New Gjelina Cookbook Details 150 Of Your Favorite Dishes
Just in time for holiday cooking (and gifting), chef Travis Lett shares more than 150 of his most popular recipes used in the kitchens at Gjelina, GTA and Gjusta in his first cookbook, Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California.
Nine chapters, beautifully photographed by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott, cover it all—from condiments and pickling, to Gjelina's famous pizza dough, to national pie champ and former Gjelina baker Nicole Rucker's award-winning butter crust. (The secret is vinegar.) You'll also find instruction on many of Gjelina's most requested dishes including savory pork meatballs braised in red wine and tomato, charred cauliflower with garlic confit, and "the single, most talked about" item at Gjelina the butterscotch pots de creme with salted caramel.
Given that these are restaurant recipes, novice cooks may find that even straightforward dishes with minimal process are challenging in technique and often call for unfamiliar ingredients, but that's part of the fun in trying to recreate these dishes at home, and it's how Lett draws you into a larger conversation about how people should eat, where our food comes from, and how to protect "the old mentality."
"These recipes are a reflection of the changing dialogue about what we eat," writes Lett. "People just want to know that someone cares at some point in the process of creating food, that someone is concerned with the big picture. It's not too much to ask."
In chapter seven on seafood, there's a quick-to-make recipe for a dish of mussels with chorizo and tomato confit, and a winter recipe for squid with lentils and salsa verde. Here we also get Lett's perspective on creating a menu with responsibly sourced seafood, favoring bottom-of-the-food-chain species that are small and rapidly reproducing, like sardines, anchovies, squid, and smaller varieties of mackerel, as well as shellfish. "Coincidentally, I prefer these little suckers to the larger species just in terms of sheer tastiness," says Lett.
In the foreword, Lett dedicates the book in memory of his mother Lyla Louise Lett, who instilled in him at a young age an appreciation and curiosity for cooking and nutrition, and its connection to environmentalism, animal activism and sustainability.
Since opening in 2009, Gjelina remains one of the most popular and critically acclaimed restaurants in Venice. In October 2014, Lett and Gjelina owner Fran Camaj opened Gjusta, a full service bakery and all-day eatery offering smoked meats and cured fish, prepared salads and a deli case enviable among L.A.'s top gourmet shops. Bon Appetit named Gjusta one of the best new restaurants of 2015.
Accolades aside, Lett still prefers "baker" to "pastry chef" and wants his food to speak from humble beginnings. In chapter three on pizzas and toasts, Lett begins by sharing childhood memories growing up in New Jersey and his first food love. "The guys who threw pies at my neighborhood pizza shop were badasses, and their pizza was the best on the face of the earth as far as I could tell."
Along with the recipe for Gjelina's famously thin crust with bubbly charred edge, Lett includes a word of encouragement to home cooks:
"Pizza is at the very heart of this restaurant and I'm proud of our reputation for making great pies. I generally don't subscribe to any pizza voodoo. Special water? Strains of yeast from Italy? As far as I'm concerned, it's all misdirection to make people believe they cannot make great pizza. Utter nonsense."