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Sunday, July 5, 2009


...are one of the hottest trends in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation. They are automatic 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. 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 schtick 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, but how could that be? They 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. But of course there are a
lot of food shots, verging on gastroporn. The endorsements are from
other celebrities in a magnificent case 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. THE COMPLETE ROBUCHON (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008, 813 pages, ISBN 978-
0-307-26719-1, $35US hard covers) is by Joel Robuchon, who got three
stars in Michelin in 1984 – and now has more than any other chef. He
was named "Chef of the Century" in 1989 by Gault Millau. He now works
as a consultant and runs L'Atelier restaurants around the world. This
current book was originally published in Paris in 2006, and has now
been translated for the English-speaking world. To his credit, notable
log rolling here is from various food writers, and not cooking
celebrities. At once this book is the definitive guide to how the
French person cooks now. Here are more than 800 precise, easy-to-follow
preps. The classics are here, some with updating such as the pot-au-
feu, cherry clafoutis, and sole meuniere. There are regional
specialties. The layout is terrific, with clear and precise service,
preparation times, and cooking and resting times. The lists of
ingredients include both avoirdupois and metric measurements. There are
no photos of platings or techniques, just the recipes. There is some
material on food and wine matching, but no specific names or labels are
used. Try pork skewers with prunes and bacon, saddle of hare with
mushrooms, smothered baby turnips with chicken juices, or roast duck
with spiced honey. It's just a shame, though, that this English book
could not spell hors d'oeuvre in its singular context. Quality/Price
rating: 89.

13. SANTA FE FLAVOURS; best restaurants and recipes (Gibbs Smith, 2009;
distr. Raincoast), 112 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0318-4, $9.99 US soft
covers) is by Anne Hillerman, a Santa Fe journalist and writing coach
who also reviews restaurants. In this book she delves into some 49
restaurants. For each, she gives a basic guide as to what to expect
(with signature dishes and price ranges), plus of course, the address,
phone number and website. Each description is illustrated by the logo,
and followed by a recipe, in most cases NOT a signature dish. It's all
arranged by course, beginning with the mains and moving through to
desserts. There is an index to both the recipes and to the restos, and
this is followed by a metric table of equivalents for the avoirdupois
measurements used in the ingredients' listing. It is nice to know that
some faves of mine are still in operation. A short glossary of New
Mexican dishes and foods completes the small package. Try basque-style
lamb hash, chipotle shrimp with corn cakes, carne adovada with chile
caribe, or sweet potato chipotle soup. The book is sure to do well as
POS at the establishments. Quality/Price rating: 89.

14. SIPS & APPS; classic and contemporary recipes for cocktails and
appetizers (Chronicle Books, 2009; distr. Raincoast, 204 pages, ISBN
978-0-8118-6406-0, $19.95 US hard covers) is by Kathy Casey, a
celebrity chef and mixologist, and author of nine cookbooks who has
appeared on TV and radio. She's also picked up some Beard nominations
and a Food & Wine award. She owns Dish D'Lish cafes and a consulting
firm. Here she produces a very useful match of "creative libations"
with "mouthwatering appetizers". There are about 100 recipes, 36 of
which deal with food. There is the usual primer data plus a sources
list. The creative cocktails are fusion version of standards, such as a
red square martini, a gin flower crush, or Lill'pertif (my fave). There
is also a mango mai tai, a green-eye daiquiri, and  harvest pumpkin
toddy. For food, try sausage olive poppers, Bollywood chicken skewers,
pineapple avocado salsa, mushroom and fontina purses, croquet monsieur
puffs, or roasted pear crostini with gorgonzola. Quality/price rating:

