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Sunday, May 11, 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 –

14.JON BONNELL'S WATERS; fine coastal cuisine (Gibbs Smith, 2014; distr. Raincoast, 222 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3306-8, $35 US hard covers) is by the owner of Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine (2001), a regional-Texas style restaurant in Fort Worth. But this is about his newest place, Waters, and is devoted to seafood. He has also authored two other books about Texas cuisine. He has recipes for fancy dining on more than 35 varieties of fish and seafood, with a grouping of accompaniments to produce a full course. All techniques are covered: cold, raw, ceviche, soup, salad, poached, steamed, sauteed, crispy fried, grilled, roasted, and baked. Many of the dishes call for Southwestern spicing, and he has his appropriate rubs, sauces and blends. He also has a nice, all-round recipe for Waters Bay Blend, with 22 different seasonings. Try steamed mussels with jalapeno, seared mahi with artichokes and capers, almond crusted speckled trout with brown butter, or grilled scallop kebabs on rosemary skewers. Large print format is a real plus here (and this includes the index). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.

15.A VISUAL GUIDE TO SUSHI-MAKING AT HOME (Chronicle Books, 2014, 223 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0710-3, $35 US hard covers) is by Hrio Sone (Beard Award winning chef and co-owner of Ame Restaurant and Terra Restaurant in the Frisco Bay Area) and Lissa Doumani (the other co-owner). There are usually two books year on making sushi (at least since 1997), but this one has tons of photography. These are the fundamentals for 50 recipes, with step-by-step visuals. The first 100 pages cover the basics of breaking down and trimming the fish/seafood, plus making rice, dashi, soy glaze, pickled ginger, and grating daikon and toasting nori. The rest is making hand-formed sushi (nigiri-zushi), gunkan-maki warship rolls, maki-zushi skinny rolls, maki-zushi hand rolls, and sushi don bowls. I've always played it safe when eating at unknown places, so I've largely stuck with salmon, tuna and shrimp as the seafood. But I do love smoked eel...Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and mostly metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. The photography of the finished plates is amazing, and can serve as a great catalogue of sushi dishes. Quality/price rating: 89.

16.JOSEY BAKER BREAD (Chronicle Books, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-1368-5, $27.50 US hard covers) is by baker Baker operating out of The Mill in San Francisco. Here are 18 step-by-step lessons, ranging from sourdough through whole grain breads, with rye and seeded along the way. The core recipes here can be spun off into buns, pizzas, and pockets and other shapes and sizes. There are also scones, fruit crumbles, cornbread – even cookies. Covered are sesame loaves, olive bread, cinnamon raisin, black pepper parmesan, sesame poppy, cranberry walnut, corn kamut, cheddar chive, and fig fennel.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table equivalents and only the metric is scaled. Quality/price rating: 86.

17.CHOCOLATE, CHOCOLATE & MORE CHOCOLATE (Imagine! Books, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-62354-020-3, $18.95 US hard covers) is by Ellie Tarrab, now running a chocolate boutique in Tel Aviv called Cardinal, offering pralines, bonbons, and the like. There are 80 preps here for chocolate truffles, ganache, candies, cookies, sheets, bars, pralines, and general desserts. Plus, of course, a primer on dealing with chocolate. He even has blondies (white chocolate). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 86.

18.PANCAKES, CREPES, WAFFLES & FRENCH TOAST (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-487-3, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Hannah Miles, one of the Ryland stable of food writers (over 12 books), TV presenter in the UK, and one of three finalists in the MasterChef TV show in 2007. It's a concise and precise book, with 60 recipes on the brunch front, with material on how to make fancy sauces and fillings for simple comfort foods. There are thick US-type pancakes and thin French crepes. There is even one gluten-free spinach and ricotta crepe recipe, using buckwheat flour. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and mostly metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. There are also the usual fabulous Ryland photos of plated dishes. Quality/price rating: 87.

