Search This Blog

Saturday, August 9, 2014

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 –
13.THE HUNGRY GIRL DIET (St. Martin's Griffin, 2014, 285 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-67679-7, $26.99 US hard covers) is by celebrity Lisa Lillien, author and TV personality of a series of Hungry Girl books going back five years – over 2 million were sold. She's got (with a free companion app to create shopping lists and track one's food) and shows on the Food Network and Cooking Channel. Here she proposes a diet of big portions, big results, and dropping 10 pounds in four weeks. It has all been vetted by David Grotto, RD. There are 60 easy recipes, including Hungry Girl classics such as oatmeal bowls, egg mugs, salads, and foil packs. And the usual tips, tricks, hints, strategies, how-tos, and food swaps or substitutions. The emphasis, as always, is on lean protein, fat-free and reduced dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, and huge portions for volume. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Quality/price rating: 85.
14.FIRE & SMOKE (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3438-0, $24.99 US soft covers) is by Chris Lilly, executive chef and partner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. Their competition cooking team has won 10 World BBQ Championships, six other world titles, and other competitions. Lilly has also written Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book. It is just one of many new BBQ books unleashed this season (see below for others), by competition champion celebrities and cookbook authors. Each, of course, has pitmaster secrets and also reflects as a Good Ol' Boy. Lilly combines the speed of grilling with smoky flavours of low-and-slow BBQ. No special equipment required: just the hot grill of smoldering coals and a rack or pan. There are 100 preps here, covering BBQ oysters, lamb ribs, grilled pizza, smoked pork belly confit, and cowboy ribeye. Sides, apps, salads, desserts, and cocktails are also here. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Profusely illustrated. Quality/price rating: 87.
15.VIRGIL'S BARBECUE ROAD TRIP COOKBOOK; the best barbecue from around the country without ever leaving your backyard (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 335 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-04109-8, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Neal Corman, executive chef of Alicart Restaurant Group, with freelancer Chris Peterson as the focusing food writer. Virgil's has been doing BBQ since 1994 in New York City, with ideas from US BBQ country of Texas, North Carolina, Kansas City and Memphis.  Here there are preps for beef (Texas brisket, chicken fried steak, burnt ends), pork (baby ribs, pulled pork, slow ham), and chicken (pulled, fried, jerked). No lamb. It's arranged by course, from apps to desserts, with suggested menus (social gatherings, game day, afternoon grill fest, fish fry, Sunday brunch – 7 in all). There are also beer notes. These are recipes modified for home use from the restaurants which use 1400 pound smokers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
16.WILEY'S CHAMPIONSHIP BBQ (Gibbs Smith, 2014, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3631-1, $19.99 US spiral bound) is by Wiley McCrary, a former Atlanta BBQ caterer, now a BBQ pitmaster champion and owner of Wiley's Championship BBQ restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. He's a co-author here with his wife Janet and Amy Paige Condon, associate editor of Savannah magazine and food writer (she's also co-authored The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook). It is all done with the engaging subtitle "secrets that old men take to the grave". It is thorough and comprehensive, with pix of techniques. The spiral binding in a plus, for the recipes can lie flat on the counter or by the BBQ. There's the primer on smoking and BBQ, calculating, sauces (he also has a line he sells), and a section on how to use this cookbook, including getting a notebook for your own revisions. He's got a beef tri-tip, a smoked leg of lamb, pulled pork, deep-fried turkey, smoked and stuffed chicken breasts, and even a seafood casserole. Sides and accompaniments include fried pickles, black-eyed pea hummus, grilled peaches, and a bread pudding with bourbon. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents on the inside back cover.
Quality/price rating: 88.
17.THE LUCKY SANTANGELO COOKBOOK (St.Martin's Press, 2014, 162 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-01465-8, $27.99 US hard covers) is by novelist Jackie Collins, who needs no further attribute. Here are 100 recipes inspired by the seven novels featuring Lucky Santangelo: the world of lust, intrigue, violence, and redemption. Maybe the latter involves cooking. Most of the dishes here are traditional Italian, glam desserts, and over-the-top cocktails. Just what Collins' readers need. The Italian dishes include pasta puttanesca, angel hair pasta, fettuccine with crab and cream, chicken Milanese, and the like. There are little tidbits from the novels. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Definitely a book for her fans. Quality/price rating: 83.