15. TASSAJARA DINNERS & DESSERTS (Gibbs Smith, 2009, 224 pages, ISBN
978-1-4236-0520-1, $30 US, hard covers) is by Dale and Melissa Kent,
who worked at the world famous Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for seven
years. I still remember the Tassajara Bread Book from the early 1970s,
written by Ed Brown. Here, the Kents take a look behind the doors of
the monastic kitchen. Preparing food can be a spiritual practice. There
are vegan and vegetarian recipes here. There are also accounts from
guest cooks such as Ed Brown, Deborah Madison, and scores of others.
There are vivid descriptions on how the kitchen process works and how
much zen is involved with food. The arrangement of the book is from
starters to sides to mains, beans, tofu, gains, pasta, and desserts.
Measurements are in avoirdupois, but there is a table of metric
equivalents at the back. Good, simple, solid food. Try Kahmiri-style
greens with roasted potatoes, mushroom galette, chickpea stew with
collard greens, olive oil date cake, peach pie, coconut custard with
lychees. Quality/price rating: 90.
16. 'WICHCRAFT; craft a sandwich into a meal – and a meal into a
sandwich (Clarkson Potter, 2009, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0-609-61051-0
$27.50 US hard covers) is by Tom Colicchio, the chef-owner of Craft in
New York City. He has won many awards, including numerous Beards for
best chef, best new restaurant, and best general cookbook ("Think Like
a Chef"). Even so, his latest book needs logrolling from Eric Ripert,
executive chef/co-owner of Le Bernardin. He is assisted by Sisha
Ortuzar, his partner in the 'wichcraft sandwich shops in New York, San
Francisco, and Las Vegas; 13 of the chain have opened since 2003.
Additional credits include "text by Rhona Silverbush, photographs by
Bill Bettencourt". Colicchio has also been head judge for the four
seasons of "Top Chef" reality show. The preps here include fan faves
from his resto chain. There is a primer on stocking the pantry (along
with recipes), how to layer a sandwich (they're all huge), and making a
meal out of it all. There are also some detail and stories about the
restaurants themselves. The basic divisions in this fine book are
breakfast sandwiches (eight of them), cool sandwiches (19), warm
sandwiches (25), and sweet sandwiches (6, which can also double for
breakfast). Each sandwich has a photo, once in the contents listing
with a page reference, and once with the recipe. There's a US resources
list, and avoirdupois ingredient listings (no table of equivalents is
furnished). Try chopped chickpeas with roasted peppers, pan-fried
eggplant with mozzarella and white anchovies, flatiron steak with
cucumber and ginger salad, cheddar with smoked ham and poached pear,
fried squid po-boy, cured duck breast with caramelized apples. All are
scrumptious. Quality/price rating: 89.

17. THE FLAVORS OF ASIA (DK, 2009, 272 pages, ISBN 978-0-7566-4305-8,
$35 US hard covers) has been pulled together by Mai Pham, the
chef/owner of Lemon Grass Restaurant, plus a grill and noodle bar --
all in Sacramento. She has done extensive work for the Culinary
Institute of America, who is also the major sponsor of this book. Log
rollers include Thomas Keller and the team of Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey
Alford. This book culls recipes from 40 chefs of India, Asia, and the
US. Pham joins the CIA in presenting 125 accessible recipes. This is
the second book in the DK series covering the CIA's "World of Flavor
International Conference and Festival". These are top ten type dishes
from each country, and while there is little room to explore the myriad
flavours of each cuisine, there is room to be creative within a limited
range, and concentrate on just a few but basic dishes. Arrangement is
by course, with a range of countries represented in each. Appetizers
and small plates leads to soups and salads, followed by veggies, meats,
seafood, noodle and rice dishes, and the vast range of sauces needed.
There is a glossary, bios of the chefs involved, and a US sources list.
So from India, we get a faluda drink and rice pudding, Vietnam has
ginger-peanut ice cream and warm banana with tapioca pearls, Japan has
a buckwheat noodle roll and yakitori of duck and young chicken,
Thailand has stir-fried chicken with basil and spinach wraps with
coconut and ginger. The vernacular terms are also used, and the weights
are in avoirdupois. There are no tables of metric equivalents. Still,
the photography is sharp (there is a picture for each prep) and the
material is bountiful, especially for beginners and/or armchair
travelers/cooks. Quality/Price rating: 85.

