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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Some More recent cookbooks

SAINT-EMILION (Feret, 2011; distr. Wine Appreciation Guild, 192
pages, ISBN 978-2-35156095-1, $65 US hard covers) is by Philippe
Dufrenoy, a painter who uses wine in his paintings, and photographer
Jean-Marie Laugery. It is an oversized art book, crammed with
photographs of the village of Saint-Emilion and the region. The
cultural landscape was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The
authors begin back in pre-historic times and move through the present
day, stopping off to show us the Pierrefitte Menhir monasteries,
churches and other buildings, as well as lamprey fishing, private and
public collections of art, gastronomy, wine estates, colourful
characters, famous people (including artists), and more. Each topic
gets a double spread: stonecutters, Chateau de Pressac, the river,
church steeple, vineyards, Fongaban Valley, garage wines, wine ladies,
vintages. There is a table of contents; no index is needed.
Audience and level of use: Saint-Emilion lovers, armchair travelers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Michel Rolland is a key
figure in Saint-Emilion, and he uses his experience to create wines
with attitude.
The downside to this book: it needs more text, if only for more
background detail.
The upside to this book: the photographs.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

4. FROM A SOUTHERN OVEN; the savories, the sweets (John
Wiley & Sons, 2012, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-118-06775-8,
$32.50 US hard covers) is by Jean Anderson, author of more
than 20 cookbooks, and national magazine food writer. She's
also a six-time best cookbook award winner. Still, the
publisher felt she needed log-rolling, probably because
everybody's doing it. So she gets endorsed by Sara Moulton
and baker-author Nick Malgieri. She does the savouries
first, from apps through mains, veggies, breads, and then
the sweets (pies, puddings, pastries, cobblers, cakes,
cookies). Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
Audience and level of use: those who love southern food,
foodies who want historical detail.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: chicken (turkey)
and dressing casserole; crab pie; scalloped oysters;
cheddar biscuits; chocolate chess pie; blind hare;
casserole corn bread.
The downside to this book: does she really need logrolling?
Also, the index has no direct entry for chess pie.
The upside to this book: there's a huge resources list.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.

5. IN SEARCH OF PINOT NOIR (Vendange Press, 2011, 424 pages, ISBN 978-
1-9837292-0-4, $45 US hard covers) is by Benjamin Lewin, Master of
Wine. As a long-time academic and writer of molecular biology, Lewin is
now focusing on wine. In his first book (there are more on the way), he
explored an overview of the financial forces making Bordeaux wines so
pricey today. His current book shifts the focus to pinot noir around
the world. Every winemaker wants to be known as the guy (or girl) who
can be successful with pinot noir outside of Burgundy, a sort-of Holy
Grail search. He visits all the cool climate places in the world
(Europe, West Coast of North America, Australia and New Zealand, with a
few paragraphs on South America, but unfortunately nothing on Niagara
or British Columbia). He looks at the various styles of pinot noir
outside of Burgundy, and describes many vineyards and wineries, with
tasting notes. The hunt is on…He examines terroir vs. winemaking
(nature vs. nurture) without any conclusions. Many questions are
raised, such as the practicality of limestone soils, the ability to
consistently make good pinot noir vintage after vintage, and the
striving for most wineries to try to emulate high-quality Burgundy.
There is a concluding bibliography and endnotes.
Audience and level of use: a good grape variety book, useful for pinot
noir or Burgundy specialists and wine schools.
Some interesting or unusual facts: the guy down the road is just as
likely to make good pinot noir as you are, but probably not year in and
years out.
The downside to this book: physically, the book is hefty to hold – this
is because of the coated paper needed for the colour photos.
The upside to this book: a must read, gripping in its intensity.
Quality/Price Rating: 92.

6. UNBELIEVABLY GLUTEN-FREE! Dinner dishes you never
thought you'd be able to eat again (Workman Publishing,
2012, 374 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-7178-3, $18.95 US soft
covers) is by Anne Byrn, author of the Cake Mix Doctor
series, which have sold over 3.5 million copies. She
concentrates on all of the popular foods such as pizzas,
pastas, meat loaves, cakes, and brownies. She's got 125
recipes, replacing wheat-barley-rye with gluten-free
ingredients. Everything is accessible and easy. Each prep
has a prep time and cooking time, plus a yield, with
minimal steps. Good basic comfort foods. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but
there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginning cooks, people who need
gluten-free foods.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: classics of
panzanella salad, French onion soup, spaghetti carbonara,
pesto pizza, lemon pudding cake, red velvet cake, orange
cupcakes, peach cobbler, and brownies.
The downside to this book: it's a little late in the game
to declare "dinner dishes you never thought you'd be able
to eat again".
The upside to this book: if anything, it should help
popularize the gluten-free approach to life.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.

