Search This Blog

Friday, July 13, 2012

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 –
18. RAO'S ON THE GRILL; perfectly simple Italian recipes from my family
to yours (St. Martin's Press, 2012; distr. Raincoast, 158 pages, ISBN
978-1-250-00627-1, $35 US hard covers is by Frank Pellegrino, Jr., a
fourth-generation scion of the family that founded and still runs 115-
year old Rao's restaurant in East Harlem. There are also other
cookbooks from Rao's (and a line of homemade sauces and pastas), but
this book concentrates on Italian grill cooking. It's arranged by
course, from apps to desserts, with digressions for beef, pork, veal,
chicken, seafood, pasta, and pizza. There's a primer on grilling, plus
details on how to make those impressive grill marks on such as polenta
or peaches. Ingredient listings are in bold, and there is plenty of
room for each recipe. And there are wider indentations in the index, a
boon. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Try grilled
chicken with tomato and basil salad, grilled salmon with asparagus and
almonds, sausage and pepper stomboli, or grilled shrimp oreganato – all
of it truly al fresco.
Quality/price rating: 86.

19. PIKE PLACE MARKET RECIPES; 130 delicious ways to bring home
Seattle's famous market. (Sasquatch Books, 2012; distr. Random House of
Canada, 206 pages, ISBN 978-1-57061-742-3, $23.95 US soft covers) is by
Jess Thomson, a Seattle-based free-lance writer and cookbook author.
Here she delves into the stories behind the world-famous Pike Place
Market in Seattle. It's more than 100 years old and has some 55 produce
and specialty stores, plus 18 restaurants. This is both a cookbook for
the local food of Washington, plus a tour guide to the market. There
are back-stories to most of the businesses, plus contributed recipes
(all sourced). It is conveniently arranged by product -- seafood,
foraging, garden, meats, and so forth – with a listing of preps by
course, 15 menu suggestions (with page references) and a resource
directory list to all the businesses at the market. Try whole-wheat
pull-apart cinnamon bread, smoky bacon and kale gratin, devilled duck
eggs, or mussels with Pernod cream. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
20. ESPANA; exploring the flavours of Spain (Gibbs Smith, 2012, 232
pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-2423-3, $40 US hard covers) is by Chef James
Caruso, who came to New Mexico in 1989 and later opened La Boca in
Santa Fe, specializing in tapas and other Spanish foods. Some of his
preps have been tempered by Mexican influences as well. Spanish
condiments such as saffron and honey, olives, peppers and chorizos can
define the flavours. This is upscale food, largely based on La Boca's
menus and tapas. The range is from salads through soups and stews,
veggie tapas, seafood tapas, meat tapas, mains, and desserts. Just
about any main can become a tapa (re-size it), and just about any tapa
can become a main. Try chorizo toasts with fried quail eggs, shrimp
pancakes, rice with squid, roasted harissa chicken with couscous, blood
sausage with apples, or salt cod puree with egg and toast. There's a
fair bit of detail about the restaurant, the elements of Spanish food
in general, and exceptional close-up photography. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a
table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
21. VEGAN COOKING FOR CARNIVORES; over 125 recipes so tasty you won't
miss the meat (Grand Central Life & Style, 2012, 230 pages, ISBN 978-1-
60941-242-5, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Roberto Martin, who now cooks
exclusively vegan meals for Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The
preps in this book come from his repertoire. He graduated from the CIA
and then became a personal chef to celebrities, focusing on healthy
food. This book makes many vegan recipes accessible because it is
endorsed by DeGeneres. There's a small drawback: in the index, there's
an entry for honey-mustard vinaigrette, but when you turn to the prep
(which is labeled "honey-mustard vinaigrette"), he uses agave nectar.
The use of the word "honey" might turn off a true vegan. Just sayin'.
The contents are arranged by course, from breakfast through lunch
initially, followed by apps to desserts. It is also "substantial" food,
with lots of tofu and meat substitutions, to give dishes that heavier
consistency that one expects from meat. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. Try buckwheat pancakes, avocado reuben, soft
pita with hummus and almond pesto, chopped Asian salad, or chile
rellenos. Quality/price rating: 86.
22. BEERLICIOUS; the art of grillin' & chillin' (Fenn/McClelland &
Stewart, 2012; distr. Random House Canada, 308 pages, ISBN 978-0-7710-
7367-0, $29.99 CAN paper covers) is by Ted Reader, food entertainer via
TV and radio. The emphasis is on a good time, as noted by the log
rollers (Brauch, Rainford, and others). Preps come from his family,
fiends and fans, each made with a different beer that he chose for
unique reasons and flavours (with pairing and tasting notes). It's a
good idea (and you can still have wine with the food). There's the BBQ
primer, the sauces and rubs (made with beer), and then the recipes
arranged by course or product: appetizers, steer, pig, lamb-veal-game,
birds, seafood/fish, sandwiches, sides and desserts. There is no index,
which is a real shame since it would have been a good place to list all
the different beers. The table of contents is fine since that's all the
guys would use anyway! But there is no beer list. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of equivalents. For the adventuresome, try the
"General Hand Grenade Steaks with Kaboom Butter" or the appetizer,
"First-Date Explosions with Laquintas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale"
(dates, bacon, cheese, and spiced heat)
Quality/price rating: 83.

No comments: