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Wednesday, August 12, 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 –
4.THE CURIOUS BARISTA'S GUIDE TO COFFEE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-563-4, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Tristan Stephenson, a well-know celebrity UK bartender, bar owner, and consultant (Fluid Movement). This is his third book (the other two were bar-tending books), and it deals with coffee, with 25 recipes. Most of the book is encyclopedia: guide to coffee producing regions, histories, how to make a cup of coffee through different brewing methods, etc. It is an excellent survey for the price, well illustrated with old adverts, drawings, and a nifty chapter on latte art. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 88.
5.GINO'S VEG ITALIA! (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-444-79519-6, $38.99 CAN hard covers) is by Gino D'Acampo, an Italian chef from Naples now working in the UK as a TV chef on at least three food shows. This is his 13th book, and first meatless book. There are 100 basic recipes for the tried and true Italian veggie, all flavoured with herbs, oils and chili. They are of course, healthy, and provide sustenance along with grains for pasta, gnocchi, pizza, breads, and soups. Some interesting preps include pizza cake with semi-dried tomatoes, spinach and goat's cheese; eggplant lasagne; zucchini mozzarella omelette; and potato rosti and poached egg with fresh herb sauce. Large print and bold face makes this one a useful winner in the kitchen. Arranged by course, from antipasti through pizza, through sides. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mostly metric measurements. Quality/price rating: 86.
6.CURBSIDE; modern food from a vagabond chef (Whitecap, 2015, 294 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-223-9, $32.95 CAN paper covers) is by Adam Hynam-Smith, chef and co-owner of El Gastronomo Vagabundo, Ontario's first gourmet street food truck. He is also a co-host for "Restaurant Takeover" on the Food Network Canada. The preps here have been modified from his prior restaurant experiences, street food pop-ups, and his current truck. He pretty well covers the evolution of street food in North America (although he has Australian roots). He's also got some recipes from other chefs. His own signature dishes include gourmet tacos, traditional curries and soups, and salades composees, many with an emphasis on fish and seafood. He advocates a mise en place to speed things up and to provide essential condiments. The 171 recipes include global foods such as Egyptian eggs and Thai soups. There are photos of plated dishes and techniques as well. Babi in a Bowl comes from Cindy Arman in Toronto, Lamb Souvlaki comes from Cath Claringbold in Melbourne, and Venison Sausages comes from Mike McColl in Burlington. Great food swiftly prepared, useful for guys in the kitchen. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
7.FEEDING THE FIRE; recipes & strategies for better barbecue and grilling (Artisan, 2015, 264 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-557-0, $29.95 US hard covers) is by Joe Carroll (Fette Sau and St.Anselm Restaurants in Brooklyn) and Nick Fauchald (Brooklyn-based food editor and author). Log rollers include Steven Raichlen, Adam Perry Lang, and Peter Kaminsky. It comes complete with a wine list of recommended producers, resources (including bibliography), tools, BBQ restaurants in other parts of the US, noted for mutton and sliced pork shoulder or barbacoa and pit beef), and list of his own four restaurants. It's a basic BBQ book but with serious intent: you can have fun only after you know the rules – BBQ is a technique, not a recipe. Keep sides simple. If you must, sauce...Fire equals flavour. Keep charcoal pure. Oil early and oil well. Bringing is worth the time. Leave chicken on the bone. You can grill before noon. And the recipes are classed by these chapter headings. Try Santa maria-style tri-tip, or butcher's steaks with garlic butter. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
8.MAANGCHI'S REAL KOREAN COOKING (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 310 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-12989-4, $30 US hard covers) is by Maangchi, who has 48K Fbers, 7K Twitterers, and 313K Utubers (Lauren Chattman is the focusing food writer in the book). Her website at is the top destination for Korean cooking, and gets 1.7 million page views a month. Here, she summarizes everything via authentic dishes for the home cook. These are all the classics and the dishes found in restaurants, ranging from spicy Napa cabbage to bulgogi, fried chicken, and bibimbap. Others include seafood scallion pancake, kimchis, side dishes, and the like with over 800 step-by-step photos. She's got a glossary for ingredients, along with websites for resources. At the back there is a section of a dozen menus (with page references), plus a lunar New Year's Day feast and birthday celebrations. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
9.FISH (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-605-1, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Mat Follas, a UK chef/owner and winner of Marchef (BBC) in 2009. This set is organized by fish type: salmon & tuna, freshwater fish, small fish, round fish, flat fish, exotic fish, with crustaceans, squid and octopus occupying the last quarter of the book. There's material on sustainability, stocks and soups, and drinks to match the food. The 75 recipes come loaded with tips. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no overall table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
10.MAGIC SOUP (Orion Publishing Group; distr. Hachette, 2015, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-4091-5492-1, $34.99 CAN hard covers) is by Nicole Pisani (head chef at Ottolenghi's NOPI in London) and Kate Adams (food author). It is a basic book from the UK, about the comfort levels associated with soups, such as for health and happiness. They've some preps that deal with cleansing, comfort, feats, and chilled soups. Each one of the 100 preps has a meaning. At the back there are lists for other books and web resources. Good photography too. Check out winter miso for one, crayfish congee, lemon chicken and mint with quinoa, mulligatawny, cinnamon and pumpkin soup, and even pickled soup. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
