New California Cuisine

The rich-and-famous life-style of Southern California is tantalizingly evoked by this luxurious cookbook, which greatly resembles GOURMET magazine in its sophisticated treatment and dazzling color photographs. Most definitely, this is not a book of quick-and-easy recipes such as those found in SUNSET magazine.

Rose Dosti, for twenty years a popular food and restaurant writer for the LOS ANGELES TIMES, has succeeded in bringing together fine recipes from a wide variety of professional chefs. Major chapter topics cover the full range of cuisine, from appetizers (“starters”) to desserts (“sweet things”); in between there are soups, vegetables, salads, pasta, rice, seafood, poultry, meat, and game. Informative chapter introductions relate the dishes to the California environs, as in the seafood section, which discusses the new fish farming industry which has brought a steady supply of oysters from Drake’s Bay as well as catfish farmed in Sacramento.

The recipes themselves are extraordinary, with many requiring exotic or expensive ingredients. Typical dishes include Papaya with Shrimp Piquant, Pan Roasted Quail with Hard Cider, and Stuffed Zucchini Flowers. As the lovely photographs illustrate, the presentation of the dish is all-important, as in Artillery Rack of Lamb, for which the bones are intertwined to “resemble stacked rifles.” Clearly, these master chefs take pride in achieving great heights of artistic expression, though in all fairness it should be noted that some simple recipes are included, such as the meatloaf from the “72 Market Street” restaurant that incorporates ground pork among the herbs and beef. Some intriguing Korean barbecue recipes are also featured, together with Japanese, Thai, and Hawaiian specialties.

The one hundred color photographs are creative still-life compositions in their own right. One visually arresting two-page spread shows a grouping of olive oil containers from various countries--some bottles, some cans--against a stark white background. Another shows fresh asparagus bursting forth from a wooden crate, garnished with flowers. The aesthetic concerns of this book’s publishers, Harry N. Abrams, (primarily known for fine artbooks), are evident on every page.