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Saturday, January 23, 2010


...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. EARTH TO TABLE; seasonal recipes from an organic farm (Random House
Canada, 2009,326 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-35684-0, $45 Canada hard covers)
is by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann; they both work at the Ancaster
Old Mill. He's Executive Chef (after stints at The Fat Duck and Chez
Panisse); she's Pastry Chef (with numerous awards). Both are heavily
involved in the Slow Food Movement in Canada. Remarkably, the book has
managed to garner logrolling from both Michael Pollan and Deborah
Madison. The authors' stories and passion tell us how to reduce our
carbon footprints through S-L-O, my acronym for "seasonal", "local" and
"organic" where possible. Crump begins by developing a network of
farmers to keep his restaurant's kitchen working. It's just another
step for him and Schormann to grow some local food such as onions and
heirloom wheat. The book is arranged by season, beginning with spring.
Each has a spotlight on something such as compost, seafood, or dairy.
Each has a how-to section such as foraging, canning, farmers' markets.
Each has a profile such as the ones on Thomas Keller (French Laundry)
and Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck). Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric
table of equivalents, a clear sign that the book is moving on to the US
market. He has numerous sidebars, including a list of ten things beyond
the local scene that he cannot do without: olive oil, coffee, vanilla,
rice, citrus fruits, chocolate, et al. With the spring come asparagus,
cherries, dandelion greens, fiddleheads, herbs, salmon, lamb, maple
syrup, morels, new potatoes, peas, radishes, ramps, and rhubarb. His
descriptions are followed by the preps, such as rhubarb fool, sorrel
frittata, cherries affogatto, buttermilk panna cotta, and stinging
nettle linguini. Try also gnudi with ramps, morels and fiddleheads. Or
even squash and sage and pancetta pizza in the fall. Quality/Price
rating: 90.

13. ALL THE BEST RECIPES; 300 delicious and extraordinary recipes
(Robert Rose, 2009, 448 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0223-5, $24.95 US paper
covers) is by Jane Rodmell, a food writer and president of All The Best
Fine Foods, a specialty food and caterer in Toronto's Rosedale area. It
was established in 1984 as one of the locally known Five Thieves (Seven
Thieves if you count two more around the corner). They all closed up
shop a few years back or relocated. The landlord wanted to redo the
buildings. Well, they are back, and Rodmell obviously took the time to
plow through hundreds or preps in her filing cabinet in order to
produce this book. All courses are covered, from soup to desserts, with
party fare and breads as well. Everything is delicious, but
"extraordinary" is too strong a word for every single prep. David Cobb,
who c0-wrote as "Epicure" in Toronto Life for almost 18 years,
contributes some short food essays longer than a sidebar, and which are
thankfully indexed. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both
avoirdupois and metric measurements, so there is no metric table of
equivalents. Try curried scallop cakes, socca with shrimp provencal,
five-grain pomegranate salad, black-eyed pea salad with tomato and
feta, pork loin with apple fennel chutney, and braised butternut squash
and tofu with sesame seeds. Quality/Price rating: 89.

