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Sunday, October 26, 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 –
11.THE SOUP SISTERS AND BROTH BROTHERS COOKBOOK (Appetite by Random House, 2014, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01642-8, $24.95 CAN paper covers) has been edited by Sharon Hapton, founder of Soup Sisters, a non-profit (with branches) that organizes multiple volunteer soup-making events across Canada – serving over 10,000 every month. This particular book of some 100 soups follows the seasons, and comes from both the volunteers and celebrity Canadian chefs such as Rob Feenie, Susur Lee, Michael Smith, Anna Olson and some international chefs. Included are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The Soup Sisters Cookbook was originally published in 2012; this second volume contributes different recipes. Preps have been sourced (eg. Mark McEwan's corn bisque, Daniel Hayes' gazpacho Andaluz) and most make 4 to 6 servings. There are savory rutabaga and red lentil soup, Mexican lime soup with chicken and feta, Parisian cream of green bean with white wine and herbs, and avgolemono soup. Sales from the book goes to support the programs. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Do visit Quality/price rating: 87.
12.THE GEFILTEFEST COOKBOOK (Grub Street, 2014, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-909166-25-7, $40 CAN hardback) is from Gefiltefest, a British Jewish food charity which explores the relationship between Judaism and food through education in heritage, ethics, culture and traditions. Over a three year period, 65 global chefs (including Deborah Madison, Fred Plotkin, Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, Yotam Ottolenghi) donated recipes to this project. The book is in regular format, beginning with starters, soups, salads, progressing to mains and desserts. There is also a history of Jewish cookbooks, contributed by Maureen Kendler. Preps are sourced (Madison's elixir of fresh peas, Tina Wasserman's Moroccan orange and olive salad, Florence Fabricant's leeks and fennel in anise vinaigrette) and each is labeled parve or dairy, etc., with variations. Each contributor is given a short bio. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
13.BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN (Chronicle Books, 2014, 225 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2234-2, $29.95 US  hard covers) is by Tanya Holland, executive chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in West Oakland, California. Jan Newberry is the focusing food writer. Log rollers include Alice Waters, Sara Moulton, and Bruce Aidells. This is a soul food place, and the book has 80 preps to reflect that, such as shrimp & chicken gumbo, summer squash succotash, North African spiced beef short ribs, blackened catfish, bourbon and chili-glazed salmon, or jerk baby black ribs. Arrangement is by course, from breakfast through snacks, salads, lunch, soups, sandwiches, big bowls, and sweets. There are a dozen beverages, not all alcoholic. And of course there is some memoir material about the restaurant. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and (mainly) avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
14.TACOLICIOUS (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 212 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-562-4, $22 US hard covers) is by Sara Deseran, co-owner of Tacolicious in San Francisco (4 locations in the area). It comes with log rolling from Mark Miller and three other chefs. She's had assistance from her husband (the other co-owner, her exec chef, and the beverage manager. It is a handsome book, with excellent photography and design, beginning with salsas, moving through snacks, sides, tacos, and then beverages (mainly cocktails) for 40 pages. There is a glossary, list of mail order sources, and even a listing of some her fave Latin restos in California and Mexico. She's got pork albondigas in chipotle sauce, carnitas taco, chile verde taco, potato and chorizo taco, and a Lone Star breakfast taco. There's also spicy pork ribs with jicama salad, halibut crudo with citrus and capers, and tuna tostadas. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

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