18. GALE GAND'S BRUNCH! (Clarkson Potter, 2009, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0-
307-40698-9, $27.50 hard covers) contains about 100 preps. Gand is a
Beard award winner, co-owner of Tru in Chicago, a consulting pastry
chef, and host of the US Food Network's "Sweet Dreams", a daily show
devoted to baking. She's also authored six other cookbooks. Christie
Matheson, a food and lifestyle writer, is the focusing coauthor.
Traditional dishes are given a contemporary spin, such as an almond
ciabatta French toast. She has five "lessons" for eggs, each
concentrating on one of omelets, quiches, strata, frittata, and crepes
– all with variations. There's plenty here for the adventurous to roam
around with. The book, arranged by food type, concludes with a section
on condiments, including her own version of Nutella spread.  There's
some material on equipment and ingredients. Menus are given for events
such as a bridal shower, a summer weekend, a going away party, the
traditional Champagne brunch, the baby shower, Mother's day – ten in
all, and all with page references. But avoirdupois-only measurements,
with no metric tables of conversion. Try breakfast burritos (bean
free), pineapple noodle kugel, spiced apple-raisin turnovers, corn and
parmesan fritters, cheddar grits, or wheat berry salad. Quality/price
rating: 85.

19. RELAXED COOKING WITH CURTIS STONE (Clarkson Potter, 2009, 272
pages, ISBN 978-0-307-40874-7 $32.50 hard covers) deals with the
national fantasy of easy cooking. Stone is the host of The Learning
Channel's "Take Home Chef", now in its third season. It is TLC's only
cooking show. The premise of the show is that he will cook for you, and
show you how to do it. So he picks one grocery shopper each week, and
shows how her (and the TV audience) to shop and cook with ease. He's
experienced: head chef, trained under Marco Pierre White, voted one of
People magazine's sexiest men alive. The book covers just about every
occasion, such as breakfast, brunch, weekend lunches, snacks, dinners,
crowd-pleasers, side dishes and sweets. The recipes are readable, set
in larger type, but I cannot stand the white- on-beige text (I also
don't like the too-many pix of Stone the Hunk).  There are avoirdupois-
only measurements, with no metric tables of conversion, which is common
in US cookbooks. Try green tea ice cream, asparagus with raspberry-
shallot vinaigrette, chili crab, Brazilian-style chicken with okra,
roasted fennel and potato soup, shrimp salad with fennel and blood
orange. Nothing here is too demanding, but he tries well. Quality/price
rating: 86.

20. BURGER BAR; build your own ultimate burgers (John Wiley & Sons,
2009, 168 pages, ISBN 978-0-470-18767-8, $22.95 US hard covers) is by
Hubert Keller, chef and owner of Burger Bar in diverse hotels in Las
Vegas, St. Louis, and San Francisco. He also owns upscale restos in
those same cities. He was named a Beard Chef: California. Here, he is
assisted by Penelope Wisner, a freelance writer and recipe developer.
Log rolling features Alain Ducasse. Keller uses upscale ingredients and
flavourings, so the final product is not necessarily cheap….it is just
"cheaper" than the usual upscale resto dishes because of the modest
platform. Here are 50 creations, with tips on prepping, presentation
and "Build Your Own" techniques. It is not all beef: there are chapters
dealing with other meats (bison, pork, etc.), poultry, seafood, and
veggies. Keller finishes off with material on side dishes, sauces,
"sweet burgers" (chocolate-hazelnut, s'more, cheese cake burger) and
even mixed alcohol beverages. Overall, it will be sliders that will win
out. Quality/price rating: 88.

21. DINOSAUR BAR-B-QUE; an American roadhouse (Ten Speed Press, 2001,
2009. 184 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-971-5, $19.95 US paper covers) is the
paperback reissue of the 2001 book. Despite an additional copyright
date of 2009, there appears to be minimal updating beyond the addresses
and URLs in the Resources area. No new pix were taken. John Stage and
Nancy Radke are the authors. The Dino BBQ in Syracuse is an icon; I've
eaten there many times and have also done take out. I assume the
Rochester and Harlem NYC locations are similar. It all began in 1988,
and this book celebrates the resto's 20th anniversary. The 100 recipes
here cover the entire menu; there are also lots of references to blues
music, which goes hand in hand with ribs. The rationale for their being
is on page 93: Dinosaur-style ribs. It calls for a St. Louis cut of
spareribs, red rub, mop sauce, and mutha sauce. Look it up. Beef, pork,
chicken, fish, and lamb are the meats. Sides are here, as well as soups
and "leftovers" and desserts. There is material on how to do your own
smoking and pit work, as well as how and what to maintain in the pantry
staples. The publishers claim that the hard cover has sold more than
120,000 copies. For the BBQ lover. Quality/price rating: 90.

