distr. Random House Canada, 326 pages, ISBN 978-0-701-18098-0, $34.95
Canadian hard covers) is by Anna Del Conte, who has written a dozen
books on Italian cooking. Many of them have won awards. Here, she
recounts her life in a sort-of memoir/autobiography. She was born in
pre-war Italy, arrived in England in 1949, married an Englishman and
stayed on. She has been well-known for bringing forth Italian food to
the English palate. This is her story of food in her life, and the
tastes associated with her food with recipes and plenty of cook's
notes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric
measurements, but there is no avoirdupois table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: memoir lovers, food historians.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: bollito misto; bomba di
panna e marrons glace; pasta and bean soup; gnocchi; polenta biscuits;
baked sardines; Swiss chard torte.
The downside to this book: the few photos are dark and murky.
The upside to this book: There's a general index to the book, and a
separate index to recipes and food.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
4. SLOW COOKER: the best cookbook ever with more than 400 easy-to-make
recipes (Chronicle Books, 2009, 544 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6657-6,
$24.95 US paper covers) is by Diane Phillips, author of 14 cookbooks
and a food consultant/teacher. This is a convenient book in that it
adapts many conventional recipes to the slow cooker. As many readers
know, you put a few items in the slow cooker in the A.M., set it for
some hours, and then it will be ready when you get home. Almost like
magic. Philips gives extensive details on the workings of the slow
cooker, the need for a dry pantry. spices and a larder, plus
maintenance/care of the cooker. There have been other books over the
years, but this one is one of the fattest with a wider range of
applications. It's arranged by technique, from soup and chiles through
casserole and stews, with separate chapters on fish, beef, poultry,
pork, lamb, veggies, breads and desserts. And there are seventy-five
pages on party planning. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents at
Audience and level of use: home cooks, beginners.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: cheesy broccoli soup, huevos
rancheros, beef enchiladas with chipotle sauce, artichoke spinach dip,
grits casserole, cherries jubilee lava cake, braised root vegetables.
The downside to this book: I found the typeface to be a little on the
The upside to this book: good database and selection of recipes.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.
5. THE ILLUSTRATED QUICK COOK (DK, 2009, 544 pages, ISBN 978-0-7566-
5577-8, $35 US) has been edited by Heather Whinney, a British food
writer and editor. The basics here: 700 plus recipes, many to be ready
in 30 minutes or less, 1,000 photos of finished dishes, quick
techniques, step-by-step master recipes. Categories involve everyday
family meals and express entertaining. Of course you will need three
things that not everyone has: a larder-pantry, a mise-en-place, and
food prepared in advance. She has planners, tables, and an illustrated
table of contents. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both
metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there are also metric tables
of equivalents and conversion charts. Extra features include: menu
planners, recipe chooser galleries, Cheat tips, Cook's Notes, recipe
variations, and practical information to introduce every time-saving
device. Signs are used to indicate prep times and cooking times.
Audience and level of use: harried beginners.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: quesadilla with feta cheese,
green olives and peppers; asparagus and herb tart; spiced pork and
chicken pie; shepherd's pie (which correctly calls for lamb); coq au
vin; pork with fennel and mustard.
The downside to this book: the book weighs too much it is not
convenient at more than five pounds.
The upside to this book: gorgeous colour photos.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
6. THE ENTERTAINING ENCYCLOPEDIA; essential tips for recipes and
perfect parties (Robert Rose, 2009, 477 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0219-8,
$24.95 US paper covers) is by Denise Vivaldo, founder of Food Fanatics,
a catering, recipe-development and food-styling firm
(foodfanatics.net). Some of her earlier books start with the title "Do
It for Less" as guides to parties or weddings. This current book
presents about 200 recipes and scores of proven party ideas, menus and
tips. She neatly divides and conquers by telling us that there are only
six basic elements to entertaining: theme, location, décor, guests,
food and beverages, and entertainment. Then she proceeds to give us an
analysis of each with her advice. In the recipe section (which begins
on page 201), she gives us the essential preps for appetizers, salads,
soups, etc. through to desserts and beverages. Then come the 25 theme
menus with page references fort each recipe suggested. International
cuisine and party favours are highlighted, as in a Turkish Twilight, a
German Feast, a Mexican Fiesta, a Western Hoedown, or a Chinese
Banquet. And there is a quick reference guide which also serves as a
checklist. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric
and avoirdupois measurements, and there is no need for tables of
Audience and level of use: the adventuresome who wish to throw a party.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: oven-roasted kalua pork;
pear bread pudding; smoked turkey on sage mini scones; crab and blue
cheese bundles; rock shrimp salad wraps; petit lobster pot pies;
cheddar cumin scones with Black Forest ham.
The downside to this book: many regular recipes (e.g., French onion
soup) can be located in other, more general cookbooks.
The upside to this book: great collection of ideas, all in one place.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
friends, and food (Chronicle Books, 2008, 2009, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-
8118-6493-0, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Diane Morgan, a Portland, OR
freelance food writer and multiple cookbook author for Chronicle Books.
