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Tuesday, July 30, 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 at home, 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 photo
shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other
celebrities in magnificent cases 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. A TIME TO COOK; dishes from my southern sideboard (Gibbs Smith,
2013, 184 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3114-9, $35 US hard covers) is by
James T. Farmer III, currently an editor-at-large with Southern Living
Magazine. He's a landscape designer with several books to his credit.
He's also appeared many times on national and regional television. Here
he gives us his family recipes for southern food. But also he gives us
stories and photos of his plates, silvers and linens which have been
passed down. Much of the book is decorative with these heirlooms,
emphasizing arrangements, but there are also memoirish episodes dealing
with menus and southern life. He's got a Sunday dinner (country fried
steak, butterbeans, buttermilk whipped potatoes, yeast rolls, tomatoes)
and a New Year's Day menu (pork loin, collards, hoppin' john,
cornbread, black-eyed peas, pecan pie). There's a summer garden dinner,
a fish fry, a "breakfast for supper", classics, and a low-cal/low-fat
menu. There's a huge section on salads and apps, followed by veggies
and soups, meats, eggs, breads, desserts, pickles and preserves. A
virtually complete book, down to resources for shopping online for
plants, antiques, farms, and markets. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of
metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
12. PATISSERIE AT HOME; step-by-step recipes to help you master the art
of French pastry (Ryland Peters & Small, 2013, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-
84975-354-8, $27.95 US hard covers) is by Will Torrent, and award-
winning chef who has worked with Blumenthal and Oliver, and at
Claridges, The Dorchester and The Fat Duck, while appearing on UK
television. He gives us recipes for feather-light chocolate and coffee
éclairs filled with pastry cream, classic lemon tart, buttery
croissants, and more: 80 French pastries in all. There are step-by-step
photos and careful techniques. Chapters cover patisserie, tarts, petits
fours, gateaux and desserts, and viennoiserie, beginning with an
extensive chapter on basic techniques. Superb layout, but no gluten-
free flours are used. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
both metric and avoirdupois measurements, with no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.
13. SAVORY BITES; meals you can make in your cupcake pan (Stewart,
Tabori & Chang, 2013, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-61769-019-8, $27.50 US hard
covers) is by Hollis Wilder, a two-time "Cupcake Wars" champion and the
owner of SweetbyHolly, a small chain in Florida. She's also been on the
Food Network and the Cooking Channel. The preps call for a 12-well
classic cupcake pan, but you can also use a larger muffin tin. Here is
a variety of small bites, most of which will not dribble down your chin
if properly made. She's got them for breakfast, with eggs and cheese,
pasta and rice, veggies, seafood, poultry and meats. It is all good
stuff, particularly since you do it yourself for a meal or a party. The
preps are quick to cook, the instructions are detailed, and there is a
certain panache when served. Try welsh rarebits with apple ketchup,
eggplant pasta timbales with beef ragu, risottos with green veggies,
lamb tagine hand pies, turkey-apple-sweet potato pies, or avocado
mousses with shrimp and mango. Egg roll wrappers or purchased pie dough
are used, for simplicity sake. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
14. PLUM; gratifying vegan dishes from Seattle's Plum Bistro (Sasquatch
Books, 2013; distr. by Random House Canada, 142 pages, ISBN 978-1-
57061-791-1, $29.95 US and CAN hard covers) is by Makini Howell, a
lifelong vegan who has created a group of restaurants, Plum
Restaurants. The group is focused on organically-grown seasonal
vegetables, non-GMO soy, and organic and local fruits and herbs from
family-owned farms. The preps in this book are derived from these
Seattle-based restaurants ( It's arranged by
course: apps, salads, soups, small plates, tofu-tempeh-seitan, raw,
pasta, grains and desserts. Most preps make four servings, and there
are stories behind the recipes. Try savoury French toast, lemon dill
aioli, raw kale and seaweed salad with fresh tofu, cauliflower bisque
with fresh fennel, and habanero yam soup. Gluten-free recipes are
indicated with a (GF) icon. Preparations have their ingredients listed
in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.

15. VEGAN SECRET SUPPER; bold & elegant menus from a rogue kitchen
(Arsenal Press, 2013, 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-55152-496-2, $26.95 US and
CAN soft covers) is by Merida Anderson, hostess and chef for VSS pop-up
supper clubs for diners in Montreal, Vancouver and New York (for five
years now). The food is "modern", "sophisticated", multi-course, and
plant-based; the blend is with community eating and social dining. A
large part of her repertoire is haute cuisine, but she deals nicely
with home cooked food too, also with flavour pairings, menu planning,
and plating tips for entertaining. There are 150 preps here for soups,
salads, mains, breads, grain dishes, desserts, brunch ideas, and
beverages. There is also a very useful vegan pantry with some 32 items,
including roasted garlic, smoky balsamic marinade, miso sesame
shiitakes, miso cashew cheese, apple tamarind chutney, gomashio,
rosemary olive oil, anise-toasted sunflower seeds, and quick pickled
beets. This is a treasure trove, but with only a handful of gluten-free
alternatives. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric
volumes and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of
Quality/price rating: 87.

