...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 –
13.SANTA FE SCHOOL OF COOKING; CELEBRATING THE FOODS OF NEW MEXICO (Gibbs-Smith, 2015, 120 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3813-1, $19.99 US hard covers) is by Susan Curtis and Nicole Curtis Ammerman, founders of the SFSC. There is a short history of the School, some shopping locations in Santa Fe, pix of students, and the like. It's a lot like those cooking school adventures in Tuscany. The book then can serve as a model New Mexican instructional cookbook, arranged by starters, soups, salads, tortillas, salsas, sauces, corn, rice, beans, and then mains and desserts. Much of the teaching comes from local chefs. Some of the few illustrations are striking, but the value in the book is the larger typeface, the black on white contrasts, and the bold face of the ingredients. Even the index has a large typeface. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
14.BONJOUR Y'ALL; Heidi's fusion cooking on the South Carolina coast (Gibbs Smith, 2015, 152 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3994-7, $30 US hard covers) is by Heidi Vukov and Sara Sobota. Heidi has run Croissants Bistro and Bakery for more than 20 years in Myrtle Beach, while Sara teaches journalism and is a freelance travel/lifestyle writer. It's a book dealing with life in Myrtle Beach, beginning with a history/memoir of the Bistro. It is mostly a brunch place, and so there are sections on breads, starters (crab cakes, she crab soup), brunch items, cookies, desserts, and some seafood mains such as shrimp and grits, scallops, bay clams, pan-seared grouper, and other seafood. A good book for the fans. Finishing off with pantry recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
15.ESQUIRE: the eat like a man guide to feeding a crowd (Chronicle Books, 2015, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-3184-9, $30 US hard covers) is from the magazine. It advises you on how to cook for family, friends, and spontaneous parties. It's even got a page from Mario Batali on what you'll need to begin, even before cracking open this guy book. About 60 chefs and recipe contributors appear here: Charlie Palmer, Michael Symon, Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Wolfgang Puck – all with attributions. Apparently, having a lot of people at your home to feed is "every man's dream", or, in my case, nightmare. This book smooths the way through 80 recipes to prepare "great tubs of pasta", "foot-long sandwiches", grilled steaks, and endless platters of food. Thrown in are party tips, time savers, cocktails, etc. Use only forks and spoons, keep away from knives. Finger foods and bowls will keep the mess down. It is arranged by time of day, from "late morning" (aka brunch) through late afternoon, dinner, and late night. Unfortunately, like many such books, there is really nothing here about cleaning up – pay the kids. Preparations have their ingredients listed mainly in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
16.CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL ENTERTAINER (Gibbs Smith, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3715-8, $30 US hard covers) is by Steven Stolman, a US writer and designer by education and profession. It is a bit of a retro cookbook, with its sans serif typeface and photo layout. And it uses common everyday ingredients ("I use a lot of stuff that comes out of bottles, jars, cans and boxes to create loose impressions of classical dishes"). He's not neat, and again, there is nothing in the book to help you clean up – just pay the kids. But Stolman just loves to entertain, and will do it with sometimes weird food. It is the opposite of the Esquire life (see previous review) but it all works because we are back in the fifties and sixties, just like Mad Men. He's got tea sandwiches, country club chocolate cake, sweet-and-sour salmon en gelee, chicken hash, baked shrimp and feta, and even bouillabaisse. The book is arranged by grouping: cocktail parties, dinner for the boss, family stuff, winter dinners, alfresco, and breakfast. About 80 recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
17.FLAVORIZE (Chronicle Books, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2530-5, $22.95 US hard covers) is by Ray Lampe, multiple cook-off champion, chef, and cookbook author for Chronicle Books (five and counting). Here he concentrates on dressing up the meats: 115 recipes for marinades, injections, brines, rubs and glazes. His recipes are for the grill, stovetop, and oven. The chapters follow the dressing, beginning with marinades through to glazes. For each, there is a recipe. But to a certain extent you can also mix and match. Cranberry brine goes with holiday pork roast, but it can also go with pork chops and chicken breasts (both of which have their own brines which can also go with pork roasts). Everything here adds more flavour, which can be unfortunately needed if you use commercial mass produced meats. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mostly avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
