...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 –
7.THE ITALIAN BAKER (Quadrille, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-761-9, $29.95 USD hardbound) is by Melissa Forti, who has a tea room on the Italian Riviera close to Tuscany (Sarzana, Liguria – Melissa Tea Room and Cakes). This is a collection of 100 tarts, cakes, loaves, coffee style cakes, and sweets, using olive oil, almonds, mascarpone and other Italian ingredients. Some North American classics have an Italian makeover, such as the ubiquitous brownie or carrot cake. Recipes are listed by their Italian name, but of course are also indexed by an English language name. Try torta de grano saraceno (buckwheat cake) or torta al limone lamponi e rosmarino (lemon, raspberry and rosemary cake). There are some stories about her tea room: it is a very elegant place. Recipes are scaled. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
8.NATURALLY, DELICIOUS (Avery: Pam Krauss Books, 2016, 239 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-90530-2, $30 USD hardbound) is by Danny Seo, founder/editor of "Naturally, Danny Seo" magazine. He designed a line of lifestyle products and appears regularly on TV, now with his own show. Here, in his first cookbook, he takes a grab-bag of 100 preps that make you both healthy and happy from his magazine and arranges them by course: breakfast, lunch and dinner, with juices and snacks in separate sections. But of course nothing is guaranteed. The dishes do have nutritional value, but happiness is a relative thing. He's got matcha chicken noodle soup, halva bars with sorghum, and saffron cauliflower rice paella. Glazed eggplant and black sesame fried rice with optional fired eggs can easily become a house fave of mine. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
9.BIG BAD BREAKFAST (Ten Speed Press, 2016, 258 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-736-9, $30 USD hardbound) is by John Currence, founder of City Grocery Restaurant Group. They have a number restaurants, most serving breakfasts, including (of course) his iconic restaurant Big Bad Breakfast. He's won multiple awards such as a Beard (Best Chef: South) and one from the Southern Foodways Alliance. The preps here come from his resto, include all the traditional southern elements plus local ones from Oxford, Mississippi: hillbilly eggs hussarde, shakshouka, spicy boudin and poached eggs, pain perdu, hoecakes, and monkey bread – just over 100 in all. Each recipe comes with a story and a photo. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
10.HATTIE'S RESTAURANT COOKBOOK (Countryman Press, 2016, 271 pages, ISBN 978-1-58157-346-6, $29.95 USD hardbound) is by Jasper Alexander, chef and co-owner of Hattie's in Saratoga Springs NY. These are classic Southern US and Louisiana recipes. It's a bit of a memoir too as he recounts the history of the restaurant and the land of the Deep South. After the introductions, it is arranged by course, beginning with starters and moving through soups and stews, fish, meats, sides, breakfasts, cocktails, and surprisingly few desserts (pies such as Key Lime, Pecan, Sweet Potato). It is typical food, done homestyle (as it will be prepared at your home), with such popular items as brisket chili, crawfish etoufee, chicken and dumplings, pecan-crusted trout, crab cakes, deviled eggs, ribs, meat loaf, and more. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
11.POOLE'S (Ten Speed Press, 2016, 296 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-687-4, $35 USD hardbound) is by Ashley Christensen, chef and owner of seven restaurants in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. She has a Beard for Best Chef: Southeast in 2014. Even for a diner book there are nine logrollers here. Poole's is known for its comfort food, and that is here in abundance. There are also a dozen or so go-to techniques for the best cornbread, foolproof vinaigrettes, and roasted tomatoes for dish enhancements. The modern diner has well-prepared food such as black pepper parmesan popcorn or fried eggplant with burnt honey aioli. For veggies, she's got oyster mushrooms and asparagus with sherry and cream or cornmeal-fried okra with Tabasco mayo. There are cocktails, bowls, counter snacks, plus meat and fish as well as desserts. It is a full table, especially the benne seed toffee ice cream and the challah bread puddings with whiskey apples and crème fraiche. It is an over-sized book, so it weighs a lot. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
12.THE HOMEMADE CHEF (New American Library, 2016, 324 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-99041-4, $30 USD hardbound) is by James Tahhan, two-time Emmy award winner and chef/cohost of Telemundo's morning show Un Nuevo Dia. He is the owner of Sabores by Chef James in Miami. He grew up in Venezuela but through his restaurant he cooks Latin American fusion food, both from within the Latino range of foods and with blending to non-Latino food. So you have fish a la veracruzana and flank steak with coffee crust and salsa criolla. There's green gazpacho and there's grilled corn with chipotle may and cotija cheese. There's lasagna enchilada and there's lentil soup with chorizo. It's a good mix with a considerable amount of memoir-like material. The range is from apps to sweets with drinks. The best dishes are the Latin fusion and the Mediterranean fusion. What's there not to like here? Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
13.COCKTAILS (DK Books, 2016, 2016, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-5338-9, $22 USD hardbound) is by Klaus St. Rainer, one of the most successful bartenders in Germany. He has opened many bars and has been awarded many bartending honours. He adjudicates internationally and runs training sessions globally. He owns a cocktail shaker manufacturer and sells his own bitters and tonic water. Details are at www.goldenebar.de It is a basic book at an affordable price, and deals with the art of mixing perfect drinks. There's a primer, and then a three-fold listing of recipes, from the simple through the classics and then the spectacular. The appendix is valuable with its material on alcohol, indexes for celebrations, and supply sources. There are more than 70 recipes here, and the author promises that they all have attitude. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both avoirdupois and metric measurements. Quality/price rating: 88.
