‘Ca­sual and care­free’ cook­ing

The Delhi News-Record - - LIFE - LAURA BREHAUT

Vi­brant, fresh and laid- back, Cal­i­for­nia food can be cre­ated wher­ever your kitchen might be.

“Cal­i­for­nia is more of a state of mind — keep­ing things re­ally ca­sual and care­free, and eat­ing a balanced diet,” Los An­ge­les-based chef and author Gaby Dalkin says.

“We have such an in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of things here in Cal­i­for­nia. We can have a re­ally beau­ti­ful loaded salad for lunch and then we can have some crazy dessert later that af­ter­noon.”

Mak­ing the most of mar­ket-fresh pro­duce is Dalkin’s tack in her sec­ond cook­book, What’s Gaby Cook­ing: Ev­ery­day Cal­i­for­nia Food (Abrams Books, 2018), but so is cook­ing with an easy­go­ing at­ti­tude.

“I think part of be­ing care­free and liv­ing this Cal­i­for­nia life is not tak­ing food too se­ri­ously,” she adds.

Con­fi­dence is es­sen­tial to be­com­ing a strong home cook, Dalkin em­pha­sizes, and striv­ing for ul­tra­pre­ci­sion is over­rated.

A mas­tery of the ba­sics means you’ll be able to re­spond on the fly when things don’t go as planned. And if you know how to whip up a solid sauce, you can craft an out­stand­ing meal out of very few com­po­nents.

While her first cook­book Ab­so­lutely Avo­ca­dos (Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2013) fo­cused solely on uses for the peren­ni­ally pop­u­lar fruit, What’s Gaby Cook­ing is an ex­ten­sion of her pop­u­lar blog of the same name.

In­spired by the splen­dour of her re­gion’s many farm­ers’ mar­kets and trav­els up and down the Pa­cific coast, the col­lec­tion “en­com­passes ev­ery­thing I love about food,” says Dalkin.

The more than 125 recipes are built on ac­ces­si­ble kitchen sta­ples and range from week­night-friendly main cour­ses like grilled chicken with sum­mer suc­co­tash to foursea­son vari­a­tions on av­o­cado toast, pizza and Cobb salad, and ef­fort­lessly im­pres­sive dishes wor­thy of week­end par­ties. Pre­heat oven to 400 F (205 C). To as­sem­ble the tart: Re­move the dough from the re­frig­er­a­tor and place it on a lightly floured work sur­face.

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch (30.5-cm) cir­cle.

Place the dough into a 10-inch (25-cm) non-stick tart pan with a re­mov­able bot­tom, trim­ming the sides to a 1/2-inch (1.25-cm) over­hang. Fold in the ex­cess dough and pinch into the sides of the tart. Prick the bot­tom of the tart all over with a fork. Place tart pan in the freezer for 15 min­utes.

Re­move tart pan from the freezer and place on a bak­ing sheet. Line tart shell with parch­ment pa­per or foil and fill with dried beans or bak­ing weights.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 min­utes, then re­move the parch­ment and beans and bake for an­other 20-25 min­utes, un­til golden brown. Re­move from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 to 20 min­utes.

To make the top­ping: In a large bowl, toss the toma­toes and shal­lots with the oil and vine­gar. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Re­move the tart from the pan and place it on a serv­ing plate. Fill with the cheese mix­ture and top with the tomato top­ping.

Sprin­kle with the toasted pine nuts, mi­cro­greens, basil, oregano, a sprin­kle of salt and pep­per, and a dust­ing of pecorino cheese. GRILLED CHICKEN WITH SUM­MER SUC­CO­TASH


1/4 cup (60 mL) ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh lime juice 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground cumin

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped jalapeno chili

1 tsp (5 mL) pa­prika

1 tsp (5 mL) gar­lic salt

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) kosher salt

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) freshly cracked black pep­per

8 bone­less, skin­less chicken thighs Sum­mer suc­co­tash (recipe fol­lows)


In a medium bowl, com­bine the oil, lime juice, cumin, chili, pa­prika, gar­lic salt, kosher salt and pep­per. Add the chicken thighs, toss to coat and mar­i­nate in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least

1 hour and up to 8 hours.

Pre­heat an in­door or out­door grill to medium-high heat.

Re­move chicken from the mari­nade. Place it on the grill and cook above di­rect heat for about 6-7 min­utes per side, un­til cooked through. Re­move from the grill and trans­fer to a cut­ting board to rest for 5 min­utes.

Slice the chicken against the grain and serve along­side or on top of the suc­co­tash.


6 ears sweet corn, shucked and cleaned

1 red onion, finely diced 1 red bell pep­per, finely diced

4 cups (1 L) cherry toma­toes, halved 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh mint

Zest and juice of 1 lime Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pep­per

Pre­heat an out­door grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Place the ears of corn di­rectly on the grill and grill for 10 to 15 min­utes, turn­ing ev­ery few min­utes, un­til the corn is charred all over. Re­move the corn from the grill and let cool com­pletely. Care­fully re­move the ker­nels with a knife and trans­fer the ker­nels to a serv­ing bowl. Add the red onion, red pep­per, cherry toma­toes, cilantro, basil, mint, and lime zest and juice. Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Serve at room tem­per­a­ture.



For the pea pesto:

10-oz (284-g) pack­age frozen peas, thawed, or 10 oz (284 g) fresh peas, blanched and cooled

1/3 cup (80 mL) fresh basil leaves 1/3 cup (80 mL) fresh mint leaves 1 clove gar­lic, peeled

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) red pep­per flakes Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pep­per

For the crostini:

1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch (1.25-cm) slices

Olive oil

2 cloves gar­lic, peeled

For assem­bly:

6 oz (170 g) burrata cheese Pea ten­drils, or ex­tra basil and/or mint

To make the pesto: In a large food pro­ces­sor, com­bine the peas, basil, mint, gar­lic, lemon juice and red pep­per flakes and sea­son with salt and pep­per. Pulse for 45 sec­onds, un­til the peas are bro­ken down and chunky.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse for an ad­di­tional 10 sec­onds. Taste and ad­just the salt and pep­per as needed.

To make the crostini: Heat a grid­dle or large skil­let over medium-high heat.

Gen­er­ously driz­zle baguette slices with oil on both sides. Us­ing tongs, trans­fer the slices of bread to the hot grid­dle and toast for a few mo­ments, un­til golden brown. Flip and toast bread on the other side for a minute more.

Re­move from the grid­dle and set aside. Care­fully rub the gar­lic over the toasted bread.

To as­sem­ble: Slather 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the pea pesto on top of each crostini. Add a tbsp or two (15-30 mL) of burrata cheese and gar­nish with some pea ten­drils. Serve im­me­di­ately.

Ex­tra pea pesto can be tossed into pasta for a quick and easy week­night din­ner.


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