Books & Literature

Cookbook Extract: Eat California, by Vivian Lui

Dip into the colourful food culture of California with several free recipes from this authentic, sun-drenched cookbook.

It’s safe to say that California has a lot going for it: a laid-back lifestyle, golden beaches, and a vibrant food culture. The seafood is fresh, the produce organic and plentiful, and the farmers’ markets are a wealth of riches all year round. Thanks to the coastal state’s fertile soil and temperate climate, local produce is varied and abundant, from the famed citrus to the beloved avocado.

But beyond the impressive range of produce available, the state’s cultural diversity means finding vendors hawking handmade tacos next to a bustling Korean BBQ restaurant. The food scene offers an abundance of flavours and techniques, and Californians appreciate them all. It is this genuine love of food – preparing it, eating it and sharing it – that fuels this positive energy in kitchens and around tables, and makes California truly golden.

Eat California celebrates the incredible food found on the West coast of the USA. Vivian Lui is a recipe writer and food stylist who grew up in Northern California. Her work has appeared in editorials, commercials and cookbooks, and she has worked with The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Goop, Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods and Amazon. She currently lives in Santa Monica and enjoys all that Southern California has to offer: food, sun, skiing and surfing.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia, we have several recipes to share from Eat California so you can taste just a few of the vibrant recipes from America’s West Coast. The book was released this week, so dive in and enjoy these samples as we head into our own summer weather.

Breakfast Tacos

Tacos come in many forms throughout California – traditional versions from trucks, Korean tacos and vegan tacos with jicama as the base. The tortilla is a perfect vessel to fill with different ingredients, so it makes sense that there are so many adaptations.

Serves 4 | Prep 5 mins | Cook 25 mins

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 230 g fresh breakfast sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 large poblano chilli pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 8 small corn tortillas (about 13 cm in diameter)
  • 8 large eggs


  • Sliced jalapeño, pickled radish and coriander leaves

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the sausage and cook for 6–8 minutes, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon and stirring frequently, until the meat is browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of the oil to the pan, then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the poblano chilli pepper and season. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage. Wipe out the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, toast the tortillas over a direct flame for 1 minute, or until lightly charred in spots or to desired doneness. Flip and repeat. Transfer to a plate and cover with a dish towel to keep warm.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, season and whisk. Return the frying pan to medium–high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat. Pour in the eggs and immediately reduce the heat to medium–low. Fold gently a few times and tilt the pan to allow any very runny parts to cook. Continue until mostly set with large billowy curds, about 3–4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

To serve, divide the eggs onto the tortillas. Top with the sausage mixture and finish with desired toppings.

Spring Prawn Salad

Springtime brings with it a lot of delicate flavours and textures, which makes this salad pair well with the sweetness of the Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns. Substitute with any local, wild, smaller, sweet prawns.

Serves 4 | Prep 5 mins + 10 mins for Avocado Green Goddess (recipe below) | Cook 10 mins

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 3 spring (green) onions
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 450 g raw Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns or local small prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 125 ml (½ cup) thinned Avocado Green Goddess (recipe below)
  • 180 g sugar snap peas or snow peas, halved lengthways on a bias
  • 1 bunch of pea shoot leaves, tough stems removed
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 60 g pistachios, roughly chopped

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Prepare an ice bath. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute until just bright. Remove and transfer to the ice bath. Once cool, drain the asparagus in a colander.

Place the spring onions, bay leaves and whole peppercorns in the pan and return to the boil. Add the prawns, cover and turn off the heat.

Poach for 8–10 minutes until just cooked through. Strain and discard the aromatics, then toss the prawns with 2 tablespoons of the Avocado Green Goddess dressing and leave to cool.

Place the sugar snap peas and pea shoot leaves in a large bowl. Add half the remaining dressing, season and toss lightly.

Season the asparagus and serve with the prawns, topped with the sugar snap peas and leaves. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and serve with the remaining dressing.

Avocado Green Goddess salad dressing

This dressing is a take on the original from San Francisco. The creamy avocado replaces the need for sour cream or mayonnaise. It can be enjoyed thick as a dip with crudités or thinned out as a dressing.

Makes 350 ml | Prep 10 mins | Cook none

  • 1 avocado, stoned and sliced
  • 6 anchovy fillets, drained
  • 15 g parsley, leaves and tender stems
  • 15 g chives
  • 10 g tarragon, leaves and tender stems
  • 10 g mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon juice
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth and lightly flecked with green herbs, scraping down the side as necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

For a thinner dressing, add 1 tablespoon water at a time and process until you reach the desired consistency. Season lightly.

Coconut Popsicles

Hot California summer nights need something refreshing to finish off the day. Creamy, sweet, tart and floral, these pops will do the trick.

Makes 10 | Prep 5 mins + 4½ hours to freeze | Cook none

Palm Springs Date Pops

  • 400 ml tinned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 200 g Medjool dates, pitted
  • 50 g coconut flakes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch of sea salt flakes

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to popsicle moulds and freeze for 30 minutes before placing in sticks. Return to the freezer to fully set for about 4 hours before unmoulding.

Citrus Creamsicle Pops

  • 400 ml tinned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 125 ml (½ cup) condensed milk
  • 300 ml mixed citrus juice
  • 2 tablespoons mixed citrus zest

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to popsicle moulds and freeze for 30 minutes before placing in sticks. Return to the freezer to fully set for about 4 hours before unmoulding.

Strawberry & Vanilla Pops

  • 170 g strawberries, sliced
  • 55 g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and seeds scraped out or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 400 ml tinned sweetened coconut milk
  • 225 g natural yoghurt

Toss the strawberries, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl. Leave for 20 minutes.

Add the milk and yoghurt to a large measuring cup and whisk to combine. Purée the strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth. Divide among popsicle moulds. Top with the yoghurt mix and swirl. Freeze for 30 minutes before placing in sticks. Return to the freezer for 4 hours until fully set before unmoulding.

Recipes extracted from Eat California by Vivian Lui, published by Smith Street Books, RRP $49.99. Photography © Con Poulos, Food stylist © Vivian Lui

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