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Monday, March 28, 2011


3. BEER; a genuine collection of cans (Chronicle Books, 2011; distr.
Raincoast, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-7541-7, $19.95 US paper covers)
is by Dan Becker and Lance Wilson. There are 480 beer cans here, all
with photos and short commentaries. They range from the earliest
Budweiser and Coors up through Pabst Big Cat Malt Liquor and St. Pauli
Girl. The cans come from collector Josh Russo; they are pictured
alphabetically by brand. The range is 80 years and 30 countries. Some
from the 1930s have rust spots, but no matter. You can still see the
label. The older cans had necks so the drinker could suck the beer back
as if from a bottle. My fave kinds for the cheap beers are listed under
"Generic": the no-name house brands for Price Chopper in the 1970s, or
"Beer" by Falstaff in the 1980s, and the lovely "Beer" from Pearl
Brewing in Texas (on the label its says, "Flavor and smoothness are
comparable to other beers. Advertising and packaging costs have been
minimized."). My favourite US beer was the no-name "Near Beer", lager
about 2.5% ABV, regularly selling at $1 a six-pack in the 1980s. In the
heat, you could drink it all day long with only a buzz.
Audience and level of use: beer can collectors.
The downside to this book: a little sparse on details on the history of
beer cans in general.
The upside to this book: nice photos.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
4. ITALIAN COOKING AT HOME, with the Culinary Institute of America
(John Wiley & Sons, 2011, 328 pages, ISBN 978-0-470-18258-1, $34.95US
hard covers) has been written by Gianni Scappin, Alberto Vanoli, and
Steven Kolpan. All three teach at the CIA. Kolpan was responsible for
the wine notes. Every region is covered here in this book which
straddles – comfortably – Italian restos and home cooking. Both the
classics and regional specialties are here, such as tiramisu, erbazzone
(pancetta and Swiss chard), or pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta and
cabbage) from Valtellina. After general notes on Italian food and wine,
it is arranged by type of dish or ingredient. There's spuntini (little
bites), conserve (preserves), crudi (raw), brodi (broths), minestre
(soups), pasta (both fresh and dry), gnocchi, risi (rice), pesci
(fish), carni (meats, only 30 pages), dolci (sweets). Most cheese and
wine notes are covered in the preliminary pages, but each dish gets a
set of wine notes from Kolpan (who has written many wines books).
Preparations have their ingredients listed only in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. At this
price level (it is currently on Amazon at $20.16US), and with the
definitive-type recipes from the CIA, it becomes a pretty nifty book,
with explicit and relatively easy-to-follow instructions. Try maccu
(fava been soup), ravioli di ricotta, sardine in casseruola, or pollo
al diavolo. Quality/price rating: 89.

