Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself back in the kitchen, finally! During the winter months I relied heavily on old favourites and didn’t venture past my usual winter comfort foods of spaghetti, creamy soups, and spicy curries. But now that Spring is here (sort of) I am experimenting and trying out new recipes in full force.
The first cookbook I am reviewing this season is Chef Jason Lynch’s ‘Straight From the Line.’ This is Lynch’s first cookbook (released in the summer of 2013 with Able Sense Publishing), but with years of experience in commercial kitchens behind him this chef is a veteran when it comes to creating delicious recipes. As head chef at Le Caveau at the Domaine de Grand Pré Winery in Wolfville, Jason Lynch embraces local ingredients and appreciates food that is simple and delicious. In this book he encourages the readers to experiment, make changes to the recipes, and work with local and seasonal ingredients from across Nova Scotia.
First off, the photography is amazing. Jeff Harper’s work in this book is impeccable and creates a professional and mouth-watering atmosphere for the presentation of the recipes. The 140-page cookbook is chock-a-block with fully page glossy photographs. It was fun just looking at the beautiful photos upon first perusal of this cookbook. Yum, just yum.
The work consists of a varied collection of recipes like Chicken Marrakech, Roasted Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette, or Eton Mess. It is divided into typical sections like ‘Salads & Appetizers’ and ‘Sides,’ but also includes lovely anecdotal and informational sections such as ‘You mean you don’t have a staff?’ or ‘ Shopping local: Your ideals and the current reality,’ in which the chef discusses the creation of his recipes, his career, as well as the local food purchasing and consuming climate.
For this review, I chose three different recipes from various sections to sample: An appetizer, a main, and a dessert, and spent a full day playing with these recipes. The menu:
Seared Scallops with Beet Puree and Orange Butter
Gnocchi a la Parisienne with Blue Cheese and Herbs
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Up first, the Scallops.
This recipe was simple and very easy to follow. The directions are pretty short and it doesn’t take very long to prepare, though it takes a substantial amount of time to roast the beets for pureeing. The only problem that I ran into was making the beet puree: I don’t have a food processor, so needless to say, it was really messy pureeing the beets in a blender. My whole kitchen was pink!
But, despite my own personal issues, the recipe is great and turned out deliciously. The beets (though not as pretty as Jason’s) were flavourful with hints of orange citrus and tasted very fresh. The white pepper adds to the dish and is the perfect seasoning to compliment both major components.
For the main course: Gnocchi!
This was the first time ever that I made gnocchi, but I really wanted to try this recipe because it looked delicious. The directions are long, but they are worded in a way that is friendly and easy to follow; it felt like I had a very patient and encouraging chef by my side the whole time. I had very little trouble making the dough and was surprised how easy it was to make in my KitchenAid.
Cooking the gnocchi was probably the trickiest part, when I had to squeeze the dough out of a pastry bag and cut off the gnocchi into boiling water. There was a lot of splashing, but overall it went well, this is clearly something that becomes easier with practice.
The herbs in the little parcels of dough made the gnocchi super flavourful and the combination of ingredients was great. The only issue I had was an omittance of ingredients: Lynch suggests the addition of arugula and pine nuts to the dish after you have fried the gnocchi, however these ingredients are not mentioned in the list at the beginning of the recipe.
This dish would be a great make ahead recipe to impress dinner guests. By making the gnocchi in advance (Lynch says they are good for 2-3 days) and quickly frying them and combining with your favourite ingredients, you have a lovely dish to serve. It looked beautiful, and tasted even better.
And for dessert, Flourless Chocolate Cake!
This recipe was beyond easy: combine ingredients and bake. I didn’t realize before making this cake how easy (and delicious) flourless cakes can be!
Five ingredients, 45 minutes, done. So good.
Cooking directions in this book are short, sweet, and to the point. However, they are not for the first time chef. Though I love the fact that Lynch encourages readers to experiment with recipes and try different ingredients, it may confuse cooks who are not used to substituting or adding their own ingredients in recipes. For example, there is a recipe for Lobster and Avocado Tostadas that requires tostada shells, but doesn’t even mention that there is a recipe for flatbreads three pages later. If you like exact recipes and don’t like to substitute, this book is not for you. There is also no list of materials and utensils that one might need, so this book is clearly intended for the experienced home cook.
‘Straight From The Line’ is for people who love to cook and who want to experiment with seasonal and local ingredients from Nova Scotia. Jason Lynch intended these recipes to be a jumping off point for at-home chefs who want to experiment with solid recipes and make them their own, and he does just that. This cookbook is a great addition to any kitchen bookshelf and is a great arsenal for developing one’s own technique and flavour in the kitchen.
Straight From The Line
Author: Jason Lynch
Softcover: 140 pages
Publisher: Able Sense Publishing (2013)