...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 –
13.CROSSROADS (Artisan, 2015, 284 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-636-2, $35 US hard covers) is by Tal Ronnen, founder and chef at Crossroads, Scot Jones, executive chef of Crossroads, and Serafina Magnussen, vegan baker at Crossroads. The restaurant opened in LSA in 2013, and of course struck a chord in vegan Hollywoodland. These 100 recipes, with lots of log rolling from Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney, plus four others, emphasize the imitative approach with vegan examples of Mediterranean food: flatbreads, pastas, desserts – all without the meat and dairy. The arrangement is from apps to desserts, with cocktails. Thus: butternut squash farinata with arugula salad and pomegranate vinaigrette, or vegetable bouillabaisse with rouille, or pappardelle bolognese. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
14.BUTTER CELEBRATES! (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 260 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01686-2, $35 US hard covers) is by Rosie Daykin, owner of Butter Baked Goods (also the title of her first cookbook) in Vancouver; her products can be found in 300 retail stores. From the subtitle, it is "a year of sweet recipes to share with family and friends" – over 100 of them, arranged by holiday/celebration such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Birthdays, Hallowe'en, Christmas, etc. Also included are arrivals of new babies, welcoming neighbours to the street, al fresco summer parties – even a dog's birthday! Lots of memoir-type stories and illustrative photos complete the picture. And of course presentation is all. Try triple chocolate mousse with coffee crème anglaise, spicy nuts, sweet potato marshmallow pie, or raspberry fluff. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. A bright and cheerful book, complete with a celebratory bookmark ribbon!! Quality/price rating: 87.
15.PER LA FAMIGLIA (Whitecap, 2015, 234 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-224-6, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is by Emily Richards, who worked in restaurants, Canadian Living and on the Food Network cooking shows. She's also from a large Italian family, and these are their recipes: southern Italian, principally Calabria, but also involving Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia, and Campania. So this is a family cookbook celebrating heritage recipes and are local takes on classic dishes involving pasta doughs, sauces, antipastos, desserts, roasts, homemade wine – and dinners delayed until the whole family could be there. There are lots of memoirs here, as well as family photos. The 130 preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
16.OLYMPIA PROVISIONS (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 282 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-701-7, $40 US hard covers) is by Elias Cairo, co-owner of Portland's Olympia Provisions in Oregon, which he founded in 2009. Co-author Meredith Erickson is a London-based food writer and cookbook author. Boulud and Ruhlman are the lead log rollers. This is the story of cured meats and takes from the charcuterie company. So it is part memoir and part cookbook detailing the intricacies of curing meats in several different ways. There is a section on basic recipes for sausages (breakfast, bratwurst, Italian, salami), slow-cooked meats (rillettes, capicola), pate and forcemeat (pate, mousse, en gelee, ballotine), smoked meats, dry-cured meats, and fermented dry-cured salami. Then follow his restaurants and their recipes for brunch, lunch, "wine time", and dinner. A good solid meat book. Preparations have their ingredients listed mainly in avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
17.ALL THINGS JERKY (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 173 pages, ISBN 978-1-63450-489-8, $14.99 US paper covers) is by Andy Lightbody, an outdoors writer and co-host of an outdoors food TV show. Kathy Mattoon is the other host of that food show, "Cookin' on the Wild Side". This is a guide to making jerky and other dried snack offerings from all manner of flesh, including fish, seafood, poultry, pork, bear, game, fruit and veggies. They cover the basics of drying home ovens and smokers, knives, slicers, grinders, storage and vacuum sealers, marinades, spices, cures, seasonings, and brines. The recipes are solid and goof proof, a good book for that outdoors person in your life. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