This book is best meant for the US market, since it presents preps from
every region in the US. It is available in time for American purchase,
but not for Canadian (I just got the book near the end of September).
Nevertheless, it does a fine job in presenting the parameters of the
holiday, which appears to loom larger in US minds than in Canadian
minds. There are lots of material on the nature of celebration, the
harvest and seasonal foods, and special holiday equipment and tools.
This is followed by categories of appetizers, soups, mains, sides, and
desserts. There is of course, a special chapter on leftover faves and a
series of menus for regional thanksgivings with their own timetables
for the countdowns, beginning three weeks ahead. There is a New England
dinner, a Heartland, a Southern Style, and a Pacific Northwest. I think
she could have added a Southwest dinner and even a Cajun/Creole dinner
(didn't the deep fried whole brined turkey idea come from Louisiana?).
Each recipe has a page reference. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric table of
Audience and level of use: for the consummate Thanksgiving Day lover.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: for leftovers, try turkey
sandwiches (several styles), turkey enchiladas, pot pie, tetrazzini,
turkey and andouille sausage gumbo, hash and eggs, turkey and veggie
chowder, turkey chili.
The downside to this book: a couple more menus could be useful, and we
can even apply them to Canada.
The upside to this book: good concept.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
8. A YEAR IN LUCY'S KITCHEN; seasonable recipes and memorable meals
(Random House Canada, 2009, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-679-31458-5, $29.95
US paper covers) is by Lucy Waverman, acclaimed food writer for the
Globe and Mail and the LCBO's Food & Drink magazine, plus several other
cookbooks. Some of the recipes are from the Globe and the LCBO. There's
even some logrolling from former GG Adrienne Clarkson and Chef Lynn
Crawford. It's arranged by month, instead of by season, which makes it
more manageable in handling the local produce and the local holidays.
Each month also has a theme, such as pasta and marmalade for January.
But otherwise, there are no free-standing recipes everything is tied
into some celebration or theme. With February come bean soups as a
theme, with celebrations for Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year, plus
a family birthday. Husband Bruce contributes thorough wine notes,
suggesting varieties or regions rather than brand names. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is
no metric table of equivalents. Good use of leading in the layout.
Audience and level of use: for fans and those who want some pre-planned
menus for the year.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: for a Spanish dinner, try
shrimp with Romesco sauce; fideos (noodle nests) with chorizo, mussels
and clams; salad of arugula and artichoke fritters; tarragon-roasted
strawberries with caramel cream,
The downside to this book: it's a paperback, and it'll get heavier-
The upside to this book: good tight photography of the finished dish
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
9. SAVORY BAKING; warm and inspiring recipes for crisp, crumbly, flaky
pastry (Chronicle Books, 2009, 168 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-5906-6,
$24.95 US paper covers) is by Mary Cech, a top rated pastry chef in the
USA. She was once Charlie Trotter's pastry chef, and went on to start
the pastry program at the CIA (Greystone) in California. There is a
refreshing lack of logrolling here she quite plainly does not need
it. The book's arranged by type: quick breads, flaky pastries, rustic,
puff pastries, cookies, and diverse sauces and spreads. She has 72
preps, ranging for easy to engaging. There is the usual baking primer
information on flours, equipment and techniques, including how to work
with pastry. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginners and up, plus those who are pastry
AND savoury addicts (like me).
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: buttermilk tarragon loaf;
white cedar-zucchini pancakes; baked pomodori dumplings on an olive
salad; onion and sherry cream turnovers; spicy tomato crumble; chicken
Dijon brown betty; thyme, lemon and sea-salt shortbreads.
The downside to this book: given the need for this book, I should think
that more recipes would have been useful.
The upside to this book: there's a pronouncing glossary in case you
don't know what a pancake is.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
10. NORTH BAY FARMERS MARKETS COOKBOOK (Gibbs Smith, 2009, 216 pages,
ISBN 978-1-4236-0313-9, $24.99 US paper covers) is by Brigitte Moran, a
French woman who started the San Rafael farmers market in 1989. In 2004
she joined the Marin Farmers Markets and Marin Agricultural Institute
as their Executive Director. The book, also written with Amelia Spilger
as a focusing food writer, comes endorsed by Wolfgang Puck. It its
basic form, she gives us a history of farmers markets in California,
noting that there are more than 4500 farmers markets all over the USA.
There are sections on slow food and local sustainable agriculture, plus
a suggested reading list, and a resources list for farmers markets in
the North Bay area (north of San Francisco). Other than that, this is a
straightforward book highly useful for California cooks since the
emphasis is on "local" (i.e. local to California) foods. Soups to
desserts are covered, all using locally available seasonal foods.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: mostly Californian cooks, but others who use
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: pork tamales; rabbit a la
bretonne; chicken with dates and apricots; baked halibut with red
pepper and onion; avocado and zucchini salad; blueberry-orange tartine;
asparagus and grilled shiitake; baked salmon with tomato, cucumber and
basil beurre blanc.
The downside to this book: as she prefers "sustainable", there is not
too much on organic certified foods.
The upside to this book: upbeat and positive account of people, with
Quality/Price Rating: 87.