Provisioning a delicious picnic in an unfamiliar city can be a daunting task for even the most resourceful eater, but the job was an easy one on a recent trip to L.A. with the help of Cookbook Los Angeles, a beautifully curated shop full of local produce, meats, and all manner of tasty picnic fodder.
Founded in 2010 by Echo Park locals Marta Teegen and Robert Stelzner, Cookbook sells sustainable grocery staples and an assortment of prepared foods that are coordinated with the constantly changing dishes being served at their new restaurant, Cortez. After much deliberation, two thoughtfully prepared salads (chickpeas and fennel, with plump orange segments and black olives; rice and lentils, stained red with the juice of roasted beets) and a tidily wrapped sandwich (squash and chard with tahini and harissa) made their way into my picnic basket.
Nestled between shelves of vegetable stock and handmade burrata ravioli (why didn’t I buy that, too?) were several log-shaped packages of cookie dough, made in-house and sold by the pound. I grabbed a log of polenta-olive dough (chocolate chip was also available) to take to a housewarming later that evening at a friend’s new home nearby. What better way to warm a new house than to bake a batch of cookies?
The picnic was a hit, but the cookies were a masterpiece. The combination of cornmeal and olives was ingenious — neither too sweet nor too savory but with an occasional burst of saltiness. Meyer lemon zest made the raw dough pleasantly colorful and the light citrus flavor played nicely with thyme, which offered a fragrant earthiness fresh from the oven. The texture of the finished cookies was perfect: crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle.
We munched on the cookies as we toured my friend’s new yard, which is enormous and features a mature citrus tree that was completely laden with ripening fruit — one of California’s many winter perks. Back at home in Brooklyn, I’m planning to mix up a big batch of my favorite cookies and freeze a few logs to have on-hand as a last-minute hostess gift (or to use in the event of a late-night snack attack).
Ryan Reineck is a contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living. He loves growing things, making things, and eating things — usually in that order. Follow his blog at ryanreineck.com.