It isn't often I pick up a cookbook written about a restaurant I'll likely never visit, but when it's written by a former Chez Panisse chef I have no problem snapping it up. I've found these chefs tend to cook the way I want to, if only I could afford the ingredients on my tight budget. All of the Chez Panisse alumni have valuable lessons to teach cooks of all skill levels. Their books have become my guilty pleasure and I've learned a lot by cooking from them.
One of the lessons that This Is Camino focuses on is coming up with creative ways to reduce waste by finding new and inventive uses for what most people would consider kitchen scraps. This is a prevalent theme throughout the book and one I think all of us can appreciate. I especially loved the first chapter, Camino Basics, for it's approach to the staples used at Camino. The recipes are reminiscent of how past generations have cooked, looking at what is on-hand or what needs used up, rather than rushing out to pick up items for a specific recipe. I love this approach to cooking as well as the mixture of old and new cooking methods.
Later in the book we're introduced to Camino's method for cooking over an open fire. While at first these recipes may not seem accessible to the average cook I have found that many of them can be adapted for use on the BBQ or prepared using a cast iron grill pan. With the last method you'll lose some of the smoke flavor cooking over an open fire imparts, but I've been fairly pleased with the results and adding a kiss of smoked sea salt helps make up for the loss.
One thing I have discovered about cooking from this book is that flexibility is key and you'll often need to spend time in advance tracking down ingredients if your local store isn't particularly well stocked. Some of them have been difficult to find, especially in the Midwest, but by talking to the owners and managers of some of our local stores I've been successful finding what I'm looking for, or find suitable substitutions. Our local Asian markets have been a valuable resource—I've been able to find duck, assorted mushroom, fish, and fresh turmeric with little difficulty. If all else fails, many stores are willing to place special orders, so don't hesitate to ask.
There is a very specific target audience for this book, so I don't feel it will appeal to everyone and you definitely need to approach it with an open mind to get the most from it. If you have an intermediate skill-set in the kitchen and enjoy cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients, or are looking to focus on getting the most out of every ingredient, then this book would make an excellent addition to your shelves.
Where to Purchase
Amazon - This Is Camino
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This book was sent to me for review by Ten Speed Press through the Blogging for Books program. As always, all opinions are my own.