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Tuesday, July 31, 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 –

11. FORKS OVER KNIVES; the plant-based way to health (The Experiment,
2011; distr. T. Allen, 214 pages, ISBN 978-1-61519-045-4, $13.95 US
soft covers) has been assembled by Gene Stone, and is based on the
documentary "Forks Over Knives" (2011) which examined the impact of
animal/dairy foods on the causes of degenerative diseases in humans.
Apparently, a plant-based diet decreases cancer growth and heart
disease. There is a compelling argument for this, in both the book and
the movie. The book is meant to accompany the movie since it provides
125 recipes. There's a broad range, but a good introduction for those
who are used to eating few veggies. The food is both hearty and
substantial, relying on legumes, grains, fruits, roots and salads.
There are few of the really best green plants here (no Swiss chard),
but I did note seven kale recipes. The veggies with lower appeal seem
to be missing, although there is one token prep for Brussels sprouts
and one for broccoli, one for cabbage. Still, it is a good beginner
book, driving home the Michael Pollan philosophy and the film's.
About two dozen people contributed the recipes, maybe five apiece.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 84.
12. THE FARM; rustic recipes for a year of incredible food (Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 233 pages, ISBN 978-0-547-51691-2, $30 US hard
covers) is by Ian Knauer, who develops recipes for the Food Network and
is host of his own TV shows. During the week he is a New York food
writer, but weekends he goes to his Pennsylvania farm that his family
has owned for generations. There are 150 preps here, emphasizing
market, garden or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) foods. And it
is pretty hard to beat the log rollers here: Ruth Reichl, Deborah
Madison, and John Willoughby. It is, of course, arranged by season,
from spring through winter, so there is a progression from asparagus to
garlic. There is a category list of recipes, a contents guide to
starters, soups, salads, breakfast, sandwiches, pizzas, breads, pasta,
meats, sides, preserves, and desserts. Try herb-roasted lamb shanks,
buttermilk ricotta, peaches in honey syrup, beer and garlic roast pork,
duck breasts with chanterelles, or dried-fruit-braised short ribs. Good
large print throughout. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 87.

13. THE BACK IN THE DAY BAKERY COOKBOOK; more than 100 recipes from the
best little bakery in the south (Artisan, 2012; distr. T. Allen, ISBN
978-1-57965-458-0, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Cheryl and Griffith
Day, who founded "Back in the Day Bakery" in Savannah, Georgia in 2002.
This is a collection of preps from that bakery (done in time for their
tenth anniversary), adapted for home cooks, with an emphasis on rustic
breads and decadent treats. The 100 recipes are arranged by form, such
as coffee cakes, quick breads, sweet yeast breads, cupcakes, cakes,
pies, cobblers, crisps, tarts, puddings, custards, cookies, brownies,
bars – and even savories. Included is the trendy bacon jam recipe. This
book is not for the faint-of-heart, and I dearly wish I could eat my
calories this way, but alas… Preparations have their ingredients listed
in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
14. CHARRED & SCRUFFED; bold new techniques for explosive flavor on and
off the grill (Artisan, 2012; distr. T. Allen, 266 pages, ISBN 978-1-
57965-465-8, $24.95 US soft covers) is by restaurateur Adam Perry Lang
with places in Las Vegas and London. He has won top honours on the
national US BBQ circuit. His book has already won acclaim in the US,
with backing from Jamie Oliver, David Chang and Mario Batali. This time
out he has different techniques: scruffing meat and vegetables
(roughing them up) and cooking directly on hot coals, constantly
turning and moving the meat while cooking – this is the showman aspect,
bound to appeal to those male backyard BBQ. This produces a crust and
additional flavours; I did not see any mention of added carcinogens.
He's also got quite a collection of finishing salts and dressings, as
well as side dishes (smoked garlic confit, scruffed carbonara potatoes,
charred radicchio). Typical dishes include smoked pork shoulder,
planked lobster tails, roasted rib stack, "man" steak, lamb in ash salt
crust with charcoal salt. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a separate table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

15. GELATO; simple recipes for authentic Italian gelato to make at home
(Ryland, Peters and Small, 2012, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-208-4,
$24.95 US hard covers) is by Adriano di Petrillo, owner of Dri Dri, a
London UK gelateria. Gelato is made with milk (not cream) and is made
by mantecazione (frozen and churned very slowly). It is very easy to
make, especially with an ice cream maker. With low fat (but more
sugar), gelatos are popular in the summer. There are three types here:
gelato, sorbetto, and granita (no dairy). There is also a concluding
section on serving gelato, such as blending flavours from different
scoops, making drinks, sandwiches with Florentines or brownies or
brioche. Try mango sorbet, espresso coffee gelato, lemon gelato,
licorice gelato, or strawberry sorbet. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but
there is no separate table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating:

16. THE SKILLET COOKBOOK; a street food manifesto (Sasquatch Books,
2012; distr. Random House of Canada, 148 pages, ISBN 978-1-57061-732-4,
$18.95 US paper covers) is by Josh Henderson, who attended the CIA and
began working in the restaurant trade. In 2007, he founded Skillet
Street Food in Seattle, using a vintage Airstream trailer for lunch
menu making. In 2011 it also became a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The
preps here are al street food, arranged by breakfast, lunch, diner, and
dessert. The 100 recipes include nutella crostini, skillet granola,
kale Caesar salad, poutine gravy, farro burger, and shortbread and
lemon curd. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.
17. MADE IN ITALY (HarperCollins, 2011, 389 pages, ISBN 978-1-44340-
686-4, $39.99 CAN hard covers) is by David Rocco, This is his second
book of Italian adventures derived form his Food Network show, David
Rocco's Dolce Vita (now broadcast in 150 countries). To matrch that,
he's got about 150 preps here covering the gamut of Italian food:
pizzas, pastas (but no panini), risotto, and dolci. Along the way there
are a lot of photos and text about his travels in Italy, to match the
TV series. There are also a lot of drink recipes but few wine notes.
Try his fried fennel, his espressos, chestnut fritters, rabbit with
rosemary, lamb in cherry tomato and red wine, or mascarpone and nutella
calzone. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.

18. GARDE-MANGER (HarperCollins, 2010, 2012, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-
44341-326-8, $34.99 CAN hard covers) is by Chuck Hughes, who opened
Garde-Manger restaurant in Montreal. He has also had two TV series,
"Chuck's Day Off" and "Chuck's Week Off". This current book, his first,
was published in French in Quebec in 2010, and it is now available in
English. It is a "best of" collection, says the Introduction, with
classics, standards, and contemporary spins. So it reflects the
restaurant, and begins with cocktails. There are also lots of oversized
pix of the restaurant and staff. It's mainly a seafood place, with crab
legs, calamari, octopus, sardines, but it did broaden to include steaks
(pork, lamb, beef) and chicken. There's also some good-looking close-up
photography here. Try pan-cooked smoked salmon, salt cod fritters,
lobster mushrooms and fingerling potatoes, pan-roasted halibut, or
shrimp with puttanesca sauce. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no
table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

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