Your health depends on my health. We cannot escape one another in these perilous times.
A reference guide to wine and food: look it up, and you'll remember it longer; screw it up, and you'll remember it forever.
CARPATHIA; food from the heart of Romania (Interlink Books, 2020, 224 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Irina Georgescu, a Romanian food writer with a blog (Small Bites). Romania is a well-travelled through country with many melting pot dishes. I was very impressed with a Romanian food documentary from some years back, about farmers who grew just two crops (potatoes and cabbages) and tried to work with a depressed market for those two items. So I used this book's index to find caraway sauerkraut clorba with potatoes, potato bread in cabbage leaves, and potato moussaka. There were more preps with cabbages, including sauerkraut. Her book concentrates on small plates (from her blog), breads, street food baked goods, and a broth soup augmented by "bors" (sour fermented wheat) or by "ciorba" (vinegar, pickled brine). The heart of Romanian cuisine is carefully explored with material on pork, coarse polenta, broth, garlic, cheese, yogurt, pickles, and wine. Desserts are based on the Austro-Hungarian empires. She concludes with some notes on the seasons and superstitions in Romanian cuisine, the culinary heritage, and the cultural food values.
.WHY WE COOK: Women on food, identity, and connection (Workman Publishing, 2021, 232 pages, $33.95 hardbound) has been pulled together and edited by Lindsay Gardner, who also illustrated the book with her watercolours. These are essays, interviews, recipes, and stories from 112 women in food. Sections deal with Memorable Meals, Kitchen Portraits, Home Cooks, Profiles, and advice from contributors. Included are such well-known names as Ruth Reichl, Deborah Madison, Dorie Greenspan, and Anita Lo. The 11 preps are eclectic but not indexed. There is a contributor idex with notes and credits. The main section delves into such matters as "what is your fave part of the cooking process?", "how do you overcome creative ruts?", and "what kitchen tools do you love most?". There are activists here, as well as food truckers, bakers who give back, women in wine, and even ice cream innovators. This is a terrific gift book for any occasion.
.FOODIE BREAKS: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales (Dog'n'Bone, 2020, 144 pages, $19.95 flatbound) is by Richard Mellor who had previously written Foodie Breaks: Europe. In this book he examines 25 cities and towns with 250 (10 each) essential eating experiences within his UK homeland. With pictures, it provides a snapshot of 25 culinary UK "hotspots" with recommendations to try establishments. He's got the best places for breakfasts and brunches, street food, gastropubs, inexpensive diners, and cool places to drink. This is a quick, easily digestible summary for your British traveller.
AEGEAN (Interlink Books, 2021, 224 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Marianna Leivaditaki, who was raised on Crete and now is a London UK chef at Morito. Her paean to the Aegean is centred largely on Crete as just one of the many islands that belong to Greece. Other major islands include Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kasos. As the largest and most populous island, Crete has an original cuisine that Leivaditaki delves into. She conveniently divides the book into three: the sea, the land, the mountains, with recipes and personal stories for each. And there are lots of great photos here of prawns with ouzo, orzo and zucchini, tomato and oregano fritters with feta, and the kakavia one-pot fish stew. This is the Mediterranean diet in all of its full-blown glory, with olive oils, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish. A delight.
HOW WILD THINGS ARE; cooking, fishing and hunting at the bottom of the world (Hardie Grant Books, 2021, 241 pages $42.56 hardbound) is by Analiese Gregory, and partly biography by Hilary Burden, and recipes and memoir material from the chef- author herself. First rate photography is by Adam Gibson. Gregory grew up in coastal New Zealand (there are sections here on her youth and on New Zealand cooking) but on a whim she later moved to Tasmania in 2017 after forgoing France. This story is featured as the bulk of the book: living on a somewhat isolated island far from the mainstream. Her credits include working in some of the top notch restaurants of the world. But here she is doing a reno of an old 110-year old farmhouse while foraging and hunting and cooking. She's got 40 recipes, including ferments, all mixed in with narratives. Many of the preps are unique, such as sea urchin farinata, abalone fritters, chargrilled oyster mushrooms with wakame sabayon, and oca (yam) with spelt and roasted pears. Try also the confit lamb ribs with date syrup. Some of the book was written during the recent pandemic. An excellent book for Oz and Kiwi expats.
PARWANA (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $52 hardbound) is by Durkhanai Ayubi, with recipes by Farida Ayubi and Fatema Ayubi.. These are stories and preps from an Afghan kitchen – Parwana Restaurant in Adelaide, Australia, which opened in 2009. The 100+ recipes have been family-held for years, and embrace both day-to-day preps and celebrations: rice, curries, meats, kebabs, naan flatbread, halwah, dumplings, Afghan pasta, sweets, chutneys, pickles, soups and breads. Everything is complemented by food photography and family photos as the text convincingly shows the interrelationship between food, people and communities over time and place. There's morabayeh anjir (whole fig jam), torshi bemasalah (pickled veggies), shorwa thin soup with vegetables, aush thick soup with noodles, and banjaan borani (braised eggplant with yogurt dressing).