14. THE DEEN BROTHERS TAKE IT EASY (Ballantine Books, 2009, 202 pages,
ISBN 978-0-345-51326-7, $25 US hard covers) is by Jamie and Bobby Deen
with Melissa Clark as the focusing food writer. Paula Deen is their
mother, and in 1996 they opened The Lady and Sons Restaurant in
Savannah. The regularly appear on network TV and had a show on the Food
Network, Road Tasted. This is their third book, and the subtitle says
it all: "quick and affordable meals the whole family will love". Each
meal should take 45 minutes if you are prepared first. Ingredients come
from larger supermarkets, and are used in such preps as baked bow ties
and black-eyed peas, grilled chicken breasts with brown sugar pineapple
rings, or shrimp and grits. Other dishes include variations on tuna
casserole and macaroni and cheese. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric table of
125 recipes in all, emphasizing accessibility, fast techniques
(crockpot, grilling), and children's food. Quality/Price rating: 83.
15. ATLANTIC SEAFOOD; recipes from Chef Michael Howell (Nimbus
Publishing, 2009, 133 pages, ISBN 978-1-55109-728-2, $24.95 Canadian
paper covers) is by Michael Howell, an award-winning chef-owner of
Tempest Restaurant in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Currently, he is also
head of Slow Food Nova Scotia and cooks occasionally at James Beard
House in New York. And, for the purposes of this review, he is my son-
in-law. So there is really nothing more I can say except that the over
50 recipes are all sustainable and ethical. While there is no index,
all the preps are arranged by the name of the seafood, and embrace
mains, starters, salads and grains. He's got char, clams, crab,
haddock, halibut, lobster, mackerel, monkfish, mussels, oysters,
salmon, salt cod, scallops, shrimp, smoked seafood (you might have to
do mail-order here from the list of suppliers he furnishes), sole,
squid, sturgeon, swordfish and tuna. Some of the recipes are
interchangeable. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both
metric and avoirdupois measurements, a good thing. All of the cook's
notes are breezy and informative, and the photography of the finished
plate is superb. Quality/Price rating: conflict of interest (oh, all
right, shameless plug for 88 as a number).

16. BUBBY'S BRUNCH COOKBOOK (Ballantine Books, 2009, 309 pages, ISBN
978-0-345-51163-8 $30 US hard covers) is by Ron Silver (owner of the
Bubby's Pie Company operations in the US and in Japan), with Rosemary
Black, food editor at the New York Daily News. And does it say
something when most of the logrolling comes from movie and TV
celebrities? Here are almost 200 preps (originally announced as 120)
from a fave brunch spot offering classic comfort food. As is typical
with restaurants like this one, no reservations are taken – so there
are hour-long lineups for brunch. He starts with 25 special occasion
brunch menus (with page references to the recipes) for the whole year.
My fave is the Cinco de Mayo brunch, with huevos rancheros and chorizo
sausages. For each he gives an "ideal" range for service, such as 4 to
10 for the Cinco de Mayo, or 6 to 20 for a Farmers' Market Brunch. The
Honeymoon Brunch, of course, is for two. The basics are covered in
chapters dealing with quick breads and muffins, eggs of all kinds,
griddle foods, sandwiches and salads, platters of meats and fish, side
dishes, lots of juices and beverages, and toppings and sauces. So it is
also a decent breakfast and lunch book. There are cook's notes and many
indicated variations. Bubby's signature dishes are clearly indicated.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no metric table of equivalents. Quality/Price rating: 88.

17. STONEWALL KITCHEN BREAKFAST; a collection of great morning meals
(Chronicle Books, 2009, 144 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6867-9, $19.95 US
hard covers) AND
18. STONEWALL KITCHEN WINTER CELEBRATIONS; special recipes for family
and friends (Chronicle Books, 2009, 144 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6868-6,
$19.95 US hard covers) are both by Jonathan King and Jim Scott, owners
of the company (founded in 1991) in York, Maine, which sells nationally
distributed jams, sauces, and baking mixes. Kathy Gunst is their
focusing food writer; she also teaches food writing. Both books cover
the same ground as Bubby's (above), but perhaps in a more elegant laid-
back style for the intermediate-level home cook. They run through the
egg dishes, the waffles, the sandwiches, muffins, drinks and so forth
in the breakfast book, indicating the quick and easy recipes. They have
11 menus, with page references, and these could easily do for a brunch
event. The Winter Celebrations is holiday-party foods, beginning with
American Thanksgiving and running through to almost Easter. The 11
menus, again with page references, are extremely useful. Any of these
can also do for brunch, although the roasts will have to be started
earlier. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is also a metric table of equivalents.
Quality/Price rating: 89.
19. TOP CHEF: the cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2008, 256 pages, ISBN 978-
0-8118-7347-5, $29.95 US hard covers) is from the first five seasons of
this competitive reality show. It has recipes, interviews, and behind-
the-scenes stories from the US Bravo Channel's hit show. There are
about 100 recipes here, with tips and advice. If you like these kinds
of cooking shows, then this book is for you, especially with its
backstage material. Recipes come from the competitors, and they are
sourced as to which show had the visual attack. Good photo close-ups.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents. Quality/Price rating: 84.

20. EAT ATE (Chronicle Books, 2009, 182 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-7111-2,
$35 US hard covers) is by Guy Mirabella, Italian cookbook author and
operator of the Shop Ate Cafe and Store. This is sort-of a slow food
Italian culinary cultural book, with a combination of recipes, photos,
stories and memoirs related to Italian food and life. His Sicilian
heritage is especially emphasized.
Typical dishes include egg, white anchovies and pancetta salad;
chargrilled chili calamari and radicchio salad; asparagus, gorgonzola
and lemon risotto; lamb with eggplant, tomato and feta salad; broccoli
fritti; and baked mushrooms with broken bread. The large typeface is a
plus, but the list of ingredients in the recipes is on faded ink and
hard to read. Plus the book is also heavy (it can double as an art
book). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no metric table of equivalents.
Quality/Price rating: 85.

21. THE CONSCIOUS COOK (William Morrow, 2009, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-
187433-8, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Tal Ronnen, whose main claim to
fame lately has been to prepare vegan fare for Oprah Winfrey's 21-day
vegan cleanse. He consults and teaches on vegan menus and in vegetarian
workshops (Le Cordon Bleu). His basic approach is to apply traditional
French culinary techniques to meatless cuisine. But then you run up
against cream, butter and eggs which are some backbones in the French
cooking manner. He uses "cashew cream" as a valid substitute: use raw
cashews (which have no flavour) for the creamy element. The 70 preps
here feature vegan versions of Caesar salad, corn chowder, paella, and
the like. The final plated dishes is photographed. Typical recipes
include lemongrass consomme with pea shoot and mushroom dumplings,
macadamia caprese, peppercorn-encrusted Portobello fillets with yellow
tomato béarnaise and mashed potatoes; agave-lime grilled tofu with
asian slaw and mashed sweet potatoes. There are some nifty desserts, 
(rosemary pine nut brittle), four seasonal dinner party menus, and a
list of his fave vegan restaurants in the US. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric
table of equivalents. Nevertheless, this is a very well-organized and
presented book. Quality/Price rating: 89.
22. FINE TEXAS CUISINE (Gibbs Smith, 2009, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-
0523-2, $30 US hard covers) is by Jon Bonnell, owner-chef of Bonnell's
Fine Texas Cuisine in Dallas/Fort Worth, opened in 2001. He's been
named or nominated for several major awards both locally and
nationally. As a restaurant book, he has several endorsements on the
back cover, most notably from the James Beard Foundation and the Zagat
Survey. Fine Texas cuisine, as defined by Bonnell, is not upscale bones
or Tex-Mex. It is classic cuisine using Texas local ingredients, such
as the Texas 1015 onion, wild game, organic beef, and Gulf of Mexico
seafood. The preps all come from his resto, and are arranged here from
appetizers through desserts. There are no notes on Texas wines which is
a disappointment to me. In fact, there are no notes on any kind of
wines. Dishes include venison carpaccio with green peppercorn dressing,
wild boar chops with peach barbeque sauce, Tequila-flamed quail and
grits, BBQ oysters with Anaheim chill-lime sauce, crispy flounder with
shaved fennel slaw, and sirloin summer steak topped with seared avocado
and smoky salsa. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents.
Quality/Price rating: 85.

