Reading Malibu Farm Cookbook by Helene Henderson, I had to pinch myself. This is a cookbook made especially for me. Well, not everything, but the kinds of recipes, the flavors and the style of cooking is exactly what I like. I have a cooking blog, though one with pedestrian photos at best, and many of my recipes are in the same vein, some veggies, she spice or herb, some fruit and a bit of acid, lemon or vinegar. I am in love.

Henderson host monthly dinners at her Malibu Farm and folks amble around the grounds with certain items served at the chicken coop, the little vineyard, the vegetable plots, the goat’s dog house and so on. Rather than the usual organization by course, Henderson organized her recipes around the different areas of her farm. There is a lot of emphasis on vegetables and healthy eating, but Henderson is no vegetarian. There’s grass-fed beef recipes, fish recipes, and chicken and turkey recipes as well.

The photos by Martin Löf are wonderful. They were taken of meals and dishes that were cooked for real private chef clients and meals, not made to order for the cookbook. This gives them a naturalistic, authenticity that is welcoming and encouraging. Perfect looking recipes scare me. I know I cannot make them look that good. I love these. I can make them and mine will look just as good, even though my photos will never be as nice.

There is one thing I do not like about the cookbook, and it’s just stylistic. The design uses a monospace typewriter font that has a built in distressed, degraded look, mimicking the effect of striking keys with different degrees of pressure. I get it. It’s different and a bit nostalgic, but it is harder to read. Thankfully, the recipes are in a nice kerned font that takes pity on my poor eyes.

This is a generous cookbook. It even comes with a bright green ribbon marker to save your place in the book.  It has more recipes than most. Most of the items she uses are ordinary ingredients, carrots, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and so on. There’s nothing that requires a trip to a specialty store or online shopping. This is familiar foods cooked with verve and élan.

4pawsSo how do the recipes work? The Kale Caesar is delicious, fresh and garlicky and who would have ever thought of crisping up some sage to dress it up? Delicious. Baby potatoes and green beans? Nearly perfect. I added a second clove of garlic, but that’s just a personal preference. And that is another reason this cookbook is perfect for me. Henderson encourages improvisation and experimentation. When introducing a recipe, she often mentions some riffs on the recipe that might give it a different twist.

Henderson’s father and her son are jazz musicians. She is a jazz cook, creating a foundation melody that allows her fellow band mates (cooks) the space to experiment and improvise and find their own riffs.

I was provided a review copy of Malibu Farm Cookbook by Blogging For Books.