22. GOLDEN DOOR COOKS AT HOME (Clarkson Potter, 2009, 288 pages, ISBN
978-0-307-45079, $40 US hard covers) is by Dean Rucker, executive chef
of the Golden Door since 2005. Marah Stets is the focusing food writer.
These are supposed to be favourite recipes from that celebrated spa,
which is synonymous with healthy eating and cuisine. It's a California
spa, with branches in Florida, Colorado, Arizona, and Puerto Rico. This
is their 50th year of operation, and the book celebrates with 100
recipes and the overblown photography. I think that the book is really
meant for previous clients to cook at home: lean proteins, whole
grains, fresh veggies, and the like. Courses run from appetizers
through to desserts, with breakfasts, teas and drinks, and some sauces.
Nutritional data has been provided per serving, but at the back, not
with the recipe itself. The only rationale for this is that the
publisher or authors did not want people to actually use the book as a
collection of weight control recipes. Try marinated vegetable focaccia
sandwich, vegetable pizzetta, quinoa tabbouleh, Moroccan spice-rubbed
lamb loin, or miso-glazed mero. Quality/price rating: 86.
Press, 2009, 236 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-951-7, $35 US hard covers) is
by Beverly Gannon, chef-owner of the resto, now celebrating its 20th
year in business. She's also a founder of Hawaii Regional Cuisine
movement, executive chef of Hawaiian Airlines, and owns another
restaurant on Maui. The focusing food writer is Joan Namkoong, who
lives in Kamuela and has written many books about Hawaiian foods. The
family-style meals here emphasize a fusion with Pacific-Asian-Southern
US accents. This recipe collection comes from the restaurant's files,
and has been simplified to reflect family or large gatherings.
Ingredient substitutions are included, and leftovers are adapted into
future meals. Preps are presented by the days of the week. In between
it all there are anecdotes of life in Hawaii and gorgeous (but
touristy) photography. There is the inevitable logrolling (even from
Dean Fearing, who has not been heard from in quite awhile). Try mango-
chile dipping sauce, dried-fried long beans with cumin and chile, Cajun
blackened 'ahi, Asian fried calamari, hoisin-marinated short ribs and
wasabi mashed potatoes, kona coffee-marinated rack of lamb, corn and
edamame and jicama slaw. Quality/price rating: 85.
24. REAL CAJUN; rustic home cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana
(Clarkson Potter, 2009, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-39581-8, $35 US hard
covers) is by Link who is chef-owner of Herbsaint and Cochon
restaurants in New Orleans. He's also a Beard winner. As is typical of
many of these celebrity chef books, here is a focusing food writer
(Paula Disbrowe) and some logrolling (Alice Waters, Anthony Bourdain).
In addition to the preps, there are anecdotes covering fishing,
shrimping, sausage-making, festivals, funerals, holidays, fish fries,
crawfish boils, and seafood gumbo. He gives us updated versions of
iconic recipes such as crawfish boudin, turtle soup, bread pudding. And
there is a small resources list for such items as sausage-making
supplies, andouille and boudin. Try pork belly cracklings, Cajun tasso,
crawfish boudin, andouille gumbo, meat pie, and maque choux with fried
green tomatoes. Worthwhile photography, but ultimately too many
touristy or cutesy photos. Quality/price rating: 84.
25. PAULA DEEN'S: the Deen family cookbook (Simon & Schuster, 2009, 269
pages, ISBN 978-0-7432-7813-5, $26 US hard covers) is by Paula Deen,
who has been spinning off Southern food recipes for quite some time.
She's also a major Food Network host. Here she takes her shots at a
family cookbook. Certainly, the American book publishing community has
found the luster in an economic downturn: creating family cookbooks.
Every publisher must have a dozen or so – they are everywhere in
catalogues and passing through my hands as well. Here are 140 recipes,
mostly new, for family gatherings. Her own family, based on the back
cover, seems to number 14. Plus three dogs. Melissa Clark, a cookbook
author, is the focusing food writer. There's nothing fancy here, just
preps and pix of her family. Try stuffed eggs with smoked salmon,
Italian pasta salad, bacon vinaigrette over greens, guacamole,
buttermilk biscuit, zucchini bake, and the like. Each prep is some
family member's version – Jodi's cream cheese dip, Aunt Trina's shrimp
boulettes, Michelle's pimento cheese sandwiches. Quality/price rating:

