As a native of Southern California, I was overjoyed at the idea of this book. With such beautiful weather that allows tart and tangy citrus, buttery avocados, year-round access to a number of fruits and vegetables, and an overall joy about the outdoors, I was excited to see what recipes I could enjoy in my own kitchen.
Right from the start, there are many gems in the introduction alone. Hidden in a story about the first dinner party at “the farm,” Helene Henderson mentions many local companies, showing her appreciation for what Malibu has to offer. When she speaks about her home and her backyard, you can sense the pride she has in what she and her family have built, but also her humbleness and surprise that anyone could ever see it as anything but her two-acre backyard (which I wish I could afford!).
This book is filled with beautiful pictures, taken by Martin Lof, including photos of the recipes. All the photos of the food involve no special props or concoctions to make it look good on paper AND all meals were eaten, served, and/or made for specific events.
Toward the end we learn, most importantly, her food philosophy: all fresh and local ingredients. No “fake” foods – margarine or artificial sweeteners ring a bell? Full-fat, full flavor goodness. Just my style.
The book is organized just as a dinner party at the farm would be arranged: different sections of her yard with different experiences and unique food to go along.
From the Coop is mainly breakfast treats using eggs from her friendly chickens. The recipes are simple and easy for anyone. My favorites would have to be the Swedish pancakes and the deviled eggs.
From the Farm is all about the vegetables. From the kale caesar (what a novel idea – I hadn’t even thought to make it like that before) to the farm hummus (I’m always looking for a great recipe) and the orzo with peppers, tomatoes, and olives, you can’t go wrong with any of the recipes, especially if you use locally grown vegetables from your local farmer’s market.
From the Hive just makes me want to have a bee hive in my backyard that much more. I wish I lived in Malibu where it seems everyone does! I guess I’ll just have to settle for buying local honey at her cafe. Unless you’re like me and you like to eat honey from the jar by itself, this section has many other ways to use it – mostly in glazes and marinades but I’m anxious to try the honey-basil lemonade with our homegrown lemons. Sounds so refreshing.
From the Dairy has gone to the goats…well, at least their milk and other products. Goat cheese with figs sounds like a perfect appetizer for a summer dinner party, with the TMZ salad as a first course and the goat cheese potato tartlet as the main. I think I just created the menu for my next get-together.
From the Pasture is beefy. Like her, I’ve always wanted a cow. Just ask my husband. Our backyard still isn’t big enough, but I’m a dreamer. The balsamic skirt steak is just begging for me to make my husband put it on our grill. I can smell the BBQ already.
From the Sea is about what Malibu is known for, at least by the tourists. Any type of seafood you want, there’s almost a recipe for most of it: branzino, cod, sea bass, shrimp, lobster, halibut, salmon, crab…endless possibilities.
From the Olive Grove is a nod to the many olive groves found in Malibu. The uses for olive oil are endless and her recipes prove that it can practically be used on anything.
From the Hen House fancies up chicken, not using her hens of course. The chicken ricotta burger will be happening at our next BBQ. A recipe or two using turkey is included.
From the Vineyard sounds like it would be just about wine, and there are a few recipes using it, but it’s mostly about the vinegars used in delicious reductions and dressings.
From the Baker (and the Pastry Maker) has to be my most favorite part of it all. Maybe that’s because I studied pastry and have worked in many pastry kitchens, or maybe it’s just because I like to eat bread and sweets. My favorite desserts to make are cozy, homey ones like crumbles and crisps or pies. It’s no surprise that Helene’s desserts are of a similar pattern. Homemade ice cream, crumbles, and simple cakes round out a delicious menu and end the cookbook on a very sweet note.
This will be a cookbook that I will cook through and I know many of the meals will become staples in our household. I look forward to it. I hope it finds a place in your bookshelf, the recipes on your table, and the memories in your heart as they have for me.
Malibu Farm Cookbook at Penguin Random House
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.