23. ALL CAKES CONSIDERED (Chronicle Books, 2009, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-
8118-6781-8, $24.95 US hard covers) has been compiled by Melissa Gray,
a producer for NPR's "All Things Considered". The subtitle says it all:
"a year's worth of weekly recipes tested, tasted, and approved by the
staff of NPR's "All Things Considered" --- how to keep your co-workers
happy, friendly, and fatter than you!". Every Monday Gray brings in a
cake (made from scratch) for her colleagues to try. The emphasis is on
American Southern, from her family or Southern chefs such as Paula Deen
or Stephen Pyles. From the hundreds of cakes that she has done, the
book has 52 or so, all sourced. Each has extensive cook's notes. It is
arranged by ease in chapter one. Chapter two has fruit and spices.
Chapter three has six preps for cookies (why bother?). Chapter four has
the balance: angel food, devil's food, layer cakes, and the like. She
has a list of web resources and a bibliography. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric
table of equivalents. This book has a good feel about it. Quality/Price
rating: 87.

24. VANCOUVER COOKS 2 (Douglas and McIntyre, 2009, 250 pages, ISBN 978-
1-55365-261-8, $35 CAD paper covers) is from the Chefs' Table Society
of British Columbia, a collaborative dedicated to creating a foundation
for the exchange of information between culinary professionals. The
emphasis is on education and regional cuisine, with sustainable
programs. Five years ago, they scored with "Vancouver Cooks" (selling
more than 13,000 copies). Now they are back with more, as 70 chefs
contribute about 100 recipes. It's divided into four sections: regional
food, international food, "rising stars", and "culinary vanguard". The
book has been written with the home cook in mind. There are 50 photos
of plated foods for the preps, along with BC wine recommendations (but
with no reasons for the match) for each recipe. Royalties go to the
Chefs' Table Scholarship and Bursary Fund. Check out All preps have been sourced: Sooke Harbour
House's French sorrel apple sorbet, West's squab breast; C Restaurant's
scallops with marinated cucumber; Diva at the Metropolitan Hotel's pan-
seared ling cod; Yuji's spicy curry calamari. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric
table of equivalents. There are pix and bios for each of the chefs
involved. Quality/Price rating: 86.
25. THE BEST OF CHEF AT HOME (Whitecap, 2009, 258 pages, ISBN 978-1-
55285-984-1, $29.95 CAN soft covers) is by Michael Smith, chef-host of
the Food Network Canada's "Chef at Home". It is a follow-up book to his
"Chef at Home". Here he presents the basics (called essential recipes
for today's kitchen), a collection of "everyday comfort foods" such as
mac and cheese, steamed mussels, braised short ribs, pork chops and
apple sauce, grilled chicken, steak and onions, and the like. Each has
been jazzed up a little to give it that extra "oomph": different or
special toppings, a new way to cook it, or a different side. Each has a
cook's note called "freestyle variation". And there are more details at There are over 100 recipes here (much more if
you count the variations). Try Caesar salad with basil, Tuscan steak
salad, penne with smoked salmon and cream cheese sauce, twice-baked
potatoes, chicken stew, ratatouille, or grilled veggies. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois
measurements. Quality/Price rating: 83.
26. MORE DINERS, DRIVE-INS AND DIVES (William Morrow, 2009, 249 pages,
ISBN 978-0-06-189456-5, $19.99 US paper covers) is by Guy Fieri, of
Food Network's "Guy's Big Bite, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives". He's also
co-owner of Johnny Garlic's California Pasta Grill and Tex Wasabi's.
Ann Volkwein is the focusing food writer. His first book was  "Diners,
Drive-Ins and Dives", an d this second one is "More" of the same.
Expect the same sassing, the same attitude as the Stearns on steroids.
These are an additional 50 off-the-map places (Bobo Drive-In in Topeka,
Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken in Memphis, Gorilla Barbeque in Pacifica, CA.
The book is arranged by four regions: north, south, Midwest,
west/southwest. Each restaurant has a description with co-ordinates, a
pix or two, notes and comments, and recipes. From Kelly O's diner in
