3.VEGETARIAN DINNER PARTIES (Rodale, 2014, 290 pages, ISBN 978-1-60961-501-7, $32.50 US hard covers) is by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarborough, award-winning authors of more than 20 cookbooks. Here they delve into entertaining with 150 meatless meals "good enough to serve company". It's arranged by size, with chapters on no plates, small plates, soups, pastas, large plates and final plates. They open with cocktails and punches, and close with food gifts on departure, such as granola. Nice touches. Vegan dishes are clearly labeled as such, but in a lighter ink. In addition to the preps, there are some highly structured tips and advice on how to entertain a crowd, emphasizing the nicer touches (no paper napkins, for example). Menus, with page references, are given for every dish, which is a terrific idea. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegetarians, entertainers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: beet tian with walnuts and oranges; watercress and celery root salad with za'atar; pistachio shortbread with tomato gelee; fiddlehead tacos with almond romanesco; braised kobacha squash with scallions and miso; ricotta spinach dumplings with parmesan cream sauce.
The downside to this book: "vegan" needs darker ink.
The upside to this book: good menus for each dish.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
4.1000 JUICES, GREEN DRINKS AND SMOOTHIES (Firefly Books, 2014, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-77085-451-2, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is by Deborah Gray, cookbook author of healthy books such as 500 Vegan Recipes. Here she presents 100 foundation preps with 900 variations (to include milkshakes, slushies, and frappes). It is illustrated, but mostly with colourful liquids in a glass. Threads include breakfast blends, cleansing drinks, restorative drinks, energy boosters, thirst quenchers, frozen drinks, party drinks, and "mocktails". Teeny tiny typeface for the important index (locator of all recipes by name), which is unfortunate – especially since one or two nondescript photos, such as the last one for a shampagne cocktail, could have been eliminated and freed up a few pages. Those most interested in healthy food are the older folks, like myself, who struggle sometimes with computerized typeface sizing. Also unfortunate is the similar size for the list of ingredients, despite plenty of spacing. The preliminary pages deal with processing drinks (equipment, types of food, dairy alternatives, sugar substitutes nuts and seeds, supplements and additives) followed by the sections. Each has a model recipe followed by 9 or so variations. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: healthy food eaters, beginners.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: under cucumber agua fresca (flavoured water), she has herbed cucumber agua fresca, gingered agua fresca, lemongrass and ginger agua fresca, lemongrass and vanilla, cucumber cranberry, lavender, strawberry, blackberry and lemon verbena, pineapple mint, and warm lemon water.
The downside to this book: small typeface, some non-essential photos.
The upside to this book: good data collection of preps.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
5.THE FRENCH COOK: soups and stews (Gibbs Smith, 2014, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3576-5, $21.99 US hard covers) is by Holly Herrick, who is a Cordon Bleu grad and restaurant critic, living in Charleston, SC. She has also written a few cookbooks for Gibbs Smith.
This is the fourth in a series on French cuisine (Herrick has written three of them). And, of course, what better time to roll-out than with versatile soups and stews. There are photos and step-by-step techniques. The six basic stocks are here, as foundations for the soups and stews. Soups are mainly clear or delicate consommes, and creamy (corn, mushroom, chestnut, fresh pea). Some variations are noted. The basic hearty stews are here: beef bourguignon, cassoulet, lamb stew. The book is set up as a primer for beginners. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginner
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: fruity curried lamb stew, vichyssoise with asparagus, cold red pepper soup, cantaloupe soup.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
6.FERMENTED VEGETABLES (Storey Publishing, 2014, 376 pages, ISBN 978-1-61212-425-4 $24.95 US paper covers) is by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey, farmers in southern Oregon. They have created over 40 varieties of cultured veggies and krauts which they sell at their farmstand. Lacto-fermentation is a classic preserving method, yielding nutrient-dense live foods with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and priobiotics. In this book they deal with sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and fermented condiments. Then they give us about 64 different preps for fresh veggies, herbs, and fruits. There are a total of about 140 recipes here which include incorporating fermented vegetables into a plated fish for any meal. The techniques need to be mastered first, but they are easy. For example, kimchi can be made with asparagus, garlic scapes, parsnips, and snow peas. There are, of course, some ethnic flavours here. The arrangement is: primer, A-Z guide to veggie and fruits, plated dishes incorporating the fermented foods. They have a resource list, a bibliography, and a troubleshooting area ("scum") to describe problems or not-problems. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those seeking a healthier lifestyle, those with digestive issues.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: au gratin potatoes; lentils and rice; fish tacos; egg salad; zucchini muffins.
