In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - The Palomar Cookbook: Modern Israeli Cuisine

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Jun 6, 2017 8:00 AM
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The Palomar Cookbook: Modern Israeli Cuisine by Layo Paskin and Tomer Amedi. Text copyright © ZLC London Ltd 2016. Photography copyright © Helen Cathcart 2016. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Our Summary:

When you open a restaurant in a city like London and by year's end you've been named the best restaurant in that city by more than one source, the next step is to capture in recipes the colorful, inspired and flavorful food that you serve.  The Palomar Cookbook does just that with its melding of cultures in a fun expressive way.  But even better, the this book allows anyone cooking from its pages to serve up utterly delicious foods without stepping too far out of their cooking comfort zone.  That the food relies on popular and familiar Spanish, African and Middle Eastern spices and ingredients make the experience new without being difficult and invites you back to its pages to cook again and again.

What you need to know:

Get it:  The Palomar Cookbook, text copyright © ZLC London Ltd 2016. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.  March 21, 2017 Hardcover $35.00 (Amazon $22.44; Kindle $18.99)

See it:  256 pages over chapters such as What's in the pantry? And The Pastry Room. An insert of cocktails is included, as are chapters for starters, raw proteins, and main courses.  Almost every completed recipe is photographed; some process photos are included for the most difficult of preparations.  Candid photos of the restaurant and staff round are also included throughout.

Make it:  91 recipes plus the component recipes to complete each dish, and many of the main dishes do require several components to create the full recipe.

Our Review:

It's hard to pigeon-hole The Palomar Cookbook as middle-eastern Israeli food, though that is what its authors and chefs say it is.  Ingredients sound familiar and yet you're not sure that you've ever tasted them.  Recipes for dishes you know you've had, but they look nothing like the picture.  Things like Beet Carpaccio with Burnt Goat Cheese and Date Syrup or Pork Belly Tajine with Ras el Hanout and Israeli Couscous. There's something oddly familiar here that author and creative director of The Palomar Layo Paskin calls heritage with a twist; modernity with lasting style.  And while that doesn't sound much like food, it does sound like a hip, current restaurant that serves people as if they are family.  Big bowls to dip and scoop and eat from, with flavors that make you dive back in for more.

For a restaurant that's received an abundance of praise for its food, it is surprising that this collection of recipes are for family-styled dishes.  Dishes you want to eat with your hands or bread, and not worry about whether you've double dipped.  Mezze dishes like Chickpeas with Spinach & Yogurt, A Take on Piyaz (a white bean salad), or Salata Mashwiya (a salad/mezze made from spicy chiles, peppers, and tomato) open up the collection.  From there you're pouring over pages of raw fish preparations - from Scallop Carpaccio with "Thai-bouleh" to Cured Mackerel Fricassee, and more.  Of course raw isn't reserved just for fish.  Beef and vegetables get their due, which should suggest that The Palomar Cookbook is for everyone.

You'll stumble over some of the ingredients and scratch your head trying to figure out where to source the spice blends.  A local Indian, Mediterranean or Asian grocer should suffice after you first scour your grocer's ethnic section.  You'll be surprised that the odd sounding ingredients may be there.  The spices might be a task, though not a herculean one.  The Palomar Cookbook offers recipes for these exotic spice blends like Ras el hanout, Jerusalem, Hawaij, or Za'atar, though you might save yourself the effort and find a reputable spice purveyor online. 

What's most pleasing, though, is that you can cook from this book while you wait for those exotics to arrive.  Some of the recipes are easily handled like the Cod Chraymeh, a North African fish stew.  And others, like Eggplant & Feta Bourekas, need to be managed.  Do so and you are rewarded with a stunning plate of puffed pastry filled with cheese and an eggplant filling, topped with a swiss chard stew and surrounded by eggs, pickles, Harissa, and herbs.  Should you need a beverage break during your cooking, you'll find a small insert of the restaurants signature cocktails right in the middle of the book. 

The Palomar Cookbook stretches beyond any boundaries you want to wrap around it.  From vegetables to meats - of all types and kinds, to fish to pasta and finally to pastry, there are brilliant, new and inspired flavors here to try.  The reward is great - in both appearance and taste as you cook these innovative dishes time and time again.

Published in In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

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