Mozza at Home
With clever tips on how to organize your table and your time when serving many guests, Mozza at Home helps you throw the perfect dinner party—one that’s positively stress-free and delicious!
As an award-winning chef and the owner of six busy restaurants across two continents, Nancy Silverton was so consumed by her life in the professional kitchen that for years she almost never cooked at home. With her intense focus on the business of cooking, Nancy had forgotten what made her love to cook in the first place: fabulous ingredients at the height of their season, simple food served family style, and friends and loved ones gathered around the dinner table. Then, on a restorative trip to Italy—with its ripe vegetables, magnificent landscapes, and long summer days—Nancy began to cook for friends and family again, and rediscovered the great pleasures (and great tastes!) of cooking and eating at home.
Now, in Mozza at Home, Nancy shares her renewed passion and provides nineteen menus packed with easy-to-follow recipes that can be prepared in advance (with no fancy restaurant equipment needed!) and are perfect for entertaining. Organized by meal, each menu provides a main dish along with a complementary selection of appetizers and side dishes. Under Nancy’s guidance you can mix and match all the options depending on the size of your gathering. Make a few sides for a small dinner party with friends, or make them all for a delicious family feast! And don’t forget dessert—there’s an entire chapter dedicated to end-of-meal treats such as Devil’s Food Rings with Spiced White Mountain Frosting and Dario’s Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Pine Nuts that can be prepared hours before serving so that the host gets to relax during the event too.
Whether it’s Marinated Olives and Fresh Pecorino and other appetizers that can be put out while you’re assembling the rest of the meal . . . salads, such as Endive Salad with Date Anchovy Dressing, composed of sturdy lettuces that won’t wilt . . . simple sides, such as Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas with Cumin Vinaigrette, that are just as delicious served at room temperature as they are warm . . . or show-stopping mains such as the Flattened Chicken Thighs with Charred Lemon Salsa Verde—there is something here for everyone and every occasion. With clever tips on how to organize your table and your time when serving many guests, Mozza at Home helps you throw the perfect dinner party—one that’s positively stress-free and delicious!
A groundbreaking chef with the soul of a peasant makes her way home
At 62, she is not only an iconic California chef but also an iconic American chef. When she opened La Brea Bakery in 1989 with a sourdough starter she’d made herself, she created six breads — including a country white, an olive loaf and a dark Normandy rye — and essentially founded the artisan bread industry. As the head pastry chef and co-owner with her then-husband, Mark Peel, of the L.A. restaurant Campanile, she introduced a weekly grilled-cheese night in 1998, kicking off a national trend that has yet to wane. Along with Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich, she owns and runs the Mozzaplex, as her four businesses here are called: Osteria Mozza, an upscale Italian restaurant; Pizzeria Mozza; Mozza2Go; and Chi Spacca, a tiny meat-centric spot in a hidden space that began as a cooking school and has become one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in town. Chi Spacca is everything a traditional Florentine restaurant tries to be but goes it one better with meat that boasts an unmistakable West Coast char.
This week marks the publication of Silverton’s ninth cookbook: “Mozza at Home: More Than 150 Crowd-Pleasing Recipes for Relaxed, Family-Style Entertaining,” with Carolynn Carreño. When she was running La Brea Bakery and Campanile, Silverton didn’t have time to cook at home for her three children, who are now grown. And it wasn’t until 2000 that, along with her good friend and fellow L.A. chef Suzanne Tracht, of the estimable Jar restaurant, she started spending chunks of her summers in Italy. For several years, the two women rented an apartment on a piazza in a small town at the Umbria-Tuscany border and spent all day cooking dinners — 15 to 20 dishes, typically — that they served each night right in the piazza, at long tables, for friends and neighbors.
‘Mozza at Home’ and ‘Eat in My Kitchen’
Conventional wisdom has it that when you’re entertaining, it’s best to focus on the tried and true, not something new that might result in emergency takeout.
With “Mozza at Home,” by the Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño, you’re not likely to attempt a trial run since most of the recipes serve six or more. But many of the dishes on the elaborate, inviting and creative menus in the book can be made in advance — they’re often designed to be served at room temperature — so you have a chance to plan and tweak before the doorbell rings. Still, they are best for experienced cooks, not novices, packed as they are with devilish details.
I can vouch for the chicken thigh recipes, pan-roasted and browned at the last minute. I’m less convinced by the shoulder lamb chops, described as “pleasantly chewy,” not what I’d offer guests. Braising whole bunches of celery to go on a platter is a great idea, as is rolling ribbons of zucchini to thread onto skewers. And the recipe for devil’s food cake rings is a keeper, quick to make and as fine for cupcakes as for rings needing special molds. However, having guests frost their own pieces of cake, as Ms. Silverton suggests, makes me envision gridlock at the buffet table.
A preview is easier with “Eat in My Kitchen: To Cook, to Bake, to Eat and to Treat,” by Meike Peters, since almost all the recipes serve two to four. That said, I found a great many that were easily doubled or tripled, like delicious endives glazed with balsamic butter, and cod in parchment with ramps and red onions.
Ms. Peters, a blogger who lives in Berlin, draws on a mix of German and Mediterranean influences. That includes Malta, where she has family, inspiring the addition of orange peel in a bittersweet chocolate Bundt cake and blood oranges in a steaming bowl of mussels.
Her sandwiches, also scalable, include one made with roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic: easy for lunch, suitable for hors d’oeuvres on little toast rounds and alluring when assembled on long ciabatta breads for a party.
No matter what you choose to cook, be sure to keep the whole point of entertaining in focus: “Optimize the guests’ experience,” as Ms. Silverton puts it.