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Friday, January 10, 2014

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 best 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 at home, but how could that be? The books 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 photo
shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other
celebrities in magnificent cases 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. THE WARM KITCHEN; gluten-free recipes anyone can make and everyone
will love (Family Chef Publishing, 2013, 264 pages, ISBN 978-0-9894843-
0-5, $26.95 US paper covers) is by Amy Fothergill, an experienced chef-
consultant who now writes a gluten-free column for the in
San Francisco and has her own popular blog
Her oversized book has 150 recipes with dairy, sugar, and egg
substitutions to handle most allergies. She's got not only the usual
cooking tips, techniques, step-by-step instructions, but also family
friendly dishes and how to stock a gluten-free pantry. Everything is
covered, from breakfast to dessert, covering soups-salads-mains-sides-
breads. Of particular value are her preps for GF breads, mostly based
on her GF flour blend. There's a lot packed in here: try stuffoli,
banana cupcakes, battered chicken, shepherd's (actually, cottage) pie,
cinnamon raisin bread, and crispy pizza dough. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: 88.

13. VEDGE; 100 plates large and small that redefine vegetable cooking
(The Experiment, 2013; dist. T. Allen, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-61519-085-
0, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, chefs and
owners of Vedge which opened in 2011 in Philadelphia. Landau has been
opening restaurants since 1994, while his wife Jacoby is also a pastry
chef and sommelier. Good credentials, but it still needed some advanced
log rolling for "praise". It's a vegan book, using vegan butter, vegan
cream, vegan shortening, and other substitutes. There are about 100
dishes, based on the Vedge menus. It is augmented by stocks and spice
blends. There is an apps section, soups and stews, freshly pulled
veggies, mains, stews, and desserts and breads. Try pesto trapanese,
roasted asparagus with hazelnut picada, French breakfast radishes with
nori and tamari and avocado, beetroot pots de crème, or grilled
broccolini with pistachio and cured olive. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

14. BALABOOSTA; bold Mediterranean recipes to feed the people you love
(Artisan, 2013; distr. T. Allen, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-500-6,
$29.95 US hard covers) is by Einat Admony, chef-owner of Balaboosta,
Taim, and Bar Bolonat restaurants in New York. Balaboosta is Yiddish
for "a perfect housewife". This is a Mediterranean melting pot series
of recipes, with (surprisingly) only three preps for lamb. The heritage
is Israeli with influences from Persia, Morocco, and other southern
parts. It is meant for families, but there are dishes from her
workplaces for entertaining (spicy chicken tagine, Moroccan carrots),
for kids (red velvet gnocchi), quick meals (roasted broccoli,
shakshuka), comfort food (sinaya), romantic food (lamb chops with
Persian lime sauce), BBQ, healthy options, slow-cooked recipes (5000
year-old eggs), and others. Preparations have their ingredients listed
in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.

15. BAKE AND DESTROY; good food for bad vegans (Page Street Publishing,
2013; distr. Can Manda Group, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-62414-002-0, $19.99
US soft covers) is by Natalie Slater, creator of the popular blog She was a Cooking Channel winner and has served as
a judge on the Food Network, plus she free lances her writings. This is
vegan food for today's young generation: punk rock, heavy metal,
slasher movies, and pro-wrestling. It is also a fun book, filled with
her rants and raves. Typical recipes are for bike messenger brownies
(with caffeine chai latte), crouching cornbread hidden broccoli (for
the kids), taco lasagna, shepherd's pie pizza…and more! If it attracts
people to good food, then go for it…What I especially like about the
book is the way Page Street Publishing lets the pages spread out, with
no holding down of the gutters or inner margins. More please!!
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements; there is no overall table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 89.
16. GREAT MEAT; classic techniques and award-winning recipes for
selecting, cutting, and cooking beef, lamb, pork, poultry and game
(Fair Winds Press, 2013, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-59233-581-7, $24.99 US
paper covers) is by Dave Kelly of Ruby & White, a UK butcher shop, and
John Hogan, executive chef of Keefer's of Chicago. Kelly did the text
and the material about cutting, while Hogan did the recipes. The book
is about, well, meat. Here is a basic go-to guide about the technical
aspects of home butchery, as well as useful recipes, not only from
Keefer's, but also from The Town House, The Manor House Hotel, and The
Circus Café. Try steak and arugula salad, chilled Vietnamese braised
beef shank, stuffed pork loin chops, rabbit pie, game casserole, or
lemon poussins.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 89.

17. THE SCARPETTA COOKBOOK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 370 pages,
ISBN 978-1-118-50870-1, $35 US hard covers) is by Scott Conant, Beard
Award winner and TV cooking judge. He's the chef at Scarpetta, which
now has five locations (including one in Toronto). Still, despite the
accolades, there is log rolling from Bobby Flay and Marcus Samuelsson.
There are 125 recipes here from the restaurant, as he says "all
designed to teach essential cooking techniques" such as chiffonading
fresh basil, shaping quenelles, or deboning a chicken. There is also
wine advice from Paolo Barbieri, sommelier at Scarpetta Las Vegas.
Recommended wines are from Italy, and specify actual brands (although
there is often a choice). It's an upscale Italian cookbook, recast for
home kitchens from the restaurant. And there are pictures and stories
from Scarpetta. Try parmesan crackers, endive salad with creamy pine
nut dressing and shaved parmesan, duck and foie gras ravioli with
Marsala sauce, or radish confit. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.

18. SWEET (Artisan, 2013; distr. T. Allen, 344 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-
468-9, $35 US hard covers) is by Valerie Gordon, who opened Valerie
Confections in 2004 in Los Angeles. This book is a collection of 100
recipes, mostly from that store. It's divided by type of dessert, so
there are separate chapters on pies and tarts, chocolates and
confections, cookies and bars, cakes, jams and marmalades. Some log
rolling is here, but it seems responsible and reasonably intelligent.
Part of the book is memoirish and about making gifts for others. There
is some mixing and matching of dishes, some hybrids through variations,
and complementary desserts. She's got a nifty pantry mise en place
section for ingredients and equipment. And excellent layout and
photography. Try Angelino plum ice cream, black-and-blue fool,
blackberry-mango curd pie, or apple and caramel aged Gouda crostata.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.

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