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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

* 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.CAFE KITCHEN (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-561-0, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Shelagh Ryan, who setup an Australian-style cafe (Lantana) in London in 2008. She's also got Salvation Jane and Ruby Dock cafes. These are some of the preps from those restaurants. It's arrangement by course, beginning with breakfasts/brunches, small bites, salads/soups, larger plates, and desserts. Expect Anzac cookies, crack cake (bananas, pineapple, cinnamon, pecans, cream cheese frosting), and apple bircher and almond muesli. Eighty recipes in all, mostly Australian-inspired. There is also Thai fish cakes with nahm jim dipping sauce, Asian chicken noodle salad, and spicy pork burger with mango salsa. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Solid cafe fare of simple ingredients, great to make at home. Quality/price rating: 87.
12.GOOD FAT COOKING (Rodale, 2014, 190 pages, ISBN 978-1-60961-552-9, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Franklin Becker, chef and partner in Little Beet, Beet Cafe, and Cast Iron restaurants in NYC. He was a diabetic and decided to improve his diet. He believes in healthy cooking with "friendly fat" such as olive oil, avocado oil, nut/seed oils, and seafood oils. Peter Kaminsky is the focusing food writer. The book is traditionally arranged by salads, soups, grains, seafood, poultry and meat, veggies, desserts, and finishing with "nibbles and noshes". His recipes showcase nuts and seeds for crunch, gluten-free grains for texture, avocados for silkiness, and seafood for healthy fat protein. Try his toasted kasha with mushrooms and scallions, quinoa tabbouleh with feta cheese and cucumber, seviche of snapper with avocado and cilantro, grilled striped bass with sweet peppers, or pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with southeast Asia flavours. Not your usual bistro food. While the 100 or so preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
13.LOLA'S FOREVER (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-565-8, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Lola's Team of Bakers, headed by Julia Head for the cupcakes and Robert Budwig for the cakes. They have made the preps suitable for home baking, and all tips and hints have been tested by Head. Lola's flagship store is in Selfridge's in London. Here are 73 recipes not only for cakes and cupcakes, but also for cupcake drinks, cookies and candies. You might want to try Earl Grey tea fruit loaf, apricot and pistachio flapjack, or chocolate cookie traybake, and high hat marshmallow cupcake, and custard cream cupcake. Just watch your diet. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
14.CARMINE'S CELEBRATES (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-04108-1, $29.99 US hard covers) is by  Glenn Rolnick, the director of culinary operations for Alicart Restaurant Group which owns Carmine's in several different cities. Chris Peterson is the focusing food writer. There had previously been Carmine's Family-Style Cookbook. The food is southern Italian; the level is family-style. But here they go into celebration mode for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Rolnick has menus for these holidays and other events such as a cocktail party, game day, weekday special, sit-down dinner, and more. The book is arranged by course, beginning with cold apps, and then hot apps, salad, pasta, fish/seafood, meat/poultry, sides, and desserts. His primer includes notes on the Italian kitchen pantry and on menu suggestions. It is a pretty basic book with asparagus and fava bean salad with blue crab (in season), scallops and shrimp scarpariello, osso buco, tomato focaccia, and tiramisu. But a good book for fans of the restaurants. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
15.PARTY-PERFECT BITES (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-568-9, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Milli Taylor, a London caterer who has a supper club called Milk & Sugar. Her book is all about finger food (sorry, only one asparagus recipe: asparagus filo cigars) and small bites. She's got about 100 recipes, all easy and quick to do. In addition, there are menu planners to help serve a variety of people and a selection of both hot and cold apps – all matched to the season, the celebration, and the venue.  These include a formal drinks party, a casual drinks party, a festive winter drinks party, a vegetarian affair, and a gluten-free affair. Strewn throughout are the usual shortcuts, tips, hints and advice on parties. Typical preps are chestnuts and bacon, mini okonomiyaki, banana-hazelnut pancakes, beetroot and apple on crispbreads, prosciutto-pear-gorgonzola rolls, and churros. Something for everyone. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 88.
16.FUTURE CHEFS (Rodale, 2014, 276 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-206-5, $24.99 US paper covers) is by Ramin Ganeshram, a chef and food writer who is also a TV food competition judge. Here she collates a selection of 150 recipes from young cooks all over USA. These come from tweens and teens, but have been curated and kitchen tested by Ganeshram. Each of the 39 gets a profile, and each already has a website. And there are more girls than boys. The book is arranged in traditional normal course order. Some interesting foods include eggplant pesto sandwich, bacon mac and cheese, turnips with beef brisket, kale Caesar salad, capresse salad, spinach smoothie, and zucchini fries. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Worth a look. Quality/price rating: 85.