Pittsburgh there is haluski (cabbage and noodles), followed by Fieri's
own Holy Haluski (a hotter version). From the Beacon Drive-In in South
Carolina, there's lightly breaded onion rings and pimento cheese
spread. Schooner or Later in Long Beach. CA there is Schultzie's Mess
(hash browns, ham, pepper, eggs, cheese, salsa, avocado, etc.). Great
fun if you are in the mood for something different. There's a recipe
index by course, and a list of all the restaurants used in the show, in
alphabetical order, with addresses, websites and phone numbers.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no metric table of equivalents. Quality/Price rating: 84.
27. PIZZA & WINE; authentic Italian recipes and wine pairings (Gibbs
Smith, 2009, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0514-0, $19.99US soft covers)
is by Chef Leonardo Curti, co-proprietor and executive chef at Santa
Ynez's Trattoria Grappolo (founded 1997). He also caters, teaches and
promotes a line of pasta sauces. Everything here from the restaurant
was done in a wood-fired oven, and that makes it hard for home cooks
outside of California where the weather allows year-round ovens in the
back yard. Nevertheless, you can use a conventional oven (with a pizza
stone) or even your grill. He gives us lots of material on types and
varieties of wood-fired ovens. There are the basics of pizza dough and
tomato pasta sauces. He opens with focaccia and sides, moving on to
vegetarian pizzas, meat, and seafood. Variations come next with
calzones, panzerottis, and shiacciatas. Preps come with wine
recommendations that smack of product placement since a winery logo is
used, and not a label. The wines are also indexed separately. The wines
are local to him (Central California), and we don't see many of them in
Canada. Too many non-food or non-relevant photos are included.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents. Quality/Price rating: 81.
28. FRESH WITH ANNA OLSON (Whitecap, 2009, 200 pages, ISBN 978-1-55285-
995-7, $29.95 CAD soft covers) is by the host of the Food Network's
"Sugar" and the new series, "Fresh with Anna Olson". This book
accompanies or is derived from that show, and is a follow-up to her
earlier success "In the Kitchen with Anna". Again, the emphasis is on
Fresh, Easy, Local, Seasonal, and Quick – what we call "FELSQ".
Sometimes it can be "FELSOQ" by adding Organic. And that's the trend in
most cookbooks on the market today. This book has an edge in that it is
Canadian and it comes from a popular TV show. The arrangement is by
season, from spring through winter. For the latter season, you can have
potato soup with bacon and cheddar or perhaps vegetable chowder. For a
light entrée, there are her quesadillas or walnut brie strudel with
ricotta. Try also rosemary roasted lamb with date pistachio salsa, or
Israeli couscous with olives, arugula and feta. What makes the book
work is the variety of cook's notes ("fresh take") for each recipe.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements. Quality/Price rating: 85.
29. COOKING IN CAJUN COUNTRY (Gibbs Smith, 2009, 160 pages, $16.99 US,
ISBN 978-1-4236-0487-7, paper covers) is by Karl Breaux, who has his
own Cajun cooking show on TV (check out Chere
Dastugue Coen is the focusing food writer; she does a weekly food
column. There are about 100 recipes here, all flavourful, some hot and
spicy, some with optional hot sauce. Cajun food is derived from the
immigrant roots of the Acadian diaspora (1755), African, Italian,
Lebanese, and Creole French. He has seven chapters of food from the
regions: Acadian coast, wetlands, upper prairie, lower prairie, Bayou,
southwest Louisiana, and the marshes. Along the way he provides an
engaging culinary history, filled with some anecdotes. In the appendix
he has listed food festivals in Cajun country, Cajun food websites,
Cajun tourism websites, and even a short bibliography for four
important books. Here are the classics: Vacherie chicken creole,
andouille-stuffed pork loin, file gumbo, roux, oyster patties, piquante
sauce, crab rice, Cajun brisket, and pralines – along with the regional
variations. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents. Quality/Price
rating: 87.

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