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Monday, February 11, 2013

* 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. TART IT UP! Sweet & savory tarts & pies (Mitchell Beazley, 2012;
dist. By Canadian Manda Group, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84533-719-3,
$19.99 US hard covers) is by Eric Lanlard, a Master Patissier who ran
the patisserie business for the Roux brothers in London for five years.
He has since launched his own business Cake Boy (a café, cake emporium,
and cooking school). He's also appeared on British television and has
written three books, mostly on cakes. Here he tackles tarts and pies,
opening with a primer on pastry. The first section has about 40
savouries, plus some quick bakes for apps and some accompaniments such
as condiments. There's an equal number of sweets, plus the bakes and
accompaniments. The photos are very good. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. Try Britanny seafood tart, Zucchini ribbon and
roasted pepper tart, Iberian chicken pie, treacle tart, apple and
almond nougat tart, or hazelnut bread and butter pudding pie. Toulouse
sausage and root vegetable pies were also good. I think the savouries
work better than the sweets. Quality/Price Rating: 87.
12. GLUTEN-FREE & VEGAN BREAD; artisanal recipes to make at home
(Sasquatch Books, 2012, 168 pages, ISNM 978-1-57061-780-5, $24.95 US
paper covers) is by Jennifer Katzinger, former owner of the Flying
Apron (Seattle), a gluten-free and vegan bakery. She's written two
other cookbooks on these theses, but this one deals exclusively with
bread. Here are 65 basic and simple preps based on the home equivalent
of what the bakery produced. Each of the breads is made without dairy,
eggs, gluten or soy. The range is from yeasted breads through wild
starter breads, flatbreads, batter breads, and quick breads. Quite
delicious: Iranian barbari flatbreads, Indian roti, raspberry-rooibos
tea bread, matzo, and an orange chocolate bread. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no
table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.

13. RIDE OR FRY; the Dante Fried Chicken experience (Sterling Epicure,
2012, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-4027-9429-2, $19.95 US paper covers) is by
Dante Gonzales, owner of the Ride or Fry food truck in Los Angeles. He
works with pop-up stands, music, and underground parties. His shadowy
lifestyle comes to ground in his hard printed cookbook, meant for home
use. Here are 100 eco-conscious recipes (with many vegetarian and vegan
options), some heirloom dishes from his grandmother, and other preps
from his music friends. It's an eclectic mix, based on mainly New
Orleans and Caribbean foods. Try baked pistachio wings, cook-up gumbo,
banana-date short ribs, veggie gumbo, creamed spinach and asparagus,
low country special overrice, okra and sardines, mofongo tamales, and
DFC succotash – or anything with his sauces. Nifty illustrations.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.

14. ONE DISH AT A TIME; delicious recipes and stories from my Italian-
American childhood and beyond (Rodale, 2012, 242 pages, ISBN 978-1-
60961-460-7, $30 US hard covers) is by Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a
Time, Hot in Cleveland), also author of a couple of diet-memoir weight
loss books. She is also the face of the Jenny Craig weight loss
program. Portion control is her key to success, and she gives us about
100 recipes here from diverse sources (Italian dishes from her family,
Indonesian dishes from her former mother-in-law, quick meals for
working women, at-home restaurant meals, and some Jenny Craig faves.
It's all arranged by course (breakfast, apps, soups, salads, mains,
sides, desserts), with stories behind each one. Each prep has some
memoir background and nutritional data, as well as portion control
notes.  Try ribollita, beet-onion and feta salad, pasta alle vongole,
herbed mashed cauliflower, or gooey brownies. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. N interesting book for her fans.
Quality/price rating: 83.

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