ALMONDS; recipes, history, culture (Gibbs Smith, 2014, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3464-5, $21.99 US hard covers) is by Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress, co-authors of "The Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook". Recipes are by Lynda Balslev, a food writer and recipe developer in the Frisco Bay Area. Along with some high powered log rolling, the team has produced a unique book of 60 recipes featuring the cuisines of China, India, Lebanon, France, Italy, Mexico and the US. All forms of almonds are here: raw, blanched, ground, roasted, slivered and sliced. The range is for every course, from snacks and starters to baked goods. Much of the data came from the Almond Board of California (www.almonds.com) but they also have a short bibliography. In addition to cultural notes and histories, there are sidebars from time to time with tidbits of material. The photography is also really good. Preparations have their ingredients listed mainly in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: nut lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: almond granita and raspberries; mixed greens with roasted beets, feta and toasted almonds; almond and apricot skillet bread; almond and lemon crusted salmon; pulled pork with red mole; white peach and prosciutto salad; winter kale and quinoa salad with carrots and raisins; green olive and almond tapenade.
The downside to this book: more recipes would have been appreciated.
The upside to this book: a nifty book for almond lovers.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
4.THE NEW SOUTHERN TABLE; classic ingredients revisited (Fair Winds, 2014, 200 pages, ISBN 978-1-59233-585-5, $21.99 US soft covers) is by Brys Stephens, food writer and restaurant critic, now operating as www.cookthink.com. His book is arranged by ingredient: okra, field peas, squash, rice, collards, corn, sweet potatoes, lima beans,peanuts, pecans,figs, peaches, and watermelons – with something for everyone. There are about 100 recipes showing French, Mediterranean, Latin and Asian roots through combinations and techniques. Okra and feta shows off Greek tones, hoppin' john with coconut seems to be from the Caribbean, while Sicilian watermelon pudding is from Italy. Each product is introduced, there is photography, and some general food matching principles. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: lovers of Deep South food looking for a change.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: buttermilk pecan ice cream; chick, collard, and country ham saltimboca; forbidden coconut rice with mango; steak tacos with watermelon salsa; quick cook collards, chard and escarole; flounder in parchment with field peas, squash and peppers; peaches with pecan mint pesto.
The downside to this book: more recipes would have been useful because this is a great idea.
The upside to this book: good concept.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
5.RAWSOME VEGAN BAKING (Page Street, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-62414-055-6, $19.99 US paper covers) is by Emily von Euw, creator of the blog www.thisrawsomeveganlife.com which gets about a half million page views a month. The techniques, tips and preps come from the blog's site. It is a handsome book, made even the better with the exclusive Premium Binding which stays open for hand free viewing. The subtitle pretty much says it all: "an un-cookbook for raw, gluten-free, vegan, beautiful and sinfully sweet cookies, cakes, bars and cupcakes". It manages to combine three trends in one: raw, vegan, and gluten-free. Certainly these are healthier alternatives to many current desserts that are laden with bad sugars and bad fats. Over 100 recipes go into details such as use of the food processor and blender. An example given is the vanilla chocolate chunk cheesecake with peanut butter which uses oats, pitted dates, bananas, coconut oil, cashews, carob powder, peanut butter and chocolate – everything is raw. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no overall table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegans, desert lovers, gluten-free eaters, fans of raw food.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: s'mores cupcakes; sorbet with strawberries, agave and mint; rhubarb almond crumble with maple oregano glaze; caramel tarts with pistachios and pumpkin seeds; chocolate nut butter cups; blueberry strawberry banana ice cream cake; "endless energy bars" (nuts seeds, figs, raisins, coconut).
The downside to this book: I would have liked more recipes, but I suppose these can be found at the blog.
The upside to this book: the concept and the binding.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
6.EGGS ON TOP; recipes elevated by an egg (Chronicle Books, 2014; distr. Raincoast, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2368-4, $24.85 US paper covers) is by Andrea Slonecker, a food writer who is also head of the Portland Culinary Alliance and a chef instructor at the Art Institute of Portland (OR). It is a nifty, basic book about perfect protein. The first part of the book deals with how to cook eggs in different ways, including special basting with bacon dripping or special poaching in wine. The rest of the book (110 pages) covers recipes about adding whole eggs to dishes. The first chapter covers eggs on bread/sandwiches, then there is a section on eggs on soups and stews, followed by eggs on salads, eggs on veggies, eggs on grain and legumes, and eggs on noodles. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: egg lovers; those looking for relatively quick food.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: welsh rarebit with hide-and-seek eggs and burnt broccoli; oeufs en meurette; crispy lemon eggs and avocado on toast; sweet potato red flannel hash with fried eggs; Swiss chard, chickpeas and crunchy egg stew; salad of favas, radishes, beet-pickled eggs and wheat berries.
The downside to this book: there is a very short few paragraphs on using eggs on leftovers, which could be expanded.
The upside to this book: a unique presentation, well thought out.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
7.SUPER GRAINS & SEEDS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-488-0, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Amy Ruth Finegold, who markets gluten-free baking mixes in the UK via Whole Foods. See www.amy-ruths.com. She now lives in the US. Here are 60 preps using chia, quinoa, flax, farro, and other grains and seeds. A good introductory book, based on her own health problems – that have largely disappeared with her new food eating patterns. She's divided the grains into gluten and non-gluten, and has also added acai berries, almond flour and coconut oil. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mostly avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginning cooks, those with health problems.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: almond flour tea loaf with fresh berries; spice cake with mesquite flour; quinoa spaghetti with chilli crab; beetroot herb dip with seeded amaranth crackers; wild rice with artichoke, peaches and pine nuts.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
8.THE ITALIAN VEGETABLE COOKBOOK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 326 pages, ISBN 978-0-547909165, $30 US hard covers) is by Michele Scicolone, author or co-author of some 19 books, including The Sopranos Family Cookbook. She's gathered 200 preps from home cooks, chefs, produce vendors, and vineyard owners in Italy. Some are from Italian magazines, while others are her family faves. The whole range is here: antipasti, soups, pasta, mains, desserts. For the most part it is vegetarian except for some optional pancetta, anchovies or chicken broth as flavour enhancers. No other flesh is here. There is some material on storing veggies and fruit. This is followed with course-by-course sections of the meal. There is a good layout with leaded font giving the cook lots of room to view the instructions and the ingredients. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: home cooks who love veggies or Mediterranean foods.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Easter Swiss chard and cheese pie; stuffed mushrooms; dragged penne; stuffed eggplant; acquacotta (bread, tomatoes and cheese); fruit focaccia; plum crostata; watermelon granita.
The downside to this book: a too short sources list – why bother?
The upside to this book: good selection of rustic recipes.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.