Pros: human interest stories, good recipes, nice introduction to the area
Cons: many recipes require significant time and/or effort, only a couple of recipes from each restaurant
One of the joys of living in or near New York City is that you can visit all of the different buroughs and try amazing food prepared by the city’s large immigrant population. While some areas are a longer subway ride than others, they all seem to be worth the extra trip. This is especially true of Brooklyn, which is having a renaissance of sorts, with some incredible restaurants. While most would think that Brooklyn is only known for Italian food, they would be wrong. With artisan producers and brewers, the area is more of an experience than a destination.
Building on this budding interest in the area, Melissa and Brendan Vaughan have put together a cookbook which is equal parts something and instructive recipes. They have pulled from 31 different restaurants in Brooklyn, from the expected Italian to French to Southern, with dashes of Korean and German to keep things interesting. Each restaurant has a short history to introduce the spot, and then a couple of recipes for signature dishes. Even if you never try a single recipe, it’s a valuable guide for eating out in the area.
While it is a beautiful cookbook with worthwhile recipes, it is a bit of a niche market, and as such probably will not get wide circulation. This is a shame, as the book has beautiful pictures, human interest stories, and recipes with every degree of complexity. It covers a wide range of dishes, with main entrees being the most prevalent.
I tried out the recipe for the delicate squash with Aleppo pepper. It seemed a perfect recipe for a cold day, the warm squash mash with maple syrup. The recipe did turn out a fantastic twice-baked squash, with many layers of flavor, but at 45+ minutes and about 6 different mixing bowls/pans, it’s quite the undertaking. These are restaurant recipes after all, so if you’re not prepared to be the head chef, sous chef, and dishwasher at the same time, it may be better to eat with your eyes.
Overall I think this is a beautiful book with some really delicious recipes that would provide a good opportunity for home cooks to think outside the box. The dishes are delicious, and you can travel to another part of the country without ever leaving your kitchen.
Delicata Squash with Toasted Squash Seeds and Aleppo Pepper
Six delicate squash, 3 to 4 inches long, halved lengthwise
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 egg whites
Ground Aleppo pepper or paprika, for garnish
Sea salt, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Scrape the seeds from the squash and place them in a colander. Rinse under cold water to remove as much pulp as you can. Drain, then transfer the seeds to a plate lined with a paper towel and reserve.
Peel 6 of the squash halves (the least attractive ones) and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubed squash in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 6 tablespoons of the butter and season with salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender and, working in batches, puree the squash with the maple syrup. (You can also use an immersion blender to puree the squash.) Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, pureeing until the mixture is silky smooth and thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.
While the squash is cooking, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper. Season the remaining squash halves with salt and pepper and place them cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tender.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Toss the reserved squash seeds with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toast the seeds in the oven until they are crispy and aromatic, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the seeds halfway through the cooking time to break them apart.
Whip the egg whites to soft peaks and fold them into the cooked squash puree. Spoon the puree into the baked squash halves. Return them to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the puree and the edges of the squash are golden brown.
To serve, drizzle each squash half with olive oil and garnish with the toasted seeds, Aleppo pepper or paprika, and sea salt.