1. My copy just arrived and I am so excited to start staining the pages, Davorka!

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  5. Well, David, if you recommend it, I'll surely grab a copy! And it sounds amazing! My daughter lives in Berkeley, so we spend a lot of time in the SF area eating our way the most amazing restaurants. This book is a real treasure!

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    1. Kelly - you are so lucky that your daughter lives in the epicenter of East Bay Foodie Heaven! I think you will enjoy the book!

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  6. David, the lamb larb looks wonderful. What an excellent post, review and cook. I must say I also enjoyed your images as well. In my humble opinion, a cookery book should be just that, a book. One that tells a story not just provide a list of recipes. That's why East Bay Cooks sounds so interesting as I can see it tells a story. I've just checked with our online bookseller (bokus) and it is due to arrive here in Sweden September 26th. I'll be placing an order for East Bay Cooks because if you liked the book, I know you will.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly, Ron - and I didn’t realize it till you pointed it out that the stories are what make the best cookbooks! And, IMHO, the best blogs. Sharing food is so much more than sharing recipes... I hope you and Eva enjoy the fruits of the book! Glad it will be available so soon in Sweden!

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  7. Looks and sounds wonderful! Yes, cookbook reviews can be difficult on so many levels. Glad you decided to take on this one, though!

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    1. I really have gotten picky, Christina - my blog isn’t about promotion but, instead, sharing. I really feel this cookbook did a great job of that.

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  8. I love larb- the combination of the fresh crunchy lettuce with meat! There are certainly lots of interesting flavors in this recipe, including the Japanese chili powder.I've just joined Amazon Prime- do I dare order another cookbook?

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    1. The Japanese chile powder is the best! The orange zest (one fo the ingredients) was the biggest surprise and it adds so much flavor! Glad you are on board with Amazon Prime... it’s dangerous, though—be careful!

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  9. Great review! Glad the book is good -- I know Carolyn, virtually speaking (I read her blog). She's really thorough in her recipes (on her blog at least -- haven't seen the book yet) and I know you are too. So if you like this, it's gotta be a winner. :-)

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    1. Thanks, John—I just started following her myself. I think you all love the book—some really nice cocktails in there!

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  10. I'm definitely going to have to check out that cookbook. The list of ingredients alone, for this recipe, are making my mouth water. I can only imagine the explosion of flavor with each bite. :-) ~Valentina

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    1. Mouthwatering is the perfect description of these ingredients, Valentina! Enjoy!

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  11. not a lamb fan but i have made larb with chicken mince before. it is such a tasty dish!

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    1. Traditional larb is often made with chicken mince - I bet it's fantastic!

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  12. Ah yes, the Instagram post that drove me nuts :) ! One of my favorite cookbooks ever was top local chefs each contributing a recipe. So you ground your own lamb? I am so ordering a meat grinder when I get back from Balloon Fiesta this year (testing out going via Denver since my daughter has graduated now)

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    1. I love the variety of cooking experiences books like this give - we should have one for Tucson!

      Yes, I grind a lot of my own meat - so much safer and, let's be honest, more flavorful! The KitchenAid grinder is quite easy to use and almost every part pops into the dishwasher!

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  13. Eha is so right! Even here in the mountains (which are very anglo compared to nearby Sydney) the selection of Asian ingredients is still very decent. I love a good larb, so may have to test out this recipe.

    I brought back a few jars of togarashi from Japan as it's not so spicy here in Oz. I treasure it!

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    1. Your proximity to Asia gives you such great variety in your cuisine choices, John! Many people here have never even heard of larb!

      The togarishi I got at our Asian market was very spicy, so I was surprised when Eha mentioned it being mild. Mine is incredibly flavorful, but also very spicy!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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