It’s hard to miss the persimmon — sliced in half and lying on a table — that graces the cover of Suzanne Goin’s “The A.O.C. Cookbook.” A sort of cross between a tomato and a peach, the fruit symbolizes the freshness and simplicity of California cuisine.
But this book contains something much more complicated and eccentric than your typical Alice Waters spinoff. A.O.C., also the name of one of Goin’s successful Los Angeles restaurants, is a reference to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée standard that assures products are made in a traditional way. (Why Champagne can come only from the region of Champagne.)
Goin, who will be speaking at the Tucson Festival of Books’ Culinary Tent on March 15, is enamored with the history and the essence of artisanal products. She dedicates more than 50 pages to a glossary of cheeses.
The recipes themselves are ingredient-centered, with Spanish and North African influences mixing with the French countryside. Look for an heirloom tomato salad with marinated balls of labneh yogurt and a green harissa sauce spiked with cumin and caraway.
This book is not for the casual home cook. The comprehensive recipes — you know, the ones that have you spending a half-hour putting together the black-olive aioli that goes on the side — often contain more than two dozen ingredients and a grandiose preface of personal stories. (Love the one about Aunt Gladys’ kumquats.)
Not to mention restaurant partner Caroline Styne’s intricate wine notes.
Example: The best pairing for a “frozen meyer lemon meringue tart with gingersnap crust and blueberry compote” is a Coteaux du Layon from the Loire Valley of France.
What you’re left with after all this is an incredibly vivid, sometimes idiosyncratic, portrait of a woman and a restaurant.
Even when Goin geeks out about capers, you’re hooked on her enthusiasm. Like the persimmon, “The A.O.C. Cookbook” reveals a lush ensemble of complex flavors under its basic exterior.