18.GRILLING WITH THE HOUSE OF Q (Figure 1 books, 2015, 181 pages, ISBN 978-1-927958-10-0, $24.95 CAN soft covers) is by Brian Misko, multiple BBQ Canadian champion pit-master with his own line of rubs and sauces (House of Q). He has a TV segment "BBQ Tips" on Global. It's a basic book, with tips and advice, instructions and some memoir/story material, but of course with a Canadian slant (God knows we need these). The range is from appetizers, sausages, burgers, pork, beef, poultry, seafood, veggies, salads, sides, desserts, with sections on brines, rubs, sauces, and spreads. As well there is a chapter on competition BBQ. Handsome photography but too many non-food pix detract from the book's total usefulness. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.GRAINS AS MAINS (DK Books, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-3180-6, $25 US hard covers) is by Jodi Moreno and Sarah W. Caron. Jodi is a chef, food photographer and blogger; Sarah is a freelance writer and recipe developer, and blogger. Here are 150 recipes with 14 "ancient" grains (six are forms of wheat). Each is identified, healthy benefits are explained, preps are step-by-step, and cooking techniques produce flavour combos. Most are gluten-free, except for barley, the wheat grains and rye (the latter is, for some reason, not here). The book is not arranged by grain but rather by course (breakfast, brunch, desserts) or by menu items (soups, salads, stir-fries, risottos, pilafs, burgers, stews). I particularly liked the framing of the photos and the layout. Preparations have their ingredients listed mainly in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.MASTERING THE ART OF SOUTHERN VEGETABLES (Gibbs Smith, 2015, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3738-7, $25 US hard covers) is by Nathalie Dupree, long time specialist in Southern US Cooking and TV host/chef on many cooking shows. Plus she's got at least three Beard awards. Her co-author is Cynthia Graubart, Southern Living magazine columnist, cookbook author and a Bear winner. This is at least the third book that these two have co-authored together. It used to be that veggies in the Deep South were boiled and/or fried in lard/baconfat. Now, of course, there are other ways. There are 120 recipes for some 26 categories, including the all important "Greens", which gets 12 pages. These include turnip tops and turnip greens, collards, kale, chard, poke sallet, sorrel, beet and broccoli greens, lambs quarters, and cressi. An important chapter. There is good detail on seasonings and on the prep methods. The typeface is large for the recipes, and even larger for the index entries: good ideas. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
21.PATSY'S ITALIAN FAMILY COOKBOOK (St. Martin's Press, 2015, 214 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-03939-2, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Sal Scognamillo, third generation owner-chef of Patsy's Restaurant (NYC), which specializes in Neapolitan Italian food. It comes with celebrity log rollers Sean Combs, George Clooney, Michael Buble – even Martha Stewart. It is home cooking all the way – since 1944 – with puttanesca sauce, marinara, meatballs, shrimp casino, chicken pizzaiola, cacciatore, spiedini, gelatos, and ricotta cheesecakes. There are reproductions of old menus and a lot of memoir material. It is a great book for the Patsy's fans. Also, there is just a minimum of personal photos so that there is more room for the preps. A fun book, with menus. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
22.THE BEETLEBUNG FARM COOKBOOK (Little Brown, 2015, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-40407-5, $35 US hard covers) is by Chris Fischer, who took over his grandparents five-acre farm on Martha's Vineyard. This is a year of cooking at that farm, using, of course, his own local ingredients and nearby fish stocks. There are 17 chapters through the year, each with a menu. Before the farm, Fischer had been cooking at Babbo and The River Cafe plus some more experience in Rome. Top log rollers here include Alice Waters and Mario Batali (his former employer at Babbo). He's a cook and a farmer here, with many stories about farming life that also translate into dishes. In November, for example, he will have venison on cedar, fromage blanc crostino with chard, rabbit and fennel, carrots and celery root, and a beet cake (with fennel icing). Excellent choices. Large print, great layout. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 91.
