3.SEVEN SPOONS (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 268 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01630-5, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is by Tara O'Brady, owner of the eponymous blog since 2005. She has one of the oldest food blogs; she also does freelance writing. It comes with heavy-duty log rolling from Molly Wizenberg, David Lebovitz, and Bonny Stern. There are about 100 preps here, globally inspired, covering the range of family dishes from breakfasts through desserts and staples/pantry items. These are her fave recipes from her blog; this is the food that she likes. Scattered throughout are memoir stories. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginner to intermediate.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Vietnamese sausage rolls; tomato raita; yellow dal; braised veggies; yellow tomato gazpacho; celeriac soup with green horseradish oil; blurry sunrise smoothie.
The downside to this book: they may be fave recipes, but the scope of the preps also seems very general in tone.
The upside to this book: there is a heavy bent to Indian subcontinent cooking in Canada.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
4.COMFORT FOOD WITHOUT THE CALORIES (Orion Books,, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4091-5469-3, $18.99 CAN paper covers) is by Justine Pattison, a UK diet recipe writer and recipe developer for TV, as well as a magazine food writer. She has a series for Orion, "Without the Calories"; her other books involve takeout, quick and easy, pasta and rice, one pots and desserts – without the calories. The standard setup is one page for the prep, with calories highlighted per serving, ingredients, recipe, tips, etc., and a photo of the plated results. It is all arranged by course. At the back of the book is nutritional information for each dish and various other useful pantry ideas. It is a winning series. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, but there are many tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginners; those looking to lose weight, or at least count calories.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: minestrone soup; eggplant parmigiana; moussaka; Cobb salad; braised peas with lettuce and bacon; panna cotta; roasted squash tomato and spinach lasagna.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.
5.MASTERING HOMEBREW (Chronicle Books, 2015, 384 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0551-2, $29.95 US soft covers) is the latest beer book by Randy Mosher (he's already written one this year for Storey Publishing). It's a basic how-to book, with gorgeous illustrations. He's got 26 master recipes, all of which can be customized for substitutions and add-ons. There are sections on understanding beer style, choosing and using equipment, understanding ingredients, how to formulate your own recipes, and how to package and serve a great glass of beer. The book is thorough, comprehensive and very witty. Heartily recommended for its bibliography and extra reading matter, resources lists, and large type index. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there are also tables of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those who love beer and want to know more about the process; those who want to make their own beers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: "Clever homebrewers, in search of simplicity or speed, have thrown out the rule book [on sparging]and found a number of alternate methods of separating the wort from the spent grain."
The downside to this book: there is so much here, it all appears daunting. Read it slowly.
The upside to this book: comprehensive and encyclopedia.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
6.GOOD CHEAP EATS; everyday dinners and fantastic feasts for $10 or less (Harvard Common Press, 2014, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-55832-843-3, $16.95 US paper covers) is by Jessica Fisher, blogger at Good Cheap Eats. She's also written two other value-driven cookbooks. Here she concentrates on the dollar value: a meal for a family of four for under $10. She's got suggested menus, but readers can mix and match (prices will go up or down) from among the 200 preps here. Each recipe has been tagged for meatless, or dairy-free, or gluten-free, or make ahead, etc. Lots of tips on living well with minimum food purchases. This might be a popular book to be borrowed from a library (it will cost you nothing). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: strapped families.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: cranberry pesto pasta salad; buttery orzo; baby greens with lemon-basil vinaigrette; spinach and mushroom pizza with roasted tomato sauce; garlic rolls; arroz con pollo.
The downside to this book: it is on heavy paper, and weighs a lot (320 pages).
The upside to this book: good idea
Quality/Price Rating: 85.
7.TRULY MADLY PIZZA (Rodale, 2015, 230 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-218-8, $27.50 US hard covers) is by Suzanne Lenzer, a food stylist and writer who has worked with Mark Bittman (he did the Foreword here) for many years. She's done a lot of styling for other magazines and cookbooks. Here, she admits to being obsessed by her crust. She tells the story of how she got to her "go-to, tried-and-true, know-by-heart" pizza dough. I won't give it away. She spent eons developing it, and here it is over 4 pages – much like Child's French bread recipe. Good detail and techniques. In honour of her late mother-in-law (who tinkered with the original go-to recipe by adding whole-wheat flour) Lenzer did devise one variation: a whole wheat pizza dough. Everything else in the book is a series of vibrant toppings. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. The bread flour weighs in at 390 grams or 2.75 cups.
Audience and level of use: pizza makers and lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: caramelized onion jam; roasted garlic sauce/spread; walnut pesto; broccolini-mushroom-breadcrumbs; ground lamb with cumin-grape tomatoes and cilantro; duck confit and cannellini beans with caramelized onions and rosemary.
The downside to this book: I would have liked her take on gluten-free pizza dough.