14.SMALL VICTORIES (Chronicle Books, 2016, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-430905, $35 USD hardbound) is by Julia Turshen, a writer and recipe developer, and a coauthor with Mario Barali, Gwyneth Paltrow, and others in a long series of cookbooks. It comes with log-rolling by Reichl, Coppola, Sheraton, Batali, and Ina Garten. Those should be enough to sell the book. She's also hosted two years of Radio Cherry Bombe. Here she gives us 95 recipes plus a huge number of variations, and much advice with hundreds of ideas for home-cooking. It's a general cookbook ranging over breakfast, soup, salad, veggies, grains and legumes, meat, poultry, seafood/fish, and desserts. There is, of course, a pantry for items to keep on hand: various sauces, vinaigrettes, pickles, preserves. She's got some menu suggestions too, such as a low-key breakfast for a group on Sunday, your best friend's birthday, or a Jewish holiday. Variations can include seven things to do with a can of chick peas, what to do with leftover chicken or ground meats, seven things to do with mussels or pasta dough. Great photography throughout by the team of Gentl + Hyers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mostly avoirdupois with some metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
15.THE HOMEBREWERS ALMANAC (Countryman Press, 2016, 205 pages, ISBN 978-1-58157-349-7, $22.95 USD flexibound) is by Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon, and Ryan Tockstein, all co-founders of Scratch Brewing company, a brewpub using seasonal ingredients and farm-to-table food and beer. It's a practical guide for incorporating fresh and foraged fruits/veggies/herbs into your beer – with no hops. Repeat: no hops. The chapters are arranged by season, and profile ingredients offering tips on how to grow, to harvest, and to preserve specific plants to be used in beer. There are preps, then , for such as "cedar IPA", "basil ale", "horseradish stout", and "sweet potato vienna". It is a book not-for-the-faint-of-heart. And there are even recipe conversions for extract brewers. There are two apple beer recipes that are interesting, especially since they seem relatively close to ciders, but of course, they contain malts. At the other extreme, there are now quite a few commercial apple ciders that have been hopped. So the apples are really getting exposed to change – at both ends of the spectrum. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
16.CHOCOLATE (DK Books, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-5406-5, $22 USD hardbound) is by Dom Ramsay, award-winning chocolatier with the longest running blog about chocolate and his own company, Damson Chocolate. It's a basic book about chocolate, one of the very few published this year (has it run the course?). So there is the basic primer about chocolate history, culture, politics, trade, and so forth. Chapters deal with choosing chocolate, tasting chocolate, making your own chocolate (bar, ganache, truffles, et al), and the act of enjoyment in s social setting, which includes 50 pages recipes covering stout cake, Swiss brioche, piano key cookies, duck ragu with chocolate, fondues, ice cream, and more. There is also a glossary. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
17.CHOWGIRLS KILLER PARTY FOOD (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016, 148 pages, ISBN 978-1-55152-645-4, $22.95 CAD paperbound) is by Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown, co-founders (in 2004) of Minneapolis' Chowgirls Killer Catering. These are 85 bites (apps and small plates) and cocktails for every season and every occasion, inspired by seasonal ingredients (also local, organic, and sustainable) and a flair for entertaining. Try the whiskey-ginger cocktail meatballs or the saffron-lemon shrimp bruschetta. Dips and spreads are also here, as well as a range of paleo and vegan dishes, diary-free and gluten-free. Arranged by season, but no separate index to the cocktails. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