BITTER HONEY; recipes and stories from the Island of Sardinia (Hardie Grant Books, 2020, 256 pages,, $58 hardbound) is by Letitia Clark, a seasoned UK chef with a great resume that includes pastry and baking. She moved to Sardinia with her then-boyfriend (also a cook) to work a rural farm and produce Sardinian recipes. Although Italian, there is a strong French influence from this part of the Mediterranean (e.g., the onion soup prep is straight French Onion Soup). As she says, it's all about traditions, stories and memories, with insight into people's lives, habits and histories. Age-old methods and tools means that just about everything is cooked very slowly. So this is all home-food with great photography by Matt Russell. Topics are arranged by theme: apertivo, terra, merenda, mare, verdure, grano, and dolci e bevande. There 's a Sardinian pantry, which includes bay leaves, borage, capers, chestnuts, limoncello, myrtle, guanciale, and oranges. Lots of local food and colour here – a good book for your Mediterranean food lover who has everything (when was the last time you saw a Sardinian cookbook?)
PERSIANA; recipes from the Middle East and beyond (Interlink Books, 2014, 2021, $49.95 hardbound) is by Sabrina Ghayour. It's a needed reissue of a Middle East food and culture book, with 100 preps for dishes from the Mediterranean Sea's south and eastern shorelines. All of the dishes are modern and accessible, covering the range from mezze through breads, soups, tagines, roasts, salads, and desserts. Dishes include fava beans with garlic, dill and eggs (baghala ghatogh), smoked eggplants with garlic (mirza ghasemi) and lamb-butternut squash-prune-tamarind tagine. Many dishes are from the eastern end of Iran-Persia, and some of the variations come African shores. Food culture notes accompany all dishes.
PIE ACADEMY; master the perfect crust and 255 amazing fillings with fruits, nuts, creams, custards, ice cream and more: expert techniques for making fabulous pies from scratch (Storey Publishing, 2020, 470 pages, $48 hardbound) is by Ken Haedrich who runs the Pie Academy and has authored more than dozen cookbooks. He's also won a Julia Child Cookbook Award. Since the subtitle is fairly explanatory, I don't really need to add much more: there's a lot of primer material about pie making and doughs (the first 86 pages) followed by pies arranged by fruits such as berries, apples, pear, pumpkin, cranberry, et al. Then come the nuts, custards, hand pies of minis and turnovers, icebox pies, and cream pies. The ingredients are by volume but there is a metric conversion chart. There are even some savoury pies using cheese and eggs. A good-looking gift for the baker in the family!
Your health depends on my health. We cannot escape one another in these perilous times.
* THE REISSUES, THE REPRINTS, AND THE NEWER EDITIONS...
...all reflect a boom in the cookbook publishing business. A paperback reprint will lower the cost to the purchaser, and also give a publisher a chance to correct egregious errors or add a postscript. Some will reissue a book in paper covers with a new layout or photos. Others will rearrange existing material to present it as more informative text while keeping the focus tight. Some magazines will reissue popular or classic recipes in an "easy" format. Here are some recent "re-editions"...
15.SOURDOUGH FROM SCRATCH; slow down, make bread (Hardy Grant Quadrille, 2020, 2021, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-695-3, $24.99 flexiboard covers) is by James Morton. It is based on (and has been extracted from) a larger book published in 2020, "Super Sourdough". This is a basic guidebook at a decent price for an easy procedure that just takes time sitting around and must be routinely fed in even less time than a household pet. And no walking either – the perfect pandemic time occupier. The hardest part is just setting up a schedule for the various procedures. Sourdoughs work on their own but you do need to know how to take care of your starter. This is your refrigerated pet: yeast. Morton has a glossary of key ingredients and key recipes, plus advice on how to take care, how to get a "perfect" crust and crumb, and a long chapter on troubleshooting. He's got nine core recipes, including pretzels, crispbread, Danish rye, brioche, Frisco style white bread, and (of course) the levain. Everything is scaled (in metric) with bakers' percentages. A great looking basic manual, welcomed because of its troubleshooting section. Quality/price rating: 93.
16.THE NOODLE BOWL; over 70 recipes for Asian-inspired noodle dishes (Ryland Peters and Small, 2015, 2020, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-235-6, $19.95 hardbound) is by Louise Pickford, a food writer now living in France with over 15 cookbooks to her credit (many for Ryland Peters & Small). It was originally published in 2015 as "Oodles of Noodles", and is back again in a revised format. Here she runs through the basic types of wheat noodles, buckwheat, rice sticks, sweet potato, flat rice, cellophanes, vermicelli, rice paper, buckwheat, and more. There are 70 recipes here for mostly Asian noodles. After the basics, she delves into separate chapters called for in soups, salads, apps, stir-fries and curries. Each prep has a full colour photo. A very good, well-prepared book. Some interesting preps include steamed rice noodle dumplings with scallops; vegetarian spring rolls; shio ramen with pork and eggs; num banh chok; seared salmon and green tea noodle salad. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88
17.EGGS ALL DAY (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 2021, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-346-9 $27.99 hardbound) is a publisher's book with recipe contributions from 34 different cookbook writers. But mostly they are from Miranda Ballard, Tonia George, Shelagh Ryan, and Laura Washburn. It ws originally published in 2016 as "100 Ways with Eggs". These are 100 ways to do eggs (boiled, baked, fried, scrambled) from breakfasts to salads, hashes, desserts and cocktails. There is also included the usual food safety notice for when dealing with raw eggs. Pea, basil and feta fritters with roast tomatoes caught my eye, as did matambre (Argentine stuffed flank steak). The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 87.
* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK...
...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 –
12.EAT BETTER FOREVER; 7 ways to transform your diet (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020, 416 pages, ISBN 978-1-5266-0280-0, $39.60 hardbound) is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and author of the River Cottage books (as well as a TV presenter in the UK). These are his healthy habits for life, with over 100 recipes. So his primer details the value of whole foods, varies foods, go with your gut, reduce refined carbs, factor in fat, think about your drink, and eat mindfully. This way you will lose weight and also be more healthy. These are all displayed in the first 200 pages, followed by 200 pages of recipes arranged by course (breakfast, lunch boxes, salads, soups, et al). He advocates for pestomega (nuts and herbs) for a sauce, nutty citrus hummus, bean pate, et al. A very well-packed book which includes Waldorg yogurt, red cabbage with carrot and clementines in a salad, seedy and nutty date and lime bites, and artichoke with white beans and radicchio gratin. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 90.
13.THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, PER SE (Artisan, 2020, 400 pages, $100 hardbound) is by Thomas Keller, a major cookbook author with material from all of his reaturants, and the first US chef to have two Michelin Guide three-star-rated restaurants. The French Laundry is in Yountville, California, and per se is in NYC. Both are connected by video, and both exchange ideas. The major secret to Keller's success has been acquiring the best top notch ingredients from their food connections: the farmers, fishermen, foragers. Here are the major 70 prep recipes plus photos and descriptions for home use and entertaining, plus 40 more recipes for the basic techniques of saucing, dehydrating, broths, compound butters, and more. Food stories and essays complete the package. Typical plates include smoked sturgeon rillettes and celery root pastrami. Not only is this a coffee table book, at 28.5 cm. square in size -- it IS a coffee table by itself.....For the foodie in your life. Quality/price rating: 90.
14.THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS COOKBOOK; 88 feel-good recipes and food stories (Figure.1, 2021, 312 pages, $37.99 hardbound) is by Trevor Lui, who has been cooking since he was seven, when he first manned the grill at Highbell, his father's North York Chinese restaurant. This memoir and cookbook has developed Toronto boites which include Kanpai Snack Bar, La Brea Food and Popa. Typical are ramen carbonara, udon-stuffed meatballs, the Last Samurai, and bulgogi beef tostadas. A lot of it falls into the category of street food trucks, but the range does include vegetarian, choicen and egg dishes, family style comfort foods, rice and noodles. Many preps are contributed by his fellow chefs, and there are food stories for just about every recipe. A good gift book too. Quality/price rating: 91.
HELP YOURSELF; a guide to gut health for people who love delicious food (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, 369 pages, ISBN 978-0-358-00839-2 $40 hardbound) is by Lindsay Maitland Hunt, author, editor and recipe developer. The book comes well-endowed with eight log rollers, mostly award-winning writers and restaurant owners. She gives more than 125 gut-friendly recipes plus science-backed advice for wellness in body and mind. Some memoir material makes it also a journey back to health. Like all such books, you've got to want to do it without being scared. It's basically a flavour-forward approach to microbe-friendly eating, prioritizing plant-based whole foods (veggies, beans, nuts, eggs) as well as fish, some meat and dairy (both of which can be excluded). You could feel better if you could eliminate the bloat, the stress, and the exhaustion. If you have already been diagnosed, then this book can be used to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, leaky gut, allergies, joint pain and inflammation. The recipes emphasize cutting down processed sugars and salts, while increasing flavours. The first 80 pages cover the basics of the preparations for the new life style. This is followed by the recipes, nutritional indexes and resources. Typical dishes include various roasted veggies such as roasted celery root, roasted romanesco, lemony roasted broccoli rabe, grilled romaine, and then moves on to breakfast, soups, stews, mains, sides, drinks, and desserts. Also, there are some snacks and dips, as well as seeds to assuage hunger. As with most North American Cookbooks, the book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 90.
* DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH! *
1.IT'S WINE TIME (Dog `n` Bone Books, 2005, 2020, 64 pages, $13.95 hardbound) is by Chris Losh. It was previously available as "Pick the Right Wine Every Time", and it is now back in print as a nifty little work that details everything you've always wanted to ask about red, white, rose and sparkling wine. The food section now also includes matching with vegetarian dishes, written by Fiona Beckett. Coverage extends to specific themes of drinking at home (lunch, BBQ, before and after dinner), splurging at dinner parties, eddings, holidays, and parties in general, drinking while out at bars and pubs, date nights, picnics, gifts, and restaurant wine lists. Good things do come in small packages.....Quality/price rating: 90.