...is 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 –
15.THE OCEAN WISE COOKBOOK 2; more seafood recipes that are good for the planet (Whitecap, 2015, 376 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-238-3, $34.95 CAN paper covers) is a collection of preps from chefs and restaurants from across Canada, although most of them are from the West Coast (mainly Vancouver). It's an accessible guide to sustainable seafood and freshwater fish, which the index indicates ranges from ahi tune to yellowfin tuna. This is the sequel to the original, published in 2010. Jane Mundy, a professional cook and writer, did the editorial work. Ocean Wise is a nationwide conservation program created by the Vancouver Aquarium to educate restaurants and consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood: it has over 200 members. 170 recipes in this edition feature about 45 types of seafood – and each prep is sourced as to chef. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. After a discussion on sustainability, farmed versus wild, fresh versus frozen, and storage for fish, the preps are listed in cooking technique order and then by type of fish, with
chapters on "one-pots" and canned foods. Try finnan haddie, sablefish with roasted sunchokes and pancetta, or baked harissa steelhead with quinoa. A very worthwhile book in support of a great cause. Quality/price rating: 90.
16.COOK'S COUNTRY EATS LOCAL (America's Test Kitchen, 2015, 310 pages, ISBN 978-1-936493-99-9, $26.95 US paper covers) is from the PBS show. It is one of a series stressing family cooking (blue ribbon, grandmothers, potluck, grilling), and this time the show gives us 150 regional recipes "you should be making no matter where you live". So these are local recipes gone national: the New Orleans muffulettas, jo jo potatoes from the Pacifi Northwest, St. Louis gooey butter cake, porketta from Minnesaota, New England bar pizza, West Virginia pepperoni rolls, Carolina sweet potato sonker, and Iowa skinnies of crispy pork cutlets. It is all part of Christopher Kimball's scheme to find the perfect iconic recipe by testing and re-testing it – until it seems right. The final recipe for each dish is the one that is published in this book. The book's arranged by four regions, and each prep comes with a headnote on why this particular recipe works. There are also dining destinations on where to eat the food, should you be traveling. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are four pages of equivalents. This is a winning formula. Quality/price rating: 90.
17.LET THERE BE MEAT (Orion, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4091-5635-2, $37.99 CAN hard covers) is by James Douglas and Scott Munro, owners of Red's True Barbecue in the UK. They know US BBQ culture since they spent years of travel and study in the American Deep South. The book is extremely useful in Canada since it is a true outsider's view of American smokehouse barbecue. 120 preps cover low and slow cooking, from rubs and crusts through meats, sides, sauces, pickles, sweet stuff and drinks. Chapter four covers feasts such as doing a cabrito asado (whole goat kid, or substitution of lamb), weaner pig, and seafood boil. A good smart-looking book, well-photographed. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
18.DOS CAMINOS TACOS (The Countryman Press, 2014, 280 pages, ISBN 978-1-58157-234-6, $24.95US hard covers) is by Ivy Stark, a NYC top chef who has run many Mexican styled restaurants, but is now executive chef at Dos Caminos. Joanna Pruess, who also worked with Stark on her first book Dos Caminos Mexican Street Food, is the focusing food writer. Here Stark extends the taco section from her previous book on street food. There are 100 preps, opening with vegetarian, and moving through fish and seafood, then poultry, followed by red meats. She's got some sides, saldsa, condiments, desserts, and beverages. Try the sweet potato and colorado bean kash tacos, or the wild mushroom and napales filled tacos, or perhaps the tuna tacos with lime aioli and honeydew jicama slaw. Fried green tomatillo tacos with green olives and chipotle remoulade is inventive. Suggested tortillas are corn or flour, warm or cold, soft or hard. A glossary, including the types of chilies, concludes the book. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.CRUMB; the baking book (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-836-6, $27.50 US hard covers) is by Ruby Tandoh, Great British BakeOff finalist and now a Guardian columnist. It is a celebration of baking, a basic primer to cakes, breads, sweet dough, cookies and crackers, pies and tarts, pastries and "decadent desserts". There is alittle bit of everything, and it is all oriented to family dining and family cooking. It was originally published in the UK in 2014, and has been Americanized in its terminalogies for the US market. But I am glad that baking measurements have been employed (both metric and avoirdupois) and that everything metric is scaled. The range includes chamomile vanilla cupcakes, rosemary pecan pie, and fennel seed and chile crackers. This shows a good emphasis on the sweet and savoury elements of a single dish. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.TIPSY TREATS (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 118 pages, ISBN 978-1-63220-692-3, $19.99 US hard covers) is by Autumn Skoczen, owner of Auts Tipse Treats which opened in 2011. In 2014 she pioneered new liquor laws in Ohio regulating the use of liquor in confections, and hers was the first company to receive a license. These preps here are alcohol-infused cupcakes, marshmallows (drunken s'mores?), and martini gels. She's got the usual spiked jams, margarita cupcakes, and rum-raisin cupcakes. But there are also Irish car bomb cupcakes with whiskey ganache frosting. The book was a pleasant surprise in its limitations of alcohol-infusions. Well done. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
21.A LIME AND A SHAKER; discovering Mexican-inspired cocktails (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-30232-7, $18.99 US hard covers) is by the Tippling Brothers (Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay), bar owners and consultants in NYC. It is basically a tequill cocktail book, but it does have some seven alcohol-free frescas. There's a total of 72 preps, including some spiced concoctions and syrups. There is a primer on the culture of tequila, including history and types. And even some food. One recipe uses Scotch in the scotch foam. But the book is over-illustrated. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
22.TOMATOMANIA! (St. Martin's Griffin, 2015, 210 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-05728-0, $24.99 US soft covers) is by Scott Daigre, owner and producer of Tomatomania, the world's largest tomato seedling sale, and Jenn Garbee, an LA food journalist and co-author of several cookbooks. It's a basic tomato cookbook, but it begins with a real gardening approach to growing tomatoes. You'll need lots of sunshine, so that lets out most of Canada. But it avoids all the Kraft Heinz teardowns. There are twenty recipes and numerous kitchen tips to get the most out of the harvest. There's tomato-vanilla bean marmalade, tomato upside-down cornmeal cake, and stone fruit and tomato gazpacho. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
23.GUILT-FREE BAKING (Nourish Books, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84899206-1, $20.95 CAN hard covers) is by Gee Charman, a caterer who also cooked at Kensington Palace, and a food stylist for UK TV. These are low-calorie and low-fat sweet treats: muffins and cupcakes, cookies, sheet cakes, bars, brownies, tarts and pies, meringues and large cakes. The Full Monty of Brit sweets. A lot of it is fruit-based rather than sugar based. Pantries have been reduced to limit any impacts, so there is a nice choice of flours, dried fruits and nuts, different healthy sweeteners, and a variety of useful spices. The emphasis is, of course, on guilt free, so there is Guilt-Free Vanilla Custard Sauce and Guilt-Free Vanilla Ice Cream. Typical are chocolate cupcakes with avocado frosting, sour cherry and almond cantuccini, and blackberry and coconut sheet cake. Yummy photographs too. There's no scaling, so preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements; there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
24.GUITTARD CHOCOLATE COOKBOOK (Chronicle Books, 2015, 177 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-3533-5, $25 US paper covers) is by Amy Guittard, a fifth-generation San Franciscan who oversees marketing for her family company, founded in 1868. These are preps from a premium bean-to-bar chocolate company. The early part of the book describes the company and gives an account of the day-to-day processes. There is also a description of the chocolates produced, which are used in the prep process in this book. So if you do not have that particular Guittard bar or nibs, you might have to search around for a substitute via the description, to find something comparable. It is arranged by food type, cookies through brownies and bars, cakes, cupcakes, tarts, pies, fudge, puddings, to toppings.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, with some scaling. Quality/price rating: 87.