26. EAT CHEAP BUT EAT WELL (John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 207 pages, ISBN
978-0-470-29336-2, $18.95 US paper covers) is by Charles Mattocks, who
appears regularly on US television as "The Poor Chef", specializing in
cheap food. He demonstrates cheap but healthy meals for two, costing
around $7 (or less). His book has 120 recipes, basic food but with
international cuisine flavourings. This also makes them delicious. As
for healthy foods, you do need balance. Too much pasta, no mater how
ell you cook it and flavour it, is unwise. It must be mixed, put in
rotation, or at least NOT made into a main course every single night.
His book is arranged by product, beginning with poultry, moving through
beef, pork, other meats, pasta, fish, seafood, eggs, salads, veggies,
soups, sandwiches, and desserts. He uses the cent sign (try finding
that on a computer keyboard) to indicate a cost of under $5 for 4
servings. But most dishes are under $7 for two or four servings. Try
West Indian chicken curry, chicken Waikiki, sauerbraten-burgers,
moussaka, ham with corn pudding, beef in beer, pork and apple pie with
potato crust. Quality/price rating: 88.
27. ANNAPOLIS VALLEY TASTES; recipes from the valley's best restaurants
(Nimbus Publishing, 2009, 82 pages, ISBN 978-1-55109-703-9, $22.95
Canadian, soft covers) has been collated by Sean Buckland, a co-founder
of Valley Wine Tours and a former sommelier. Photography is by Colleen
Dagnall and Bob Federer. More than half the pictures concern touristy
stuff in the Annapolis Valley, but there are sharp food photos too. The
book's drawing points are the 29 recipes from sterling restaurants in
the area, plus the obvious tourist attractions in the valley. Here is a
combination of fin, fowl, and farmstock, plus all the fruits and
veggies. Along with the food comes wine and fine restaurants. There's
no index to the preps, but there is a table of contents divided into
four: soups and starters, mains from the land, mains from the sea, and
desserts. Restaurants are listed in a directory (but with no addresses
nor phone numbers) and recipes are sourced there. So from Tempest we
get crusted lamb racks with celery root puree, from Port Pub there is a
very good porter cheddar soup, Halls Harbour Lobster Pound offers a
basic lobster bisque, while Blomidon Inn has mussels with double-smoked
bacon and vermouth. Measurements are all avoirdupois, with no metric
conversion tables. Quality/price rating: 87.
28. BLUE WATER CAFÉ SEAFOOD COOKBOOK (Douglas & McIntyre, 2009, 202
pages, ISBN 978-1-55365-368-4, $45 Canadian, hard covers) is by Frank
Pabst, the executive chef at the Vancouver restaurant since 2003. In
fact, the copyright is held by the restaurant's owner, Top Table
Restaurants & Bars. Recipes are by Frank Pabst and Yoshi Tabo (who has
been chef at the Raw Bar since 2002), wine pairings are by Andrea
Vescovi, and "text" is by Jim Tobler. The largely French-inspired food
from Pabst and the Japanese-inspired raw bar from Tabo are all based
also on "sustainability" principles. Thus, the 80 recipes here all
concern seafood that will not be diminished. If you can get it, try
periwinkles with nettle puree and potato chips. No metric conversion
charts, though. 120 photos illuminate the likes of grilled mackerel
with chunky Romesco sauce, terrine of sardines with heirloom tomatoes
and zucchini, sea urchins (done several ways), and squid and octopus
(also done several ways). The raw bar section is amazing. Not a book
for everyone – just for those explorative seafood lovers. Quality/price
rating: 90.

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