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The Bookshelf: Beard on Books Recap



May 14, 2009


olives and orangesYesterday, at Beard on Books, Sara Jenkins discussed her cookbook Olives & Oranges: Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond with guests at the Beard House. She joked that she is “really a home cook who got misplaced in a professional kitchen,” and in testing recipes for the book she happily rediscovered the joys of home cooking. Jenkins truly believes that simplicity rules: “The greatest thing you can do to food is not mess it up.” As the daughter of a foreign correspondent, Jenkins grew up throughout the Mediterranean. While in Italy, Lebanon, and Cyprus, she was exposed to a rural existence where electricity was a novelty and eating with friends and family was at the heart of life. Her memories are filled with good food and wonderful ingredients that came from neighbors and surrounding farms and forests. Can urban dwellers recreate the same sort of culinary experience? Jenkins assured us that while it may not always by easy to find seasonal produce in a supermarket, there will always be something that looks good. And, as long as you understand basic flavor combinations, the rest will fall into place—“Nobody is going to die if you used crushed red pepper instead of piment d’espelette.” Jenkins is the chef behind the widely successful Porchetta in NYC. The secret to her famed, succulent porchetta? Lots of wild fennel pollen and her Electrolux Combi Oven. Unfortunately, you won’t find the recipe in Olives & Oranges; it takes over six hours from start to finish—not something easily done in a home kitchen. To bring a bit of Jenkins’ Mediterranean sensibilities into your own kitchen, try this instead: a delightfully simple spring recipe for asparagus with sheep’s-milk cheese.