18.SOUP CLEANSE COOKBOOK (Rodale, 2016, 212 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-731-2, $24.99 USD paperbound) is by Nicole Centeno, founder of the online business Splendid Spoon (wellness and nutrition). She's cooked in restaurants and has managed a catering business. Here she promotes "soup cleanses" as a modern quick way for diets. It combines smoothies, juices, and nutrient-dense veggies into an enduring puree (for the most part). It is simple and tasty. There is also a lot of material her on how to incorporate more veggies into your diet. There are 75 plant-based and gluten-free recipes plus several weekly plans for a better body. Try beet balsamic bisque, plant based tagine, green chili or fall ratatouille. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.CLEAN SOUPS (Ten Speed Press, 2016, 152 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57825-0, $22 USD paperbound) is by Rebecca Katz (founder of Healing Kitchens and author of other such healthy cookbooks) with health writer Mat Edelson, who co-authored Katz's books. Together they present a range of 60 simple, nourishing recipes. Unlike the Soup Cleanse Book, most of the soups here use meat stock – so they are not really any good for vegetarians or vegans. Still, you could use veggie stock (they have a Magic Mineral Broth) or just water. And unlike juicing, nothing is lost in the stockpot. The authors are firmly convinced that everyone can enjoy making and consuming soup, whether for a cleanse or for weekly consumption. They've got a weekend jump-start cleanse that covers three pages of detail, plus a comprehensive guide to soup making of any kind. Typical are springtime asparagus and leek soup, avocado citrus soup, kinpira gobo, and hot-and-sour shiitake mushroom soup. There are also recipes for garnishes and drizzles, as well as polenta croutons. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.SPOON (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-78488-055-2, $24.99 USD hardbound) is by Annie Morris and Jonny Shimmin, founders of Spoon Cereals in London UK, a breakfast establishment. The book details simple and nourishing breakfast bowls that can be enjoyed any time of day. There is a collection of preps for granola, muesli, porridge, bircher (overnight oats), savoury bowls, and smoothies – along with some breakfast accompaniments. There's avocado with savoury granola crunch, blackberry and apple bircher, banana yogurt bowl, and herbed cottage cheese with poached eggs and pickled beetroot. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87
21.SOFRAMIZ (Ten Speed Press, 2016, 260 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-918-9, $35 USD hardbound) is by chef-co-owner Ana Sortun and pastry-chef-co-owner Maura Kilpatrick. Separately they had worked for or opened some restaurants in New England before coming together with Sofra Bakery and Cafe in 2008 in Cambridge MA. Their book is entitled "soframiz" which means "our table" or "our hospitality", a spin on Sofra. It is a Middle Eastern cookbook with the classics and contemporary refinements plus spins on the traditional regional cuisine. Logrolling includes Alice Waters and Yotam Ottolenghi. The emphasis is on foods and baked goods from Turkey, Lebanon and Greece. It is arranged by breakfast, meze, flatbreads, savoury pies, cookies and pastries, beverages, and a pantry for stocking. The latter are essential ingredients in order to cook in the Middle Eastern food style. You may want to try carrot kibbeh with golden raisins and pine nuts, apricot halawa with white chocolate ganache and pistachios, syrup-soaked semolina cake (revani), or stuffed simit. Everything looks pretty good too. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
22.BAKE WITH ANNA OLSON (Appetite by Random House, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-753021-9, $35 CAD hardbound) is by Ann Olson, well-known host of Canadian TV food shows, including the eponymous "Bake with Ann Olson". She's also authored seven books on baking and cooking. Here she has 125 fave simple preps from her TV show, complete with food styling photos. It is arranged by type: cookies, pies, cakes, other pastries, other desserts, breads, and sauces. It is a beautifully presented book, with eye catching items such as langues du chat, tart lemon roulade, salted caramel pear tarts, the inevitable croquembouche and gateau St. Honore profiteroles, and chocolate mousse cups. There is also a baking primer, a series of foundation recipes (pastry doughs, cakes, frostings, fillings) and a listing of 19 gluten-free recipes. All preparations have their ingredients listed fully in both metric and avoirdupois measurements with no need for conversion tables. Quality/price rating: 89.