19.FRIENDS AROUND THE TABLE; Mediterranean recipes for relaxed entertaining (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84986-461-3, $27.95 US hard covers) is by Acland Geddes, now owner of Megan's in London (after catering and then cheffing in gastropubs). Recipes were developed by Acland and Pedro da Silva, head chef at Megan's. The 60 recipes call for careful planning, to make it an event (tablecloths, cutlery, decorations, etc.), not just taking advantage of warm weather to eat outside. Lunch al fresco brings back the classics: gazpacho, carpaccio, grilled sardines and/or calamari, couscous salad or crunchy fennel salad, grilled nectarines with mozzarella, roasted pears. Another section deals with a large crowd and serious meats such as lamb or beef. A third covers just two diners, with preps scaled down to two (no leftovers). Another is teatime, another is for side dishes. Well-thought out, but I would have like a few more recipes (try cutting back on the lavish photography, which I cannot eat). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and mostly metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

20.PLANT FOOD (Gibbs Smith, 2014; distr. Raincoast, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3062-3, $19.99 US soft covers) is by Matthew Kenney, Meredith Baird, and Scott Winegard – all associated with the Matthew Kenney Restaurant and Academy. Both Matthew and Meredith have written a variety of raw cookbooks, and this is also a raw food book. But instead of just being plates of "raw" food, the chefs have here innovated with different techniques that involve no cooking and retain the nutritional elements of the plant. Familiar tools used in new ways such as smokers and dehydrators – there is a two page list of modernist equipment at the back of the book. The preps are presented in groups: found, quality, sprouted, spun, dried, smoked, sealed, cured, pressed, fermented, aged, sweetened and sipped. There is also an interesting section on kefir grains. Typical are lemon verbena "creme" on porcini cracker, young celery with juniper oil, rye seaweed crisps with macadamia butters, smoked cashews with herbs and flowers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents. Great photography. Quality/price rating: 87.

21.WOLFGANG PUCK MAKES IT HEALTHY (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014; distr. Hachette, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-0884-6, $30 US hard covers) is by Puck and Chad Waterbury with Norman Kolpas and Lou Schuler. Waterbury is a strength coach and personal trainer. The subtitle says it all – light, delicious recipes and easy exercise for a better life.  As Puck says, "I never, ever expected to write this book". But over the years, he's become more concerned about his own eating habits, diets, and exercises. This concern has moved over to his family and friends and paying customers of his restaurants and catering company. This is his seventh cookbook, with 100 useful recipes to satisfy nutritional needs. It is mainly popular food (Mediterranean, Asiatic, Mexican) which is full of flavours, simple to prepare, and full of calorie/fat reducing elements such as using yoghurt to replace sour cream (who doesn't these days? But do get the pro-biotic kind), egg whites to replace some of the yolks, and so forth. The arrangement has the kitchen first, followed by the dishes in course order, and then an exercise section of some 30 pages (extremely useful). I did not notice any menus, although there is a page on meal planning. Typical dishes include mandarin noodles with sauteed pork and veggies, prosciutto pizza, stir-fried shrimp salad, and a variety of low-cal/low-fat sauces and dressings. With Puck's name attached, the healthy lifestyle must have hit the mainstream. Go for it...Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.

22.THE CHOPPED COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2014; distr. Random House of Canada, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3500-4, $27.50 US hard covers) is by the Food Network Kitchen, the operation behind the TV shows, website, magazine, restaurants, and Kohl's products. It is staffed by food stylists, recipe developers, researchers, and chefs. Here, they've put out the preps behind the TV show "Chopped". It uses the same principles as the show (use what you've got to cook something great), but substitutes your pantry and leftovers in the fridge for 188 doable recipes. Most of the dishes here use four ingredients plus the pantry. There are a lot of shortcuts listed, as well as timing (active, total), and of course it is arranged by major ingredient: there are chapters for pastas, chickens, eggs, veggies,salads, fish, grains and desserts. Scrumptious dishes include coconut panna cotta with candied peanuts, chile affogato, mushroom and cheese baked polenta, carrot and almond arancini, and butter-basted flat iron steak with tomato butter sauce and parsley noodles (25 minutes total time for the steak). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

23.TEENY'S TOUR OF PIE; a cookbook (Workman Publishing, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 272 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-7336-6, $15.95 US soft covers) is by Teeny Lamothe, who runs Teeny Pies in Washington, DC. She's also written on pies for online and print publications. Here she has 67 preps, mainly from her business, covering fruit pies, cream pies, innovative pies, and savoury pies. Included are profiles of pie-makers and some regional specialties. There are 10 no-fail crusts here (including one that is gluten-free), as well as a pie calendar (what to make according to the season: in summer, bluebarb pie, peach pie, strawb-lime tarts, and summer squash pies with a cracker crust seem very convenient. There are extensive instructions and many tips, along with nutritional advice and timings. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

