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Monday, January 17, 2011

More Food and Drink Books reviewed

 MY COOKING CLASS: series (Firefly Books, 2010, unpaged, ISBN varies,
$24.95 Canadian soft covers) is a new series of cook books meant for
beginner home cooks or those who want a refresher on certain elements
or themes. Each has an individual author (usually a professional with
several cookbooks under his/her belt) but they are all set up the same
way. The preps are presented in visual sequences, step-by-step. Every
piece of equipment is photographed from above in colour, and every
ingredient is shown in the correct quantity and in the order that it
will be used. The publisher claims that it is as true to reality as
possible. The written part is at the bottom of each page, listing the
ingredients and the sequence. Cooks notes (variations, techniques,
service) are presented. There is a glossary of terms, a listing of the
preps in content order, and a subject index by type of food. There are
no page numbers, just a recipe number. So a prep such as "pinwheel
cookies" is number 43 in the chocolate book, and continues for four
pages with "43" at the top of those four pages. All of the books
conform to this arrangement. They've all got between 70 and 97 recipes
in each one. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric
and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
CHOCOLATE BASICS, ISBN 978-1-55407-758-8, by Orathay Guillaumont and
Vania Nikolcic.
MIDDLE EASTER BASICS, ISBN 978-1-55407-759-5, by Marianne Magnier-
PASTA BASICS, ISBN 978-1-55407-756-4, by Laura Zavan.
SAUCE BASICS, ISBN 978-1-55407-761-8, by Keda Black.
STEAMING BASICS, ISBN 978-1-55407-757-1, by Orathay Guillaumont.
VEGETABLE BASICS, ISBN 978-1-55407-760-4, by Jody Vassallo.
Audience and level of use: home cooks, possibly hospitality students.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: cappuccino pie; monkfish
tagine; clams with herb butter; salmon bundles; mouhalabieh;
tagliatelle with duck; conchiglioni with caponata; wild mushroom
risotto; cauliflower with cheese.
The downside to this book: a big investment if you buy them all.
They're at Amazon.Ca for $15.64 each, which is a help.
The upside to this book: practical series.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
4. CLEAN START; inspiring you to eat clean and live well (Sterling
Epicure, 2010, 166 pages, ISBN 978-1-4027-7905-3 $25 US hard covers) is
by Terry Walters, author of "Clean Food". It's another book dealing
with SLOFE principles (seasonal, local, organic, fast, and easy),
following up on her initial work. There are 100 additional recipes here
for making healthy choices. There are the usual tips and advice plus
ideas for leftovers and how to protect nutrient-rich foods. Recipes are
vegan and gluten-free, and arranged by season beginning with Spring.
There are about 25 preps per season. The photos looked especially
enticing. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no metric table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegans or those interested in becoming
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: roasted cauliflower and
garlic soup; cinnamon whole oats with toasted almonds; festive quinoa
with apricots and orange zest; polenta pizzas;
The downside to this book: for some reason the first book's log rolling
from Mario Batali and Alice Waters also appears on the back cover of
this book.
The upside to this book: the physical book has been published with
recycled products and agri-based inks.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

5. PANINI; gourmet recipes to help you get the most from your panini
press (Whitecap, 2010, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-030-3) is by
Dominique and Cindy Duby – it is one of a series of small books by this
team of pastry chefs who have now branched out to a complete line of
food styling through DC DUBY Hospitality Services Inc. Other such books
have included Chocolate and Crème Brulee. It seems to me, though, that
this is their first savoury book in their Definitive Kitchen Classics
series, and it uses the panini press. You can use a non-electric panini
pan and press, but why bother? If you have room and inclination for a
single use equipment for panini, then you might as well get an electric
one: it can also double as an electric frying pan of sorts. The 40
preps here are mainly Mediterranean (mostly Italian)-inspired. There's
basic grilled bread and cheese, seafood and shellfish, meaty and
poultry, charcuteries and cured meats, eggs and veggies, and sweets.
The team also has notes on pairing wine and beer with panini. I agree
with the Dubys: beer seems to work better than wine. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of equivalents. Ciabatta is the basic bread
recommended, but of course you can use baguettes or country breads.
There are plenty of variations, beginning with the type of bread, or
cheese, or meats, or garnishes. So the basic 40 here can become
greater, almost a different one every day for a year.
Audience and level of use: beginners, home cooks, sandwich lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: ham & cheese croque monsieur
panini; gruyere, ciabatta, and onion jam panini; prosciuto, fig and
provolone panini; balsamic Neufchatel cream and strawberry panini;
honey, pecan, pear, blue cheese cream and brioche panini.
The downside to this book: tasty sandwiches, but difficult to do
without a press.
The upside to this book: variety of sandwiches.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
6.  GRANDI VINI; an opinionated tour of Italy's 89 finest wines
(Clarkson Potter, 2010, 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-46303-6, $24.99 US
hard covers) is by Joseph Bastianich, who owns four Italian wine
estates, a wine store, plus many restaurants in New York City.
Shamelessly, he has four log rollers including his business partner
(Chef Mario Batali) and his own mother (Lidia Bastianich, cookbook
author and co-owner of multiple restaurants, celebrity TV chef on PBS,
etc.). Oh yes, if that wasn't enough: he also got an endorsement from
Robert ("Himself") Parker Jr. But seriously, while this is a serious
book, I have no idea why he needs such log rolling. He takes us through
the process of why these wines were chosen by him (but why 89? Why not
90? Or 100?). Twenty-one wines are from nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont,
while 11 are from sangiovese grapes in Tuscany. 18 are IGT wines
(mostly supertuscans); 17 are white wines (mostly Alto Adige and
Friuli-Venezia Giulia). There's a marsala, a vin santo, and a passito
di pantelleria. The well-known (and expensive) names include Il Greppo,
Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Tignanello, Sassicaia, Cervaro della Sala, and
Ben Rye. There are also several organic wines. Some memoir and travel
materials, as well as histories of the estates and, of course, tasting
notes are spread among the entries. At the back, there are summaries of
the wines, with information on grape varieties, production, website,
first vintage made, aging, and production methods. Every region is
covered, but not every province. It must have been politically
difficult to come up with a wide dispersion of choices.
Audience and level of use: Italian wine lovers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Some of the wines produced are
biodynamic. Others are "natural" or "sustainable" or organic.
The downside to this book: the nature of differences among natural,
sustainable, organic and biodynamic terms is not clearly stated.
The upside to this book: a good reckoning for the 89 wines.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

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