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Dec 11, 2013 05:08 AM

Cooking from “The A.O.C. Cookbook” by Suzanne Goin

Quite a few of us preordered this, it seems to be on a number of Christmas wish lists, and at least a couple of us have begun cooking from it. So, what have you made? How did it turn out?

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  1. Chopped salad dijonnaise with apples, bacon, roquefort, and walnuts (page 86)

    Toast walnuts and chop roughly. Cut a slab of bacon into ½-inch dice and sauté until “tender and lightly crisped.” Radicicchio, endive, romaine, and 2 apples are also cut into ½-inch dice. All are tossed together with crumbled Roquefort and a vinaigrette made from an egg yolk, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and evoo. In other words, a pretty straightforward chopped salad with a pretty straightforward Dijonnaise. Only caveat: be sure to trim the bacon well since not all of the fat renders (at lease, mine didn’t).

    It was really, really good. Great way to start a winter meal. And, as she says, with the addition of chopped roasted chicken or steak, could be a meal unto itself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JoanN

      Joan this looks and sounds sensational and since Turkey is a Christmas tradition here, I think this salad would be a fabulous way to re-purpose our leftovers. Thanks so much for the inspiration. I'm very excited about this book.

    2. Grilled orata with cauliflower, fregola, and persimmon-pomegranate salsa (page 134)

      One recipe; many components. Although she doesn’t say so, I discovered that many parts of this dish can be prepared an hour or hours ahead of time. And you need to.

      You start off by seasoning the fish fillets (my fishmonger, much to my surprise, had orata, but you can substitute branzino or black sea bass) with lemon zest, thyme, and parsley and refrigerating it for at least four hours. Mine was in the fridge more like eight.

      Next up, make half the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Red Vinegar on page 274. I love roasted cauliflower, and this was a terrific variation. I made the full recipe knowing I’d be happy to have leftovers, and I was. In addition to the named ingredients, it has toasted and ground coriander and cumin seeds and bittersweet paprika. She also tosses in a small onion cut into sixths. And in addition to the evoo, she adds a little melted butter to it all before it’s tossed and roasted. Will definitely be making this again as a standalone.

      Cook the chickpeas. Of course, she has a recipe (page 135). Diced onions, garlic, 1 chile de arbol, thyme, bay leaf, sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, 1 cinnamon stick. She says it should take about an hour and a half. I think I cooked mine for nearly three hours and I still wasn’t sure they were sufficiently tender. Loved the flavor; wasn’t at all sure about the texture. She says you can just drain good-quality canned chickpeas (how does one know if they’re good quality or not?) and sizzle them in some olive oil with the same seasonings. Would definitely go that route next time, if I hadn’t discovered that I really do not like chickpeas.

      Next, cook the fregola (or you can substitute Israeli couscous), drain, and spread out to cool.

      At some point, make the Persimmon-Pomegranate Salsa on page 136. Diced shallots, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds, diced persimmons, cilantro, s&p, and what I thought was way too much oil for a salsa. I ended up draining off as much as I could. But this was just great. And she has a number of other suggestions for using it.

      Penultimately, cook the cooled fregola in olive oil with s&p until it starts to crisp, stir in the chickpeas and chopped cauliflower and onions and cook another five minutes or so to combine, and keep it all warm in the oven while you cook the fish. I kept it in a warm oven for probably two hours and it seemed none the worse for it.

      Finally, grill the fish. Since I don’t have a charcoal grill, I used Rick Moonen’s killer hot cast-iron skillet under the broiler method and cooked the fish for a bit less than two minutes. Worked perfectly. Crispy skin, marvelously flaky and flavorful fish.

      My guests were gaga over this. I hated the chickpeas. I thought they still weren’t cooked enough. But one of my guests who loves chickpeas said they were perfectly cooked and went back for seconds. The salsa was simply brilliant with the dish. But, damn, it was a time-consuming pain to put together. If I make this again, and I might once I’ve forgotten how much time it took and how many pans were required, I’d definitely try to simplify it. And for me, I’d leave out the chickpeas. Wonder if it would work if you cooked the fregola with the chickpea spices?