24.FRENCHIE; new bistro cooking (Artisan, 2012, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-534-1, $22.95 US hard covers) is by Greg Marchand, owner of Frenchie bistro in Paris. It was originally published in French in 2012, as an "at home" cookbook from the French bistro. This is its North American debut, and it comes with some heavy-duty log rolling from Oliver, Waters, Bourdain, and Lebovitz. The latter nails it when he refers to a "matchup of French and American cooking showcases the best of both cultures." The arrangement is by season, from spring. There is a short intro that is a partial memoir, and a short list of sources. There are about 50 recipes; those from spring include foie gras with cherry chutney, wild garlic broth with fresh crabmeat, crispy pollock with asparagus, and grilled mackerel with cauliflower farrotto and trout roe. Upscale, but doable. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Profusely illustrated. Quality/price rating: 86.

25.THE BIG-FLAVOR GRILL; no-marinade, no-hassle recipes (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-527-3, $25US hard covers) is by former Boston chef-owner of East Coast Grill (and Beard Award winner) Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, now editorial director for magazines at America's Test Kitchen. The 130 recipes here promise no brines, marinades or basting are needed. Waiting time will be saved, which also means you can sort of spontaneously make BBQ. The authors advocate spice rubs (made up and used in the time it takes for the grill to heat up) and powerful post-BBQ ingredients to toss with the food (citrus, hoisin, fish sauce, ginger, basil, fresh chiles). They recommend trying five-spice steak "tips" with grilled pineapple and sweet-sour sauce, Thai-style baby back ribs, chicken breasts with maple-soy glaze and peanut-ginger relish, and fish steaks with sriracha-basil butter. Yummy. Now, can we just get rid of the grilling? The book is predicated on live fire grilling, although there is advice on how to handle gas grills. Certainly, if you are stuck indoors, you can use a ridged cast iron grill on the stove – you'll need a hooded fan, but it works. Try smoke-roasted whole chickens, grilled pork chops with hoisin-peanut sauce, grilled new potatoes, and other goodies. Complete with flow charts (hey, this is a guy book), this is a real winner here...Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.

26.GRILL TO PERFECTION (Page Street Publishing, 2014, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-62414-042-6, $21.99 US soft covers) is by Andy Husbands (Beard Award winning chef-owner of Tremont 647) and Chris Hart, a multiple BBQ competition winner. Both are part of the award-winning BBQ team, iQUE, and together they have been Kansas City BBQ Society Grand Champions 35(!) times. Food free-lancer Andrea Pyenson has been the focusing writer. The book has been arranged by physical heat: it opens with hot direct grilling (searing), followed by medium (roasting), and low direct grilling. The authors also introduce their two-zone hybrid grilling by building a two-zone fire in a gas grill. The last chapter is about low and slow grilling using the two-zone method. In addition to traditional meats, preps include fish, lamb, and veggies. There is a resources list, a drinks section, and a section "the tools we always have when we grill". The first rate recipes include seared greens with grilled chicken livers and blue cheese, BBQ oysters, chocolate sea salt butter, grilled shrimp cocktail with chipotle sauce, and even grilled spam with curried slaw. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no overall table of equivalents. Very useful book, lacking just the regular margin gutters that Page Street is known for. Quality/price rating: 87.

27.SLIMMING MEALS THAT HEAL (Random House Canada, 2014, 338 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-81350-3, $29.95 CAN soft covers) is by Julie Daniluk, RHN, author of Meals That Heal Inflammation, and the co-host of Healing Gourmet, a reality cooking show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She's appeared on many other TV shows as a nutrition expert. In her current book, she connects inflammation-allergies-weight gain, and gives us 120 or so new recipes. The basis premise here is lifestyle change: tasty food that will make you come back for more, even after you've lost that weight. There is information here on organ cleansing, superfoods, and techniques to reduce food cravings. At the heart is her five-step plan on how to boost metabolism and to balance hormones. The first 140 pages cover the program material, and then come the recipes, arranged by course. Each prep has a logo to indicate eggs, soy, dairy, tree nuts, GI score level, high GI score, raw foods, and nightshades. All preps are gluten-free. Typical are lemon-marinated fennel bulbs, Key lime shake, turkey chili, a no bake pumpkin pie, a gluten-free lasagne, and cashew-crusted chicken. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. She concludes with a resources list, bibliographic references, and two indexes (by subject and by recipe). Quality/price rating: 87.

Dean Tudor, Wine Writer,

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