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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cookbooks as Holiday Stocking Stuffers, part one

Stuffers --
Stocking stuffers are at the top of everybody's gift list: something
affordable (under $10 - $20) that can also double as a host gift,
something small and lightweight. Most of the books here are paperbacks.
And of course they can stuff an adult stocking. Typical for food are:
BRITTLES, BARKS & BONBONS; delicious recipes for quick and easy candy
(Chronicle Books, 2008, 96 pages, $16.95 US hard covers) has 40 recipes
and an index. These are for every occasion, ranging from gifts to
kiddies and family events. Truffles are here, as well as chocolate-
dipped fruit. A useful collation, all together.
TAPAS (Hamlyn, 2008, 128 pages, $16.95 CAD hard covers) is by Joanna
Farrow, a UK cookbook author for Hamlyn and a free-lance food stylist.
These are 80 classic and contemporary recipes, with about 200 photos
illustrating techniques and the plated dish. Actually, these dishes are
more than just "Spanish" – they are little plates, arranged here by all
the savoury courses from apps to mains to side dishes. Try duck with
saffron and pine nuts or beetroot and potato cakes with anchovies.

PUFF; 50 flaky, crunchy, delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts
made with puff pastry (Chronicle Books, 2008, 144 pages, $19.95 US
paper covers) is by Martha Holmberg, a food editor and publisher. Her
range is from flaky and crispy apps (13) to desserts (21), with some
mains (14). You can either use pre-made puff pastry from a bakery or
supermarket, or make your own from her recipe. She also provides a
"rough puff" demi-feuilletee for those cooks short on time. Try martini
straws, arugula-feta-cilantro triangles, smoky sweet chorizo pockets,
and avocado spiced chicken and almond pie.
CRÈME BRULEE; more than 50 decadent recipes (Whitecap, 2008, 128 pages,
ISBN 978-1-55285-943-8, $19.95 Canadian soft covers) is by Dominique
and Cindy Duby, owners of DC Duby a chocolate atelier, food
consultants, an frequent guests on Food Network Canada. They have  a
basic recipe (but at the back of the book on p.118) plus fifty or so
more such as Yukon gold and goat cheese brulee, morels and asparagus
with Stilton brulee, apricot saffron brulee, and chocolate orange and
candied ginger brulee. There are some wine pairing notes too, mostly
ice wines or botrytis wines. Of great interest is chapter eight where
the authors help you to design your own crème brulee, offering a list
of potential ingredients and their quantities.

Other little books, for beverages, include:
HOT DRINKS; indulgent hot chocolates, great coffees, soothing teas,
spiced punches, and other warming treats for cold days (Ryland, Peters
& Small, 2008, 96 pages, $16.95 US hard covers) is by Louise Pickford,
an experienced cookbook writer from the UK now living in Australia.
We'll need these hot drinks in the coming cold months of 2009. 75
recipes include Swedish glogg, hot rum and cider punch, and a variety
of milk drinks.
TINY BUBBLES (Chronicle Books, 2008, 104 pages, $14.95 US) is by Kate
Simon, an editor at "Imbibe" magazine. She covers fizzy cocktails for
every occasion, using Champagne, Prosecco, cava and other sparkling
wines. There are 40 recipes, including the ubiquitous mimosa and
"mocktails" made with fizzy water.

COFFEE DRINKS (Ten Speed Press, 2008, 128 pages, $14.95 US), by
restaurateur Michael Turback, explore the range of custom-crafted
possibilities (hot, icy cold, milky, foaming, sweet, spiked, et al). He
has 50 preps, many contributed by coffee purveyors and baristas.

RED WINE and WHITE WINE (both Ryland, Peters & Small, 2008, 64 pages,
$9.95 US) are by Jonathan Ray. Their subtitle is "discovering,
exploring, enjoying". After the usual basic primer material about
wines, Ray gives a grape by grape analysis for all the important
varieties. These are terrific gifts for that wine fiend who hates
either red or white wine: just give the book for the colour that is
appreciated. Unless you want to make a joke…

Still other smallish books include:
THE GREAT CHILES RELLENOS BOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2008, 144 pages,
$16.95 US) is by Janos Wilder, once named best Chef in the Southwest by
James Beard Foundation. Here are 30 recipes, mostly Mexican, for
rellenos, from easy style to complicated. He also has some contemporary
versions which he uses in his two Arizona restaurants.
50 GREAT APPETIZERS (Simon & Schuster, 2008, 112 pages, $14.99 US) is a
collection of starters, amuses-bouches, antipasti, hors d'oeuvre,
mezes, antojitos, dim sum, tapas, canapés, and just plain finger food.
Cookbook writer and school instructor Pamela Sheldon Johns has pulled
it all together. There is party planning advice, and 10 themed menus
for the Middle East, Mexican, vegetarian, and the like.

THE GREAT WINGS BOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2008, 144 pages, $16.95 US) is
by Hugh Carpenter, a Napa Valley cooking school owner. There are 40
preps here for party-ready chicken wings, plus some recipes for sauces,
rubs, marinades, and accompaniment. Flavours embrace pan-Asian, pan-
Latin, and US BBQ. Many are hot, some are hotter, but at least you can
adjust your own seasoning by doing it yourself -- and save money too.
This book helps to fulfill the American fantasy of males gnawing on
bones (ribs are another one).

VEGAN A GO-GO (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008, 96 pages, $17.95 CAD) is by
Sarah Kramer, whose first three vegan books have sold over 150,000
copies. This book is for vegan travelers who are daunted by looking for
relevant food in diners or motel preps. There are 150 recipes here,
some adapted from her earlier books. The rest of the material contains
information and advice on traveling. There is even a section on "How to
Say 'I Am Vegan'" in numerous languages. The book is small enough to
slip into a purse or pocket, with a reinforced cover. And, of course,
it is also useful to vegetarians.

PASTA and PANINI (both Ten Speed Press, 2008, 112 pages, $14.95 US) are
by Carlo Middione, a cooking instructor specializing in writing about
southern Italy (he has a Child and a Beard). These two books cover one
course each. In PASTA, there are 50 traditional preps and sauces, such
as cannelloni in salsa al pomodori, pasta e fagioli, and some
contemporary ones he developed for his restaurant. The setup is the
same for PANINI, with grilled, not-grilled and open-faced sandwiches
using a variety of cheeses, cured and uncured meats, poultry and
seafood. You can certainly make a meal with one course of each. About
thirty full-colour photos complete the package.

Then there is the charming THE RITZ LONDON BOOK OF CHRISTMAS (Ebury
Press, 2007, 64 pages, $19.95) which is a reprint of the 1989 classic.
It is by Jennie Reekie, and concerns the art and traditions of an
Edwardian Christmas. This illustrated collection of some 50 recipes is
an elegant celebration of traditional mince meat pies, roast turkey
with chestnut and sausage meat stuffing, punches, and the like. The
book also forms a mini-history of the British customs at Christmas
time. Lots of potted meats and baked goods here.
More next time...

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