      35 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        Looks gorgeous and sounds very tasty (I'm in the pro-chickpea club). But didn't I read someone (maybe dkennedy?) say that this book was supposed to be a more home-cook friendly sort of book; one that she wrote after realizing that with children she couldn't spend as much time in the kitchen? Sort of makes me nervous about how much time she spent in the kitchen *before* the kids.

        1. re: JoanN

          In my first test of this book, I made a VERY reduced version of this menu for a vegetarian weeknight meal. Over the weekend, I made the chickpeas according to her recipe. My unsoaked chickpeas cooked up nicely in about 3 hours. (As an aside, what possesses her to think that an unsoaked chickpea would cook through in 1.5 hours.) Like Joan, I was a bit unsure when I took them off the heat if they were completely done. But I let them cool in their broth (which takes a few hours) and refrigerated them, and when I took them out of the fridge a few days later, they were perfect. The broth was outstanding. I loved these - but I love chickpeas.

          For dinner last night I cooked basmati rice pilaf style with a mix of chickpea broth and water, then stirred a lot of chickpeas into the finished rice. This turned out very good and was very easy! Lovely flavors in the rice from the rich bean broth. I served the pilaf with the Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Red Vinegar on p. 274. This was a nice version of roasted cauliflower, though I took the weeknight shortcut of using preground spices, plus I subbed regular pimenton for bittersweet paprika, which I think took some of the oomph out of the dish. I liked the cauliflower but I think I was expecting something a bit more special out of this dish. At the end of the day it was just spiced roasted cauliflower.

          1. re: Westminstress

            I think it may have been your spices. This is one of my favorite menu items at AOC. When I've made it at home, it's come out wonderfully.

            1. re: dkennedy

              I have a feeling you are right, and I might be willing to give it another go following the directions exactly. One thing that was a little weird was the dish was a bit dry despite 4 Tbsp of fat plus the vinegar. I expected a more unctuous texture somehow.

              1. re: Westminstress

                I don't know. I made the cauliflower with fresh spices, exactly as directed, and I really didn't like it either. Odd, because that mix of spices would usually produce something I like. I think the vinegar just tasted wrong in that dish.

          2. re: JoanN

            Wonderful review/report Joan. Confession: I've leaned, after all these years, I do not like chickpeas.

            I'm living this cookbook through all the marvelous reviews. Thanks All!

            1. re: Gio

              gio, sigh, FINally someone else who doesn't like chickpeas. i wish i did, but it's the mealyness that puts me off. if hoomus is plain, i feel the same but if it is spiced well, i like it.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Yes, along with the mealy texture to me chickpeas have very little flavor. I used to make hummus regularly but a few months ago I decided I'd had it with chickpeas after I used up the last bit of dried ones. I love all beans except chickpeas.

                1. re: Gio

                  Isn't that funny how tastes differ? I love chickpeas the best of any bean. Both the nutty flavor and the firm texture (I wouldn't call them bland or mealy).

                  1. re: Westminstress

                    Love them too and for the same reasons. Also love black and navy and beluga lentils the best.

                    1. re: Westminstress

                      I love them too, but usually end up having to sub something in recipes because my husband is in the anti-chickpea crowd. The only beans I don't like are lima beans, and I've found that made into a spread even they can be appealling.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Sunday Suppers has a recipe involving lima beans that is very tasty. Have you tried it?

                        1. re: herby

                          *shuffling feet* erm, no. I have to say that I haven't gotten to the point yet where I actually want to make lima bean recipes. But ... I'll give it a look.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            She used fresh lima bean, maybe that made a difference. I don't think I ever used dry or frozen.

                            1. re: herby

                              now herby, i thought we were FRIENDS....!?
                              But ya gotta stop using that L word. yuckola! in VA they call them 'butter beans' and they are my HATEST vegetable.
                              they are famous in Brunswick stew, a VA/NC specialty(liked the stew but always picked out every single one of those little L beans....) and succotash. Edamame make a delicious substitute imo!

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                I shudder at the thought of the succotash my mother used to serve us. And I like almost everything (at least vegetable wise).

                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  We are, we are just do not like the same bean :))

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    This thread has me laughing. I always HATED lima beans/butter beans as a child and I just have never eaten them as an adult. I decided that maybe this year I should give them a try so I bought some freshly shelled ones from the Farmer's Market. I put them in the freezer and they are still there ... I just have not been inspired to try them.

