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Saturday, March 10, 2012

sOME NEW, interesting cookbooks

RUHLMAN'S TWENTY; 20 techniques, 100 recipes, a cook's manifesto
(Chronicle Books, 2011, 368 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-7643-8, $40 US hard
covers) is by Michael Ruhlman, who has been associated with Thomas
Keller (French Laundry) as a co-author of many food books. Indeed,
there is also advanced log rolling here with such as Keller, Alton
Brown (Iron Chef), and Dorie Greenspan. Not that there is anything
wrong with that; the original subtitle was "the ideas and techniques
that will make you a better cook". It is also festooned with over 250
photographs, mainly for techniques to illustrate the twenty topics. The
book is arranged by technique, and includes salt, water, onion, acid,
egg, butter, dough, batter, sugar, sauce, braise, poach, grill, fry,
etc. There are no surprises here which make the book good for a basic
drill beginner. But there is also an amazing amount of depth, which
makes the book useful for intermediate learners. Ruhlman explains the
hows and whys of each technique and then gives recipes to illustrate
his points. All courses are covered, from soups to desserts.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric (mostly) and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
There's a primer on equipment and planning, as well as sources for more
information or products. You could also check for kinds
of additional material and for updates.
Audience and level of use: intermediate cooks
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: fish tacos with guacamole;
grilled spring veggies; grilled pear salad; braised lamb shanks with
lemon confit; cold snap pea soup; Dutch oven bread; savory bread
pudding; pastrami short ribs.
The downside to this book: I just wish it wasn't so heavy, almost 4
pounds of clay-based paper.
The upside to this book: there is a handy ribbon book marker.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

4. THE INTOLERANT GOURMET; glorious food without gluten & lactose
(Artisan, 2011; distr. T. Allen, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-579765-1, $29.95
US hard covers) is by Barbara Kafka, an award-winning cookbook author
and free-lance writer who was a recipient of the James Beard Foundation
Lifetime Achievement Award. She has a collection of some 300 preps
here, with sections on breakfast, hors d'oeuvre, apps, pastas,
risottos, soups, salads – right through to desserts. Quinoa gets enough
space for 10 recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those who need to be free of gluten and
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: although they are unrelated
genetically, lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance often occur in
the same person. They can vary in evidencing their presence or
intensity over time, but they do not disappear. Gluten intolerance has
increased ten fold over the past decade; 60% of the North American
population cannot fully digest dairy.
The downside to this book: the closing chapter on starches might have
been more useful at the front of the book.
The upside to this book: there's a good section on polenta.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
5. COOK WITHOUT A BOOK; meatless meals (Rodale, 2011, 276 pages, ISBN
978-1-60529-176-5, $32.50 US hard covers) is by Pam Anderson, a
bestselling author of a half-dozen award winning (or nominated)
cookbooks, including "How to Cook Without a Book", one of my faves.
Here she tackles vegetarian and vegan foods in about 250 basic meal
templates, styled as her earlier book. She opens with breakfast foods
(she has a liberal definition for the first meal of the day): oats,
grits, wraps, pizzas, potatoes and eggs, chipped veggies on toast,
pancakes, and sweet scones and bran muffins. This is the first quarters
of the book. Then begins, "fun food the rest of the day", with chapters
on salads, soups, stews, sandwiches, afternoon eggs and potatoes, and
some quick idea on fast food (Italian, Asian, Mexican). But of course,
her use of cheese and eggs does limit its usefulness for vegans. In
fact, if there is an overarching philosophy here, it is that we should
all eat less meat, and here are some nifty preps for us. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is
no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegetarians, and to a lesser extent, vegans.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: a master formula for skillet
potatoes and eggs (which also calls for varying amounts of feta or goat
cheese, or swiss and cheddar, plus accompanying spices and herbs for
variations); savoury scones with variations on cheeses and flavourings;
grain and legume salads which are dairy-free.
The downside to this book: there may not be enough here to interest
vegans, yet the book's PR info on the dust jacket is directed to
The upside to this book: variety is supposed to be the spice of life,
and it certainly is with food. She advocates being a part-time vegan or
vegetarian if you do not want the commitment.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.