11.SEASON WITH AUTHORITY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-31555-6, $30 US hard covers) is by Marc Murphy, chef/owner of the five NYC Benchmarc Restaurants, and a judge for the Food Network. These are his favourite recipes for highly flavoured or seasoned foods (not hot), led by comfort foods such as pastas, familiar foods such as cured salmon or deviled eggs, burgers, and the like. A good book for his fans, and led by such log rollers as Jonathan Waxman, Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samuelsson, and Rachel Ray. Some of the emphasis is on preps that make staple foods taste all that much better, such as pesto or sherry vinaigrette. His book is traditionally arranged by ingredient (apps, salad, pasta, rice, fish, poultry, meats, veggies, desserts) concluding with his famous pantry of seasonings. There's about 130 recipes along with many well-framed and shot photographs. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
12.KEW ON A PLATE; recipes, horticulture and heritage (Headline, 2015, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4722-2437-8, $36.99 CAN hard covers) is by Raymond Blanc, OBE (2007), well-known chef/owner of a country house hotel plus a cookery school. The book is being offered by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to accompany the BBC Two TV cooking program, Kew on a Plate. There is also a Kitchen Garden that was created at Kew to showcase the botany and the heritage. The aim is give a history of the plant's arrival in the UK along with tips on growing and Blanc's tasting notes and 40 recipes. Topics include potatoes, rhubarb, peas, asparagus, through beetroot to quince – about 20 in all. For each, there are nifty illustrations, botanical drawings, growing notes, use in the kitchen, plus a few recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois mix of measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
13.HOME; recipes to cook with family and friends (Little Brown, 2015, 257 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-32388-8, $35 US) is by Bryan Voltaggio, a chef/owner of five establishments in the Washington DV area. He's also been a finalist on two seasons of Top Chefs. Here he presents his take on American comfort foods, with seasonal, farm-to-table cooking. It is a basic mid-Atlantic book, with, as the publisher says, crab waffle Benedict, chicken pot pie fritters, sweet potato fries, rhubarb salad. He's got menus for a crowd, weekend brunches, Sunday suppers, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The measurement quantities in the recipes are in boldface, and in most instances in both metric and avoirdupois, although this can vary. A nice book for the new cook. Nothing daunting. Quality/price rating: 85.
14.EGG; the very best recipes inspired by the simple egg (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2015, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0-297-87160-6, $30 CAN hard covers) is by Blanche Vaughan, a London chef (River Cafe, St. John) and food writer (In One Pot). She's written a basic but upscale egg book, emphasizing the taste of the egg. She's got the obvious perfectly poached, scrambled, and fried eggs. But there are also some souffles, tarts, and omelettes, curds, and puddings. British classics are, of course, emphasized, such as the steamed pudding or the Arnold Bennett, and new ones like zucchini fritters and fonduta sauce. It is all arranged by course (breakfast, lunch, tea, supper) or type (puddings, sauces, drinks). With its good photography and ribbon bookmark, this can be a nifty gift book.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly metric with some avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 80.
15.CHARLIE PALMER'S AMERICAN FARE (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 254 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-3099-1, $40 US hard covers) is by an award-winning chef (Aureole in NYC and Las Vegas, Charlie Palmer Steaks in four cities – 14 restaurants in all). He also owns some wine shops and some boutique hotels. Now he's at the cookbook business. Here he has some 100 preps dedicated to "American" food, that he feels any cook can make with ease. There's corn chowder with shrimp, quick and easy pizza, grilled double lamb chops with roasted garlic-carrot mash, guacamole, and rum-scented lobster with orzo. It is arranged by course (soups, salads, lunches, veggies, sides, pasta, grains, meat, birds, fish, snacks, desserts) plus chapters on family faves and backyard dinners. Enough to keep y'all busy, best served over the summer. There is a sources list as well. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
16.HEALTHY PASTA (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 188 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01683-1, $29.95 US hard covers) is by Joseph Bastianich, the restaurateur co-owner of Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, a cookbook author who also oversees the production and expansion of her mother Lidia's food line. The siblings have come up with 100 recipes, all under 500 calories per serving. Of course, it is easy to use and can be gluten-free by simply using GF pasta. The trick here is minimizing fats and increasing fibre (using whole-grains). Each prep has a nifty photo and the number of calories per serving. The typeface is large and readable. You could not go wrong with smoked pork with cabbage and ziti, tuna rotini with puttanesca sauce, or shells with cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
17.STRAIGHT UP TASTY; meals, memories, and mouthfuls from my travels (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34448-7, $29.99 US hard covers) is another American cookbook, covering breakfast, lunch, snacks, small plates, dinner, side dishes, condiments, and sweets. Adam Richman has hosted and produced several Travel Channel TV shows. He has also written "America the Edible". Here are 100 family-style preps that reflect his travels. In addition, he has mentions of fave places to eat in the US. The book is appealing to millennials because of its style and layout, reflecting bits and pieces of paper in an eclectic array. Look at the photo from baked gouda, for example. Nice long string of cheese. Good wide-ranging photos. Try corn on the cob, gyro burger, deviled scotch eggs, or roast pork and broccoli rabe dumplings. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.


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