Stephanie Izard's Girl in the Kitchen Cookbook Review and Interview

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Jennifer Woods
Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats and Drinks by Stephanie Izard and her friend Heather Shouse, published by Chronicle Books, has the look and feel of many of the celebrity cookbooks you've seen before. Colorful and engaging graphic design, photo of the chef looking happy and attractive and snaps of food that make you want to run to the market before heading home with the book, just so you don't have to wait too long to taste any of them.

Read on for what Izard makes for her family when she's in town...

We got our copy at a delightful dinner last month, hosted by Izard at The Accidental Yard in Scottsdale. We got to gab for a few moments about the book while she was plating up the passed Ethiopian steak tartare appetizers.

She calls herself a "faux celebrity" and muses about how she never intended to be on television but that because of it (and her competitive nature), she's "gotten to do so many cool things" and that it "opens so may opportunities." She'd started work on this cookbook a few years ago. It was sparked from the idea that her friend, and senior Food and Drink correspondent for Time Out Chicago as well as the Chicago reporter for Food & Wine, Heather Shouse had about writing a cookbook. Izard wanted to jump on board and started developing and testing recipes in her own home kitchen. They wanted this one to be all about the home cook. She's also working on a companion cookbook for her successful Chicago-based restaurant Girl & the Goat.

We wanted to know what she eats at home with her family when she comes here to visit (her adorable parents, who attended the dinner, live in Scottsdale). She's usually here for a holiday and, smiling with her hands spread wide, she tells us about the time she roasted a whole suckling pig for Christmas and "carving it out by the pool with a Santa hat." Her sister was "freaked at the head on the grill watching smoke coming out the nostrils."

That image is exactly how you can describe Izard's style and personality, she's bold and she attacks food without fear and a whole lotta creativity and fun. That's exactly the type of recipes you'll find in her book. She wants to give you a peek into her food brain and how she thinks about cooking. However, if you're not a pretty confident home cook, you could feel frustrated at the fairly unique and sometimes hard-to-find ingredients (like conchiglie pasta, sorrel leaves and yellow aji chile paste) and the possibility of the picky eaters in your family running the other way. If that's you, this might not be the book for you. But if you're into trying new recipes, can breezily sub ingredients, want something fresh and adventuresome and you can rock a knife and a pan, you'll absolutely loooove this book.

The writing feels your best food obsessed friend is smartly talking over your shoulder as you chop or shop for ingredients. You also will find drink (wine and beer) pairings with every dish so you'll never to wrong when you're ready to have an impromptu party. And you will, with recipes like Chilled Yellow Tomato and Vanilla Bean Soup with Lump Crab and Basil or Pan Roasted New York Steaks with Sauteed Cucumbers and Salted Goat Milk Caramel. Creative combinations organized into seven chapters: starters, soups, salads, pastas, mains, sides and extras. In the extras chapter, you'll get Izard's go-tos for things like basic pasta dough, salsa verde, her favorite vinaigrettes and preserved lemons. We especially love her salads section, the Kohlrabi, Fennel and Bing Cherry just might get the alien-like CSA favorite kohlrabi on the popular food map.

We wanted to finish our time with Izard with some of her favorite cookbooks. She picked Momofuku, which she says has a similar style to her cookbook - like including a purveyor list. The second book would be something from Jamie Oliver. She loves the way he thinks about food, he's cool and does a lot for the food world. She admits she would love to be just like him complete with a "sexy British accent" but "without the balls."

Izard's talent, drive and spirit is something that gives her that "thing" that's made her so loved by viewers, eaters and now readers. Thumbs up from this home cook, go check it out.

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