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Sunday, June 19, 2011

THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation. They are automatic sellers, since the book can be
flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a
celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up
on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans
of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of
the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the
restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books,
special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu.
Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But
because most of these books are American, they use only US volume
measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric
equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out.
The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks".
There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf
also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as
if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from
readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes
(not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work, but how could
that be? They all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many
books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with
tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life
in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding
about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem
to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a
lot of food shots, verging on gastroporn. The endorsements are from
other celebrities in a magnificent case of logrolling. If resources are
cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some
companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them
altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –
11. PUTTING UP MORE; a guide to canning jams, relishes, chutneys,
pickles, sauces and salsas. (Gibbs Smith, 2011, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-
4236-0739-7, $19.99 US paper covers) is by Stephen Palmer Dowdney,
previously owner of Rockland Plantation Products which specialized in
small batch processing in South Carolina. He claims his recipes for the
company taste exactly like the best of a grandmother's home put-up
stores. He had previously authored "Putting Up" (2008) which
concentrated mainly on Southern food. Here, in the new book, the scope
has widened to include the rest of the US and beyond. Here are 68
recipes from which you can certainly save a lot of money, at least half
the cost of buying commercially canned food. The book is also part
memoir, with anecdotes and stories. The preps are arranged by type (as
indicated in the subtitle above). In addition, there are resources
listed for buying canning supplies. And a long list (with explanations)
of safety precautions on home canning. I avoid the whole issue by
storing my canned foods in the fridge (if jams) and in the freezer (if
raw or low-acid). But then that's me. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of
metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: home canners.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Ethiopian/Eritrean berbere
sauce; Jamaican jerk rub; balsamic vinegar tomato salsa; achar; mango
chutney; eggplant chutney; sweet-onion jam.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.

12. EXPRESS HOUSEKEEPING (DK Publishing, 2011, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-
7566-7177-8, $15.95 US soft covers) is by Anna Shepard. It's a basic
guide to quickly cleaning up in housekeeping chores. For the home cook,
the kitchen section is particularly useful. For the small dining
establishment, the whole book is extremely useful since many small
place do their own linens and must cope with kiddie spills and other
stains. Plus, of course, cleaning floors and furniture.
Topics include speed cleaning, doing dishes, clothes and laundry,
removing stains, coping with children and pets, and decluttering.
Here are the expert tips, tricks, and time-saving strategies that would
allow you to maximize your time, speed and efficiency. The overriding
strategy is twofold: clean a little at a time, and clean often. It is
such a pain to have to clean it all at once. Here are excellent tips
and advice for that small business restaurant. Quality/price rating:

13. GLUTTON FOR PLEASURE; signature recipes, epic stories, and surreal
etiquette (Whitecap Books, 2010, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-015-0,
$29.95 CAN hard covers) is by the talented and irrepressible Bob Blumer
(Food Network's "Surreal Gourmet" and "Glutton for Punishment"). He's
been doing this for nine seasons, and this is his fifth cookbook. Most
of the material has been drawn from previous books and magazine
articles, although all of them have been recast or reworked or re-
titled. There is even a prep he did for the back of a Starbucks coffee
carton. These are the signature recipes (many lollipops) and epic
stories of a master craftsman. His basic belief is in common
ingredients with fresh herbs and spices. But to all of this he adds his
own sense of quirkiness, delving into wine pairing, pantry stocking,
music accompaniment – all based on 20 years of travel and experience.
Typical is the lamb cupcake, made with cooked lamb shank meat and
mashed potatoes coloured with beet. Since I had a lot of ground lamb on
hand, I used that instead and also used sweet potato, avoiding the need
for colouring. I saved a lot of time and steps, but never asked
permission from Blumer. I have my own quirks. Every food prep has a
Blumer photograph of the final plating (food styled by Blumer himself),
and the artwork too has been created by Blumer. As he says, no food was
harmed by the process, and he ate it after finishing the detail work.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 90.

14. PLANET BARBECUE! (Workman Publishing, 2010; distr. by T. Allen, 638
pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-4801-2, $22.95US paper covers) is by Steve
Raichlen, who has written a lot of books about food as well as being
host of BBQ television cooking shows on PBS. His grilling books have
sold over 4 million copies (say the publishers). And here is a lot of
value from this engaging chef-author. 309 recipes from 60 countries,
plus techniques, tips and comparable photos—all for about $6.40
Canadian plus shipping (used copy through Amazon marketplace), or $18
Canadian new at Amazon. From Malaysia there are ginger-turmeric prawns,
roasted fish from Spain, grilled crostini from Tuscany, spit-roasted
pineapple caramelized with spiced sugar from Brazil, spicy grilled pork
from Korea, piri-piri chicken wings, jerk chicken, harissa lamb chops,
and Keith Allen's North Carolina pork shoulder for pulled pork
sandwiches. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents. Good dark
bold print for the listing of ingredients. Quality/price rating: 90.
15. MILK & COOKIES (Chronicle Books, 2011; distr. Raincoast, 176 pages,
ISBN 978-0-8118-7254-6, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Tina Casaceli,
chef-owner of Milk & Cookies Bakery in Greenwich Village. Judie Choate 
is the focusing food writer. The bakery specializes in, well, sweet
cookies. Some of the preps are derived from Casaceli's extended family,
but all of them evoke childhood memories of sweet smells and sugar
tastes. Here she tells a bit about the business and her life in
cooking, and then goes on to describe how to make lots of cookies at
home. There are 80 recipes here, most built around one of five easy
bases (vanilla, double chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter, and sugar).
There are also the classics: snickerdoodles, s'mores, gingersnaps, ice-
cream sandwiches, brownies, bars, and biscotti. Her section on "family
favorites" is definitely Italian with ciambelli, pinulata, viscotti,
biscotti, and others. As a true baker, preparations have their
ingredients listed in both weight and volume (albeit avoirdupois
measurements). But there is a metric table of equivalents. A nicely
organized book, well-put together, with good spacing in the index. And
the cookies leap off the photographed page. Quality/price rating: 89.

16. BAL'S QUICK & HEALTHY INDIAN (Whitecap, 2011, 198 pages, ISBN 978-
1-77050-023-5, $29.95 CAD paper covers) is by Bal Arneson, author of
"Everyday Indian" (2009). Since then she's been the host of Spice
Goddess, a TV series on the Food Network, and a cooking school teacher.
This book is a continuation of her first one, once again concentrating
on quick and healthy food. All the preps here should be ready in 25
minutes, according to the author. That presupposes, of course,
that all the ingredients are to hand. Global cooking demands a diverse
larder/pantry to be maintained. And she has a primer on Indian spicing
and how to make your own fresh spice blends. The basis of her cooking
is Punjabi. Grape seed oil is the oil of choice. Flaxseed oil in
salads, ginger, and turmeric all have health benefits. There are cooks
notes, backgrounders, and tips. There are seven menus, ranging from
everyday to fancy entertaining, and all dishes listed have page
references to the recipes. The typeface is large, just right for the
kitchen. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Some of the photos are more pretty than useful. Quality/Price Rating:

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