6. POULET; more than 50 remarkable meals that exalt the honest chicken
(Chronicle Books, 2011, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-8116-7969-9, $27.50 US
hard covers) is by Cree LeFavour, cookbook author (The Steak Book,
2008). Overall, there are 150 preps here for the 50 meals, which are
categorized by flavour profiles or regions. First up is the American
chicken meal, followed by the "Bistro" chicken (mostly French, mainly
European), Latin chicken, East Asian, South Asian, and Africa
(including the Middle East). It is an interesting concept, and it
works. Each meal, such as the Sorrel Chicken Troisgros, serves 4, and
usually calls for a 1 to 2 kilo chicken, the appropriate seasoning, and
some veggie or salad or bread accompaniment (no dessert). Here, the
veggie is pea puree. This chicken prep has been adapted from Troisgros'
signature salmon plate. Many recipes in the book only call for thighs,
which are actually the most flavourful part of the chicken.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. All the
classics appear to be here, including Sengalese chicken, saffron
chicken, chicken in parchment, and chicken pot pie. She even has some
wine, cocktail and beer suggestions.
Audience and level of use: home cooks looking for a routine but with
different ingredients.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: roadside chicken tacos;
chankonabe; grilled thighs with BBQ; chicken-fennel meatballs; truffled
roast chicken; chicken-vegetable kadhi.
The downside to this book: I could not find a prep for chicken
cacciatore. Was this an oversight?
The upside to this book: a chicken for every week of the year, with a
turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

7. THE BIG HANDOUT (Rodale, 2011, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-60961-113-2,
$24.99 US hard covers) is by Thomas M. Kostigen, a co-author of The
Green Book. The subtitle says it all: "how government subsidies and
corporate welfare corrupt the world we live in and wreak havoc on our
food bills."  He tries to give us an expose of how subsidies pervert
our North American way of living, making us fatter, poorer and
unhealthy. There are a couple of references to Canada (none to the
European Union) which show us in a more favourable light, but just
barely. And of course it is all about Big Ag and protectionism. There's
a lot here to digest, but none of it is new. Government subsidies seem
to have been around forever (think sugar and corn lobbies). Currently,
the most heavily subsidized commodities are cotton, wheat, corn, soy,
and oil: over $200 billion per year. We end us spending good money for
bad business practices. He ends the book with chapters suggesting what
we can do to make change, and what the world would look like without
subsidies. At the back, there's a sources list and an index.
Audience and level of use: conspiracy theory readers, those with low
blood pressure.
Some interesting or unusual facts: subsidies are government grants to
private businesses if it is advantageous to the public. Subsidies
enable businesses to actually charge MORE than a free market system,
and can create goods that aren't even produced for sale (kept off the
market). It is all artificial pricing.
The downside to this book: he doesn't cover the EU, where the
situations can be even worse.
The upside to this book: good writing style that convinces.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
8. THE GOLDEN-BRISTLED BOAR; last ferocious beast of the forest
(University of Virginia Press, 2011; distr. by Scholarly Book Services,
183 pages, ISBN 978-0-8139-3103-6, $22.95 US hard covers) is by Jeffrey
Greene, an award-winning poet who has written books about living in
Burgundy and the Bamberger Texas restoration project. Here, he returns
to Burgundy. He bought a place in northern Burgundy that was one of the
most densely populated boar areas in Europe. Following the gift of a
side of boar from a neighbor and meeting a boar-hunting party, he began
to collect information about boars. Boars seem to have no natural
enemies, except for man. They are regarded as pests in many cultures,
and throughout history have been thusly portrayed. They cause over
14,000 car accidents a year in France alone. I used to know a chef in
Menton who loved hunting boars but always dreaded having to carry one
down a mountainous ravine. Greene delves into boar lore, and travels to
Sardinia, Corsica, Tuscany, and the US South in pursuit of stories. He
interviews museum curators, scientists, hunters, chefs, chateau owners,
and others. He's even got some wide-ranging recipes such as roast loin,
jabali (Spanish adobo), Inoshishi botan nabe hot pot,
Wildschweinschnitzel from German immigrants in Texas, Cinghiale
(Italian boar ragu), and Burgundian sanglier. These preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no
table of metric equivalents. Unfortunately for us in Ontario, all wild
boar sold here is farmed, so the flavour has been muted.
Audience and level of use: wild animal lovers, culinary historians.
Some interesting or unusual facts: In England, indigenous boars were
rendered extinct in the thirteenth century, but many escapees from
boar-breeding farms have brought them back. Natural England, an
advisory board, recognizes the boar as indigenous and wishes to manage
the population.
The downside to this book: there is the occasional illustration, but
the book could use more.
The upside to this book: a good, solid, single ingredient/product book
Quality/Price Rating: 89.

9. CRAZY ABOUT CAKES; more than 150 delectable recipes for every
occasion (Sterling, 2011, 370 pages, ISBN 978-1-4027-6914-6, $17.95 US
paper covers) is by Krystina Castella, who has also written a whole
crazy series: "Crazy About Cupcakes", "Crazy About Cookies" – and now
"Cakes". It is a useful book if you like to bake AND decorate. Many
people do. There is something every occasion here (birthdays, brunches,
holidays, weddings, and the like), plus everyday cakes. There are also
some modern interpretations of classics that contain less fat, fewer
calories, and more natural ingredients. There are also some savoury
cakes and some fusion cakes too. She has plenty of variations too.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those who like to bake and decorate.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: peanut sesame raspberry
roll; banana agave cakes; chocolate fried twinkies; cream-filled
cupcakes; chocolate chip cranberry roll; butterscotch and sea salt
bundts; meringue layers with marshmallow filling; jalapeno cake with
The downside to this book: volume measures are used, but I prefer
scaling by weight. It is more exact.
The upside to this book: good looking photos of decorations.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.

10. THE BONNE FEMME COOK BOOK; simple, splendid food that French women
cook every day (Harvard Common Press, 2011, 420 pages, ISBN 978-1-
55832-749-8, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Wini Moranville, who writes a
monthly wine column and reviews restaurants in and around Des Moines,
IA. She's also a free lance writer. Log rolling comes from Dorie
Greenspan and Amanda Hesser. Here she deconstructs French cooking for
North American kitchens by presenting what she has learned after twenty
years of summering in France. It's the bonne femme housewife style,
which she extols at This current book is a
collection of some 250 preps, done up in the French family style of
dining (a style, I might add, that seems to be disappearing). Her book
ranges from appetizers (amuse-bouches of hard sausages, olives, nuts
and cheese) and cocktails to salads, soups, the concept of saute and
deglaze (a meal in 30 minutes or less), braises-stews-roasts,
casseroles and pasta, side dishes, savouries, eggs and cheese, and
desserts. Still, she mentions that she cannot recall ever being served
home-baked desserts in French homes. "That's not to say that French
women don't bake, it's just that they don't have to." – there are many
pastry shops in France. She uses three cheeses in cooking: goat, sheep,
and French Gruyere (Comte); the latter tastes better than Swiss
Gruyere. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
volume measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: the harried North American home cook
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: In her book, she mostly
offers the kinds of desserts that French women would bake at home:
crêpes, upside-down cakes, a pear tart tatin, a fruit crumble, crème
brulee, clafouti, Alsatian apple tart, and chocolate pound cake.
Vermouth-Braised Chicken with Black Olives and Prosciutto; Moroccan-
Spiced Chicken Braise Ce Soir; Poulet Bijoutière (chicken–braised with
garlic, wine, pomegranate juice and a touch of currant jelly);
Choucroute Garnie; Normandy Pork Chops; Tuna Steaks Braised with
Tomatoes, Olives, and Fennel.
The downside to this book: call me a snob, but I'd still like to read
French recipe titles in addition to English language ones.
The upside to this book: a good idea for a book – fast food French
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
11. ECO-INNOVATORS; sustainability in Atlantic Canada (Nimbus
Publishing, 2011, 199 pages, ISBN 978-1-55109-863-0, $22.95 CAD paper
covers) is by Chris Benjamin, currently the "Sustainable City"
columnist for The Coast, a Halifax newspaper. He is also an awards-
nominated novelist. Here he profiles some of Atlantic Canada's
innovative sustainability leaders: entrepreneurs, educators, activists,
farmers, and fishermen – about three dozen in all. As Benjamin says,
each person featured in this book has a different idea about what it
means to be green. But they all have respect for natural resources and
they all want to work communally. Chapters are by themes, with
recycling, reusing, choosing a home, using household cleaners, lawns,
transportation, and the work place. For us in the food and wine area,
there are interesting profiles on green gourmets choosing sustainable
foods, such as David and Edith Ling of Fair Acres Farms, Richard
