...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 –
17.THE CRUMBS FAMILY COOKBOOK (CICO Books, 2014, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-78249-172-9, $19.95 US paper covers) is by Lucy and Claire McDonald. Together they are UK sisters, journalists, bloggers, mothers, and have a popular YouTube channel called Crumbs Food. Here are 150 easy recipes for family food, all "really" quick and "very" easy for meals in minutes. There are also after-school snacks and menus for large crowds. It is pretty basic but comforting, with preps for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks, parties. They've got pizzas, pastas, pestos, sides, one-pots, vegetarian mains, cook aheads, boxed foods, even drinks and some baked goods. A nice package, well laid out in sassy style. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 85.
18.MR. & MRS. SUNDAY'S SUPPERS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-118-17529-3, $24.99 US hard covers) is by Lorraine Wallace, author of Mr. Sunday's Soups and Mr. Sunday's Saturday Night Chicken; her husband is the Fox Sunday News anchor, hence the name. It is a straight forward account of more than 100 homemade recipes for family dining. They are goof for any occasion, including game-days, holiday or birthday feasts. Or even for weeknight dining when harried. There are lots of ideas here, such as a three-berry cobbler, glazed short ribs, key lime pie bars, enchiladas, salmon burgers, and beef stew with winter root veggies. I particularly like the bold faced index entries,making it a breeze to locate dishes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
19.THE PALEO CHEF (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-743-7, $24.99 US hard covers) is another entry in the lo-carb cookbook sweepstakes. Pete Evans is the chef here, as well as a cooking show host and cookbook author, originally from Australia where they thrive on this kind of food. He's got some heavy-duty logrolling endorsements from the authors of Grain Brain, Perfect Health Diet, and The Wheat Belly Cookbook, in addition to three others. For the most part, the preps are grain-free and dairy-free (but he does use ghee). There's even a page on fermented foods, to reflect the now-current trend. He's got some interesting items with nuts such as bacon bark or macadamia cheese, or as activated nuts and seeds. Try lamb meatballs, turkey and shiitake lettuce cups, or sardines escabeche. Preparations have their ingredients listed in a mix of metric or avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
20.SOUL FOOD LOVE (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-3793-5, $30 US hard covers) is by best-selling novelist Alice Randall and her daughter Caroline Randall Williams. Ms. Randall is also an expert on African-American cookbooks. They've taken about 80 recipes from her family's soul food tradition, and have nicely overhauled them to being them into the modern context of easy and healthy food. The basics are here: peanut chicken stew, red bean and rice salad, sweet potato pie, and more – in lo-cal and lo-fat versions. A good third of the book is memoir, devoted to her family's traditions. The balance of the book follow the setup from apps through desserts. This is followed by "crowns" (tall, rounded dishes given to their cherished guests) of mulatto rice, cauliflower, eggplant tower, and salmon mousse. At the very end there is a section on feeding large numbers, which includes a whole smoked turkey, Moorish pizza, roasted leg of lamb, and a chia pudding (among other recipes). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
21.COOK YOUR BUTT OFF! (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015; distr. Hachette, 251 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-8352-2, $26 US hard covers) is by Rocco DiSpirito, a Beard winner and chef of Union Pacific in NYC. He's had TV series and has authored 10 cookbooks, mainly diet-type such as this one. Here he re-emphasizes the pound a day loss diet, with more preps on fat-burning foods and gluten-free recipes. It's a 14 day program emphasizing fat-burning foods such as lactose-free, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, with pre- and pro-biotics and a healthy acid-alkaline balance. The 75 recipes here begin with The Plan, followed by a course-by-course selection (beverages, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, desserts). Good layout of the index. There are article references and fitbit scan tie-ins. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
22.THE COVENANT KITCHEN (Schoken Books, 2015; distr. Random House of Canada, 262 pages, ISBN 978-0-8052-4325-3, $41 CAN, hard covers) is by Jeff and Jodie Morgan, co-owners of Covenant Winery in Berkeley, producing kosher wines. They have authored seven previous cookbooks. Here, with log rolling, they present more than 100 recipes augmented with suggested wine pairings (grape varieties, no labels are mentioned). There are international flavours here from the Mediterranean, Asia and California. Jewish customs are noted and of course some traditional foods are given a contemporary makeover. There are sidebars on wine pairing principles, kosher food preparation, menus for Jewish holidays, a history of Jewish wine. Recipes have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
23.HOW TO BRAISE (Little, Brown and Company, 2015, 148 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-25413-7, $25 US hard covers) is by Michael Ruhlman, now a prolific author of food reference books. Together with Mark Bittman (both collectively known as Bittruhl or Ruhlbitt) and his collective recipe books, they seem to have cornered the market on all manner of food reference database books. Here, in the second book in the "how-to" series, he deals with braises for red meats, poultry, and veggies. There are 20 in all, with lots of notes and procedures and possibilities for variations. Basic trendy preps include pork belly, pulled pork, chicken thighs, shanks, and short ribs. Soon to be trendy include "trotters" and braised fennel. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
24.THE FOOD OF TAIWAN (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-30301-0, $30 US hard covers) is by Cathy Erway, a radio host with a food show (Eat Your Words, on the US Heritage Radio Network). She also has a blog Not Eating Out in New York. Her mother is Taiwanese, and cookbooks about the cuisine are few and far between. This one might put it back on the map. Here are 100 preps of homestyle food, with five-spice powder, fresh chilies, and Sha-cha sauce. She's got an introduction to the cuisine's history, people, land and the famous Night Markets, Tea Culture, and Stinky Tofu. There are also a lot of travel-type photos and appealing food shots. The preps range from apps to desserts, with chapters on drinks, pantries, condiments and street snacks. Typical recipes are for sweet tofu custard, oysters with black bean sauce, Hakka-style pork stir fry, and oyster noodle soup (they have lots of oysters in Taiwan). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
25.TEA COCKTAILS (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014, 171 pages, ISBN 978-1-63220-449-3, $19.99 US hard covers) is by Abrigail R. Gehring, cookbook author, in partnership with Teatulia Organic Teas. Their specific teas are mentioned in the recipes, but of course you should be able to use your own fave varieties. The Teatulia co-op have their own organic gardens in Northern Bangladesh. This is a mixologist's guide to tea-infused cocktails, and is arranged by weight: from the light and fruity cocktails (rooibos berry daiquiri) to the sweet and spicy cocktails (ginger Lillet sin), the dark and smoky cocktails (lapsang manhattan), and the warm and toasty cocktails (ginger glogg). A variety of alcohols are used (brandy, rye, wines, etc.) and syrups and bitters (she has some recipes for these too). There is a brief tea primer at the beginning and a glossary and sources list at the end. She's also got a short chapter on tea-infused appetizers (bacon-wrapped dates with coconut chai dipping sauce, shrimp with bloody mary cocktail sauce). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.