This month for our Instagram cookbook club, we are devouring ‘Gjelina, Cooking from Venice, California’ by Travis Lett. I tend to have apprehensions embarking on cooking from a book based on a restaurant’s dishes.
Sometimes the recipes and approach totally work for the lay person. A classic example of this would be ‘The Balthazar Cookbook’ by Keith McNally, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, based on their renowned restaurant in NYC, classic french bistro cuisine. The ingredients are accessible, the recipes easy to follow, and the results will taste just like the real deal. Another more current example is ‘Buvette’ by Jody Williams. Again, French and Italian influenced recipes that are showcased in her wildly successful NYC restaurant. I adored, and was able to relate to and obtain all the ingredients to make her recipes. They worked, and you don’t need a professional kitchen to get the same delectable results.
However, ‘Nopi’. Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook based on his London, United Kingdom brasserie. Yes, the dishes are wildly fabulous. Yes, the restaurant is adored by fans. And yes, I adore his previous cookbooks. But even he admits that the recipes in Nopi are not for the faint of heart. They are restaurant dishes. Adapted for the home cook. Not that we couldn’t follow his recipes and be thrilled with the outcome. But the ingredients and procedures are all cranked up a notch. The scavenger hunt you’ll be on for the crazy lists of ingredients for some of his recipes, would be tv show worthy. And you will wish there was a ‘chef in your ear’ as you go about trying to get a dish finished in time. I’m sure there are people out there that will totally dispute my opinion on this. That’s fine. This is about what types of books I like cooking from. I don’t want to take my frustration out on Jim or the cats just to get dinner on the table. Cooking should stretch your skills, yes. Maybe one day I’ll have the time and patience to attack the more intricate recipes that are found in Nopi. I admire the book, I just accept that it won’t be the first book I turn to, the way I do with his previous gems!
So, ‘Gjelina’. A restaurant in Venice Beach, southern California. A hot spot of a restaurant that highlights grains, veggies, and fresh and rustic ways of preparing and serving them. But there’s pizzas, dishes featuring proteins, and fantastic desserts as well. All of these are found in the book. And what I’m loving is his approach to preparing your kitchen and pantry for the fun of cooking. There is a whole section on techniques for preparing vegetable confits, pickles, pestos and dressings that you will have on hand for the many recipes that rely on these as flavour bases.
The Cherry Tomato Confit. Ah-ma-zing. Decadent. Rich. And oh so versatile. It doesn’t require that much more time than his Garlic or Shallot Confits, but the result is equally fabulous. With all of these the oil that the veggies are slow roasted in become just as essential as the veggies themselves. They soften and become gentler versions of their former glory. And with all of these, they not only work with so many of Travis’ recipes that follow in the book, your imagination will find all sorts of ways to incorporate them into your own dishes. The oils themselves are wonderful in dressings and vinaigrettes, drizzled over sauteed veggies or meats, etc. Oh, just hand me a hunk of bread and I’ll dunk it into any of these oils!!
I hope you try this out. It’s a new technique for me. I’ve never ‘confit’d’ anything before. But now I get it. It’s definitely easier than the fancy french word makes it sound. And that’s why I’m featuring this recipe. I think it is a great example of what to expect from this cookbook. I also preserved some lemons from the book. And my, the blend of herbs and spices that they are being preserved in! Can’t wait to try them. Only 4 weeks to go!! You will learn fresh ways of preparing dishes, Pretty soon, you’ll be confit-ing like an old pro. By the way, the taller jar is preserved lemons on the go. The salt at the bottom has now pretty well dissolved and the skins are getting softer every day. In about 3 weeks they will be ready for consumption, even the skins!
CHERRY TOMATO CONFIT
- 2 pt (760 g) cherry tomates, stemmed
- 2 cups (480 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 4 garlic cloves , smashed
- 1/2 cup (15g) basil leaves
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C)
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water.
Using a paring knife, score a small X in the bottom of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 20 seconds, and then immediately transfer them to the ice water bath. Work in batches if necessary, until all the tomatoes have been blanched.
When the tomatoes are cool, remove them from the water. With your fingers, gently slip the skins of the tomatoes, and then place them in a single layer in a baking dish.
Pour the olive oil over the tomatoes, and then add the garlic, salt and thyme. Add more oil if needed to ensure that the tomatoes are fully covered.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the oil is hot but the tomatoes remain vibrant and whole. Let cool completely.
Transfer the tomatoes and oil into a airtight container. Make sure they are completely covered by the oil, to prevent air from reaching the tomatoes.
Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Spoon these over grilled vegetables or fish. Add them to ragus or even on top of pizza! Add them to egg dishes.
The oil itself is amazing to use over a cornucopia of dishes.
By Travis Lett Adapted from Gjelina, Cooking From Venice, California