The upside to this book: good idea – one dough, and stick with it.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
8.NEW ENGLAND OPEN HOUSE COOKBOOK (Workman Publishing, 2015, 388 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-5519-5, $24.95 US paper covers) is by Sarah Leah Chase, who had collaborated on The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. She's also written other cookbooks based on New England food, and now lives on Cape Cod. Here are 300 recipes, introduced by some memoir-type material (including the diverse "how long does it take to write a cookbook?"). In a two column format, it is arranged by food type: salads, bivalves, lobster, fish, poultry, beef, and veggies. There are chapters on desserts, breakfasts, drinks and picnics. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: Down East food lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Cape Codder stuffed lobster tails; hot crab dip; cranberry bog peperonata; broccoli salad with toasted almonds and cranberries; Cape Cod chocolate chip; angels on horseback; gratinee asparagus; New Hampshire styled egg scramble; corn canoes.
The downside to this book: it is a hefty book, and the perfect binding needs to stand up to wear.
The upside to this book: it is thorough and comprehensive, and with 20 preps for lobsters, it screams "classic!"
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
9.NEW ENGLAND FARMGIRL (Gibbs Smith, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3800-1, $30 US hard covers)is by Jessica Robinson, who now divides her time between New England and North Carolina. She blogs at newenglandkitchen.com and carolinafarmhousekitchen.com. It is a very rural book since it deals with farm food from New England. There's some commentary on local natural and organic food, farmstand markets, orchards, honey, dairy, eggs, maple sugar, wineries and vineyards, plus the obligatory raising your own food. She's even got a chapter on Christmas tree farms. Each section comes with a resources list for personal (or even online) visits. She's got about 100 recipes. It nicely complements Chase's New England Open House Cookbook (see above). Together, the two would be a great gift for the New Englander who lives far from home. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: for the absent New Englander.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: apple cider doughnuts; farmhouse apple crisp; bacon-wrapped meatloaf; green beans in hearty sausage and veggie soup; blueberry coffee cake; creamy cheddar and broccoli soup; Maine lobster stew; and a lot of maple syrup recipes.
The downside to this book: it is a posh production, but maybe too posh.
The upside to this book: a good account of a farmer's daughter.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
10.HEALTHY HAPPY VEGAN KITCHEN (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-37980-0, $25US soft covers) is by Kathy Patalsky, creator of a vegan food blog (HealthyHappyLife.com) and author of 365 Vegan Smoothies.
11.MASTERING THE ART OF VEGAN COOKING (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 328 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-5753-0, $25 US hard covers) is by Annie and Dan Shannon, authors of Betty Goes Vegan.
12.VEGAN EVERYDAY (Robert Rose, 2015, 576 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0499-4, $27.95 CAN soft covers) is by Douglas McNish, a vegan executive chef and consultant who has authored two raw cookbooks.
All three books were published about the same time. The first two (Patalsky and Shannon) are quite similar, with over 200 recipes each. Both books are also loaded with log rollers. Patalsky arranges her book by course: sandwiches, burgers, sides, fritters, salads, soups, apps, entrees, desserts, smoothies, "for the kids", with a collection of 12 menus. It is family oriented, mostly derived from her blog, with many dishes titled "vegan", as in Vegan Cashew Ricotta or Vegan Senate Bean Soup or Vegan OO pizza dough. It's gluten-free in part, and she lists ways to "veganize" the kitchen and substitute within dishes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
The Shannons pay a vegan homage to Julia Child, and devote some space to tips on how to spend less but get more. They have more overt titles for vegan dishes, such as Vegan Yankee Pot Roast, Korean Kimchi BBQ Burgers, and Not-cho Everyday Chili Dogs. They encourage you to have your own "Victory" garden. It is arranged by meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, with additional sections on leftovers and special occasions (maybe next time they could deal with leftovers for special occasions? Just wondering.). The concentration is on thrift, such as Americans did during the Depression and World War II. There are references to USO and to meat substitutes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Both of these books also promote an attractive vegan lifestyle. But if you are already vegan (or vegetarian), you might want to look at McNish's book since he covers twice as many (500) recipes, from breakfast through desserts, with courses like apps, snacks, beans and grains, pasta, stir fries, soups and stews, and baked goods. His book is also gluten-free, an added value here if you cannot eat wheat, barley or rye. It is a well-thought out book prepared by a trained vegan chef for his clients. It is laid out in typical Rose style, with both avoirdupois and metric measurements for each ingredient. There's lentil shepherd's pie, potato salad wraps, stewed onions and mushrooms with millet, cannelloni, plus the usual vegan knockoffs of stroganoff, burgers, chicken noodle soup, and avgolemono soup among others.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: all three books use nutritional yeast, but the first two only have it in a dozen recipes while McNish uses it in over 40 preps.
Quality/Price Rating: Patalsky 86; Shannons 87; McNish 90.