Search This Blog

Friday, January 18, 2013

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. LEON NATURALLY FAST FOOD BOOK 2 (Conran Octopus, 2010,
2012; distr. Canadian Manda Group, 308 pages, ISBN 978-1-
84091-612-6, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Henry Dimbleby
and John Vincent, co-owners of Leon in London (2004). Over
the years, the group has expanded to now feature nine
restaurants, serving some 50,000 people a week. This is
their second book, and contains hundreds more preps for
bold dishes that can be prepared quickly at home. It was
originally published in the UK in 2010, and this is its
North American debut. Gordon Ramsay is one of the
logrollers. Like the first book, this is arranged in two
major sections: first, "Fast Food" has recipes for just
about every occasion, taking about n20 minutes if the mise
en place is used. Typical dishes are for breakfasts, party
food, kids' meals, simple dinners. The second half is "Slow
Fast Food": preps that can be made in advance when you have
time. The layout of the book is an ADD sufferer's delight,
especially the acknowledgements pages. This may put some
people off, but I know some young people who are delighted
with a book that actually seems to have material that leaps
off the page, or, as they say, comin' right at ya! Typical
preps include the upside-down apple and cardamom tart
(which is, in the book, upside down, complete with rotated
pictures), slow-cooked lamb, chicken with green olives and
preserved lemons, and Spanish pot roast. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but
there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price
rating: 85.
15. KEYS TO THE KITCHEN; the essential reference for
becoming a more accomplished, adventurous cook (Chronicle
Books, 2012; distr. Raincoast, 448 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-
0129-3, $35 US hard covers) is by Aida Mollenkamp, a TV
host (Food Network, Cooking Channel), recipe developer, and
food writer, with new recipes appearing on her blog Her reference book, originally titled
"Aida's Modern Kitchen Manual" with 130 recipes, now has
305 recipes, 40 fundamental techniques (including how to
caramelize onions), and 300 photos and illustrations. Her
basic premise is that we eat out more than we should, not
many of us know how to cook, and entertaining can be
daunting. So she wants to outfit our kitchen, give us some
basic primer information, and to work on the classic
recipes. It's a good introduction to cooking, suitable even
for college students or other young people moving away from
home. Each prep has a difficulty rating, a yield, total
time, and "hands-on" time. There are sidebar tips for each
recipe, including what can be made ahead or assembled
ahead, and the like. Try pea and asparagus pasta, tomato-
orange soup with grilled cheese croutons, Swiss chard-
mushroom-ricotta frittata, triple-mushroom stroganoff,
eggplant casserole with pine-nut yogurt sauce, and
chocolate chip-ground coffee bean cookies. Preparations
have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no separate table of
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

16. NOW EAT THIS! ITALIAN; favorite dishes from the real
mamas of Italy (Grand Central Publishing Hachette Book
Group , 368 pages, ISBN 978-0-446-58451-2, $26.99 US hard
covers) is by Rocco DiSpirito, a celebrity chef (Union
Pacific and TV shows) who has authored similar books about
low-cal Italian food. Beginning in September 2012 he
appears nationally on US TV with a syndicated show. Here he
has recreated 90 classic Italian recipes for a healthy
lifestyle: they are low in calories and in fat but still
maintain great flavour, principally due to the seasonings
of herbs. It's a book designed for those who want to lose
weight. Classic dishes include tuna crudo, clams oreganata,
eggplant rollatini, Italian wedding soup, pasta e fagioli,
panzanella, butternut squash risotto, lasagna Bolognese,
and torta di noci. Each dish is under 350 calories, so a
whole three-course meal should be under 1000 calories.
There are perhaps too many gratuitous photos of family and
friends, but there certainly are enough illustrations of
foods. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Additional material includes two meal plans
for two weeks each, a staples-larder list, lots of shopping
lists, and some online internet resources. The index, while
in tiny type, has the major ingredient and indexed entries
in bold faced caps. Quality/price rating:  86.
17. REAL MEXICAN FOOD; authentic recipes for burritos,
tacos, salsas and more (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2012, 144
pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-342-5, $24.95 US hard covers) is by
Felipe Fuentes Cruz and Ben Fordham. Together they run
Benito's Hat in London England, now in four locations. Ben
runs it and Felipe devises all the dishes. Check out These are largely family-style
recipes, with an emphasis on home. There's a chapter on
starters (antojitos), sopas and ensaladas, mains, sides,
salsas, desserts and drinks. There's roasted pumpkin with
chard and mushrooms, baked sea bream with garlic butter,
corn tortillas dipped in black bean sauce with queso
fresco, coriander-lime rice, salsa brava, and shrimp tacos.
The photography, like most Ryland books, is gorgeous and
appetite-provoking. Certainly this is a sure winner book
for fans of the restaurant and for those who like to cook
uncomplicated Mexican food at home. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.

18. TRUE FOOD; season, sustainable, simple, pure (Little,
Brown, 2012, 255 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-12941-1, $29.99 US
hard covers) is by Andrew Weil and Sam Fox, with Michael
Stebner. Weil is well-known for his books and columns on
alternative health practices and issue (including many food
recipes). He is partner with Sam Fox in the True Food
Kitchen chain. Stebner is the executive chef of these
restaurants. The work comes heavily endowed with log
rollers Alice Waters and Marion Nestle. It's a book based
on SLOFE principles (seasonal, local, organic, fast, and
easy); there are about 150 recipes adapted from the six
restaurant chain. The important thing you need to know
about Andrew Weil is that the guy is completely
trustworthy: he has impressed me for over 20 years. Other
than that, this is good food with plenty of explanations
from Weil and a pantry to start up. You cannot go wrong
here. There are good illustrations and sufficient white
space in the book's layout. The chapters follow a daily
meal, with breakfast, appetizers, salads, soups, mains,
pasta, veggies, desserts and drinks (only a few with
alcohol). This is a good book for the struggling dieter –
you will get your appetite sated. Dishes include chocolate-
banana tart, stir-fried long beans with citrus-sesame
sauce, bibimbap, bison umami burger, and halibut with
fingerling potatoes. There are no tables of nutritional
sources. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents, which is a shame for international sales.
Quality/price rating: 88.

No comments: