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Wednesday, June 26, 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. COOKING WITH QUINOA FOR DUMMIES (Wiley & Sons, 2013, 336 pages,
ISBN 978-1-118-44780-2, $19.99 US soft covers) is by Cheryl Forberg,
RD, nutritionist for "The Biggest Loser" and a Beard winning chef. Here
she has over 140 recipes for quinoa, highly touted (and rightly so) as
the world's greatest gluten-free and most protein-packed grain. It is
also high in fiber, contains anti-oxidants, and is rich in the B
vitamins, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. For vegetarians and
vegans, it is extremely useful since it has complete proteins. Shaped
like cous-cous, millet, amaranth, steel-cut oats, even rice, it can be
used in any prep calling for these grains/seeds. In other words, it can
be used as porridge, muffin, wrap stuffing, veggie salad, vegan burger,
and all manner of breads. Try quinoa rotelle with cannellini and wilted
arugula, chilied fish tacos with quinoa and fire-roasted salsa, or
"ambrosia" with vanilla yogurt cream. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of
metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
CHLOE'S VEGAN DESSERTS; more than 100 exciting new recipes for cookies
and pies, tarts and cobblers, cupcakes and cakes – and more! (Atria
Paperback, 2013, 257 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-3676-5, $19.99 US paper
covers) is by Chloe Coscarelli, author of "Chloe's Kitchen" and winner
of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars. Here she gives us 100 preps that
are dairy-free and (for the allergy sufferers) convertible to soy-free
and gluten-free and "sugar"-free baking. There is a good range here:
dessert for breakfast (cakes, doughnuts, French toast, muffins), spoon
desserts, plus drinks and whatever was mentioned in the subtitle (see
above). There are end chapters on the basics (piecrusts, ice cream,
sauces, nuts) and some material on the sweet pantry. There is a good
layout and a constant reminder of gluten-free alternatives.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 89.
PIES SWEET AND SAVORY (DK Books, 2013, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-0203-
5, $25 US hard covers) is by Caroline Bretherton, with Jane Bamforth.
She's a caterer, owner of Manna Café in London, TV host, family food
writer for British papers, and DK author of other cookbooks. This is a
pie reference tool, with over 230 international preps for pies and
tarts. There's a long primer on pie dough, covering sweet dough, lard-
based dough, hot-water dough, puff pastry, strudel dough, gluten-free
dough, cookie crust, edges, and baking blind. The book has chapters
devoted to poultry pies and tarts, meat pies and tarts, fish pies and
tarts, vegetarian pies and tarts, fruit pies and tarts, and other
sweeties. Try some deep fried mincemeat ravioli, or a spicy butternut
squash and feta parcel. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
mostly avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. There are also good large typefaces and an excellent
index. Quality/price rating: 89.
PATI'S MEXICAN TABLE; the secrets of real Mexican home cooking
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-547-63647-4,
$30 US hard covers) is by Pati Jinch who hosts a PBS show of the same
name as the book's title. She's also the official chef of the Mexican
Cultural Institute in Washington DC, appearing widely as a spokesperson
for Mexican culinary culture. It's an all-purpose Mexican book, meant
for families, with toned down heat and spiciness (add your own) and
titles such as "chicken a la trash" (pollo a la basura), a one-pot
meal. There's some fancy logrolling from Batali, Rossetto Kasper, and
Nathan. The book is arranged by course, beginning with condiments such
as salsa and guacamole. So there are salads, soups, vegetarian,
seafood, poultry, meat, sides and desserts, as well as drinks. The
essential ingredients for the home kitchen appear to be soft corn
tortillas, refried beans, different salsas, queso fresco, ripe
avocadoes and fresh fruit. There are other items too in the Mexican
pantry, but that requires a commitment. Personally, my wife and I also
have an Italian pantry, an Oriental pantry, and an Indian pantry. All
of this takes up room, but it is necessary. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. She's also got a good chatty style. You might
want to try pescado Rodrigo, corn torte, and guava cheesecake.
Quality/price rating: 85.

MICHAEL CHIARELLO'S LIVE FIRE; 128 recipes for cooking outdoors
(Chronicle Books, 2013, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0181-1, $35 US hard
covers) comes with SEVEN log rollers, including Batali (who else?),
Lagasse, Bastianich, Michael White, and Mariani. Chiarello runs Bottega
restaurant in the Napa, and has authored other cookbooks. Here, he is
assisted by Ann Krueger Spivack (tester) and Claudia Sansone (writer).
In addition to the grill, the book features six ways to cook with flame
and embers, with chapters for each (hearth, plancha, fire pit, hot box,
rotisserie, embers). Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents at
the back of the book. Typical preps include glorified burgers, gourmet
pizzas, a dinner by the lake, and a backyard camp-out breakfast. Lots
of safety tips too, for this is not just a backyard BBQ book. There are
sections on condiments and on resources. Try clams in a cataplana with
chicken-apple sausages or leg of lamb on string. Quality/price rating:

THE NEW JEWISH TABLE; modern seasonal recipes for traditional dishes
(St. Martin's Press, 2013, 328 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-00445-1, $35 US
hard covers) is by five-time Beard Award nominee Todd Gray, who is co-
owner and operator of Equinox Restaurant (and others) in Washington,
DC. His co-author is Ellen Kassoff Gray, the other co-owner of Equinox
and other restaurants. The focusing food writer here is David Hagedorn,
and there are some log rollers. This is an update on Jewish cooking,
along with some memoir material about the authors' families. It is all
arranged by season, beginning with Fall, and preps are clearly listed
as dairy, meat, parve, or mixed. Within each season, there are a
selection of brunch items, starters, lunch, dinner, sides and desserts.
There are also menus for Rosh Hashanah (curried butternut squash soup,
salt-baked red snapper, caramelized cauliflower, roasted potatoes,
almond biscotti, and apple strudel), Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, and
Passover. Some chef's notes conclude the book. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.

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