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Sunday, October 30, 2011

THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... 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 and/or the media personality. 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 shtick 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. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem
to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, 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 –

14. VEGAN FAMILY MEALS; real food for everyone (Andrews McMeel
Publishing, 2011; distr. Simon & Schuster, 258 pages, ISBN 978-1-4494-
0237-2, $25 US hard covers) is by Ann Gentry who owns Real Food Daily
in Los Angeles. She's written other vegan cookbooks, she's the
executive chef to Vegetarian Times magazine, and she has her own
cooking show on the Dish Network. Even so, the publisher thought it
best to have some log rolling from Deepak Chopra himself. Her current
book adds to the repertoire of vegan cookery by also making it more
accessible to regular people who are looking for a healthier lifestyle.
Healthwise, a vegan diet reduces mortality. Meatless diets promote
lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduced chances of
type 2 diabetes and renal disease and dementia. Here are about 100
preps for the whole family to enjoy, for breakfasts, snacks,
sandwiches, family-style simple meals, and the like. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are
tables of metric equivalents. Try some non-dairy milkshakes, potato-
salad with tarragon-mustard dressing, nishime-style root veggies, South
American meatless stew stuffed in a kabocha squash, baked kale chips
(crumbly), or edamame and spinach hummus with endive spears.
Quality/price rating: 88.

15. MY FATHER'S DAUGHTER; delicious easy recipes celebrating family and
togetherness (Grand Central Life & Style, 2011; distr. Hachette, 272
pages, ISBN 978-0-446-55731-3, $30 US hard covers) is by noted actress
Gwyneth Paltrow, daughter of writer-producer-director Bruce Paltrow,
who died in 2002. There's some log rolling by Mario Batali, who is also
a co-author with Gwyneth of "Spain, A Culinary Road Trip". She's also
host of a PBS series on Spain. The Spanish themes continue as Paltrow
was an exchange student, and there are many Spanish recipes in this
book among the 150 or so listed. The book is part memoir, so this tome
will also appeal to her fans, and doubly so for those who care to cook.
It is a tribute to her father who inspired in her a love of cooking.
The book is NOT to be dismissed as a celebrity fluff piece (who would
expect to find a recipe here for sriracha Thai hot sauce?). It is
actually quite good, with reliable family-style preps such as tuna and
ginger burgers, white bean soup, fish stew, spaghetti alla vongole,
broiled salmon with teriyaki, and others. Each recipe has some memory
piece, ingredients are listed in boldface, there's service numbers, and
preparation times. There are icons to represent a make-ahead, a quick
prep, a vegetarian dish, a one-pot meal, and a dress-up meal for
sophisticated diners. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
The photos of plated dishes look pretty good. There are some notes on
vegan recipes and kid-friendly recipes. At the end, there's a list of
"reliable online resources". Quality/price rating: 89.

16. FEARLESS BAKER; scrumptious cakes, pies, cobblers, cookies and
quick breads that you can make to impress your friends and yourself
(Little, Brown and Co.,; distr. Hachette, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-
07428-5, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Emily Luchetti (executive pastry
chef at Farallon and Waterbar in San Francisco, plus a 2004 Beard
Award) and Lisa Weiss (food author of several cookbooks). Log rolling
comes from Mireille Guiliano (French Women Don't Get Fat) and David
Lebovitz. There's a full range here, including bars, tarts, fruit,
sauces, and breakfast. The colourful illustrations are retro, and they
look terrific. The 175 preps all come with overall caveats: read the
prep first, measure everything, never improvise the first time, preheat
the oven, use a timer. Each prep comes with a chart between the two
authors; this replaces the general paragraph on tips and advice.
Equipment lists are noted in red; ingredient lists are noted in
boldface albeit in smaller typeface size. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of
metric equivalents.
Try almond-chocolate chip cookies, blondies, lemon angel food cake,
macaroon cake, dried cherry and apricot bread pudding, lemon Prosecco
sabayon with raspberry and blackberries, and apple turnovers. There is
also a sources list. Quality/price rating: 87.

17. LIVE RAW; raw food recipes for good health and timeless beauty
(Skyhorse Publishing, 2011; distr. T. Allen, 226 pages, ISBN 978=1-
61608-274-1, $16.95 US paper covers) is by Mimi Kirk, a television host
and writer. There are more than 120 recipes here, and the appeal is
wide. Nothing really strange. Her advice and tips include a
detoxification program for cleansing, what foods you need to eat every
day, and some beauty tips. There's material on maintaining memory and
mobility, the evils of eating animals, and how to stay young at all
ages. One major advantage of raw food is that no cooking required: an
excellent plan for hot summers or for those short on time. But still,
many foods need a dehydrator, sometimes for 10 hours or so at 105-110
degrees (pizza takes 19 hours). Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Typical recipes are given for smoothies and juices,
breakfast breads and crackers, soups, salads or course, wraps and
rolls, veggie side dishes, mains, and sweets. Quality/price rating: 86.

18. THE EAT LOCAL COOKBOOK; seasonal recipes from a Maine farm (Down
East Books, 2011; distr. Nimbus, 173 pages, ISBN 978-0-89272-923-4,
$19.95 US paper covers) is by Lisa Turner, a Community-Supported
Agriculture (CSA) farmer in Maine (Laughing Stock Farm, Freeport ME).
She's collected about 125 recipes from state chefs, farmers, and home
cooks, fleshed out with a few of her own. Her CSA helps stock many
Maine restaurants, and she also has about 80 families enrolled.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents. There are no illustrations
or photos, but then that keeps the price down. There are two recipe
indexes, one by course, and another alphabetically-arranged. The preps
are arranged by season and sourced as to provenance. Quality/Price
Rating: 87.

19. JENI'S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS AT HOME (Artisan, 2011; distr. T. Allen,
218 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-436-8, $23.95 US hard covers) is by Jeni
Britton Bauer, who owns Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams with eight stores in
Ohio and nation-wide shipping to other restaurants and stores. There
are about 100 recipes here, all arranged by season beginning with
Spring. Her primer has the basics on equipment, ingredients, and how
her ice cream shop began. There are lists of sources for spices and
extracts. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. It's a
colourful book, with different inks for the recipes, but the sans serif
font (a lot like Century Gothic) is very thin and the listing of
ingredients is in small typeface: all of which is hard to read for
these older eyes (and I just had them checked, so I am OK). Lots of
illustrations, so this must be a book to be more read than used. Her
fans and patrons will enjoy it. Try farmers' market sundae, olive oil
ice cream, riesling poached pear sorbet, salty caramel (which
apparently sells over 200 gallons a week) or coriander ice cream.
Quality/price rating: 81.

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