18.ARTISAN BREAD (Race Point Publishing, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-937994-42-6, $30 US hard covers) is by Keith Cohen. He bought the 100-year old Orwasher's, an Upper East Side New York bakery, in 2007, and returned it to its beginning roots. Just about everything is sourced locally, and Orwasher's now has a line of artisan wine and beer breads to complement some re-inspired kosher rye and challah breads. The wine bread uses wine grape starters with natural yeasts for the leavening process. Beer breads use a local stout for the dough. There are other techniques too, and this is all carefully explained with lots of instructions and engaging photography of the techniques. The 30 recipes are all scaled. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no overall table of equivalents. A glossary concludes the book. Quality/price rating: 88.
19.RAWLICIOUS AT HOME; more than 100 raw, vegan and gluten-free recipes to make you feel great (Appetite by Random House, 2014, 174 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01618-3, $29.95 paper covers) is by Angus Crawford and Chelsea Clark, founders and co-owners of a Rawlicious mini-chain/franchise in Toronto and southern Ontario (six in all, and one just around the corner from me). This is an easy cookbook, inspired by their own resto dishes, for home preps. There is a full ranger here from drinks/smoothies, breakfasts, apps, soups, right through to desserts. There is even a section of 12 preps for common staples such as pizza crust, burger buns, tortillas, herb and onion flatbreads, and various "cheeses" from nuts. A primer covers the "raw life" and pantry/larder. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents. Typical recipes embrace a raw/vegan/gluten-free side of pad Thai, nori rolls, coffee cheesecake, and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Lots of white space and large type is a good thing here for the kitchen, but the typeface for the index is smaller than it could be. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.MARC FORGIONE; recipes and stories from the acclaimed chef and restaurant (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 417 pages, ISBN 978-1-11830278-1, $40 US hard covers) is by the eponymous chef in Tribeca, New York City. It is an acclaimed restaurant, and Forgione is also on Iron Chef America. Recently, he's opened three other restaurants. He's assisted here by Olga Massov, a Brooklyn-based food writer and blogger. There is also some heavy log rolling from Alfred Portale and Michelle Bernstein, and others. This is an illustrated memoir of his journey through life, from line cook to chef, with 170 recipes and more photos. There's also primer material on prepping food and his thoughts on the New American cuisine. His resto's most popular recipes are here: Chili Lobster, Chicken Under a Brick, Bacon-Crusted Hampshire Pork Chop, and Tortellini d'Avanzi. Other recipes are family faves or native American traditions. Most of the recipes were home-tested by his mother. There's a tool list and a sources list. All of the recipes are well-detailed. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. A great book for his fans and armchair cooks. Quality/price rating: 88.
21.GALE GAND'S LUNCH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-54422650-0, $27.99 US hard covers) is by a Bear Award winner and co-founder of TRU in Chicago. She has made multiple appearances on Food Network shows, including hosting Sweet Dreams. She's written seven other cookbooks. Focusing writer Christie Matthews is a food writer, and coauthor of other food books, including one other book with Gale Gand. To complete the picture there is an A-list of log rollers, including Batali, Cat Cora, Moulton, and Dupree. Gand tries to re-invent lunch, steering people away from a medley of breakfast leftovers and vending machines and food courts, to some decent and relevant food. There are 150 heal;thy and homemade lunches here. Some of them are school lunches, while others are picnics or midday parties. All of it is fine, but it helps to have kids to partially prepare their own meals, and there is still the problem of socializing at work. There is a vast difference between eating at your desk, in a work lunchroom, and in a food court. Although, maybe with social media, we actually no longer have to talk to anybody over lunch – just text your way through the meal. Rustic ratatouille tart shines, as does a variety of veggie and fruit salads. Chipotle cheddar biscuits are filling, and Israeil couscous with cranberries and toasted pecans is something new. Well worth looking at, although time can be a problem. Healthwise, lunch should be the biggest meal of the day, loaded with energy and protein and carbos – to sustain you.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
22.TEA & TREATS; perfect pairings for brews and bakes (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-497-2, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Liz Franklin, a finalist in the BBC Masterchef competition, BBC food host and producer, and now cookery school owner and food writer. She's written two other cookbooks. Here she offers us ideas on tea time. She has 60 recipes matching tea and sweet treats. She defines the types of teas and then proposes a small baked good. So for white sweet tea (pai mu tan), there is cardamom shortbread; for fennel tea, there is lemon and almond financier. For teas you don't like, you can always make the treat and have them with something comparable. The major arrangement is by class: breakfast tea, calming tea, different tea, afternoon tea, and dinner party tea. It is a great gift book for a tea lover. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. There is also a sources list (UK and US only). Quality/price rating: 85.
