‘Casual and carefree’ cooking
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.
PEA PESTO AND BURRATA CROSTINI 6-8
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
2 cloves garlic, peeled
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.