18.FRANKIE AVALON'S ITALIAN FAMILY COOKBOOK (St. Martin's Griffin, 2015, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-05913-0, $24.99 US hard covers) is by celebrity singer Frankie Avalon, with award-winning cookbook writer Rick Rodgers assisting. It's your standard Italian cookbook, sure to win over his fans with 80 family recipes from four generations of Avalons in America. It is principally southern Italian, choosing Romano cheese over Parmesan. Typical are bruschetta with bell peppers, braised meatballs, seafood salad with calamari, stuffed shells with three cheeses – enough food for the usual Sunday feast of Italian-Americans. And lots of details and pix of the Avalon family get-togethers along with memoirish material from Frankie himself. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
19.JACQUES PEPIN HEART & SOUL IN THE KITCHEN (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 436 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-30198-6, $35 US hard covers) is by the chef who has been in twelve PBS cooking shows, written over two dozen cookbooks, and has won many Beard and IACP cookbook awards. This current book is from Pepin's final PBS series, and is a look at the chef and the food he cooks at home. There are 200 recipes, covering the simple to the elegant and sophisticated, to parties and celebratory events. It is also a bit of a memoir with thoughts about his life with food. And we get older with him: the typeface is large, with plenty of leading for the older readers. It is arranged by course, with hors d'oeuvres [sic] first, soups, salads, through to cakes and custards, and with organ meats along the way too. At the end are 26 menus with (unfortunately) no page references to the recipe itself. He's got a fast fougasse, a cannellini bean dip, ricotta quenelles, tripe and pigs' feet ragout, and a corn souffle – all great food for home family style eating. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.THIS IS CAMINO (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 260 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-728-4, $35 US hard covers) is by Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain, who opened Camino in Oakland. It specializes in local, sustainable, food frugally prepared in California style of flavour combinations. There's a lot of heavy log rolling (Bittman, Waters, Lebovitz, Tanis, Ottolenghi), but then Russell cooked at Chez Panisse for 21 years. There's an opening primer centered on the basics and the larder/pantry with ingredients and methods used. They go on to do veggies, fish, chicken and eggs, duck, lamb, pork, desserts and cocktails. Try slow cooked duck legs with Savoy cabbage, prunes and duck cracklings, grilled king salmon with herb broth, or sauerkraut salad. There's lots of detail about the restaurant, with many pictures, and as well chapters on a week at Camino (with a timeline) and massive detail on grilling. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
21.THE HELL'S KITCHEN COOKBOOK (Grand CentralLife & Style, 2015, 264 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-3569-9, $30 US hard covers) comes from the TV show which debuted on Fox in 2005; it has aired 14 "seasons". Gordon Ramsay is one of the executive producers. It is a highly dramatic culinary competition. The 100 preps here, with 25 menus lets you make your own without the stress of the workplace. Actually, I am surprised that this is its first cookbook after 11 years of shows. There is opening material on what the show is like, followed by the recipes divided into starters, entrees, sides, desserts, and then the 25 menus with (unfortunately) no page references to the recipe needed. Try bacon and caramelized onion jam, smoked collard greens, sauteed linguine, roasted fennel, cioppino with turbot and seafood, steamed mussels with tequila and coconut milk and cilantro.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
22.THE HOT BREAD KITCHEN COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8617-9, $35 US hard covers) is by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez and the bakers of Hot Bread Kitchen (NYC). It is a home diverse breads, and the book reflects it: baguettes, multigrains, conchas, bialys, naans, and more. The bakery hires immigrant women, providing the bakery and culinary skills needed. So you get authentic breads in one place, which is also handy for restaurants who order from them. They are assisted in the book's writing by Julia Turshen, a cookbook co-author. It is all arranged by type of bread: unleavened flatbreads, leavened flatbreads, tortillas, lean breads and rolls, enriched breads and rolls, filled doughs from around the world, and quick breads and holiday breads. The concluding chapter of 25 pages is all about what to do with leftover breads: grilled cheese French toast, bread puddings, croutons, panzanellas, bread salads, bread crumbs, and chilaquiles. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and metric measurements, as all good bakers scale. Quality/price rating: 89.
