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Cooking with Jessica Koslow's Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking


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After a delightful brunch at Koslow's Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles, I've decided to attempt to cook through her cookbook. I'll post my results here.

 

Please follow along and join in, if you're so inclined. Her food is wonderful, but I will surmise that her true deliciousness comes from using the best and freshest ingredients. I'll do my best to recreate the magic I felt at Sqirl.

 

Here's the link to her book at Eat Your Books.

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Flaky-ass biscuits p. 205

 

These little bombs of happiness is the reason I want to cook this cookbook. They are the best biscuits I've ever had. They're tender, crispy, luscious and lip-smacking tasty. How does she get so much love into a tiny little package?

 

IMG_2891.JPG.eb840b92208d6223d8d9458ef40d0ae5.JPG

 

She uses butter, a lot of it. 1 cup for 4 cups of flour. Then she painstakingly rolls it out, like you would for croissant dough, and folds it. Then refrigerate, and again refold. I've never seen this technique for biscuits, but that may be why I've never had biscuits so tender and flaky before.

 

She recommends they be served with more butter and homemade jam. Since these lil munchkins took over two hours to make, I didn't make any homemade jam. Instead I served them with some lovely plum preserves I got on my trip to Central California. And they taste great alongside some bacon and eggs.

 

IMG_2895.JPG.43c56a7bce249f6f0f24a4ebd5f74d17.JPG     IMG_2894.JPG.abe57d8e3bd2c9861b8dd74f6e8463b6.JPG 

 

Look at those gorgeous layers!

 

My only complaint, and was user-error, since they weren't this way at her restaurant, was most were lop-sided. They tasted fine but they didn't look great. Mr. Smokey came up with an ingenuous solution: he made them into cream biscuits! Boy, they were delicious. Just split them apart, put some cheap whip cream in the middle (or clotted cream, if you have some, I didn't) and a dollop of good preserves. Yum.

 

IMG_2900.jpg.79968bc3ce84a3400edbe3ac65678900.jpg

 

If there's only one recipe you plan on cooking from this book, I recommend this one. It's a winner and worth the price of the book.

 

 

 

 

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@heidih

 

" it's the first place your cousin from Ohio wants to go when she gets into town. You can probably trace the popularity of grain bowls, avocado toast and $13 jam to Sqirl. The current predilections for the flavors of sorrel, turmeric, burnt bread and ricotta toast didn't start with Jessica Koslow, but they may as well have. Who waits 90 minutes in line for a bowl of porridge?"

 

Oh wow, did Jonathan Gold really write this? Or is someone commenting on his 101 list?

 

This same person says this about Manuela, " If you are the kind of person who enjoys the pleasures of a buzzy restaurant but yearns wistfully for cornbread and collards, fried chicken and butter-pecan ice cream for dessert, Manuela may be the fine-dining restaurant for you."

 

I'm LA born-and-raised, but I couldn't be more further removed from the culture. I can't believe anyone would slam Sqirl but approve of Manuela (I've been to both and Sqirl wins, no comparison). Then again, Manuela seems to be what LA-dining is all about.

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2 hours ago, Smokeydoke said:

@heidih

 

" it's the first place your cousin from Ohio wants to go when she gets into town. You can probably trace the popularity of grain bowls, avocado toast and $13 jam to Sqirl. The current predilections for the flavors of sorrel, turmeric, burnt bread and ricotta toast didn't start with Jessica Koslow, but they may as well have. Who waits 90 minutes in line for a bowl of porridge?"

 

Oh wow, did Jonathan Gold really write this? Or is someone commenting on his 101 list?

 

 

I don't think he was slamming her; he was praising what at first seems such an unlikely scenario. The next sentence was 

Still, the moment the braised chickpeas, the grilled cheese with tomato jam, the kale tabbouleh and the sorrel pesto rice hit the makeshift table, you've already forgotten what you were so sore about, and you regret only not having gotten a second matcha with almond milk for the road. Life is funny that way."

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Yep, Jonathan Gold did write that.

 

I'm surprised. Manuela did nothing to inspire me, it's a mediocre restaurant in a very nice (expensive) space, I see it in the same realm as so many other LA restaurants: Bottega Louie, Drago Centro, Perch. I've been to them all, I lived in LA for over 30 years and I ate out a lot. And honestly, restaurants such as the above, dominated the LA dining scene for a long time.

