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Wednesday, December 11, 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 best 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? The books 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 –

pages, ISBN 978-1-606961-573-4, $32.50 US) is by Brent Bridge and Josh
Kilmer-Purcell, founders of the lifestyle company Beckman 1802 in New
York. They focus on seasonal living, and have a show on TV and have
written other cookbooks. You can find them at Here the
boys present about 100 preps from the farm and garden, with some help
from Sandra Gluck. The book is seasonally arranged, from winter through
fall. This current book is a major accompaniment to their earlier The
Beckman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook. Classic preps here include buttermilk
pie with pecan crust, concord grape pie, sweet green tomato hand pies,
cardamom cake with coffee glaze, baked stone fruits with cannoli cream,
and lemon-toasted poppy seed cake. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

17. KEWL BITES (Rodale, 2013, 212 pages, ISBN 978-1-60961-510-9, $21.99
US paper covers) is by Reed Alexander, an 18-year old TV actor who
looks 13. He's the current spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation's
Alliance for a Healthier Generation. He's also part of Michelle Obama's
Let's Move initiative. He's a regular at food festivals, food TV shows,
and his own blog, So he's a natural as a cookbook
writer. There's some heavy duty log rolling from such as Bill Clinton
(but no Michelle Obama). It is a good book for youngsters in that this
is food that is both nutritious and easy for them to prepare, although
I'm not sure about eggplant or artichokes appealing to anybody under
25. Nevertheless, there are other concoctions here, along with a
rationale about why that food or dish is useful for any growing kid.
His faves are dark-chocolate banana marble bread, mini chicken parm
meatballs, and vegetable dumplings with lemongrass dipping sauce. The
arrangement is by type of dish (soup, salads, mains, pasta, sides,
sweets) opening with breakfast/brunch. I'm all for it if the youngsters
will not only eat it but also do their own cooking! Take it off to
college, folks.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.

18. WORLD-CLASS SWEDISH COOKING; artisanal recipes from one of
Stockholm's most celebrated restaurants (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012,
2013, 318 pages, ISBN 978-1-62087-735-7, $27.95 US hard covers) is by
Bjorn Frantzen and Daniel Lindeberg, owners of Frantzen/Lindeberg, with
two Michelin stars and Best Swedish Restaurant award for 2012. Of
course there are lots of pix of the boys, their resto, menus, and food
items. There are also details on their cooking techniques and
philosophy of dining. The preps look at shellfish, fish, breads, dairy,
meat, pork, fowl, veggies and desserts. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but
there is also a table of equivalents. Many recipes have no listed
ingredients, but they can be figured out, especially with a photo of a
plated dish beside it. There are two indexes: one to the recipes and
one to the ingredients. The adventuresome may want to try oven-baked
raspberry ice cream with licorice mousse, grouse baked in hay, confit
chin of cod (cod cheeks), or compressed watermelon and sorbet of xintai
cucumber. Cutting edge stuff, challenging at home.
Quality/price rating: 90.

19. THE SIMPLY RAW KICTHEN; plant-powered, gluten-free, and mostly raw
recipes for healthy living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2013, 207 pages, ISBN
978-1-55152-505-1, $21.95 US paper covers) is by Natasha Kyssa, a
former model who became a vegan in 1990. She's adopted a raw lifestyle,
and now runs SimplyRaw Express in Ottawa (see also
There's some impressive log rolling as well, from some such as Bif
Naked. Her latest book (an earlier one, The SimplyRaw Living Foods
Detox Manual, was published in 2009) promotes a whole-food, nutrient-
rich diet designed for optimal health. And she's had a quarter of a
century experience with this lifestyle. There are 134 recipes such as
taco verde, righteous brownies and caramel frosting, plus some cooked
vegan preps such as her family's borscht, mushroom goulash, and
Romanian cabbage rolls. The preps are coded as to contents, and
arranged in a standard format: beverages, breakfasts, soups, salads,
pates and dips, mains, and desserts. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in mostly avoirdupois measurements with some metric,
but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 88.

20. MUG CAKES; 100 speedy microwave treats to satisfy your sweet tooth
(St. Martin's Griffin, 2013, 168 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-02658-3, $22.99
US paper covers) is by Leslie Bilderback, a California restaurant
pastry chef who has also written eight books in the Idiot's and
Everything series (while doing monthly food columns), and winning big
in a reality TV cooking show on the Food Network. Here she has
assembled 100 dessert ideas for a microwaved mug (=Mason jars). These
are small bites for singles or parties, individually tailored with
assorted toppings and frostings – or not. There are preps with alcohol
infusions, dietary needs, non-cakes (puddings, pies, cheesecakes). All
it takes is five minutes – yummy. The basics are covered in 10 pages,
and classic cakes are deconstructed: buttermilk mug cake, red velvet
mug cake, banana mug cake, strawberry shortmug cake, carrot mug cake,
oatmeal-raisin mug cake. These are followed by kids, adults (liquor),
chocolate, nuts, fruit, and non-cakes. Very much worth a look,
especially if you have a microwave. Preparations have their ingredients
listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
Quality/price rating: 89.
21. WORLD FOOD CAFÉ; quick and easy recipes from a vegetarian journey
(Frances Lincoln Ltd, 207 pages, ISBN 978-0-7112-3296-9, $29.95 US hard
covers) is by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, who both once owned the
World Food Café in Covent Garden, cooking vegetarian food from recipes
uncovered in their travels. They've also written other veggie books for
Francis Lincoln, a UK publisher, including World Food Cafe Quick and
Easy in 2006. Thus, this is a follow-up book. In their travels, author
Chris photographs while he and Carolyn collect tales and preps from
home kitchens, street stalls, restos, and roadside cafes. It's arranged
by country, beginning with Bangladesh and ending with Vietnam (with
such rarities as Bhutan, Burma, Lapland and Namibia). The 100 recipes
here include such as spiced veldt bread, caramelized rum and coconut
pina assadas, crispy rice cakes, and sweet mung bean che. For
vegetarians, this book is well worth a side-trip to enjoyment.
All recipes are for four greedy or six modest portions unless otherwise
stated. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 89.

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