Belcampo Meat Co., headquartered in Oakland, is both a sustainable, Pinterest-worthy meat daydream and a serious business with a projection of $20 million in revenue in the next year. It's run by CEO Anya Fernald, whose background includes time as the executive director of Slow Food Nation, and creator of the Food Craft Institute and Eat Real Fest in Oakland. Now, along with writer Jessica Battilana, Fernald has added cookbook author to her list of accomplishments. She's also a mother of a three-year-old child, with another one on the way, a fact that influences her book in a slight but charming way. (Her daughter Viola apparently teethed on lamb chops.)
Though part of the book's appeal is that it's written by a someone who understands the value of "quick and easy" recipes (a parent), Fernald's aesthetic refuses to take on the familiar "set it and forget it" tone , or rely on pre-packaged, processed food to get dinner on the table. In Anya's world there are no burbling crockpots, filled to the brim with packets of salad dressings and tough cuts of meat, a la the "Mississipi Roast." In Home Cooked, shortcuts take meals down to their most basic, suggesting simple dishes like beef and pork ragu, eggs poached in tomato suace, and blistered green beans. Each dish relies on a handful of really, really good ingredients: heirloom Early Girl tomatoes, toma cheese, California olive oil, and farm eggs.
The book offers over 100 recipes, divided into categories like Building Blocks (broths, cured fish, canned fruits and vegetables), Snacks, Starters and Drinks, Vegetables, Fish and Meats, and Dessert. There's a surprising emphasis on vegetables (from someone who runs a meat empire), though there are plenty of opportunities to salivate over a rib-eye grilled over a wood-fire or lamb sausage. The recipes skew Italian, relying on the simplistic hospitality of her (former) Italian mother-in-law. A bowl full of radishes, a plate of soft-boiled eggs topped with anchovies, and hard cheese are part of Fernald's suggestions for quick entertaining. That includes several very good cocktail suggestions, including a batched Boulevardier recipe that serves eight. And, while it's simple math to scale up a cocktail, her suggestion of keeping a high-proof drink in the fridge for at-will consumption and large-scale entertaining is ingenious.
This is the simple magic of Home Cooked, which easily achieves its delicate balancing act of providing approachable, but thoughtful recipes that aren't dumbed down for home cooks. And, thankfully, its recipes do not require a vigorous search for esoteric ingredients— it's all Slow Food-approved good meat and fish, and produce that one can easily find at the farmer's market.
Home Cooked: Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook by Anya Fernald and Jessica Battilana is published by Ten Speed Press, and will span 304 pages. Hardcover price is $35. It's available for purchase April 5, 2016.