Cooking the Books with Now Serving LA Bookstore

Fall always brings a return to routines of comfort and certainly one of those is being in the kitchen, cooking and enjoying food in the company of loved ones. For us at the shop, Fall ushers in the biggest releases of the year that get everyone all the way to the holidays.

Fall always brings a return to routines of comfort and certainly one of those is being in the kitchen, cooking and enjoying food in the company of loved ones. For us at the shop, Fall ushers in the biggest releases of the year that get everyone all the way to the holidays.

The culinary polymath collective that is the Bronx-based Ghetto Gastro (founded by chefs Lester Walker, Jon Gray, and Pierre Serrao) ushers into the world their first book, Ghetto Gastro Presents: Black Power Kitchen. Part cookbook, part manifesto, and 100% singular vision, Black Power Kitchen sits right at the intersection of food, visual art, culture, social justice, and fashion. Food has always been both personal and political and these past few years of activism coupled with the identification and acknowledgement of indigenous and historical foodways has clearly brought this notion to the forefront. One of the signature dishes of Ghetto Gastro is the Triple Cs, reveling in the high/low combo of crispy cornbread, lush crab salad, and caviar. Through deliciousness we can still learn and grow beyond what we think food is about.

 Another title that spotlights culinary and agricultural traditions is the treasure trove that is Masa: Techniques, Recipes, and Reflections on a Timeless Staple by Jorge Gaviria of Masienda, an incredible resource and supplier of single-origin corn ingredients. Perhaps for the first time in the English language, here we have a book that takes us on the deepest of deep dives into the world of MesoAmerican food staples, deftly examining a rainbow-worthy range of flavors, textures, colors, and uses available to the modern cook. One that has been around for centuries is the memela from Oaxaca. A thick tortilla and similar to a sope but with less defined ridges, a memela is one of Gavira’s most beloved breakfasts ever, topped with asiento (a heady, slow-cooked pork paste), creamy bean puree, some salty queso fresco or melty queso oaxaca and of course, lashed with a bright salsa - there’s little left to accomplish in a day that can’t be conquered after a memela.

Just in time for Fall, celebrated food photographer and author Andrea Gentl’s glorious celebration of the fungi world in Cooking With Mushrooms: A Fungi Lover’s Guide to World’s Most Versatile, Flavorful, and Health-Boosting Ingredients will surely be a treasured resources for all cooks. Mushrooms are not only champions of earthy umami, but here come in a myriad of textures—crunchy to luscious—and forms—granola, miso, schnitzel, even a creme caramel(!)—while also proudly capable of being the poster child for sustainability and plant-based lifestyles. Take Gentl’s elemental preparation of her Salt and Pepper Mushrooms. An ode to Italian brick chicken, these mushrooms (oysters, trumpets, and lion’s mane are suggested here) are simply seasoned, then seared in hot cast iron pan and pressed down as they roast, giving up their juices while concentrating their flavors and focusing their meaty textures. Glorious enough to enjoy with a glass of red and easy enough to have on a Tuesday night.

 In Frankie Gaw’s powerful First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home [A Cookbook], food acts both as a lifeline to ancestral memory and a way to hasten Gaw’s family’s assimilation into American culture. It’s equally a marvel as a personally-driven collection of recipes, as well as a remarkable account of what it is like to grow up as a first generation Asian American in the Nineties and early Aughts. Take the Butternut Squash and Pork Guo-Tie, plump and delicate dumplings perfect for the fall, with the farmers markets here flush with so many incredible varieties of winter squash that would work well. The book takes us down a rabbit hole of dumplings from dough to filling to forming to your plate. These guo-tie are a nod to Gaw’s love of Trader Joe’s ravioli which he seemingly subsisted on in college, while proudly celebrating his Taiwanese heritage.

 The food made in the beloved Pasta Grannies YouTube series is only half of the reason why millions of subscribers tune in. What we covet is watching these incredible grannies - the nonnas in their house dresses - effortlessly conjure up yards of tagliatelle, multitudes of arrancini, and countless ravioli, just as they have for decades. In series creator/author Vicky Bennison’s second book, Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking, the grannies are yet again transported to our own kitchens and imaginations. Nodding to the cooler climate of the Fall and the change in seasons, the Chestnut Gnocchi with Walnut Pesto offered up by 91-year-old Pina, from Liguria, embraces the autumn bounty with both learned frugality and elegance.

Best-selling Dessert Person author and former Bon Appetit test kitchen star, Claire Saffitz returns with her equally whimsical and technique-driven, What’s For Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People and, we’re happy to report, there isn’t a whiff of a sophomore slump of disappointment. Saffitz continues to offer up inventive desserts which nod smartly to classic flavor pairings or nostalgia. She also knows best when to leave a classic alone and gives her fans an infallible creme brule and an iconic Eton Mess. With Fall in Southern California still predictably in the high 80s, her Persimmon Panna Cotta will make everyone happy. A semi-frozen dessert with enough richness and mouthfeel to satisfy, it also pays attention to the bounty of persimmons (both hachiya and fuyu) beloved by so many immigrant communities here in LA. With only 30 minutes of active prep time and just a long afternoon in the freezer to set, this panna cotta will impress anyone who crosses its path.

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