                                    1. re: stockholm28

                                      well stockholm, if , one day, someone steals all the food out of your freezer exCEPT the butter beans, you'll know it was Lmom or me!

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                        Good to have you back , chef! Looking forward to some interesting recipes from you. In the mean time I should make your eggplant soon :)

                                  2. re: herby

                                    Fresh Lima beans are totally different. My kids love them freshly cooked.

                              2. re: LulusMom

                                And I Like lima beans and G doesn't. As Westmistress said, "tastes differ".

                                1. re: Gio

                                  You sure we're not sisters, Gio? Like limas, dislike chickpeas. In fact, I loooove limas. And beg to differ with oc that edamame makes a delicious substitute. I like edamame well enough, but when both limas and corn are in season, nothin'--but NOTHIN'--beats freshly shelled limas in succotash.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I'd love it if we were, Joan! I guess I just love beans that are creamy. Cannellini hold the same attraction.

                            2. re: Gio

                              Chickpeas' mealy texture puts me off, as well, and just plain cooked, they taste chalky and underdone to me because of it. I like the flavor just fine once the texture's transformed, so I'm A-OK with hummus, falafel, or roasted chickpeas, but otherwise not a fan. There's something textural that gets me with limas and favas, as well (though I know an anti-fava stance is downright heretical to some!).

                        2. re: JoanN

                          Interesting to read your account of chickpeas' cooking. I do not have the book and do not intend to buy at this time but curious to follow the cooking adventure :) Back to chickpeas. I love them in many incarnations and last night decided to make some and soaked a bunch, whatever was left in a jar. This morning put them to boil and cooked for about 45 min before leaving for work. Usually this is enough time to make nice tender beans but I got home tonight they were still a bit tough, not exactly crunchy but not tender either. These were a mix of chickpeas from the back of the pantry and some must've been old. I put them back to cook and an hour later they were still the same. Then I remembered that Ottolenghi put a bit of baking soda in water and decided in desperation to add some to the pot. Viola! Half an hour later I had a pot of wonderfully tender chickpeas. I am going to try it with other beans. My guess is that slight change in pH makes a huge difference in bean cookery. Who knew!

                          1. re: herby

                            But, be aware that using baking soda destroys important nutrients and vitamins. It's really best to soak older beans for a longer time to ensure the beans will be cooked well..

                            1. re: Gio

                              Really? How would it happen with a touch of sodium bicarbonate? Gio, do you have a reference for me to read up on it? Very curious...

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Thank you, Gio! These are just opinions, you know, and my science background does not lend itself well to unsupported statements :) I found an interesting site - - associated with North Dakota State University but nothing there. Going to check Art of Fermentation tonight - it is well researched and documented book. I am very interested in beans and grains and want to know more about them. There is so much hype and I wonder is there any value to sprouted flours, for example, or is it just a marketing ploy.

                                  1. re: herby

                                    You're welcome Herby! I agree with your further investigation. It only makes sense to do that. I soak dry beans before cooking them sometimes using the over night method and sometimes by the quick stove top method. In either case I've not had a problem with older beans at all. In fact for one of Jamie Oliver's bean recipes he adds a chopped tomato to the initial cooking which is a no-no for some. Jacques Pepin doesn't soak them at all, just like MelMM.

                                    I have read that if baking soda is to be used at all it shouldn't be more than the tiniest amount, then as Mell said, drained but more importantly rinsed very well before well cooking.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      I added baking soda last night in desperation because the beans would not soften, left them cool in the pot since it was getting late and stuffed them into the fridge in their pot still in the liquid this morning. I might find a disaster on my hands when I get home and need to start from scratch. But I have no chickpeas left...

                                      Usually, I soak beans over night changing water at least once and sometimes twice. Then cook them in fresh plain water. 98% of time this works great.

                                      1. re: herby

                                        While we're discussing bean-cooking lore, I thought I'd also mention that the old-wives' tale about not adding salt is just that. In fact, when put to the test, it has been found that beans cook up better with salt added in from the start. Plus, they come out seasoned all the way through. Cook's Illustrated also recommends putting salt in the soaking water.

