...is 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 –
11.CHICKEN; THE NEW CLASSICS (Nourish Books, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84899-197-2, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Marcus Bean, who doesn't seem to have any bio in the book nor on the web site. Deep research shows that he's an Iron Chef in the UK with some TV cooking shows. It is an engaging book, full of "classics" with some contemporary touches. The primer gives guidelines for purchasing, storing, and preparing whole chicken or chicken parts. Then come weekday meals, followed by chapter "for the weekend" and concluding with dinners and celebrations: more than 100 recipes include tasty chicken salads such as chicken Waldorf salad with crispy shallots; chargrilled chicken, fennel with feta salad; glazed orange and mustard chicken with chard and spinach salad; and quinoa chicken and asparagus salad. He's got spring rolls with hoisin sauce, fajitas, homemade smoked paprika wraps, mango and coriander chicken pita, and some US dishes such as fried chicken and Corn or New Orleans jambalaya with chicken, chorizo and shrimp. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
12.THE DIRTY APRON COOKBOOK (Figure.1; distr. Raincoast) 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-927958-17-9, $34.95 CAN hard covers) is by David Robertson, the first chef-de-cuisine at Chambar in Vancouver. Since 2009 he has been teaching at his Dirty Apron Cooking School and Delicatessen. He has about 8,000 students a year. The school has a large range of classes, for different levels and different themes. His book is a collection of the "tried-and-true" preps from the school. It is very heavily illustrated, which also suggests more of an armchair chef or even food stylist, but there are 80 items, from brunches, apps through soups, deli lunches (sandwiches, pasta), mains, and desserts. There is also a history/memoir of the school. Techniques in the preps are, of course, useful. Typical brunches include prosciutto and taleggio brioches, poached eggs on herb potato rosti with sun-dried tomato hollandaise, and Moroccan mimosas. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. More details are at www.dirtyapron.com. Quality/price rating: 86.
13.FRENCH ROOTS (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 262 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-547-1, $35 US hard covers) is by Jean-Pierre Moulle, retired as executive chef at Chez Panisse in 2012 (he began working there in 1975) and Denise Lurton Moulle, member of the well-known Bordeaux wine making Lurton family (she distributes Bordeaux wines in North America). They have homes in both Sonoma and in Bordeaux; their book contains food from both places. It is also part memoir with descriptions of French family life and life in Berkeley where they both worked. Now they spend their time leading culinary tours, foraging, hunting and preserving. Some French dishes via Denise, when she was growing up, include: porcini omelet, apricot crisp, ile flottant, swiss chard frittata, and summer vegetables stuffed with pork sausage. Some dishes via Jean-Pierre, when he was at Chez Panisse, include: grilled quail with red cabbage and chestnuts, cream of young turnip and turnip greens with cured ham, fish and shellfish terrine, and grilled scallop skewers with pancetta and herb butter. There are lots of intriguing photos of food plating and raw ingredients, plus copious background notes to each dish. The material is fairly comprehensive and self-revelatory. The last chapter deals with aperitifs and canapes, with such tasty items as walnut wine, wild salmon tartare, olive tapenade, marinated sardines, and canned roasted tomatoes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
14.BLUE RIBBON BAKING FROM A REDNECK KITCHEN (Clarkson Potter, 2014; distr. Random House Canada, 239 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8578-3, $22 US paper covers) is by Francine Bryson, who has won more than 200 local and national backing competitions, including some on reality TV shows. Both of her grandmothers passed on their recipes to her. The whole range is here: pies (coconut cream, peanut butter), cookies and bars (cow patties, ginger snaps), cakes, cheesecakes, biscuits, breads, and ending with candy and truffles.
