Nancy Silverton, founder of the La Brea Bakery (you might have seen their baguettes at, um, every grocery store), is the co-owner and chef of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Lines for both restaurants have filed out the door since opening day. Silverton's food combines the familiar flavors of Italian food with the fresh and seasonal flare of California cooking. There is a lot to love about this new cookbook, Mozza, but quick and easy recipes isn't one of them.
The introduction includes interesting ingredient recommendations and advice, like how to buy Balsamic vinegar, why you should only use double strength tomato paste (sold in tubes) and less common ingredients and dishes like saba, mostarda and fennel pollen. There are no sources for buying these ingredients, which is an oversight, since you can probably mail order everything she recommends.
Before the official chapters begin, there are recipes for a couple simple cooked tomato sauces, roasted tomatoes, basic chicken stock, a vinaigrette, and soffitto--chopped onions, carrots and celery that have been cooked down for several hours. These basics find there way into several recipes in the chapters that follow. Chapters roughly follow the courses of a traditional Italian meal (though Silverton admits, Italians don't eat this way every day): Apertivi and Stuzzichini (cocktails and little bites); Antipasti, Primi (pastas), Secondi (meats and main dishes), Contorni (vegetables), and Dolci (dessert). There is also a chapter on pizza and one dedicated to mozzarella cheese.
The Mozza restaurants are deservedly famous for their cheese bar. I was really hoping for some recipes on making your own mozzarella in Mozza, but it turns out they buy or import their cheeses too. Alas, no sources are listed. The mozzarella chapter does provide a lot of information cheeses such as burrata, mozzarella, ricotta and more, and there are recipes for dishes such as burrata with leeks vinaigrette and mustard bread crumbs.
Recipe headnotes include serving suggestions and some background information for many dishes. There are not many shortcut options nor substitution suggestions. The chopped salad recipe looks delicious and simple, until you realize there is a three-hour process involved for making ceci--an Italian dish for cooked chickpeas. Could you use canned chickpeas instead? Probably, but Silverton is not offering up these shortcuts, because undoubtedly the salad is a show-stopper when made to her specifications.
The pasta chapter includes several dough recipes, like black dough, colored with squid ink, semolina dough and instructions about making various shapes of pasta. "Matt's Scuola di Pasta," includes almost two dozen tips from Silverton's pasta maker, like being organized before you start making the pasta, and how to salt the pasta water. There are a handful of photos throughout the chapter for making some of the pasta shapes, and for some dishes like the fresh ricotta and egg ravioli with brown butter, which includes a raw egg yolk inside a nest of ricotta cheese, inside a ravioli. It is a thing of beauty.
Mozza isn't a cookbook you are necessarily going to pull off the shelf for a weeknight meal, though if you are someone that just wants some inspiration and starting points from which to riff, there are plenty in this book. Some of the instructions are kind of convoluted or needlessly wordy. The recipe for risotto--a dish I have made dozens of times--made my eyes cross a little, but the result was one of the creamiest risottos I've ever made.