23.THE SODA FOUNTAIN (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 218 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-484-9, $19.99 US hard covers) is the first book I've seen for summer. It is by Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman, co-founders of the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain. They've appeared on various TV shows and channels. And they have log rolling from such celebrities as Alain Ducasse and the Borough President. Their place, opened in 2010, replicates the soda fountain, and here the recipes deal with floats, sundaes, egg creams, and more. There are vintage illustrations and adverts, plus a memoirish history involving seltzer water. The range is from classics to contemporary, such as the Sundae of Broken Dreams, topped with broken pretzel bits, or the Makin' Whoopie with hot fudge and chocolate whoopie cake. You can make your own milkshakes and syrups and a variety of toppings (they also suggest others). There are even some resources pages, a bibliography, and a cocktail alcohol beverage section. Scaling is encouraged, so recipes have volumes indicated with weight equivalents. But preparations have their ingredients listed only in avoirdupois measurements; there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
24.EXTRA VIRGIN (Clarkson Potter, 2014; distributed by Random House Canada, 272 pages, ISBN  978-0-385-34605-4, $32.50 US hard covers) is by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos. Debi is an actress (Entourage, Goodfellas) while Gabriele was raised in Tuscany. Together they are the producers and co-hosts of Cooking Channel's primetime show Extra Virgin, which is all about Tuscan food. This book developed out of the show. It is a book about everyday good rustic food from Tuscany; most of it is traditional. Log rolling comes from Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Marty Scorsese, Bourdain, Madonna, Cat Cora, and many more. Arrangement is by course: apps, pastas, risotto, soups, salads, mains, sides, pizza, panini, desserts and drinks. There are no wine notes at all. Good classic Tuscan food. There are two dough recipes: one for pizza dough, and another for Tuscan bread dough (involving a starter). The pizza dough is in avoirdupois measurements by volume like the rest of the book. But the Tuscan bread recipe is only in metric, and it is scaled. As preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, and there is no table of metric equivalents, I find this can be confusing to the avid reader. And there is no explanation anywhere. Quality/price rating: 85.
25.MAN MADE MEALS; the essential cookbook for guys (Workman Publishing, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 631 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-6644-3, $24.95 US paper covers) is by Steven Raichlen, author of seven grilling books (one of which is the award-winning Barbecue! Bible which I reviewed in 1998, with its 500 BBQ recipes) and host of the PBS series Barbecue University and Primal Grill. The book concentrates on guy food: heavy, substantial flavours, lots of protein and starches. Veggies are mainly chiles, beans, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens, although he does have a (downplayed) salad chapter. The 300 preps here stress that knowledge is power and that all men have an inner chef who loves showing off that power. Like in the wine world, Raichlen advises kicking butt (in the introduction)-- whatever sells the book which is being billed as a cookbook, textbook, and guidebook to male cooking. He also manages to pull in material from Thomas Keller, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman, among others. The 17 food chapters embrace courses and meals, such as breakfast, sandwiches, pizza, breads, ribs, chili, soups, and a short sweet chapter (rum and coke float, affogato, bourbon brown cow, Mexican chocolate pudding, bananas Foster). There are lots of lists and tables (male things) scattered throughout, plus an opening primer. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. I found some inconsistencies in the index, such as the matter of corn-flour-taco-tortilla. Quality/price rating: 89.
26.ONE-HOUR CHEESE (Workman Publishing, 2014, 260 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-7748-7, $14.95 US paper covers) is by Claudia Lucero, a developer of DIY Cheese kits and the Williams-Sonoma's home cheesemaking kit. These preps, with colour photos of each step, tell us how to make 16 fresh cheeses at home, in an hour or less, using basic ingredients and equipment. There are also some recipes for the cheeses that we have just made, such as Mexican bahn mi torta, grilled eggplant rolls, butternut and chive crostini, and curry lettuce wraps. There is a pix of the plated dish, but no pix of the prep steps for the application of the cheeses. Covered are: ricotta, mozzarella, chevre, paneer, burrata, fresco, cottage cheese, haloumi, and others, grouped around three types (creamy, chewy, and melty). Fun for all, and quite easy. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of equivalents. There is a supplies list and a bibliography. Check out for more. Quality/price rating: 88.