7. ALL YOU KNEAD IS BREAD; over 50 recipes from around the
world to bake & share (Ryland Peters and Small, 2012;
distr. T. Allen, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-257-2 $24.95
US hard covers) is by Jane Mason, a UK bread teacher. Her
take on breads includes international coverage such as
French brioche, Armenian pizza, Chinese steamed buns, pita
bread, soda bread, cinnamon buns, cheese rolls, and corn
bread. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both
metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginning bakers, those looking
for international breads of other cultures.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: pide ekmeghi
(Turkey), graubrot (Germany), pane di Genzano (Italy), pan
de muerto (Mexico), semlor (Scandinavia), aniseed bread.
The downside to this book: a good selection of recipes, but
I think another 25 would have been useful.
The upside to this book: Strong photographs, always
a plus with Ryland Peters & Small.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
8. DIVINE VINTAGE; following the wine trail from Genesis to the Modern
Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; distr. Raincoast, ISBN 978-0-230-11243-
8, $27 US hard covers) is by Randall Heskett (biblical scholar, former
wine importer, now President of Boulder University) and Joel Butler
(president of the Institute of Masters of Wine, North America).
Together they trace the development of both grapes and wines from the
beginnings in the Fertile Crescent, through the Roman Empire, and into
the Modern Era. It takes a close look at wines made with ancient
techniques. There is also an interpretation with Biblical texts to
references about wine, such as Jesus turning water into wine. There's
also information about kosher wine and how it developed. The last half
of the book deals with modern day countries, and presents us with the
current situation in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Greece,
along with tasting notes. At the back there are end notes and a fairly
comprehensive bibliography for more reading. Extremely readable.
Audience and level of use: Biblical scholars, those interested in wines
from the Middle East.
Some interesting or unusual facts: all cultures and religions had wine
gods, and some were better than others – Gestinanna, Osiris, Eshcol,
Baal, Dionysus, Bacchus.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
9. THE LITTLE PARIS KITCHEN; 120 simple but classic French recipes
(Chronicle Books, 2012; distr. Raincoast) is by Rachel Khoo, whose bio
on the inside of the dust jacket is vague and cryptic. She's earned a
degree at Le Cordon Bleu and now apparently "travels the world working
on a variety of projects". The book was originally published in England
by Michael Joseph (Penguin Books) by picked up by Chronicle in North
America, not Penguin. In addition, the book was manufactured in
Germany. Now, I have to say that in a lifetime of dealing with English-
language books, it has been decades since I've seen one made in
Germany. There must be some new Euro legislation…Anyway, the book is
basic, and I am not sure if we even need it, given that it seems to be
the same classics and variations that existed in other cookbooks for
quite some time. While the food shots look appetizing, there are too
many photos of Khoo or of stores. Her topics range from everyday
cooking to snack time to summer picnics to aperitifs to dinners and
sweets. This is French home cooking for a small or galley kitchen. Many
items have been miniaturized, such as coq au vin on skewers, croque
madames baked in muffin tins, and the like. There's a listing of her
fave foodie places in Paris. Preparations have their ingredients listed
in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents
at the back of the book.
Audience and level of use: young people far from home in small
Some interesting or unusual recipes: rabbit liver pate; speedy
sauerkraut; cured sausage, pistachio and prune cake; upside-down apple
tart; cherry tomato and vanilla compote; smoky fish bake; cassoulet
soup with duck.
The downside to this book: too many pix of the author.
The upside to this book: many of the food pix.
Quality/Price Rating: 81.
10. VIRGIN VEGAN; the meatless guide to pleasing your palate (Gibbs
Smith, 2012; distr. Raincoast, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-2516-2,
$19.99 US hard covers) is by Linda Long, author of Great Chefs Cook
Vegan which featured 25 top chefs preparing plant-based foods. She's
also a food stylist and media host, writing for a number of vegetarian
publications. Here she opens with material about the vegan lifestyle
and what it all means, and then moves on to nutrition and the recipes.
She's got breakfast, some drinks, salads, soups, veggies such as kale
and sweet potatoes, squash, grains, beans and lentils, tofu, pasta and
pizza, sandwiches, and desserts. There are also some recommended
resources with websites. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegans or vegetarians.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: edamame combo salad; arugula
watermelon salad; sesame soba noodles with peanut dressing; diner egg
and olive salad sandwich; chickpea pesto.
The downside to this book: teeny tiny print for the index.
The upside to this book: good, no-nonsense collection of preps.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.

  +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 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. COOKING ITALIAN WITH THE CAKE BOSS; family favorites as
only Buddy can serve them up (Free Press, 2012; distr.
Simon & Schuster, 365 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-7430-9, $30 US
hard covers) is by Buddy Valastro, celebrity chef on a TLC
TV series. His family owns Carlo's Bake Shop. These are his
family's fave preps, along with some memoirish material
about the food's history. Here are 100 recipes in the
Italian-Americano mode. Valastro is better known for his
baking, but at home he works with his family's recipes. So
we have the traditional from his grandmother, such as pasta
carbonara and eggplant parmesan, and some modern
contemporary dishes. There are indications of prep times
and cooking times. All courses are presented, from apps
through desserts, with salads, soups, pizzas, pasta, mains
and sides. There is even a chapter on Italian pantry
basics. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
Quality/price rating: 84.
12. COOKING WITH LOVE; comfort food that hugs you (Free
Press, 2012; distr. Simon & Schuster, 311 pages, ISBN 978-
1-4516-6219-1, $30 US hard covers) is by Carla Hall, a co-
host on ABC and Bravo's cooking shows. She also runs an
artisanal cookie company in Washington, D.C. Here she is
assisted by Genevieve Ko a food writer and food editor.
This book has 100 preps in the comfort food mode, and
ranges from apps to desserts. Typical dishes are chicken
pot pie (with crust on the bottom), creamed chicken with
broccoli and mushrooms, southern fried catfish, beer-
braised pulled barbecue brisket, smashed herbed potatoes,
creamy mac and cheese – all the foods we grew up with.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 84.

13. SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS; recipes, techniques, and
tricks from America's greatest cooks (Artisan,2012; distr.
T. Allen,386 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-439-9, $27.95 US hard
covers) has been assembled by food blogger Adam Roberts who
also has hosted several shows for the Food Network plus
writing articles for online magazines. It comes with heavy
logrolling (Chang, Lee Brothers, Hesser, Lebovitz,
Andrews). It is a collection of preps from some US chefs
(the book was originally called "Great Chefs" but got
changed to "Best Chefs"…subtle). There are about three
recipes from each of 50: Alice Waters, Lidia Bastianich,
Sara Moulton, and Michael White – just to name a few. He's
got some basic stories about each of them, along with a
photo or two plus, of course, three recipes which he fine-
tuned for home kitchens. There's crostini with sugar snap
peas and radishes and anchovies, spinach calzone with
cheeses, scallop chowder, beet salad with pecans, chicken
liver mousse, and lentil soup with sausage. Eclectic, but
then that's what sells cookbooks. There's a resources list,
but do also look at his blog
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.
14. MY YEAR IN MEALS (Atria Books, 2012; distr. Simon &
Schuster, 310 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-5972-6, $29.99 US hard
covers) is by Rachel Ray, TV celebrity chef and hostess.
She has more than 500 recipes for a year of cooking. It is
also a flip book with a smaller section by John Cusimano, a
musician and a producer with a flair for mixing drinks. His
part of the book (on the reverse) is only 57 pages long,
but covers 100 cocktail preps. The Gunga Din and Quince
Sling have been augmented by the Morning Glory Fizz,
Whiskey Rickey, and the Purple Plum. Ray's book is the more
compelling since many of her recipes are quite good and
unusual. There are ten smart tags to access digital
information such as videos on choosing seasonal
ingredients, Italy, holiday traditions, entertaining tips,
and some bonus recipes. The book itself is arranged by
month, from April to March (the fiscal year???). Dinners,
lunches, and breakfasts are laid out in a monthly calendar,
although there usually is only one or two meals a day
listed. The recipes have the ingredients highlighted in a
colour, which usually works as a standout until you get to
the pastel colours. Then it becomes hard to read. Try
dandelion greens with eggs and potatoes, mixed herb pesto
penne, chapata with manchego potatoes eggs and Serrano ham,
buffalo chicken meatballs, and lots of comfort food. But
will somebody please kill the references to EVOO? It's
evil. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
15. TACOS, TORTAS, AND TAMALES; flavors from the griddles,
pots and streetside kitchens of Mexico (John Wiley & Sons,
2012, 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-118-19020-3, $19.99 US hard
covers) is by Roberto Santibanez with J.J. Goode. The
former has written three Mexican food books, and currently
is the chef-owner of Fonda in New York City; the latter is
a professional writer and co-author of six cookbooks. They
show the variety of tacos in Mexico: fish tacos in Baja,
slow-cooked pork tacos in Yucatan, poblanos pepper tacos in
Mexico City. There are also Mexican sandwiches (torta) and
tamales. In addition, there are recipes for a variety of
mostly fresh salsas, fresh juices (aguas), margaritas and
desserts. The tortas chapter is really interesting: not
many Mexican cookbooks deal with tortas, but certainly they
are a viable street food component. Just not as exotic as
tacos or tamales. And of course, there are cold and hot
tortas, each with pronounced Mexican seasoning of some
kind. There are also many descriptions of food stands, with
photos, a glossary, and a list of websites to buy food not
locally available. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 87.

16. THE BROWN BETTY COOKBOOK; modern vintage desserts and stories from
Philadelphia's best bakery (John Wiley & Sons, 2012, 192 pages, ISBN
978-1-118-14435-0, $22.99 US hardbound) is by Linda Hinton Brown and
Norrinda Brown Hayat. Linda grew up in a home where her mother, Betty,
regularly baked a collection of pies, cakes, and biscuits before church
on Sundays. Norrinda is Linda's daughter, and together they opened
Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Philadelphia. There are only three
chapters here: pies, cakes and cookies. But liberally scattered
throughout are stories of home, making this a sort-of memoir cookbook
about home and the bakery. There are macadamia cookies, red velvet,
sour cream pound layer cake, sweet potato cake, rice pudding and s
strawberry letter. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 87.

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