23.THE DEAD RABBIT DRINKS MANUAL (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-37320-4, $27 US hard covers) is by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, two North Belfast lads. Muldoon is founder and manager of Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in Lower Manhattan; McGarry is the manager. Both lads and Dead Rabbit have garnered about a dozen major drink awards (best bar, best menu, best bartender, etc.). It is part memoir and the story of Dead Rabbit and part drinks manual. The drinks include communal punches, sours and fizzes, cups and cobblers, juleps and smashes, slings and toddies, flips, possers and nogs, bishops and then "cocktails" with a whole chapter on absinthe. There is even a selection of drinks for the invalid, such beer based items as porter sangaree, elderberry beer, shandygaff, velvet gaff, and, of course, Irish coffee. A really good read. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
24.SOUTHERN SOUPS & STEWS (Chronicle Books, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2485-8 $24.95 US soft covers) is by Nancie McDermott, who plays the role of Cake Historian on the Food Network's GOOD EATS show. She's also a food writer with 10 other cookbooks to her credit. Here are 75 recipes, including Kentucky's burgoo, Cajun gumbo, etouffee, and fricassee. Others include Brunswick stew (but no opossum), shrimp and grits, chowders, dumplings, veggies, and others. She's got some richly detailed histories behind all of the recipes. There is a bibliography at the end. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
25.TACOS (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-553-44729-3, $32.50 US hard covers) is by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman. Alex is a restaurateur with three Mexican restaurants in New York City; Jordana is an experienced food writer. This book deals with all manner of tacos (shells, soft, corn, flour, and neo-traditional masa based tortillas made with beets, saffron, pistachios, spinach, sweet corn, yuca, chorizo,and chicken. He's also got non-masa buckwheat tortillas and rye tortillas. Talk about variety!! This is also the story of his Empellon Taqueria, Cocina, and Al Pastor (his three NYC restos). Tacos actually begin on p105; the early part of the book concerns the variety of tortillas, the salsas, and the Mexican pantry. The fillings use the usual meats and veggies, plus here he includes offal, and sends with sweet tacos. This is a thorough and comprehensive taco book for the true lover. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
26.PATISSERIE MAISON (Ebury Press, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN 9780091957612, $42.95 CAN hard covers) is by Richard Bertinet, a baker from Brittany but now living in Bath. He's set up The Bertinet Kitchen cookery school in 2005; this is his fifth cookbook. It is a British import now available in Canada through Penguin Random House. These are the basic 50 preps for patisserie that you could reasonably expect on the pastry counter: eclairs, gateau saint honore, baba au rhum, Paris a Brest, meringues, and mousses. He has step by step photos. He's got four major divisions: small, shared (large), treats, and festive.
Preparations have been scaled and their ingredients listed in mainly metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
27.RACHEL KHOO'S KITCHEN NOTEBOOK (Chronicle Books, 2015, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-4056-8, $29.95 US soft covers) is by the author of THE LITTLE PARIS KITCHEN which was a popular television series on BBC2 and The Cooking Channel. She is also a food columnist. Her book was original published by Michael Joseph (Penguin) in the UK. She gives us over 100 recipes from her own personal cookbook, recipes she liked to make over and over for friends and company. It is arranged by course: apps, mains, desserts. She's got a section on homemade treats, equipment, and some ingredients. Try the exciting Gorgonzola and ricotta sfogliatella, raw fig trifles, slow roasted pork belly with sloe gin, seafood paella nests, or mushroom stroganoff with spinach and wild rice. Good head notes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
28.THE CHAKRA KITCHEN; feed your body to nourish your spirit (CICO Books, 2015, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-78249-265-8, $19.95 US paper covers) is by UK vegan chef Sarah Wilkinson, owner of Chakra Cakes and The Chakra Kitchen. Everything here is organic, vegan, gluten-free with natural sweeteners. The 60 recipes work with the seven chakras (energy centres). Optimal health and well-being is stressed by chakra work, and food nicely complements this activity. For the advanced believer, it would also be helpful if crystals were involved in boosting the power of the food ingredients. The arrangement is by season, beginning with Spring, about 15 for each quarter. Recipes and foods are identified by colours for the relevant chakras. Typical dishes include rainbow chard with smoked tofu and cashews, or raspberry-pecan-goji berry pudding. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 86.
29.RAMEN FUSION COOKBOOK (DK, 2015, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-4142-3, $19.95 US soft covers) is by Nell Benton, owner of The National Cafe (Milwaukee) who specializes in international cuisine. It is a collection of some 40 traditional recipes and modern makeovers of the classic Japanese broth soup. She suggests making them from scratch. After the primer, the book is divided into types of stocks: recipes with dashi stock, with chicken stock, with pork stock, and with vegetarian stock-- about 10 preps for each kind of stock. There is material about accompaniments to ramen, such as edamame, avocado salad, bean sprout salad, ramen burgers and ramen frittata. Try spicy miso pork ramen, pork shio ramen, or pork red curry ramen. There is also coconut curry tofu vegetarian ramen and mushroom miso vegetarian ramen. Good idea for a book! Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
30.GJELINA (Chronicle Books, 2015, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2809-2, $35 US hard covers) is by Travis Lett, chef at Gjelina (and two other places) in Venice, California. The emphasis is on grain-and-vegetable cuisine with an international bent. Celebrities and food lovers gather here. Here are more than 150 recipes covering salads, toasts, [pizza, veggies, grains, and some meats (mainly fish but also lamb and pork). It is a pretty book, featuring his stories and his types of dishes – one for his fans. Try kabocha squash and goat cheese agnolotti with brown butter and walnut picada for a wide-range of taste sensations. Or grilled octopus with braised black-eyed peas. Preparations have their ingredients listed mainly in metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
31.MODERN GERMAN COOKBOOK (DK, 2015, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-4394-6, $22 US hard covers) is by Frank Rosin, owner of a two star Michelin restaurant, Rosin, in Germany. In addition, he has appeared on German TV (Rosin's Restaurants) and is a celebrity judge on the reality cooking show The Taste. Here he presents some home-scaled versions of modern German food, about 100 recipes which also include upscale contemporary versions of beef roulades and sauerbraten. His new German classics also involve a strong Mediterranean influence from Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey. The arrangement is by course: apps through desserts, along with some basic recipes and lots of tips/advice. Try baked apples with marzipan filling, barley risotto with pecorino cheese, or roast beef with eggplant and tomato salsa. Classic napkin dumplings are no slouches either. The whole package comes with the usual photography that DK has made a point of attending to details. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
32.SLOW FIRES (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8623-0, $40 US hard covers) is by Justin Smillie, chef-partner of Upland in NYC, specializing in rustic CalItal food. It is divided into braising, roasting, and grilling, with recipes for each (plus a primer section). He's got pork shanks (didn't these used to be pork hocks? They look the same) with late-season tomatoes and polenta, olive oil-cured cod and summer tomato panade, and grilled sausage coils with charred escarole and hazelnut vinaigrette. There are about 50 preps in all plus a whack of foundations and finishes. Each recipe has a story. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Great stylish food, well-worth a look. Quality/price rating: 88.
33.SIMPLY NIGELLA; feel good food (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 402 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-752989-3 $45 CAN hard covers) is by Nigella Lawson, TV personality and food journalist, author of nine bestselling cookbooks. Here she concentrates on comfort food, or "simply feel good food". The passion of cooking at home should be uncomplicated – leave the stress to the chefs. Simple means easy-to-prepare and relaxed, satisfying the taste buds and the palates. So the 125 recipes here are divided into chapters such as quick and calm (which are easy), bowlfood (salad, pasta, soup), dine (mains and bites), breathe (slow-cook, make-aheads), sides (veggies), sweet (desserts), and beginnings (breakfast and brunch). Good thinking here. Typical are chicken traybake with bitter orange and fennel or sake-sticky chicken drumsticks. In the mix are gluten-free and dairy-free recipes, highlighted in the index along with bold print for the major ingredient. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
34.BAKING WITH THE BRASS SISTERS (St. Martin's Griffen, 2015, 294 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-06435-6, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Marilynn and Sheila Brass, authors of other cookbooks "...with the Brass Sisters" in the title. They have appeared on US TV cooking shows. Here are 125 recipes for classic American cakes, pies, cookies, breads, desserts and some savouries. Solid baking such as lemon-lime tassies, almond jam clothespin cookies, strawberry blondies, or tutti frutti biscotti. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.