When Venice restaurant Gjelina opened in 2008, it drew comparisons to power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: exceptionally good-looking and ardently invested in the global good. (Bran-Gjelina, anyone?)
Seven years later, chef Travis Lett’s brand of well sourced, artfully prepared California fare has only grown in appeal, especially with this year’s arrival of deli-bakery Gjusta and, now, a cookbook.
Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California is a collection of gorgeous recipes inspired by the restaurant’s menu and a meditation on the chef’s investment in the sustainable food revolution he has helped nurture. “These recipes are a reflection of the changing dialogue about what we eat,” writes Lett. They promote the use of ingredients that make a minimal impact on the environment and a maximum impact on health.
Seasonal vegetables are the centerpiece of the Gjelina menu and, fittingly, the “vegetable” chapter is the cookbook’s largest. While at the restaurant vegetables are often prepared in the wood-burning oven, here Lett adapts his rustic recipes—such as romanesco with golden raisins, tahini and sumac (recipe below)—for the home cook. The creative “salad” chapter encourages the use of greens with personality, such as little gems with Fuyu persimmon and pomegranate.
Lett treats meat as a delicious “accessory” to the veggies, and his whole-animal philosophy is reflected in recipes like pan-seared calf livers with leeks and red wine. There are also recipes for enduring Gjelina favorites, including ocean trout rillettes and thin-crust pizzas.
Overall this is food that, as Lett describes it, is “relaxed, not too showy”…unlike a certain power couple we know.
Excerpted from Gjelina by Travis Lett, photographs by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott (Chronicle Books, 2015)