Read this cookbook: “Gather & Graze: 120 Favorite Recipes for Tasty Good Times” by Stephanie Izard with Rachel Holtzman (Clarkson Potter, $35)
By Wendell Brock
Forget the smiley face and heart emoticons. For the fierce and formidable Chicago chef Stephanie Izard, the only thing that will do is the clenched fist. She’s got girl power to spare.
Izard was America’s first female “Top Chef” winner (wham!) and later went on to defeat Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon on “Iron Chef Guantlet” (triple wham!).
In 2013, she won a James Beard Foundation Award for her cooking at Girl & the Goat, a contemporary American restaurant that has spawned its own little herd, including Little Goat Diner and Duck Duck Goat.
Now Izard has written a cookbook that encapsulates her style of straightforward cooking and entertaining. Her unbridled energy and lust for life is captured wonderfully in these pages.
She’s a brunch lover, a girl who likes to grill, pickle, bake.
She owns a diner, so there are lots of brunch recipes here (Tasty Eggy Kimchi Bacon Thing, Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Rolls). She also has a yen for Asian flavors and ingredients, so it’s almost a challenge to pinpoint a recipe that doesn’t call for sambal oelek or miso.
And though she’s married to a lusty meat eater, she professes an affinity for veggies. So she’s as eager to tell you how to celebrate kohlrabi and shishitos as goat hearts and duck necks.
There are so many delicious-sounding dishes here, including slow-cooker mains like coconut-braised beef cheeks and pork shoulder.
Izard loves miso, malt vinegar, sorrel, blue cheese, even Cheez-Its, and offers plenty of ideas for how to zip up plain food with such ingredients.
You like blue-cheese stuffed olives? She tells you how to make them at home.
Cheez-Its? She’s got you covered with Chocolate Peanut Butter-Covered Cheez-It S’mores and Goat Cheesecake with Beer Caramel and Pretzel Whipped Cream. (For the latter, she sets the cheesecake on a crumble crust of pretzels, cheese crackers, and white chocolate, and tops it with pretzel-infused whipped cream.)
She’s the only cook I’ve ever known to put peanut butter in peanut brittle, a confection she compares to Butterfinger, and she uses the candy to whomp up her killer Peanut Butter Overload Cake with Concord Grape Sauce. (Damn!)
No surprise that the chef behind the Girl & the Goat is a people magnet who craves fun as much as flavor. Just in time for summer, she’s sending us all out to graze: 120 recipes that taste great and won’t get your goat.
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock) .