...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 –
9.HEARTLANDIA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-36377-9, $30 US hard covers) is by Adam and Jackie Sappington, chefs are various restaurants including Portland's Wildwood Restaurant. They now own and run The Country Cat Dinner House in Portland. Ashley Garland, a writer and cookbook author, has assisted them. There's a lot of the inevitable log rolling, including the Lee Brothers from Charleston. The 80 recipes here reflect heritage cuisine from the rustic American heartland. He's a skilled butcher, she's a skilled pastry chef. So these are some of the largest chapters in the book, reflecting the dishes available at the restaurant but written with the home cook in mind. Like man of these books, the arrangement begins with breakfast, and then moves through garden food, soups and stews, finger food, seafood, poultry, and meats. Finishing with desserts and drinks and preserves. Try autumn squash soup with apple cider and brown butter, bread-pudding stuffed lamb shoulder, or free form apple pie. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
10.A REAL SOUTHERN COOK IN HER SAVANNAH KITCHEN (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 272 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-38768-3, $25 US hard covers) is by Dora Charles, who has worked for Paula Deen for 22 years in staffing and managing. She became the first woman kitchen manager at the restaurant Lady & Sons in Savannah. Log rollers include the Lee Brothers and Nathalie Dupree. It is a very personal book, with such family recipes as parched peanuts, fried green tomatoes, and Savannah red rice. She has a local spin on fried spareribs with Savannah seasoning, green pea salad with dill, and cheesy meatloaf with mushrooms. Arrangement begins with breakfast, moving on to breads, dinner, stews, fish, picnics and church suppers, company entertaining, sides and desserts. Extremely heart food. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
11.MARTHA STEWART'S APPETIZERS (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-95462-6, $27.50 US hard covers) is yet another updated revision of Hors d'Oeuvres [sic] which was originally published in 1984. In 1999 it became Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres [sic] Handbook which was larger and had more ideas. Now this new collection has been recast into 200 recipes spread around 4 food chapters (about 50 preps each): snacks, starters, small plates, and stylish bites. The fifth chapter covers sips (30 beverage preps), and there are the basic techniques of party planning. With your own series of innovations and variations, this book is virtually complete – until the next round of new dishes or preps. Every small thing of course looks great in their photos. The book is a caterer's dream. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
12.THE COMPLETE COOK'S COUNTRY TV SHOW COOKBOOK (America's Test Kitchen, 2015, 564 pages, ISBN 978-1-940352-17-6, $29.95 US paper covers) is from the popular PBS TV show of the same name. It's a spin-off from America's Test Kitchen; it is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse in Vermont and complements Cook's Country magazine. All eight seasons of the show are here: it has 300 US recipes (every prep on the show), every ingredient testing, and every equipment rating. It is, of course, American cooking with ethnic possibilities of Tex-Mex and Italian. At the back there is a listing of their fave equipment, packaged food, and an episode directory to each show. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
13.MY PANTRY (Pam Krauss Books, 2015; distr. Penguin Random House Canada, 144 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8528-8, $24.99 US hard covers) is by Alice Waters and her daughter, art historian-curator Fanny Singer. It's a book about making a well-stocked pantry/larder, preserving seasonal foods for flavours to augment simple meals for elegance and flair. It is a good book for those who really cook from scratch. In addition to preserving, their preps include infusing, pickling, making cheese, roasting nuts, conditioning spices, and so forth. At the back, Waters has a list of cookbooks that have had an impact on her pantry skills. It is all arranged by topic, beginning with condiments and spice mixtures, moving through beans and legumes, whole grains, and sweets. They've got some slow roasted nuts with sage leaves, beans cooked over the fire, stocks of course, brandade, brandied cherries, panforte, and ricotta – 68 in all. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
14.HEALTHY JAPANESE COOKING (Quadrille, 2015, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-669-8, $19.95 US soft covers) is by Makiko Sano, owner of Suzu in London, which specializes in Japanese small plates (mainly sushi and sashimi). Her first book, published last year, was Sushi Slim. She's been doing more vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan recipes. Here she has 70 simple and healthy preps, and she includes many raw options as well. Her book is based on the principles of shoku-iku (healthy foods to cook and eat). Meals should include five colours, five tastes and textures, and come from one of the five food groups. And there are five easy ways to cook: simmer, steam, broil, grill and fry – no oven is required. It is a good philosophy that works. Gorgeous photos, including some technique ones. Try the full Japanese garden breakfast, or the squash of plenty or the sweet potato treat. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 89.