27.BUVETTE; the pleasure of good food (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014, 286 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-2552-2, $30 US hard covers) is by Jody Williams, chef and owner of Buvette, a top restaurant in NYC. She recently opened a second Buvette in Paris. With some log rolling headed by Alice Waters and Mario Batali, the book is a pretty good account of a restaurant's life in the world of French and Italian bistro cooking. She makes and serves the classic dishes in a book arranged by time of day (mornings, afternoons, aperitifs, evening, sweets). There is a chapter on beverages that deals with cocktails and covers some French wine regions, but otherwise there are no wine recommendations for the courses. Her chapter on larders discusses crème fraiche, vinaigrette, herbes de provence, pistou, pickles, rouille, and about a dozen more. Try oxtail marmalade, leeks in vinaigrette, salmon rillettes, pate de campagne, duck confit, or almond toffee. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
28.THE TEXAS FOOD BIBLE; from legendary dishes to new classics (Grand Central Life & Style, 2013, 2014; distr. Hachette, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-7430-8, $30 US hard covers) is by Dean Fearing, former chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and now at Fearing's. He's been a fave chef of mine for years; maybe it's his first name. Here he offers a history of Texas food through culinary experiences. He expands it all to the southwestern regional experience through such as Navajo fry bread, sweet potato spoonbread, enchiladas, and BBQ. It is a guide to regional grilling-smoking-braising, with additional recipes from other chefs. There is also material about local suppliers. He begins with a pantry, and moves through the courses of breakfast, brunch, apps, salads, mains, sides – with other chapters on the grill and BBQ. Good boldfacing of ingredient lists, as well as a list of sources. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Try poblano-mango-carmelized onion quesadillas with cilantro-lime-sour cream, or molasses-tabasco duck with smoked veggie dressing, or even smoked salmon tartare with roast jalapeno cream and roasted garlic. Innovative stuff. Quality/price rating: 89.
29.THE NOLAN RYAN BEEF & BARBECUE COOKBOOK; recipes from a Texas kitchen (Little Brown and Co., 2014; distr. Hachette, 172 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-24826-6, $25 US hard covers) is by baseball great Nolan Ryan and three others: JP Rosenthal (food and baseball writer), Cristobal Vazquez (executive chef at Texas Rangers Ballpark), and Charlie Bradbury (CEO of Nolan Ryan Beef). Texas BBQ is all about beef, so here it is: hamburgers, hot dogs, T-bones, rib-eyes, strip steaks, tenderloins, sirloin, roasts, ribs, brisket, flank steak, flat iron steak – plus some salads and sides and desserts. It is not Dean Fearing, but it is Texas and it is beef. The idea too is to pitch Texas beef, specifically Beefmaster cattle (half Brahman, quarter Hereford, quarter Shorthorn). So you can order it, at least in the USA, and try it out on the BBQ grill. He's got easy T-bone with soy and pineapple, slow-roasted prime rib with natural jus, beer-braised country ribs, and grilled balsamic flank steak. It is a good introduction to Texas beef, with many compelling recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
30.SAUSAGE MAKING (Chronicle Books, 2014, 207 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0178-1, $35 US hard covers) is by Ryan Farr, author of Whole Beast Butchery, and owner of 4505 Meats, an artisanal meat company where he teaches butchery classes and makes sausages. Jessica Battilana is the focusing food writer. It is a basic book for home cooks, with the techniques skills and equipment needed for cooking/curing/smoking every type of sausage. The arrangement is by texture, with a section on coarse (chorizo, merguez, Italian), firm (linguica, Polish, bratwurst), soft (boudin noir, scrapple), smooth (bierwurst, bologna, wieners), and combination (duck confit and cherry terrine, headcheese). There is a major discussion of selecting meats and fats (including frog), techniques of grinding-mixing-stuffing-twisting, and cooking styles – most with photos. Typical preps of the 38 sausages here include those for goat sausage with peppers, turkey-apple-campari sausage, guinea hen and kimchee links, smoked trout and pork sausage, and the veal-sweetbread-morels en croute combo. Other recipes cover condiments and breads. There is a resources list and a picture of a side view of each sausage. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both US and metric measurements, along with ratio tables. Quality/price rating: 89.
31.COOLHAUS ICE CREAM BOOK; custom-built sandwiches with crazy-good combos of cookies, ice creams, gelatos, and sorbets.(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-12004-4, $25 US hard covers) is by Natasha Case (CEO) and Freya Estreller (business  manager), with Kathleen Squires as the focusing food writer. Coolhaus began as a food truck, but now it is a national brand. Their sandwiches are sold throughout the US at supermarkets and trucks. There are also tips on ice cream making and some memoir-like materials. Ice cream sandwiches are divided into fruity, boozy, cakey, cheesy, nutty, salty, savory, smoky/spicy – the Eight Dwarfs (my phrase) of the business. Other chapters explore gelato, sorbet, and vegan sandwiches. There is a nice chapter on vegan and gluten-free cookies to make your own. There are guides to flavours and to toppings, and of course, "making your own" is encouraged. Both my faves Earl Grey and Green Tea ice cream sandwiches are included. You can have fun with this book. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.

No comments: