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Sunday, June 17, 2012

* 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 –

15. PIZZA; award-winning pies for the home kitchen (Weldon Owens, 2012;
distr. Simon & Schuster, 112 pages, ISBN 978-1-61628-168-7, $19.95 US
hard covers) is by Pete Evans, an award-winning chef-owner of many
Australian restaurants. He has also appeared on over 400 episodes of a
cooking show. The book has been co-published with Murdoch Books in
Australia. He has won the title of World's Best Pizza in the American
Pizza Challenge, and Best Pizza in Australia on several occasions.
There's a primer on how to cook great pizzas, including material on
electric pizza ovens and pizza stones. He has about 8 prep recipes, for
sauces, balsamic onions, doughs, confits, roasted bell peppers, and the
like. This is followed by recipes for the classics, modern pizzas and
"special" pizzas. There's a good selection, including eggplant and
smoked mozzarella with caponata, gorgonzola with walnuts and truffle
honey and radicchio, a BLT, tuna with green olive salsa, and asparagus
with goat cheese and egg and toasted walnuts, about 40 in all.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.

16. JON BONNELL'S TEXAS FAVORITES. (Gibbs Smith, 2012, 224 pages, ISBN
978-1-4236-2259-8, $30 US hard covers) is from the chef who opened
Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine in 2001 in Fort Worth. This is his second
Bonnell's cookbook. And you cannot beat Bobby Flay's log rolling here.
These are faves for parties and family gatherings -- larger quantity
preps for home entertaining. Tailgate parties are a specialty, and are
usually followed by liquor-infused desserts. It's a Tex-Mex book for
those with large appetites. The large typeface also helps in the
preparations, and the recipes are written with ease in mind. Try green
chile chilaquiles (a pre-nacho dish), crab and red pepper bisque with
pecans, venison quesadillas, chipotle mashed potatoes, and dessert
tostadas. The 100 or so preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 86.
17. ZUPPE; soups from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome (The
Little Bookroom, 2012; distr. Random House Canada, 177 pages, ISBN 978-
1-892165-97-0, $18.95 US hard covers) is by Mona Talbott, a well-
established eco-gastronomic cook involved in many sustainable measures.
She's worked at Chez Panisse, Zabar, E.A.T., and now as Executive Chef
of the Rome Sustainable Food Project (since 2006). All proceeds from
the sale of this book go to that project. Here are 50 recipes for
Italian-style soups, laden with beans, greens, grains and veggies.
This is the second in the Rome Food series; the first dealt with
Biscotti. It's arranged by season, beginning with autumn (favata,
ribollita) and featuring classics such as pasta e ceci (winter), risi e
bisi (spring), and pappa al pomodori (summer). There's a glossary and a
bibliography, plus pictures of the academy and foods. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 89.

18. MOLLY MOON'S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM; sweet seasonal recipes for ice
creams, sorbets & toppings made with local ingredients (Sasquatch
Books, 2012; distr. Random House Canada, 116 pages, ISBN 978-1-57061-
810-9, $21.95 US hard bound) is by Molly Moon Neitzel, who owns and
operates five ice cream parlors in Seattle and environs. She also has
an ice cream truck. These are largely sustainable ice cream preps,
using local and/or organic foods. Of course, the food chain is
complicated by wherever you (the reader trying out a recipe) reside.
The arrangement is by season. It is usually too cold in Canada to even
think about ice cream, but she does have candied bacon ice cream, olive
oil and toasted pine nut ice cream, mulled wine sorbet, and other
goodies for the "cold climate" eaters. Her "always" list (eat anytime
of year) includes vanilla bean, melted chocolate, cappuccino, and yummy
salted caramel. She also has recipes for sauces that you can use in
other, non-ice cream desserts, such as homemade marshmallows, lime
coconut, port reduction, hot fudge, or balsamic reduction. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is
no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.

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