15.BATTERSBY (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-5332-7, $35 US hard covers) is by Josephy Ogrodnek and Walker Stern, chef-owners of Brooklyn's Battersby and Dover restaurants. They are joined by food collaborator Andrew Friedman, winner of two IACP awards for his cookbook collaborations. It is an impressive collection of the major dishes served at Battersby, developed for the home kitchen. They emphasize that their own open kitchen is small (4 x 6), so we at home can do it too. It just takes strategy and make-aheads and a pantry/larder. Most recipes begin with "to prep" instructions and then "to serve" the range is from openers (breads, snacks) to desserts, with concluding sections on basic techniques and sources. Gorgeous photography and superb notes about the restaurant, a must purchase for their fans. Included are cocetel de Mariscos, gougeres with sauce mornay, bucatini with fennel sausage ragu, grilled mackerel with summer veggie salsa, and roasted broccoli with watercress, lemon and pecorino. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88,
16.THE KITCHEN ORCHARD (Ebury Press, 2014, 272 pages, ISBN 9780091957582, $53.95 CAN hard covers) is by Natalia Conroy, who worked at The River Cafe in London. She has some immense UK log rolling from Claudia Roden, Ruth Rogers, and Nigella Lawson. It is basically book about eating out of your fridge/pantry/larder with some help from leftovers. Her subtitle is "fridge foraging and simple feasts". The preps are arranged by topic, beginning with "top vegetable drawer" (parsley, garlic, basil, dill, mint) and moving on to "bottom vegetable drawer" (apples, lemons, rosemary, sage, thyme, bay), "fridge door" (eggs, milk, cream, sour cream) and ending with the pantry (spices, seeds, anchovies, dried mushrooms, capers, mustard, vinegar). A very good novel idea for a book, resulting in Swiss chard-rosemary-white bean soup, ricotta-lemon-polenta teacakes, carrot-yoghurt-cumin soup, and banana-cinnamon-pineapple bread. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. All ingredients are listed in a different ink colour and are underscored as to quantities. Quality/price rating: 88.
17.ALPINE COOKBOOK (DK,2015, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-3795-2, $22 US hard covers) is by Hans Gerlach, a chef in Michelin-starred restaurants. He grew up in the Alps, and here he has updated his fave mountain dishes, lightening them to be more healthy but still retaining their authenticity in taste. This is comfort food from the mountains, featuring a heavily Teutonic influence but covering north Italy, Provence Alps, Slovenian mountains, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, et al. Classics include gateau au fromage, schnitzel, potato pancakes, Suure Mocke (Swiss sauerbraten), regional specialties of brotsuppe and chrut gipfeli, pastries and dumplings, and even freshwater fish (a rarity in mountains). Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. A good idea for a cookbook. Quality/price rating: 87.
18.MICHAEL SYMON'S 5 IN 5 FOR EVERY SEASON (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8656-8, $19.99 US paper covers) is by an Iron Chef who is also the co-host the The Chew and host of All-Star Academy; he also owns a string of restaurants. His focusing co-author is Douglas Trattner. These are 165 quick dinners, sides and holiday dishes, made from scratch with 5 fresh ingredients and 5 minutes of heat. It is a follow-up to his previous book: this one is organized by season (spring through winter), and includes preps for no-bake summer fruit desserts and wintertime spiked drinks. The last chapter concerns holidays, and it is especially welcomed since that usually means a crowd. It is a boon for the harried. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
19.BAKING (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 158 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-801-4, $22.99 US hard covers) is by Food52, an online community for cooks with more than 30,000 recipes and a hotline. It has won Beard and IACP Awards for its website. Here the editors of Food52 produce a book that has "60 sensational treats you can pull off in a snap" – or a mouse click in time. Its arranged by format: breakfast goods, cookies and bars, fruit desserts, custards, cakes, and savoury (grilled flatbreads, crackers, popovers). There's one gluten-free: lemon blackberry corn cake which also uses tapioca flour. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
20.THE CHILI COOKBOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 194 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-795-6, $18.99 US hard covers) is by Robb Walsh, a food writer (three-time Beard Award winner) who also co-owns El Real Tex-Mex Cafe in Houston. It is a basic book, but concentrates solely on chili: one-pots containing three-bean to four-alarm and con carne to vegetarian. He covers 500 years of chili history, from the Aztec period through Route 66. His many preps include lamb chili, pork chili, chicken, shrimp, lobster, meatless and also include global look alikes in Hungarian goulash, Pakistani keema, tagine, and Greek spaghetti sauce. Some recipes do well in the slow cooker, and these are indicated with an icon. He's got Christmas in New Mexico and chili in smokers, as well as modern calorie/fat conscious styles and vegetarian chili. There is also a concluding chapter on how to throw a chili party. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
21.THE VIOLET BAKERY COOKBOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-671-3, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Claire Ptak, once pastry chef at Chez Panisse before opening Violet Bakery in Hackney, east London (2010). She's also a food writer and stylist for the US and UK press, with three cookbooks to her credit. Her more than 100 recipes here are largely unpretentious, simple to cook and satisfying to eat. The arrangement is by time of day: morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and party time. She's got chapters on her pantry and on foraging. Most everything is sweet, but there are some enticing savouries too, such as braised fennel-olive-caper bread pudding, mozzarella-rosemary-new potato tarts, and cheddar and green onion toastie with quince jelly. Most preps can be scaled since the preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. But there is no overall table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
22.BRUNCH @ BOBBY'S (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34589-7, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Bobby Flay, owner of five NYC restaurants and a burger chain. As well, he's a host-chef of many TV cooking shows, including Brunch@Bobby's; this book accompanies that series with 140 recipes ranging from coffee, tea and cocktails to pancakes, egg dishes, pastries, breads, French toast, sandwiches, fruit dishes, and some savoury side dishes such as peach and arugula salad with pancetta and gorgonzola, rosemary home fries, tomato strata, fried green onions, and other grilled or fried delights. He's also got eight menus at the back, including some suggestions for a Southwest brunch, an Italian brunch, French, spa, New England, and chocolate. Pretty comprehensive. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
23.PASTA (Quadrille, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-664-3, $39.95 CAN hard covers0 is by Antonio Carluccio, owner of Carluccio's Caffes in London. He's written 15 cookbooks for Quadrille. This one celebrates classic pasta: the different types, the correct sauce with the correct pasta, fresh pasta with step-by=step photos of techniques, variations on classics, and regional specialties. The first 50 pages is all about pasta; this is followed by the recipes. These are arranged by course: pasta in brodo, pasta asciutta (sauces), filled pastas, baked, salads, leftovers, and desserts. There are over 600 shapes and sizes, but he covers most of them through the 100 preps. A very yummy book, with such as tripoline all amatriciana, pappardelle con ragu soffritto (lamb offal), pinci con ragu di cinghiale (wild boar), and mafalde con broccolo romanesco. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements; thus there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
24.FARMHOUSE RULES (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 284 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-3105-9, $30 US hard covers) is by Nancy Fuller, hostess of the highly rated Food Network show of the same name. It is a family book, crammed with 120 recipes for simple, seasonal and healthy food such as butter braised radishes, three-layer cheese and vegetable terrine, and farmer's fish stew. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
25.LAURA IN THE KITCHEN (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8713-8, $24.99 US hard covers) is by Laura Vitale, host of the eponymous cooking channel on YouTube, receiving more than 8 million monthly video views. She also has a show on the Cooking Channel. It is a good book for her fans as it promotes fave Italian-American recipes done in an quick and easy style. There are opening sections on pantry and cooking basics, followed by "quick-fix suppers", leisurely entrees, "super-simple salads and sides", desserts, cookies, and easy breakfasts/brunches. Typical are pasta al forno with veggie sugo, bow-ties with peas and ham, marsala mushrooms, and calamari puttanesca. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. And hooray – this is one of the very few American cookbooks with conversion charts! Quality/price rating: 86.