16. ULTIMATE NACHOS; from nachos and guacamole to salsas and cocktails
(St. Marin's Griffin, 2013; distr. Raincoast, 134 pages, ISBN 978-1-
250-01654-6, $19.99 US soft covers) is from the founders of NACHOS NY
and GUACACULAR, Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson. Frank is also the
managing editor of Nachos NY, while Anderson is also a working chef de
cuisine in Brooklyn at Robicelli's Bakery. Together, they have crafted
something of a guy book for male cooks. There are more than 80 preps
for any time of day, and all feature gooey toppings and treats, the
sort of thing males like to put in their mouths. Nothing wrong with
that: but the book is a pleasant change from the BBQ manuals that pour
into my home office. It's party food, along with great beers and other
sparklers. There's some advance log rolling from Rick Rodgers, Roberto
Santibanez, and Adriana Adarme. The chapters cover salsa, guacamole,
queso, small bite nachos, breakfast, mains, and desserts, finishing
with drinks. Typical are Buffalo chicken nachos, bacon-apple guacamole,
asparagus in nachos with hollandaise sauce, black and blue burger
nachos, fried calamari nachos, and nacho dumplings with ginger-sesame
salsa and avocado-horseradish crema. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table
of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

17. SMOKE AND PICKLES; recipes and stories from a new Southern kitchen
(Artisan, 2013, 292 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-492-4, $29.95 US hard
covers) is by Edward Lee, chef/owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville,
Kentucky. He's been a two-time Beard finalist for Best Chef, he's spent
14 weeks on Top Chef, and he also writes about food (Organic Gardening,
Gastronomica). There's some heavy duty log rolling here from David
Chang (Momofuku) and Anthony Bourdain. This is Southern food with an
Asian twist, a sort of Southern fusion food. Part of the book (pigs)
had earlier been published in Gastronomica. It is an interesting book
in that he manages to combine the takes of Korean pickling with
Southern pickling (hence the title). As he says, "what I cook is who I
am". There's material on lamb, beef, birds, pigs, seafood, pickles,
veggies, bourbon and buttermilk. Preps include rice bowl with lamb and
aromatic tomato-yogurt gravy, lime beef salad, Kentucky fried quail,
panfried catfish in bacon vinaigrette, kabocha squash mac 'n' cheese,
and fried green tomato-cilantro relish. Good index. Preparations have
their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no
table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
18. HOW TO ROAST A PIG; from oven-roasted tenderloin to slow-roasted
pulled pork shoulder to the sit-roasted whole hog (Quarry Books, 2013,
160 pages, ISBN 978-1-59253-787-7, $24.99 US soft covers) is by Tom
Rea, who started his career in a gastro-pub and worked through southern
England and France in pubs and bistros. Currently, he teaches cooking
and catering. This book is a very worthwhile introduction to the pig:
where to buy, what to look for, cooking equipment needed, roasting
styles, how to handle leftovers, and how to deal with a whole pig
(snout to tail). I checked the index for "squeal", but alas,
nothing…It's a comprehensive book, with a good index to the recipes.
The pig is broken down cut-by-cut with step-by-step details for working
with each cut. Side dishes are also covered, but there are other books
that can handled this matter. What he does excel in are all the sauces,
smoking, and glazes. Try pork and caramelized apple terrine, Cajun
pork, Chinese-glazed pork belly, Jamaican jerk pork chops, and smoked
ham. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements with some metric, but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.

19. RECIPES FROM MY HOME KITCHEN; Asian and American comfort food
(Rodale, 2013, 206 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-094-8, $23.99 US hard
covers) is by Christine Ha, the winner of Season 3 of MasterChef. She's
also legally blind. There is little more I can say than to quote Gordon
Ramsay, a MasterChef judge: "The lady has an extraordinary palate. She
picks up hot ingredients, touches them, and thinks about this image on
the plate. She has the most disciplined execution on a plate that we've
ever seen." The ability to cook by sense shines through in this book.
Here are more than 75 recipes of American and Asiatic food. It is a
good basic book, with such as seaweed rice rolls, sweetbread nuggets
with bok choy, kale and mushroom chips, pulled pork, Bombay flatbread,
and more. There's a glossary, but not much on cooking by sense beyond
her Introduction. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.

20. FABIO'S ITALIAN KITCHEN; over 100 delicious family recipes
(Hyperion Press, 2013, 296 pages, ISBN 978-1-4013-1277-0, $24.99 US
soft covers) is by Fabio Viviani. He is now an owner of three Italian-
style restaurants in California and Chicago. He's been on Top Chef and
spinoffs, and also has a weekly Yahoo cooking channel, Chow Ciao! Here,
with log rolling from Batali, is a good introduction to traditional
Italian dishes, with some twists. His family's dishes range from apps
to desserts, and cover potato-ricotta gnocchi, meatballs, risotto with
pumpkin and walnuts, braised veal shanks, and gremolata. Other treats
include a bored lamb in Chianti and a 12-hour slow cooked pork butt.
Easy, not too complicated, but while I like octopus, it's too far out
on the fringe for this kind of book. Here's another good-looking chef
with a week's stubble…Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.

21. FLOUR, TOO; indispensable recipes for the café's most loved sweets
& savories (Chronicle Books, 2013, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-45210614, $35
US hard covers) is by Joanne Chang, owner and pastry chef at Flour
Bakery + Café in Massachusetts, and co-owner of Myers + Chang. There is
some heavy-duty logrolling from five players, including David Lebovitz,
Amanda Hesser, and Dorie Greenspan. These are preps from the
establishments, cut down and reworked for the family kitchen. But if
there is anything here that uses gluten-free flour, then it is not
indexed. Lots of photos about the restaurant and staff, plus some
memoirish material on how the places run. The major arrangement is by
course, beginning with breakfast and ending with party time. The sub-
arrangement is by sweets and savouries. Breakfast seems to have typical
"brunch" preps; lunch has sandwiches, soups, salads, stews. Dinner is
salads and mains; party time is snacks and desserts. Nicely put
together and photographed. Preparations have their ingredients listed
in mainly metric and avoirdupois measurements, with some just in
avoirdupois, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/Price
Rating: 86.

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