 

I thought Sqirl was something new and innovative, I didn't write this in my original review, but Jessica Koslow was there the day I visited, working the line, in that tiny kitchen of hers. I didn't want to look like an overly excessive fan-girl so I didn't say anything to her, which may have been for the better, as she looked very busy. But I will say I was shocked, it's so rare to see actual chefs in their kitchen these days.

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I don't perceive any slam against Sqirl in the LA Times comments that you quoted.  The place was indeed new and innovative 5 or 6 years ago when Jonathan Gold wrote his first review of Sqirl.  The fact that it's still on his list of the top restaurants in LA suggests some regard, even though there are a lot of wannabes around town these days. 

 

I'm looking forward to hearing more about what you're cooking from the cookbook.  I have it on request from my library so when I get it, I hope I can try some of your top favorites. 

 

 

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Here's an excerpt from Jonathan Gold's review in 2012:

 

" But if you enjoy chaos as much as you do toast smeared with chocolate ganache and almond-hazelnut butter; toast with poached egg, lemon zest and cream; toast served with quince paste and transparent slices of prosciutto; or toast crowned with fried egg and greens, Sqirl may well be your favorite place in the city — as dedicated to eggs and green vegetables as Animal is to dangling bits of swine. "

 

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/15/food/la-fo-gold-20121215

 

Real almond hazelnut butter made from real almonds and real hazelnuts? Yes, that would be me!

 

And to answer his earlier question, who stands in line for 90 mins (in the cold, but not for porridge)? Me!

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Chicken kofte on rosemary sprigs with garlic schmear and cabbage kumquat salad p. 119

 

IMG_2918.jpg.2f0c25b463565e2805d85d63c55cbb40.jpg

 

This was more Sqirl-inspired than the real recipe. This was an instance when instinct won out and I made last minute changes to save the recipe because there was no way I was going to ruin $10/lb, organic, free-range, college-educated, ground chicken.

 

Firstly, I want to say I love Zankou Chicken, I grew up on Zankou chicken, but this is not Zankou chicken.

 

Whatever this is, it is extremely delicious. I am keeping this recipe, in some form, because it is the best ground chicken I've ever had. That being said, the recipe is a mess. And it's not just me! After my fiasco, I went to Eat Your Books, and other reviewers had the exact same problems. The recipe starts by taking ground chicken and adding red wine (I used Dolin Sweet Vermouth), spices, roasted red peppers, garlic and oil and mixing it all together. It's suppose to mold over rosemary sprigs, I assume like meatballs, but that never happened. I added 1/2 a cup of plain bread crumbs and an egg. It finally started to bind, but not in a good way. I'm thinking 1 cup of breadcrumbs and 2 eggs would do the trick, notes for next time. 

 

They were still impossible to mold, I don't understand the rosemary sprigs? I need to order this at her cafe and see how she does it. I ended up using kabob skewers, much sturdier.

 

Chicken is moist and oh-so-flavorful. The garlic schmear, which is almost pure garlic, would've been overkill. Pita bread, or as Koslow recommends, buttered rice, is a must. The Kumquat salad was delicious on its own but it needed salt and something crunchy to complete it, I used toasted pecans. The kumquat salad with the chicken was overwhelming. I was going to toss out the kumquat salad but Mr. Smokey forbade it! So, it's staying in the rotation, but for a different dish and different flavor profile.

 

Overall a delicious dish but use caution using the recipe!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Roasted chicken salad with market greens, garbanzo and soft boiled egg

 

Served with her Southern-style fresh cream and black mustard dressing

 

IMG_2995.thumb.jpg.06d9fbb01d78ae1db760894045b3fb62.jpg

 

This was another Sqirl inspired recipe, I apologize for that, but it was too easy to whip up with the ingredients I had at home. Normally I wouldn't report on a dish that veered so far from the original, but I loved it so much, I had to write a small blurb. Maybe I should write this recipe off as my own? Just kidding. 

 

Firstly, her cream dressing. Oh wow, her cream dressing. Yum. That's all I can say. I didn't grow up with cream dressing, the closest I have on the West Coast is homemade Ranch dressing, which I adore. (yeah, yeah, all my secrets are being aired out). This is like a gourmet version of Ranch dressing, it has a ton of black mustard powder, the good stuff, not regular mustard powder. Then it uses fresh cream, half a shallot and white wine vinegar. I added some black pepper and paprika because it desperately needed color (for photos) but not for taste. The dressing by itself was wonderful, zesty and creamy. Definitely a keeper and not too hard to make.

 

The dressing was lovely over some hard-boiled eggs, Koslow writes they should be soft-boiled, but I was playing with my new iPot and the extra minute got me hard-boiled. The eggs and dressings are a perfect match though.

 

I served it over spinach, Koslow specifies market greens. And I didn't have watermelon radishes, so I used some heirloom carrots. I know, I know... follow the recipe! It gets worse, I used Costco rotisserie chicken. :$

 

But it was delicious! At the end of the day, that's all that matters, this dish was delicious, one of the best chicken salads I ever had. And I wanted to share it with e-world.

 

Life is funny that way. 9_9

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Ramos-style short ribs and vegetables in beef consomme, aka follow the trail of tears.

 

I shared this in Gallery of Regrettable Food thread.

 

This is what I wrote on Eat Your Books"This is a difficult and expensive dish to make, I would not recommend to novice cooks. It cost me $40 in ingredients and 2 days to make. I could not get the consommé to clarify, but that may be my fault, consommé is temperamental. Lots of hard to find ingredients too, I finally found some chayote and it was interesting, it's between an apple and a squash. "

 

And finally here's my photo

 

IMG_2957.thumb.jpg.20df2ffe1457a5f64bad41b9c77f1eb0.jpg

 

Those ribs are crying out to me, "Why? Why" We did not deserve this!" :(

I know, I feel great sadness inside. Some red wine, potatoes, onions and it would've been a proper finale. Instead, they will be remembered as my most expensive epic fail to date.

 

Not to say this isn't a great recipe. I can't blame this on Koslow, I'm sure it's excellent at her cafe. It just takes more skill and practice than I'm willing to put in.

 

Here's a better version of the recipe. For some reason the blogger calls it Lebanese Short Ribs, but writes that it's Koslow's recipe. There was no mention of that in the book.

 

Definitely a one and done for me. The taste was ok, but I didn't have half the ingredients because I couldn't find them.

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I'm going on hiatus from Sqirl. Some last thoughts before I go: I enjoyed cooking along, but I admit her recipes are more labor-intensive and difficult than I imagined. Maybe because her food is good-ol' comfort food, it seems simple, but it's elevated comfort food and that takes more skill. The reviews on Amazon are justified, they are not for the novice cook, some recipes are, but most are not.

 

I enjoyed the food at her cafe and now I have a better appreciation for them. I recommend both!

 

I may add more recipes as time goes along, but for now, I'm going to perfect the three I liked and move onto something else.

 

Happy Eating!

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4 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

I may add more recipes as time goes along, but for now, I'm going to perfect the three I liked and move onto something else.

Well, I'm sorry that you're going to step away for a while.  I finally picked up the Kindle edition of the book when it was on sale.  May I ask what three recipes you liked enough to want to perfect them?

 

37 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

I served it over spinach, Koslow specifies market greens. And I didn't have watermelon radishes, so I used some heirloom carrots. I know, I know... follow the recipe! It gets worse, I used Costco rotisserie chicken. :$

I don't think using Costco rotisserie chicken in a salad recipe instead of roasting the chicken per the recipe would detract from the result in any way.  Sounds like good idea to me!  Unfortunately, I'm out of black mustard seeds but I'll put that salad on my list to try.

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  On 3/31/2018 at 11:15 AM, blue_dolphin said:

Well, I'm sorry that you're going to step away for a while.  I finally picked up the Kindle edition of the book when it was on sale.  May I ask what three recipes you liked enough to want to perfect them?

 

I don't think using Costco rotisserie chicken in a salad recipe instead of roasting the chicken per the recipe would detract from the result in any way.  Sounds like good idea to me!  Unfortunately, I'm out of black mustard seeds but I'll put that salad on my list to try.

 

I loved the flakey-ass biscuits (her words, not mine), the chicken kofte (without the slaw) and the chicken salad with cream dressing.

 

I may be inspired to cook more if I see your posts, that's the way I usually get motivated to cook. But I can't promise you, I got a very short BBQ season here in Vegas and I want to take full advantage of it.

She has lots of baked good recipes that I haven't tried, they look exciting. Her quiche gets rave reviews at her cafe.

 

And I loved the salad! Of course, per the recipe, you'll get a different dish, but it'll be just as good or better than mine. You're lucky you're in California and have access to hard-to-find produce. I wouldn't know where to look for watermelon radish (which is what the recipe called for).

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