26.SATURDAY KITCHEN SUPPERS (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-29786-912-2, $38 CAN hard covers) is from the BBC cooking show, Saturday Kitchen. It has been running for over eight years, with guests chefs, cooks and hosts. It draws over 3 million viewers. Here are 100 seasonal recipes for weekday suppers, family meals, and dinner party showstoppers. It is arranged by season, from spring onward, with drink notes from Suzy Atkins. Each prep has been credited to a chef. Occasionally menus are introduced as are pantry items. And there is a fabric ribbon bookmark. Typical are grouse with pumpkin and sunchokes, pistachio souffles, and pheasant with cavolo nero and chestnut stuffing. No slouches here. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no overall table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
27.PRASHAD AT HOME (Saltyard Book Co., 2015, 258 pages, ISBN 978-1-444-73474-4, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Kaushy Patel, an owner of Prashad in the UK. It is her second book, and this time deals with a vegetarian kitchen. There is an air of fusion as there are Italian and Chinese influences here, but times have changed and what we eat should suit our lifestyles. The 100 preps include desserts as well. The range is from light lunches through speedy and/or slow suppers. Pantry matters are dealt with, as well as teas. Typical are green chilli pizza toast, Indo-Italian macaroni cheese, paneer ravioli, Indo-Hakka street food noodles, Manchurian cabbage dough balls, and even Indo-Mexican veggie enchiladas. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no overall table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
28.ASIAN-AMERICAN (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-8526-7, $32 US hard covers) is by Dale Talde (owner of Talde in Brooklyn) with focusing food writer J.J. Goode. Its subtitle says it all: "proudly inauthentic recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn". Talde was born in Chicago to Filipino parents. He grew up with American fast food and Filipino food. His restaurant combines both: his influences come from diners, gyro shops, Polish delis, taquerias, burger joints, and Chinese spots (among others). So he will do Sichuan versions of chicken wings, a brunch bowl of ramen noodles, buttered toast, bacon and egg. Vietnamese pot roast (almost pot de feu) and other mixes. He admits that this is a sauce-heavy book on purpose: the key to Asian-American blends is in the sauce. Try the everything roti bread or pad thai with bacon. Yum. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
29.VEGAN STREET FOOD (Ryland Peters and Small, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-650-1, $21.95 US hard covers) is by Jackie Kearney, a top-4 finalist in BBC One's MasterChef 2011. She's been doing food trucks and pop-ups, specializing in International vegetarian and vegan food with a spicy finish. She takes her inspiration from the fact that most of the food in South-East Asia is dairy- and meat-free. It is but one more step to make it all vegan as well. She's got three chapters: India and Sri Lanka for one (with deep-fried fritters and fiery pickles), Thai-Laos-Vietnam for another (with creamy curries and hot and sour soups), and Indonesia and Malaysia for the third (veggie dumplings and spicy sambal). Absolutely delicious and satisfying food, with different heat and spice levels. It is sure to be a winner at home. 92 recipes of Asian street food, including snacks. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both avoirdupois and metric measurements, but there is no overall table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
30.THE HOW CAN IT BE GLUTEN-FREE COOKBOOK, v2 (America's Test Kitchen, 2015, 318 pages, ISBN 978-1-936493-98-2, $26.95 US paper covers) is from the America's Test Kitchen series of cookbooks (this is one of the Handbook Series). Volume one was enormously successful, so here is more of the same, with 190 all-new recipes featuring a new whole-grain flour blend, some dairy-free variations, and the usual nutritional data for every recipe (but why are all of the recipes in avoirdupois while all of the data are in metric?). This makes no sense, but certainly the ATK is "American" so it must use American measurements, and not that silly foreign metric stuff. This does not take anything away from the recipes, but surely they could have done a better job of displaying ingredient measures for their global sales. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but at least there are conversion tables. Try the new sandwich bread whole-grain texture, or any of the 75 dairy-free recipes. The good thing about ATK is that they tell you "why this recipe works" and deal with various lab testing reports. The range here includes comfort foods, mains, pizza, crackers, cookies, bars, fruit desserts, pies, cakes, and tarts. Quality/price rating: 88.