The downside to this book: nothing, really.
The upside to this book: something new, especially during the preserving and holiday seasons.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
7.THE KITCHN COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3443-4, $32.50 US hard covers) is by Sara Kate Gillingham, food writer, food author, and founding food blogger at The Kitchn (from 2005). Faith Durand is the other author; she is a cookbook writer and executive editor of The Kitchn. It is a basic book of recipes, kitchens, and tips to be an inspiration to cooking. Part one is devoted to setting up the kitchen with its tools, and then maintaining it. Then there is stocking the pantry and planning the meals, which also includes a chapter on 50 essential cooking skills. That's all in the first half of the book – then come the recipes for 150 pages. There is a resources section with a list of suppliers of essentials with some websites. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents (just a mathematical formula to multiply fluids by 30 or solids by 28).
Audience and level of use: beginners, fans of websites
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: winter squash and chicken thighs over polenta; baked brown rice, lentils and cauliflower with cucumber yogurt sauce; black bean edamame burgers; green payaya pad Thai; jam hand pies; Middle Eastern turkey burger.
The downside to this book: sorry, but it needs a proper metric table.
The upside to this book: fairly comprehensive for the novice.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
8.SERIOUSLY DELISH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-17649-2, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Jessica Merchant, a recipe developer and writer-blogger at How Sweet Eats. It is an upbeat book, emphasizing colour and flavours, presentation, and great mouthfeel. Her philosophy is that you have to have a relationship with food. The arrangement is eclectic, but begins with breakfast, moving on to snack, sandwiches, salads, soups, veggies, Tex-Mex, burgers, pizza, cocktails, and celebrations.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginner, millennials.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: amaretto-butternut squash soup with cinnamon toast croutons; crab cakes with sweet corn and blueberry salsa; caramel bourbon brownie milkshakes; confetti cupcakes.
The downside to this book: so many pix of Jessica
The upside to this book: much of this food seems to be an obsession with her.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.
9.THE NATURAL FOOD KITCHEN (Ryland Peter & Small, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-560-3, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Jordan Bourke, a trained chef who writes cookbooks and had worked with Yotyam Ottolenghi, who is the log roller here. These are seasonal dishes using fresh and healthy alternatives to flours/sugars/dairy/fats (as listed). His first book was The Guilt-Free Gourmet; here, he moves along to be more global in concept. The arrangement is by course, beginning with all the esses: snacks, small plates, soups, sandwiches, sauces, stews, salads, substantial savouries, seafoods, sides, and sweets. There is a pantry in the primer. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois and some metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: intermediate range
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: chocolate and nut butter tart; sardines with sunchokes and salsa verde; quinoa with mint, orange and beetroot; farinata; chickpea fritters.
The downside to this book: it is a heavily competitive field for this kind of cookbook
The upside to this book: gorgeous photos
Quality/Price Rating: 85
10.BROOKLYN SPIRITS: craft distilling and cocktails from the world's hippest borough (Powerhouse Books, 2014, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-57687-705-0, $35US) is by writer Peter Thomas Fornatale and longtime mixologist Chris Wertz. Since 2002, craft distillers have been allowed to function in New York state. Brooklyn is now a hotbed of distilling activity. The authors give profiles of some of the local business, including infusers, bitters makers, and a vermouth producer, about a dozen in all. Each description has some recipes from producers, bartenders and restaurants in Brooklyn, and includes commentary from these people. Many of the products have some national distribution in the US, but not all. Indeed, for Canadians, we may be SOL and lacking. This means you'll need to substitute something appropriate, and there are suggestions here for the 100 plus cocktails. So, for Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters, we have a history, a biography and the philosophy of Mark Buettler the founder, and some preps.
Audience and level of use: cocktail lovers
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: "people who refer to themselves as "wine-makers" are just self-absorbed idiots or chemists. Nobody actually makes wine; wine makes itself".
The downside to this book: well, Noilly Prat was misspelled – in large type
The upside to this book: well-framed photos.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.