If you like to go all out with fats and sugars, this book's for you. Mmmm-mmm. About 120 preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
15.LET US ALL EAT CAKE; gluten-free recipes for everyone's favorite cakes (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-629-4, $24.99 US hard covers) is by Catherine Ruehle, a cake artist and once owner of Sublime Bakery. She is now a health coach and TV personality (at the end of 2010 she had to forego dairy and gluten). Sarah Scheffel who assisted, is a cookbook editor. It comes with log rolling, although some of them are hard to read on the inside cover. Here are 60 recipes for a variety of coffee cakes, later cakes, cupcakes, little cakes, snack and breakfast cakes: lemon blueberry bundt, honey-lavender tea cake, polenta breakfast cake, chocolate orange gateaux, lemon meringue cupcakes, and chocolate layer cake. Plus, of course, the various glazes and frostings. There is also a section on decorating techniques and special occasion cakes. Who says gluten-free has to be boring? Dive in...Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
16.AARTI PAARTI (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014,304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-4541-4, $28 US hard covers) is by Aarti Sequeira, who has prominently appeared on the Cooking Channel and the Food Network in a variety of shows, including one of her own (Aarti Party). She has her own YouTube channel and blog aartipaarti.com. There's some logrolling here from Michael Symon and others. Her book is derived from the blog and from TV shows: it is a blend of Middle East and Indian flavours with American food through 100 recipes. It is part memoir too, showing how she became the woman she is. It is broken down by ingredient: chutneys, breads, veggies, sides, salads, legumes, poultry, meat, seafood and dessert. There's an Indian pantry and a resources list. Many of the non-English words in the recipe titles have phonetic pronunciations. Typical dishes include kebab sliders with date chutney and arugula raita, bacon-mint-pine nut stuffing muffins, Moroccan carrot salad with caramelized lemon and pine nuts, blistered corn on the cob with zesty masala and lime, and chai-brined pork chops with spiked spiced apple chutney.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
17.MISS VICKIE'S KITCHEN (Figure.1, 2014, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-927958-15-5, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is by Vickie Kerr, who founded Miss Vickie's Potato Chips in 1987. It is her first book, and yes, it includes a recipe for her iconic chip (as well as two preps for chips and chocolate desserts). Other than that, this is a family cookbook of some 70 recipes, ranging from apps through salads, sides, soups, stews, meat, seafood, desserts, and putting food by with preserving and pickling. She has a Montreal dry garlic spareribs, baked wild salmon, shepherd's pie (actually, cottage pie), pan-fried potatoes. Most of it is quick and easy. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 84.
18.SILVANA'S GLUTEN-FREE AND DAIRY-FREE KITCHEN (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 231 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-15734-7, $25 US hard covers) is by Silvana Nardone, cookbook author, blogger, and former owner of an Italian bakery. It is a basic book with Nardone re-working mainly comfort foods into GF-DF foods. It's arranged by course, from apps through desserts, with plenty of breads along the way. She's got some reinvented baking mixes for breads, pizza, bagel, pancake, etc., and some milk substitutes for ricotta cheese, parmesan, whipped cream, dulce de leche, bechamel, buttermilk, and more. Since her son needs GF-DF, they must work – he eats them and stays healthy. Family food is especially good. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.WORLD SPICE AT HOME (Sasquatch Books, 2014; distr. Random House Canada, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-57061-907-6, $24.95 US paper covers) is by Amanda Bevill, owner of World Spice Merchants in Seattle, and Julie Kramis Hearne, a cookbook author who also worked at Herbfarm restaurant. There are over 75 preps here, each worked on with a vibrant spice of some kind. The authors have a primer covering pure spices and spice blends, and then the book proceeds from apps to desserts and breads through the standard meal pattern. Spice-blends include baharat, berbere, besar, Chinese five-spice, curries, dukkah, harissa, kasmiri garam masala, ras el hanout, and za'atar. The is the most valuable part of the book, and there is a separate contents listing for recipes that use these blends. Otherwise, there is an index by ingredient and dish name. They've got za'atar fries, spiced nuts, chicken wings with chili-garlic and Chinese five-spice, beet salad and goat cheese with dukkah, crab melts with kasmiri curry, and maple-glazed pork chops with besar. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
20.MY PERFECT PANTRY (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34566-8, $30 US hard covers) is by Geoffrey Zakarian, chef/partner of some NYC restaurants, works on Food Network and Iron Chef projects, and also judges on TV. Here he works on a pantry cookbook, a nifty idea: 150 easy recipes based on 50 essential ingredients from your pantry (oats, honey, olive oil, tuna, ketchup, bread crumbs, raisins, chickpeas, et al – major shelf keepers that will not deteriorate). Just add a few common items from shopping at a market, such as shrimp, tomatoes, pork, chicken, and so forth. Et voila!
The easy preps include grilled salmon with almond tarragon romesco, almond-crusted pork chops with apples, bagna cauda, beef barley bisque, with duck and barley salad among other foods. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
21.BACK AROUND THE TABLE (Ballantine Books, 2014, 299 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-7685-9, $30 US hard covers) is by David Vebable, QVC's Resident Foodie (he's been with the network as a food personality since 1993) with many shows and a cookbook. He's got the log rollers Michael Symon, Emeril Lagasse, and Lidia Bastianich. It is comfort food with style, about 150 preps worth, divided by style: mix and mingle, brunch, shake and stir, quick and easy, smoke and fire, gather and share, light and bright, fresh and flavourful, and sweets and treats. The themes are about what one would expect, and it is all tied together through the extensive index for retrieval. The style includes lasagna roll-ups, blueberry-lemon ricotta pancakes, lighter baked mac and cheese, angel food cake, breakfast poppers with grits and bacon, Guinness beef stew, hummus, and maple-glazed carrots and parsnips. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.