17.CHARCUTERIE; how to enjoy, serve and cook with cured meats (Ryland Peter & Small, 2014, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-567-2, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Miranda Ballard, who co-owns the UK ethical beef concern Muddy Boots with her husband, and have opened The Modern Meat Shop in London (although neither fact seems to appear in the book itself). Charcuterie and salumi are discussed, especially in the creation of a charcuterie board (French, Italian or Spanish). Layouts are noted, as well as choice of meats and sausages. The Italian board would have olives and crostini, as well as a pecorino and olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. The French board would also have tapenade, baguette, and a soft cheese. The Spanish board would also have olives, marinated red peppers, rustic breads, Manchego cheese, and almonds. The the rest of the book concerns small bites, apps, salads, light lunches, larger dishes, and side dishes with accompaniments. Home curing is part of the primer. It is a good start. Presumably, you could also end the meal with a cheese board, although this is not discussed. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 89.
18.COOKING ALLERGY-FREE (Taunton Press, 2014, 266 pages, ISBN 978-1-62710-396-1, $29.95 US hard covers) is by Jenna Short, owner of (a boutique events company focusing on gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, kosher, and sugar-free foods. She was also formerly sous chef at Bon Appetit magazine. Here she gives us 150 recipes, all easy and quick, and spiced up with flavours. Each prep is free of one or more of the most common food allergens, easily identified by icons which are also applied for GF, vegetarian and vegan. Everything here is also kosher. So it is an all-in-one book, useful for those families that have multiple allergies or lifestyles. Her primer deals largely with grocery shopping, pantry stocking, and kitchen strategies to maximize your time. As well, there are are menu suggestions for weeknight meals and parties. Arrangement of the preps is by traditional course; the index to recipes is by allergen. Typical preps include such as asparagus beef rolls with horseradish cream, which is useful for those who have six of the allergens. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
19.THE CHIA COOKBOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 146 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-664-5, $16.99 US paper covers) is by Janie Hoffman, founder of MammaChia, an organic line of chia-based foods and beverages. There have not been too many chia books lately, but this one is small but well-illustrated with upscale foods. Chia is a unique super-food, with the highest omega-3 content of any vegetarian source, more protein than soybeans, more fibre than flax seed, more calcium than milk, and more antioxidants than blueberries. Chia is already in my life, and here are more ways to use it in juices, smoothies, snacks, small bites, soups, salads, desserts and nibbles. There are even a few mains such as grilled veggie sandwich with chia dijon-balsamic spread, salmon en brioche with chia tzatziki, or Thai-style sweet and sour chicken thighs. There are lots of preps here for everybody – just dig in. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
20.GREENS 24/7 (The Experiment, 2014, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-61519-227-4, $19.95 US paper covers) is by Jessica Nadel, owner-baker of Oh My Bakeshop in Sudbury, Ontario, an organic vegan special order bakery. Here she presents more than 100 quick and easy vegan preps for leafy greens and other greens (peas, broccoli) – meant for every meal of the day plus desserts and snacks. Try one of eight green smoothies or kale in cornbread for brekkies. 40 greens are covered, including spirulina, kelp and zucchini. She begins with nutritional profiles and prep guides for each type, followed by the recipes (chocolate hazelnut avocado torte, pesto polenta fries, tropical green smoothie). She's got an international flavour as well, with spicing from India, Japan, Mexico and Italy. There is also nutritional data for each prep. Nadel has been blogging for almost four years at Preparations have their ingredients listed in mostly avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
21.NEW GERMAN COOKING (Chronicle Books, 2014, 236 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2806-1, $40 US hard covers) is by Jeremy and Jessica Nolen, chef and pastry chef at Brauhaus Schmitz in Philadelphia. Drew Lazor is the focusing food writer-editor. Typically, new German cooking is marked by its lightness, refinement, big flavours, and more veggies. They've got about 100 recipes for the classics, all re-engineered (say the publisher). It is arranged by course, with brotzeit (breads) followed by salate, then suppen, fisch, geflugel (poultry), fleisch, gemuse (veggies), nudeln und knodel, pickles, condiments, and desserts. German titles include mandeltorte (almond-honey cake), apfelstrudel, kirschstrudel, lebkuchen, presskopf (headcheese), schnitzel and bratwurst. There is some history behind the dishes plus an explanation for the changes. At the end there is a resources list. Preparations have their ingredients listed mainly in avoirdupois measurements, but the desserts are scaled in both metric and American. There is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.


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