5. MODERN BATCH COOKERY (John Wiley & Sons, 2011, 436 pages, ISBN 978-
0-470-29048-4, $65 US hard covers) is by Victor Gielisse and Ron
DeSantis, both of the Culinary Institute of America. It serves a need
for elegant, refined volume cooking at food service operations such as
restaurants, hotels, or catering firms. There's a lot of fusion-
international cuisine food here as well as nutritious-healthy food.
Just about everything is for fifty portions, and the home cook can
certainly take advantage of the book if he or she does a lot of
entertaining. Many items can be frozen or prepared in advance.
Certainly, the average restaurant can probably count on selling most of
50 portions of a dish if it is labeled "special of the day". Contents
include cooking techniques, stocks and sauces, preps for breakfast and
brunch, salads and sandwiches, entrees, side dishes, and desserts.
There is also a separate chapter for reception foods. There's also
primer material on creating a variety of flavours, labour intensity and
strategies, and costing. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
both metric avoirdupois measurements, but there are no tables of
equivalents. A dish such as chicken and shrimp gumbo, very popular
these days, calls for a half pound of andouille sausage, one pound of
chicken breasts, but 2 and a half pounds of shrimp. The trick would be
to make sure that each of 50 people gets some dices of sausage,
chicken, and shrimp. Also, the prep calls for both okra and file
powder, a distinct "no – no" in Cajun country (traditionally, you use
one or the other, but not both). Considering that it is for 50 people,
the photo of the plated product seems overly generous – 9.5 litres
total in the recipe, divided by 50 means 190 grams, just less than 7
ounces each. Better is the baby spinach, avocado and grapefruit salad.
There are a lot of sauce recipes here, good for flavouring. The book
ends with a glossary and a series of nutritional analyses for each dish
(why couldn't this be added to each prep in the main book?). Caveats
aside, it is useful for cooking for large crowds. Over 200 recipes,
many with photos. Quality/price rating: 86.
6. AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE; more than 300 recipes from my home to yours
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, 530 pages, ISBN 978-0-618-87553-5,
$40 US hard covers) is by Dorie Greenspan, a food writer, cookbook
author, and winner of a Beard (for "Baking: from my home to yours"). In
spite of these creds, the publisher still has four powerful log rollers
on the back cover – Ina "Barefoot Contessa" Garten, Patricia Wells,
David Lebovitz, and Adam Gopnik. The book's about a new generation of
French cooks and cookery, specifically women. The cuisine has been re-
invented and re-interpreted by Greenspan for our faster North American
lifestyle (there's a simple and easy roast chicken dinner for "lazy
people"). She's also got some memoirish-type stories. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no
metric table of equivalents. Most prep titles are in English only; this
alone would get rid of a lot of pretensions. There's a list of websites
as sources, but it seems most items (including this book at $31.31
Canadian, with free shipping) can be bought at It's all
a fresh look for the uncomplicated lifestyle.
Audience and level of use: French-inspired cooks and chefs.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: salmon rilettes; tartine de
viande des grisons; pissaladiere; provencal olive fougasse; socca;
gougeres; leek and potato soup, smooth or chunky, hot or cold; couscous
salad; basque potato tortilla; chicken liver gateaux; crab-avocado
The downside to this book: Ironic claims -- The publisher says, "a book
that does for a new generation what Mastering the Art of French Cooking
did for its time". Houghton Mifflin is famous for passing up Julia's
book when it was first offered in 1961. NOW it wants to trade in on
Julia's success with another publisher. Also, "hors d'oeuvre" should
never be plural.
The upside to this book: I like the attempt, but there is a "tough
sell" feel about the book.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
7. FIRE IT UP; more than 400 recipes for grilling everything (Chronicle
Books, 2011; distr. Raincoast, 416 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6505-0,
$24.95 US soft covers) is by cookbook authors and food writers, Andrew
Schloss and David Joachim. There's the usual primer-type material on
equipment and methods and techniques, plus how to build flavour into
anything grilled. The book is arranged by ingredient: beef, veal, pork,
lamb, game, poultry, fish and seafood, veggies, fruit, and other
foodstuffs. At the beginning of each section, there's a meat chart plus
advice on how to handle that particular animal (with tips and
techniques). There's a sources list with websites and phone numbers,
all American. There's a separate index to techniques, such as filleting
a monkfish tail or spatchcocking a chicken or making lamb steaks.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: BBQ fanatics.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: T-Bone of veal au poivre;
pig candy; grilled coriander chicken with margarita butter; sage-brined
roast turkey; alder-planked Pacific salmon fillet; grilled oysters;
grilled coleslaw.
The downside to this book: considering the white space available, I
think there could have been a larger font size – it looks just a tad
small to me, certainly no larger than the index font!
The upside to this book: a good database of preps and meat charts,
perhaps not as spicy as Raichlen's book (see below).
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
8. HOME HERBAL; cook, brew and blend your own herbs (DK Publishing,
2011, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-7566-7183-9, $22.95 US soft covers) is a
book package produced by the publisher on the theme of making your own
health-enhancing herbal remedies with preps developed by professional
herbalists plus over 70 recipes for herbal teas, tinctures, smoothies,
salads and soups. Most of the material has been assembled by Neal's
Yard Remedies of the UK, but there is also a credit given to Christy
Lusiak as an "Americanizer" to make the book more North American. It is
in directory format, with 100 key medicinal herbs: what each herb can
treat, how to grow it, how to harvest it, and how to apply it (with
detailed dosage advice). There are photographic demos for making
creams, bath soaks, toners, balms, face masks, soaps, and other
concoctions in a kitchen. There's a primer on herb basics, a glossary,
and some useful websites for North America. This is a nice package,
with good photos and indexing, with cross-references. Quality/price
rating: 88.
9. DIETICIANS OF CANADA COOK! (Robert Rose, 2011, 384 pages, ISBN 978-
0-7788-0261-7, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is by Mary Sue Waisman, RD,
cookbook author, and the Dieticians of Canada. Here are 275 recipes
that celebrate food from field to table. It is based on SLOFE
principles (seasonal, local, organic, fast, and easy) wherever
possible, and it is out just in time for Nutrition March 2011,
celebrating healthy eating. The book opens with a lot of information
about Canadian food and types of food preps designed to retain
nutrition. There's also a nutrient analysis for each recipe. All
courses (breakfast, lunch, brunch, snacks, dinner) are covered, and the
book is primarily arranged by major ingredient of poultry, beef, pork,
lamb, game, fish and seafood, along with veggies, breads, desserts,
soups and salads. In common with all Robert Rose books, preparations
have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Recipes have been
contributed and all are attributed to the developer, usually an RD.
Audience and level of use: beginning cooks, families.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Asian chicken soup bowl;
bulgur salad with broccoli and radishes; scrambled egg pizza; veggie
bow tie pasta; mushroom and cheese risotto; pasta e fagioli; quinoa-
stuffed peppers; BBQ tarragon mustard turkey; orange nut bread; gluten-
free potato kugel.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.

10. THE KITCHEN GARDEN COOKBOOK (DK Publishing, 2011, 352 pages, ISBN
978-0-7566-7188-4, $22.95 US soft covers) has been put together by
Caroline Bretherton, described as "editor-in-chief". I'm not sure what
this means. I assume that the preps come from a wide variety of
sources. There are 200 seasonal recipes here, about 50 for each season.
The book is arranged from spring through winter, and within each, there
are sections dealing with specific ingredients. In spring, there are
asparagus, peas, fava beans, Swiss chard, spinach, rhubarb and others.
Each is given several pages. At the beginning of each, there is a
sidebar with "when to pick", "use fresh", "how to preserve" and
"freezing options". The preps are detailed as to service (normally for
4), prep time, and cooking time. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no
table of metric equivalents. There are photos of the main ingredient
plus plated finished products. Good strong typeface and well-indexed.
Techniques for preserving are explained, and include drying veggies,
making cold pickles, storing under soil, freezing fruit, making
chutney: about 20 in all. All courses are covered, from soups to
Audience and level of use: home cooks, reference tool usage.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: curried parsnip and apple
soup; rosemary jelly; caramelized pork with pecans and apricots;
Belgian endive gazpacho; French cabbage soup; roasted celery and
Stilton soup; piccalilli.
The downside to this book: I'm not sure about the provenance of these
The upside to this book: gorgeous DK photographs.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

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