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Monday, October 22, 2012

THE LATEST RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOKS... 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 –
12. CURING & SMOKING: made at home (Firefly Books, 2012, 176 pages,
ISBN 978-1-77085-077-4, $19.95 CAD soft covers) and
13. EGGS & POULTRY: made at home (Firefly Books, 2012, 176 pages, ISBN
978-1-77085-078-1, $19.95 CAD soft covers) and
14. PRESERVING: made at home (Firefly Books, 2012, 176 pages, ISBN 978-
1-77085-079-8, $19.95 CAD soft covers)…
…are by Dick and James Strawbridge, both featured in a BBC documentary
series detailing shifting from urban to rural life, from city to farm.
They have written books about how it is not easy being green. Dick had
also been in masterchef competitions. These three books have been co-
published with Octopus in the UK – they are part of a series detailing
putting food by and using the farm. Organic plants are juiced,
fermented and/or preserved. Pigs are smoked/cured for hams, sausages,
and bacon. Birds are also used for eggs, and bees are used for honey.
These books are account of the authors' lives and how thy cope. As
well, there are recipes and preps for enjoying the food. The Curing
book includes pantry and prep work, as well as details on bringing, dry
curing, and both hot and cold smoking. Good illustrations of
techniques, and the layouts are very clear. This appears to be a male-
directed series of books for stuff that men can do on their own.
There's roast monkfish with air dried ham, planked salmon, salamis,
and, to keep it British, even air dried mutton. Eggs and poultry
include chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, with potted turkey,
curried fowl, duck confit and the like (27 recipes in all). The
preserving book (with 63 preps) covers plants: drying, storing, jars,
bottles, and freezing, with nice chapters on fruit curds and fruit
cheeses as well as candied peel. It is actually useful to acquire all
three books. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric
and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88 apiece.
15. HOME MADE WINTER (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012, 256 pages, ISBN
978-1-61769-004-4, $35 US hard covers) is by Yvette Van Boven, a
freelance food stylist and recipe writer who runs a restaurant and
catering business in Amsterdam. It was originally published in 2011,
but this is its first North American release. Sometime back she had
published Home Made. This is the second volume, expressly put together
for the colder climate time of year. Next year (2013) she'll come out
with Home Made Summer. Meanwhile, here there are 150 colourful and
black-and-white illustrations, of food, techniques, finished plates,
and some touristy angles. It's arranged by course, with breakfast, tea
time, drinks, apps, mains, and desserts. All of it is geared to hearty
foods. There's quince jam with star anise and cardamom, farls with
smoked trout (part of her Irish roots), quinoa apple cake, sauerkraut
salad with hazelnuts, winter pudding, and more. The picture
accompanying the Dublin lawyer is terrific. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but
there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
16. SALTIE; a cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2012, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-
4521-0302-0, $25 US hard covers) is by Caroline Fidanza (chef), with
Anna Dunn, Rebecca Collerton (chef), and Elizabeth Schula (pastry
chef). Saltie is a sandwich shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Three women
run the place, and this is their book of 90 recipes. It's a bit of a
memoir too. Sandwiches are trendy these days, and this book caters to
that trend. Here you will find such items as "scuttlebutt" (hard-boiled
egg, aioli, feta, olives, capers, herbs and pickled beets on focaccia)
or "Spanish armada" (potato-onion tortilla, pimenton aioli, and
focaccia) or "clean slate" (hummus, quinoa, yogurt sauce, sauerkraut,
sesame seeds). There's also curried rabbit, "longshoreman" (Israeli
meatballs, yoghurt sauce, pickled veggies, herbs), and a variety of
other dishes (soups and salads, some sides, some mains). Worth looking
at for that individualistic expression. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of
metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.

17. ROB FEENIE'S CASUAL CLASSICS; everyday recipes for family and
friends (Douglas & McIntyre, 2012, 170 pages, ISBN 978-1-55365-873-3,
$29.95 CAD soft covers) is by the only Canadian chef who has ever won
the Food Network's Iron Chef competition. He's a powerhouse in the
west, now running 22 Cactus Club Cafes in BC and Alberta. Many of these
preps come from his chain's family dining experiences. He's got the
fundamentals and the add-ons, with many fusion dishes and modern-day
classics such as osso buco, quinoa jambalaya. Every recipe has been
prepared in his home and served to his family (3 kids, ages 3, 6, and
7) and friends. There's endorsements from Mario Batali and Mark McEwan.
There are even engaging chef notes for each dish, a sort of mini-
memoir. Arrangement is by course. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric
equivalents. There's BC food here, such as west coast seafood chowder
(indexed only as seafood chowder) and spot prawn and avocado BLT
sandwich. But nothing specifically from the east coast. There's
eggplant lasagna and fava bean farfalle, wild rice pilaf and a quail
egg recipe, poached halibut, seared salmon, and meat dishes.
Quality/price rating: 87.
18. BAKED ELEMENTS; our ten favorite ingredients (Stewart, Tabori &
Chang, 2012, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-58479-985-6, $32.50 US hard covers)
is by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, co-owners of the Brooklyn
bakery, Baked. There is also another one in Charleston SC and soon
there will be a Manhattan location. They appear quite regularly on TV
shows. This is their third book from the bakery, which also has
national US distribution. The idea here was to create ten separate
chapters with desserts built around 10 different ingredients, such as
peanut butter, lemon & lime, caramel, pumpkin, cinnamon, chocolate,
banana and others. There are six or seven preps for each, about 70
recipes in all in the book. Expect orange almond ricotta cheesecake,
lemon pecorino pepper icebox cookies, toast pumpkin seed brittle,
triple rum black pepper cake, candy bar tart, and banana in a blanket.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 87.

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