23.HONEY & CO. THE COOKBOOK (Little Brown, 2015, 291 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-28430-1, $35 US hard covers) is by Itamar Srulovich, once head chef under Yotam Ottolenghi in London, and his baker/pastry chef wife Sarit Packer. It's a Middle East cookbook, along the lines of Jerusalem (of course: Ottolenghi is log roller here). They started their own place, Honey & Co in 2012. Preps include dips, spreads, salads, one-pan dishes and stews from Persia, tagine, Israeli sofritos. Plus mezze, breads, and light dinners. About 150 recipes. Bold faced index entries, but also quite a few personal photos which take away space from the vibrant preps. Lamb salad with a Georgian plum sauce works for me, as do drinks such as orange blossom iced tea or elderflower cordial. A nice book for his fans, and for followers of Ottolenghi. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
24.THE CRAFT COCKTAIL PARTY (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 226 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-8159-7, $26 US hard covers) is by Julie Reiner, co-owner of Brooklyn's Clover Club and The Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan. She's been featured on TV and many of her recipes have been published in print. Recipes are organized around the seasons, summer through spring, with an emphasis on different themes and events and holidays. This is a nifty collection of drinks for every occasion. The prelims cover the basics of mixology and equipment, and then come the recipes: in the summer it is fresh fruit and veggies, such as La Rosa (strawberries and rose wine), Maria sin Sangre (cherry tomatoes and tequila), or santana's sour (cilantro leaves and fresh pineapple with tequila). Extremely useful with large print, good white space layout, and excellent photos. No food recipes, but gotta love those glass shapes. With variations, there should be about 200 recipes. Cocktails have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
25.THE BROAD FORK; recipes for the wide world of vegetables and fruits (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 336 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34502-6, $35 US hard covers) is by Hugh Acheson, chef-partner in four restaurants in Georgia. He's got two Beard Awards (one for a previous cookbook), and has been a TV food contest judge. Here he covers home versions of simple food prepared with veggies and fruits. It is all arranged by season with 12 or so ingredients covered (Fall through Summer), and then sub-arranged alphabetically within each by name. Fall has apples, celery, celery root, chanterelles, through to vidalia onions; winter has bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts through to winter squash. For each, there is a description and photo plus about four recipes each. So we are looking at around 200 preps. Emphasis seems to be on the US Southeast, what with collards and mustard greens, okra, melons, avocados, persimmons, sunchokes, and the like. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
26.PLANT BASED COOKBOOK (DK, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-3536-1, $25 US hard covers) is by Trish Sebben-Krupka, chef-owner of Local Girl Makes Food, specializing in vegan/vegetarian/eco-friendly diets through catering and culinary education. She's got about 200 whole-food recipes emphasizing a better life style through better health. Sections deal with breakfasts, sauces, salad dressings, dips, sandwiches, soups, one-pots and casseroles, breads, pastas, desserts plus sidebars on avocados, unrefined oils, mushrooms, ginger, greens, cruciferous veggies, sweet potatoes, quinoa, alliums, and berries. It appears to be exhaustive. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Entries in the index are very lightfaced, and also hard to read in size. Quality/price rating: 89.
27.PASTA BY HAND (Chronicle Books, 2015, 200 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-2188-8, $25 US hard covers) is by Jenn Louis, executive chef and co-owner of two Portland OR restaurants and competed on TV's Top Chef Masters. She has an impressive list of log rollers, headed by Mario Batali's foreword. No special equipment is needed since this is all hand made pasta shaped into orbs, cups, twists, shells and dumplings. The arrangement is by region, with such dishes as cavatelli from Basilicata, orecchiette from Puglia, gnocchi from Lazio, gnudi from Tuscany, or spatzli from Alto Adige. She's got a variety of 10 standard starter ragus (pesto, fonduta, tomato) but you can also, of course, use your own sauces. A needed component of many dishes is ricotta and/or squash puree, and she tells you how to perfect these at home. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. First rate book. Quality/price rating: 92.
28.SUPERFOODS (Quadrille Publishing, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-666-7, $22.95 US soft covers) is by Julie Montagu, yoga and nutrition teacher in London, star of Ladies of London (Bravo). This one comes out of The Flexie Food Academy which she runs, along with her own line of energy snacks. It's a basic meat-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free diet emphasizing plant-based foods. But it does cover a wide-range of foods, and unfortunately it is a late arrival to the "superfoods" wagon. Still, a good introduction propelled by its star author, with good, clean and clear preps that are vegan, with lots of choice in substitutions. Essentially, all you need to do is scale back all the bad foods by being more flexible, and eating these foods. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.