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Monday, August 3, 2015

* 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 –
16.COOKIE LOVE (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 290 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-681-2, $24.99 US hard covers) is by Mindy Segal is a Beard-winning Chicago pastry chef, owner of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar. She has freelance writer Kate Leahy as the focusing food writer-editor. They've got more than 60 recipes and techniques for elevating the level of the cookie. The book is divided by type: drop cookies, shortbreads, sandwich cookies, egg white cookies, twice-baked (hey, biscuits), rugelach, bars, and thumbprints. There are lots of primers dealing with basics and pantries, as well as equipment and tips and sources. Try smoky bacon candy bar cookies, kitchen sink cookies, goat butter shortbreads, or apple confit breakfast pie squares. Scrumptious! Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
17.MILK BAR LIFE; recipes and stories (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3510-3, $35 US hard covers) is by Christina Tosi, the pastry chef-owner of Momofuku Milk Bar and the pastry chef for Momofuku itself. She also teaches classes and has a line of  mixes and cookies. She's assisted by Courtney McBroom. It is a collection of recipes from the restaurants as well as life stories and memoirs, anchored by gorgeous photos of people and dishes. It has an eclectic arrangement of preps, beginning with "hand me downs", recipes from her childhood and the related stories of how they happened to be. But all courses are covered from apps to desserts, such as brisket and broccoli, apple dumplings, smoked cantaloupe jam, mango drinks, Tex-mex breakfast casserole, and burnt-butter honey. You'll have fun with this one as it flits about. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
18.PRESERVATION SOCIETY HOME PRESERVES (Robert Rose, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0503-8, $24.95 CAN paper covers) is by Camilla Wynne, founder of the business Preservation Society (Montreal). It's a small batch preserves firm. Some of the contents of this book were previous published in 2013 as "Les conserves selon Camilla". There are 100 preps here, with all of the classics and some re-inventions and some contemporary preserves as well.  She's also got 18 recipes that use the preserves in cooking (jam-swirled cheesecake, marmalade truffles, pb & j scones, et al). Canning is experiencing a comeback, especially since it is easier than in the past. Less work such as no pectin, less sugar, no special equipment, using the freezer. After the primer basics, she covers jams, marmalades, jellies, butters, canned fruit, syrups, pickles, chutneys, relishes, and savoury jams. Each recipe is carefully detailed in that Robert Rose style, with cooks notes and tips as well as both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.GOOD FOOD, GOOD LIFE (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 290 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-0-1589-6, $35 CAN hard covers) is by Curtis Stone, chef, restaurateur, and TV food host. This is his sixth book. It is an international collection of 130 of his fave recipes, arranged by type of dish (light meals, dinners, sides, sweets, mornings, snacks and drinks). It is a useful compilation of tasty food, taken from all stages of his cooking life, for the home cook.  Light meals include posole, seafood stew with cream and fennel, pan bagnat, navy bean and ham soup. Dinners include piri piri chicken with slaw, roasted pork belly with applesauce, penne with sausage and broccoli rabe, and teriyaki beef ribs with enoki mushrooms. Sweets include cherry-amaretto lattice pie or roasted banana souffles with caramel sauce. The index has a large enough typeface, larger than the ingredient listings in the recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
20.BACK IN THE DAY BAKERY MADE WITH LOVE (Artisan, 2015, 302 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-556-3, $24.95 US hard covers) is from Cheryl and Grif Day, the lovable owners of Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah. Their first book was a hit, and now they are back. Here are more than 100 recipes and DIY projects, arranged by form: pie, cakes, breads, holiday celebrations, breakfasts, treats, savory pies, and make-ahead preserves. Down home cooking all the way, starting with caramel cake with salted caramel frosting, buttermilk waffles with candied bacon, apple brandy brown butter-glazed cake, festive yule log, and chocolate bubble loaf. The five page French baguette recipe that made Julia Child's book  so wonderful for home bakers has been almost matched here by the Day's four page ciabatta rolls recipe. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
21.FRANKLIN BARBECUE (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 214 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-720-6, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Aaron Franklin, co-owner along with wife Stacy of Franklin Barbecue in Texas. It has nothing to do with the Franklin Stove. It's subtitle is "a meat-smoking manifesto". Texas BBQ is all about beef, but there are some pork preps here as well as turkey breast. And of course everything is smoked. This is BBQ from scratch, with sections on building/customizing smokers, finding/curing the right wood, creating/tending fires, and top-quality meats. We don't even get to the preps until about page 125. A book for the completist, for the really committed backyard smoked BBQ fan. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
22.WILD COCKTAILS (Cico Books, 2015, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-78249-200-9, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Lottie Muir, owner of The Midnight Apothecary in London. Over the years she has cultivated botanicals near the Thames, with veggies, herbs and flowers, transforming them into cocktail additives. She now teaches botanical cocktail masterclasses and works with the Royal Horticultural Society. Here she has 100 or so recipes for cocktails using seasonal and foraged plants. She's also got preps for infusions, syrups, bitters, and liqueurs. Her primer covers home equipment and techniques. Cocktail recipes begin at page 110; the preceding pages are all about setups and techniques. She's got limoncello with strawberries and cream foam, lavender gin fizz, pea tini, strawberry and basil gimlet – all good healthy food (especially if you dropped the alcohol). There's more at Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, and there is a resources list. Quality/price rating: 87.
23.SALSAS AND MOLES (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 152 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-685-0, $16.99 US hard covers) is by Deborah Schneider, executive chef/partner of SOL Mexican Cocina and Solita Tacos. She's also a multiple award-winning cookbook author, specializing in Mexican cuisine. Here she has a little book on fresh salsa and moles, for pico de gallo, mole poblano, guacamole, chimichurri, and other classics. She's got a primer on chilies and fresh ingredients, followed by sections on classic table salsa, hot salsas, salsa for tacos, mole salsa, and chunky salsas – about 100 in all. Good selection of salsas and botanas. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
24.STATEN ITALY (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-8354-6, $28 US hard covers) is by cousins Francis Garcia and Sol Basile, founders of Artichoke Pizza on 14th Street in NYC (2008). The question: do we need another Italian cookbook ? Obviously they publisher seems to think so. The variation here is the success story of a pizza joint that now has six locations in NYC and Berkeley, along with a frozen pizza line and a cooking show about American pizzerias. Rachel Holtzman is the focusing food writer. It's also a memoir book with photos and nostalgic remembrances of Italian food in America. Certainly it will sell well to its many fans. It's arranged by course, with apps through desserts to accompany the pizzas. Different styles are discussed along with a multitude of sauces and ideas for menus and entertaining. Typical dishes include artichoke fritters (of course), fried rice balls, roasted red peppers, eggs pizzaiola, broccoli rabe and sausages, plus a variety of pasta dishes. Family style at its best.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.

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