Wetmore of Speerville Flour Mill, Sean Gallagher of Terroir-Local
Source Catering, Steve Law and Evelyn Jones of Sunroot Farm, and Chris
Hudson of Off the Hook fishery. There's a bibliography for further
reading, but no index. Quality/Price Rating: 88.
12. WHOLE BEAST BUTCHERY; the complete visual guide to beef, lamb, and
pork (Chronicle Books, 2011, 239 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0059-3, $40 US
hard covers) is by Ryan Farr, chef and butcher. He and his wife founded
4505 Meats in San Francisco in 2009, an artisanal meat company, where
he also teaches butchery and charcuterie. Birgit Binns assisted him;
she's an author or co-author of about two dozen cookbooks. As we all
know, meat has been back for some time, but it takes awhile for
publishers to get manuscripts/ideas and then produce a book – about two
years. This is a basic nose-to-tail book, with all the basics in
techniques and more than 500 photos. It's a bones and muscle book, with
lots of white fat in each picture. There's a primer on tools and
techniques, meat storage and handling, plus some 14 master recipes
scaled from 2 to 20 people. Preparations have their ingredients listed
in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
Audience and level of use: home cooks who want DIY butchery, and others
who want to know about the process.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: beef tongue pastrami; onion-
braised beef neck; merguez sausage; charred scallion pork sausage; pork
jowl and clams; pork belly and garbanzo soup.
The downside to this book: the beef section is admirable, but I'm not
so sure how to tackle a cow in my house. Maybe veal. Lamb and pigs can
be done at home.
The upside to this book: good reference material.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
every home cook (Hearst Books, 2011, 690 pages, ISBN 978-1-58816-905-1,
$29.95 US ring binder) has been coordinated by Susan Westmoreland from
the Test Kitchen. The group performs 1700 taste tests every year, from
preps that have been triple-tested to make sure the recipe works. This
is GH's first ring-binder book. Fourteen chapters include breakfast,
brunch, stews, soups, meats, pasta, casseroles, meatless, salads, and
desserts, 375 recipes in all. There are tips and advice, photos,
techniques, and nutritional analyses. Preps are coded with icons for
lo-cal, heart-healthy, 30-minute meals, make aheads, or slow-cooker
recipes. There are even smartphone tags that link to 35 GH cooking
videos on the web.
Audience and level of use: general home cooks.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: the turkey with roasted
apples and pan gravy recipe has a link to a video for "Best Do-Ahead
Gravy", as well as an explanation of wild turkey, thawing instructions,
and shopping tips.
The downside to this book: the ring binder is useful for detaching the
recipe from the book, but there may be a pilferage problem in stores
and libraries.
The upside to this book: there's other material here, such as setting a
table, food and wine matches, an entertaining guide, ingredient
substitutions, freezer guidelines, and handy charts.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
14. A TASTE OF THE MARITIMES; local, seasonal recipes the whole year
round (Nimbus Publishing, 2011, 150 pages, ISBN 978-1-55109-869-2,
$22.95 CAD soft covers) is by Elizabeth Bailey, a food and gardening
writer with a passion for the Maritimes. She says that over 90 percent
of food eaten in the Maritimes today is imported. But there are many
local foods in supermarkets, farmers markets, CSAs, co-ops, and natural
food stores. And of course, they are seasonally available. Most of the
preps can be used anywhere in North America, although fiddleheads,
Dragon's Breath cheese, and various seafood might be limited. The
arrangement is by season, with two chapters for summer (early and
late), about 20 for each. Interspersed are profiles of Speerville Flour
Mill, Galloping Cows Fine Foods, Fox Hill Cheese House, Canadian
Organic Maple Company, and several others. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: Maritime food lovers, seasonal food lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: scape and ginger bisque;
fiddleheads and bacon; inside-out Dragon burgers; heritage bean chili;
late summer rum and fruit salad.
The downside to this book: while a nifty basic book, it covers a larger
range than merely local Maritime foods.
The upside to this book: the profiles illuminate the foods of the
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

15. HANDHELD PIES; dozens of pint-size sweets & savories (Chronicle
Books, 2011, 143 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0214-6, $19.95 US hardbound) is
by Sarah Billingsley, a cookbook editor, and Rachel Wharton, a Beard
Award-winning food writer and editor. These are all small treats, eaten
with one hand, often also called "two biters" – a tart that can be
consumed in two bites, and perfect (for the most part) at cocktail
parties or other social, walkabout events. Or, take some to lunch.
There are about 40 preps here, plus variations, arranged by format,
such as free-form pies, structured pies, and jar pies. At the end there
is a section on pie crusts, which are referred to in the recipe (cream,
cheese crust, butter crust, chocolate crumb, lard crust, and more.
There is also a run down on the more common fruit fillings. Many
chapters have the occasional profile on pie businesses, such as The
Original Fried Pie Shop. It's a great idea, and the only thing lacking
is the use of any gluten-free adaptations. It isn't even mentioned,
although they have almost a page on using locally milled grains.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
The weight measurements are scaled in the metric, but not in the
Audience and level of use: home cooks who entertain.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: bacon, egg and cheese
breakfast pie; orange marmalade-mascarpone pop tarts; mozzarella,
tomato and prosciutto pie; chicken chile relleno pie.
The downside to this book: the lack of gluten-free crusts.
The upside to this book: a nifty idea.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

16. RUSTIC ITALIAN; simple, authentic recipes for everyday cooking
(Weldon Owen, 2011, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-61628-165-6, $29.95 US hard
covers) is from Williams-Sonoma, authored by Domenica Marchetti, a food
writer specializing in casual Italian fare. This is her fourth such
cookbook. She's got about 100 simple preps, arranged by course from
antipasti, to soups and salads through to dolci. There's also a short
wine guide, a guide to salumi and cheeses, and an inventory of Italian
pantry staples. It's a classy book with first rate photography. But
while the recipe titles are in both Italian and English, only the
English titles are indexed, which is annoying. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but
there is no table of metric equivalents. Recipes all come with Italian
wine suggestions.
Audience and level of use: Italian food lovers, basic home cooks.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: roasted delicate squash with
sage; tomato tart with goat cheese; cavatelli with zucchini blossoms;
Tuscan-style steak with crispy potatoes; spicy sauteed kale and
chickpeas; ricotta and bittersweet chocolate crostata.
The downside to this book: there are many other books with the
The upside to this book: the photos are very appealing.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.

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