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Monday, October 19, 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 –

11. AMERICA'S MOST WANTED RECIPES; delicious recipes from your family's
favorite restaurants (Atria, 2009; distr. Simon & Schuster, 267 pages,
ISBN 978-1-4391-4706-1, $15 US soft covers) has been pulled together by
Ron Douglas, founder of a copycat recipe website,
The book has more than 200 of these recipes, from 57 of America's
popular restaurants. Most of these are in Canada, such as KFC, Red
Lobster, Olive Garden, and Pizza Hut. But not IHOP or Brooklyn Café.
Nevertheless, this is a good presentation of knockoffs from menu items
found in these chains. With much experimentation, Douglas and his
tester-tasters have come up with reasonable copycat recipes, so that
you can go for Baskin-Robbins' cheesecake ice cream or Benihana's
hibachi steak, or Olive Garden's chicken crostina. All courses are
covered. The recipes are easy to use, but everything is in avoirdupois
weights and measures. Recipes are by establishment, but there is a
category index and an ingredient index. Families can cook these dishes
at home for a fraction of the total cost (the food bill plus taxes,
tips, travel time and expenses). But it does require some thought in
when and what to prepare. Salt levels, though, can be controlled at
home. Quality/Price rating: 85.

12. TAKASHI'S NOODLES (Ten Speed Press, 2009, 168 pages, ISBN 978-1-
58008-965-4, $24.95 US paper covers) is by Takashi Yagihashi, currently
owner of Takashi's in Chicago. In partnership with Macy's, he is
opening Noodle Shops around the USA. He is assisted by Harris Salat who
writes about food and culture for diverse publications (Gourmet, NY
Times, Saveur). This is fairly comprehensive treatment of hot and cold
Japanese noodles from an award-winning chef (he has a Beard). Yet he
still needs extensive log rolling from five chefs, including Boulud,
Trotter, Ripert, and Susur Lee. The range includes hand-cut soba,
traditional and contemporary dishes, hot and cold, clay-pot udo, crispy
gyoza, and the like. This is Japanese comfort food as Yagihashi has
been cooking for the part two decades in the American Midwest. The 75
preps also include ramen, somen, bean threads, and rice noodles, as
well as side dishes. There are tips that emphasize shortcuts, fresh and
dried noodle techniques, and kid-friendly meals. There is also a fair
amount of memoir material here. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric table of
equivalents. Arrangement is by type of noodle, and actually includes
pasta such as penne, gnocchi and orecchiette. There is an ingredient
glossary plus a list of US resources. Try chilled ramen with chicken
and banbanji sauce, curry udon, poached egg and mentaiko udon, or
grilled salmon and chilled somen with yuzu sauce. Quality/Price rating:

13. THE DIABETES SEAFOOD COOKBOOK; fresh, healthy, low-fat cooking
(American Diabetes Association, 2009; distr. McGraw-Hill, 165 pages,
ISBN 978-1-58-040302-3, $18.95 paper covers) is by Barbara Seelig-
Brown, host of a TV cooking show (Stress Free Cooking) and author of a
companion cookbook. Each prep here meets the nutrition guidelines of
the ADA (improved blood glucose management). And proceeds from the book
goes to the ADA. The emphasis here is on low-fat, omega-3 fats, and
protein. Creamy sauces and fried batters are eschewed. There are about
100 recipes here, emphasizing taste. But not much is mentioned with
sodium reduction. Arrangement is by course (starters to mains) with
sauces, dressings, and sides. There are a few tips and suggestions on
handling fish, including a mercury chart-guideline. Try Mediterranean
fish stew (eliminate the salt), salmon tacos, fillet primavera, bloody
Mary shrimp, or baked scallops (hold the salt). More details are at Quality/Price rating: 87.

14. ISLAND LAKE LODGE: the cookbook (Whitecap, 2009, 184 pages, ISBN
978-1-55285-947-6, $29.95 soft covers) is by writer Keith Liggett who
has collated 60 recipes from the eight current and former chefs of
Island Lake Lodge, a 20-year old ski haven in the heart of BC's
Kootenay mountains. The kitchens in this National Geographic-referenced
lodge use local and organic ingredients. Liggett gives chef profiles
and presents about 60 recipes. It's arranged by meal taken and course.
There's star anise French toast, a trilogy of quail eggs benedict,
chickpea-spinach soup with tahini, smoked duck salad, and pan-roasted
black cod with mussels and black-olive gnocchi. Lots of good photos by
Henry Georgi to illustrate the kitchen's environment and the cooking
line, as well as the plated dish. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric table of
equivalents. Quality/Price rating: 89.

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