Brooklyn Chef's Table, Our Cookbook of the Week
All photos by Eric Isaac, courtesy Globe Pequot Press Stuffed Cabbage at Mill Basin Kosher Delicatessen
Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.
Brooklyn Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Coney Island to Brooklyn Heights
By Sarah Zorn, 224 pages, Lyons Press, $24.95
Brooklyn native Sarah Zorn wasn't expecting to write a cookbook. But, as food editor for L Magazine and Brooklyn Magazine, she knows her way around the Brooklyn food scene, and when Globe Pequot Press contacted her out of the blue one day and asked if she could write a book in two months, she gleefully agreed (after, of course, Googling them to make sure it wasn't some kind of scam). "I wasn't planning on writing a cookbook," she says, "but if I HAD been planning to write one, this is absolutely the one I would have written!"
The author grew up in Park Slope in the 1980s and bounced to Ditmas Park, Bay Ridge, and other parts of town before landing in Bath Beach: "I have an incredible track record of leaving neighborhoods as soon as they get hot," she says, and while Bath Beach may be a million miles from the center of the hot, "New Brooklyn" culinary cutting-edge, she says it's telling that even at the very edge of the borough, where the sea meets the sky, there is this amazing culinary diversity: "I can't think of many other people, even in Brooklyn, who can walk down the street and get hand-pulled noodles, and then go and get a Dominican breakfast, and then have Georgian bread."
Which, to Zorn, is no surprise: "I've found it endlessly amusing that outside media has tried to paint what's going on in Brooklyn's food scene as a trend or something new -- like, 'Oh, look at this! Brooklyn's food scene is popping! There's reason to go across the bridge!' To me, as somebody who grew up here, who honed my love of food here, Brooklyn totally has an identity in and of itself...I can't think of many other cities in the world where you can get Guyanese food or Haitian food or Szechuan food or Georgian food or Pueblan food or Polish food. That's so unique to Brooklyn. Manhattan doesn't stand up to us when it comes to that."
In the book are dishes from more than 50 Brooklyn restaurants -- longtime institutions like Tom's Diner and Mill Basin Kosher Deli and decidedly new-wave outposts like Do or Dine and SCRATCHBread -- in clear, easy-to-follow recipes anyone can cook at home. With each restaurant, Zorn gives the chef a chance to tell his or her own story, so the book becomes not only a useful kitchen tool, but an anthology of vignettes telling the Brooklyn story. And there are few things that could be more Brooklyn than that.
The book drops today, and Zorn will be at Owl's Head Wine Bar (479 74th Street, Brooklyn, 718-680-2436) in Bay Ridge at 8 p.m. tomorrow for snacks and a signing and at Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn 718-222-4111) on Thursday.
On the next page, we chat with Zorn on borough food history, salmon ramen and the varied uses of winter squash.