As sales of cookbooks gain momentum, more and more people are spending time in the kitchen exploring new culinary tastes created with their own two hands. Making dinner has become less about the fundamental necessity to eat and more about the creative design of the meal or accomplishing an edible challenge. But what people are really sinking their teeth into these days isn’t your mother’s or grandmother’s cookbooks. For a new generation of culinary rebels, there’s a budding line of how-to, home-cooking cuisine: gastronomy. While garlic, thyme and basil will always be a spice-rack staple, gastronomic cooking is introducing exotic spices like amchur, lovage and sumac (no, not the leaves that cause itchy hives) as breezy as salt and pepper. Fortunately, living in a cultural melting pot like Los Angeles, we have easy access to such mysterious ingredients even though we may not know what they are exactly. And for most home chefs, that’s part of the lure. So whether you’re looking for something fresh and unusual from the farmer’s market, to satisfy a sweet tooth or challenge your cooking skills (and batteries of your smoke detector), these three Los Angeles-based authors and chefs will walk you through your next meal.
“Crave: Feast of the Five Senses” by Ludo Lefebvre
Available at Amazon.com
“Crave: Feast of the Five Senses” is more than a cookbook; it’s a journey into a culinary awakening. At age 24, while most guys his age were still eating home-cooked meals by mom, LA chef Ludo Lefebvre was already a master of the kitchen. Head chef at L’Orangerie and executive chef at Bastide, Lefebvre knows his way around food. “Crave” is a compilation of both original recipes and Lefebvre’s cooking and preparation secrets. Find some of your favorite recipes from his LA menus to make for yourself at home. He uses all five senses from the beginning stage of shopping for ingredients to preparation to cooking. He can help you see, smell, hear, taste and touch your way into serving a perfect meal. Whether you’re looking to make an old favorite like cream of broccoli soup or challenge yourself with ahi infused with vanilla, “Crave: Feast of the Five Senses” will not just make you a better cook, but change how you see, hear, smell, touch and taste your food.
“Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook” by Amelia Saltsman
Available at Barnes & Noble
With more than 3,000 farmers markets across the country, Amelia Saltsman has chosen one market closest to her heart (and home) to use as an example of how to shop for produce and meats. The “Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook” offers something more than flavorsome recipes: it matches recipes with seasonal ingredients for the freshest meals possible any time of the year. Writer, cooking teacher and television host, Saltsman encourages home chefs to be impulsive when shopping and be willing to change cooking plans based on market finds. The “Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook” contains over 100 simple recipes inspired by the farmers market as well as basic cooking instructions like the right way to peel and seed a tomato, how to sauté and brown and how to cook dried beans. Fresh has never been so fun and delicious. To truly stick to the cookbook’s advice, head to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in various locations.
Related: Orange County Farmers Market Guide
“Desserts by the Yard” by Sherry Yard
Available at Amazon.com
Regarded as one of America’s finest pastry chefs, Sherry Yard reveals her award-winning secret recipes that catapulted her to culinary fame in “Desserts by the Yard.” Yard got her start in Brooklyn and dazzled New Yorkers with her sweet creations at the Rainbow Room and Montrachet before she headed west in 1994. It was at Spago in Beverly Hills that she became known as dessert chef to the stars by delighting Hollywood’s richest and most famous like Frank Sinatra and Madonna with her signature confections. Anyone who has tried their hand at making desserts knows that baking is an exact science. Too much or too little of an ingredient blended too much or not enough can spell disaster. In “Desserts by the Yard,” Yard offers what she calls “sidebars” to each recipe. This is a collection of techniques, tricks and anecdotes that will not only help you successfully create a scrumptious treat, but have you laughing as well. From feel-good recipes like a no-bake cheese cake and apple dumplings to desserts served to celebrities at the Academy Awards, “Desserts by the Yard” might have you putting your desserts before the meal instead of after.
Related: Gluten Free LA
Kristine G. Bottone is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.