                                2. re: herby

                                  My problem with baking soda in beans is the taste. As you can see in the links Gio posted, it can impart a soapy taste. I would only use it if you plan on discarding the cooking water, and I would only use a tiny amount. Personally, I do not use it.

                                  I am a non-soaker where beans are concerned. The trick to me is to get fresh beans, which means buy them at a place with a high turnover, and don't keep them around too long. I cook them on low heat in a clay pot, and allow plenty of time.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    Gio and Mel, I had to come back and confess what a disaster that baking soda has created - never again! Crunchy beans are much better than mushy ones a bit on a slimy side. So I froze two cups, made one cup of humus and thrown the rest out. I probably will throw out the frozen ones too. Humus was my pathetic attempt to salvage chickpeas and is probably no good - I'll taste before serving. My original plan was to roast chickpeas with some warm spices for a before dinner nibble. I do have nice crackers and tapenade and a few pickles - we'll be fine. But what a disaster!

                          2. Roasted pear crisp with cranberries and yogurt sherbet (page 339)

                            Another multi-component dish. I made the sherbet (page 341) a few days ahead of time. Plain whole milk yogurt (I used TJ’s), a tablespoon of vodka (to keep the sherbet from becoming too icy), vanilla, agave syrup, whole milk, sugar. This was wonderful; so refreshing; not too sweet; perfect complement to the crisp. One guest asked for seconds of the sherbet without the crisp.

                            Cranberry compote (page 340): frozen cranberries, dried cranberries (for texture), sugar, cinnamon stick, grated zest of half an orange, seeds and pod of half a vanilla bean. Dump it all together and simmer until thickened. She says 15 to 25 minutes and mine took the full 25 at least.

                            For the topping, pulse flour, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a processor with cold butter until it resembles coarse meal. Squeeze it into clumps and refrigerate until you need it.

                            Peel 5 pounds of ripe but firm Comice or D’Anjou pears (I used Comice) and cut into one-inch wedges. Caramelize them in batches in butter and sugar until browned but not too soft on each side. (This was a major PITA! I used my large CI skillet, it still required four batches; and they all caramelized at different times depending on where they were in the skillet. I thought I was going to get repetitive stress syndrome in my wrist turning and checking on them with a pair of tongs).

                            To assemble: lightly butter an 8 X 10 baking dish (I don’t have one; I used something a bit smaller and only needed about three-quarters of the cooked pears and less than half the streusel topping) and put half the pears on the bottom; top with a layer of Cranberry Compote, then another layer of pears, the rest of the compote, and top all with the streusel. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. It took closer to an hour for my topping to get golden brown, but that may have been because I kept opening the oven to check. Serve warm with a scoop of yogurt sherbet.

                            This was a lovely winter dessert. And the yogurt sherbet, as I said was a perfect accompaniment. But the pears were such a pain and the streusel wasn’t anywhere near as good as the one in Carole Walter’s coffeecake book. I’d make the sherbet again in a heartbeat. Not the crisp. Gotta be easier recipes out there that would pack the same punch with considerably less effort.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: JoanN

                              Thanks for the review of this. I thought it sounded good for a potluck in a few days. The heads up about the pears is helpful. And I'm going to look for that other streusel recipe.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Is this the coffee cake recipe with streusel you are thinking of? From Carole Walters? I think I have the book, but deep in storage. This streusel has pecans and some dark sugars and cinnamon. No butter.

                                What you are thinking you preferred to the AOC pear crisp streusel?

                                1. re: karykat

                                  Carol's Favorite Streusel, on page 350 of her coffeecake book, was the one I was thinking of and it does have butter. It's really quite an extraordinary streusel, and has left me disappointed with any streusel I've had since. Walter's recipe contains a small amount of nuts, which I probably wouldn't bother with if I were substituting hers for the Goin in this recipe. And one could add the bit of nutmeg called for in the Goin and replace some of the white sugar with dark brown, although I doubt either change would make that big a difference.

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                      Thanks for the streusel recipe. I made a cranberry streusel coffee cake on Monday but I didn't like how the streusel came out. I will try this the next time.

                              2. What a feast, JoanN! It sounds just the thing for a complete Holiday menu. I'm glad you started this thread so I can live vicariously till I'm convinced to buy the book.

                                1. In the midst of finals here ( my kid's, not mine) will post starting next week.