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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

* 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 –
14.SIMPLE GREEN SMOOTHIES (Rodale, 2015, 281 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-641-4, $24.99 US soft covers) is by Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner, founders of
and hosts of the 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge which involves over one million people. This 100 recipe book encourages you to lose weight, gain energy and feel great in your body by going the green smoothie route. The authors also include a 10-day kick start section. One green smoothie a day provides a good dose of nutrition to build upon for that day. Lots of good details on how to use produce and how to get around the taste of some green smoothies. Important too are preps for kids and jump starting your day.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
15.BRODO (Pam Krauss Books, 2015; dist. Random House Canada, 160 pages, ISBN 978-0-553-45950, $20 US hard covers) is by Marco Canora, chef-partner in three NYC restaurants, including Brodo. He's also a cookbook author. This one concerns bone broth, which is the upscale name for stock that you can drink, somewhere between stock and soup. Here are his recipes for broth, add-ins (ginger juice, beet kvass, chili oil), broth bowls (like soups), and risottos (the six preps here are for risottos using bone broths rather than just stock/wine/water). The recipes are for year-round service and most come from his restaurant. There's lamb brodo risotto with peas and mint, hearth brodo bowl with faro, a lamb brodo bowl with freekeh, and a duck brodo bowl. It all fits in with paleo eating. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
16.THE SCANDI KITCHEN (Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-654-9, $21.95 US hard covers) is by Bronte Aurell, Danish restaurateur, who runs ScandiKitchen Cafe and shop in central London along with her Swedish husband. She has also been published widely. Here she has an introduction to Scandinavian food through 75 dishes for all occasions. The contents begin with a pantry/larder, and move on to breakfast, open sandwiches, smorgasbord with soups and salads and light dishes, followed by dinner and desserts. There is even a chapter on fika (get-together with coffee with cakes). Try the breakfast open sandwich, shrimp and asparagus open sandwich, a Nordic Christmas, or traditional Danish apple trifle as individual servings. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
17.THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SUSHI & SASHIMI (Robert Rose, 2015, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0520-5 $29.95 CAN, spiral wire binding) is by Jeffrey Elliot and Robby Cook. Elliot was executive chef of Zwilling J.A. Henckels USA; Cook is executive sushi cook for an unnamed Japanese restaurant in NYC (googling his name reveals Morimoto New York as the restaurant). It is a basic book, certainly affordable, with 625 step-by-step photographs. Unfortunately, the spiral binding will plague libraries as pages get torn out by borrowers. Still, it does lie flat. The basics include history and culture notes, ingredients, equipment, and buying/storing/butchering fish and seafood. Elliot takes care of the knives, Cook shares his 11 years experience with fluke, octopus, and red snapper. The various forms and shapes of sushi are covered – chirashi, gunkanmaki, maki,  nigiri, makizushi, inarizushi, and oshizushi – as well as all the knives and butchering.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements.  Quality/price rating: 90.
18.VANILLA TABLE (Jacqui Small LLP, 2015, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-90934-286-6, $40 US hard covers) has been collated by Natasha MacAller, a food writer-consultant and a former professional ballerina. She's also opening Sausal restaurant in LA year. The book was originally published in 2013 in New Zealand, and it is a collection of vanilla preps from chefs around the world (Waxman, Ottolenghi, Lebovitz, about 32 in all, from Maldives, Vancouver, NYC, LA, London, Paris, etc.). There's a primer on vanilla, followed by a chapter selection based on the meal: starters, mains, sharing, brunch, desserts, cookies, and beverages. Her vanilla pantry includes vanilla sugar, vanilla salt flakes, vanilla extract, vanilla syrup, vanilla oil, plus caramelized onions, candied bacon bits, vinegars, toffees, curds, ice cream, and icings – with recipes for each. Dishes include slow-roasted oxtail pot pies with vanilla Shiraz gravy, spiced lime smoothie with granola, carrot-vanilla gougeres, beekeeper's elderflower cheesecake, and rhubarb ginger gazpacho and buttermilk panna cotta. There is usually one recipe per global chef, and this is fleshed out by many variations and themes of her own.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in all of metric, avoirdupois, and volume measurements, with a table of  equivalents at the back. First rate stuff here, well-worth taking a look at, even the gastroporn pictures. Quality/price rating: 89.
19.AT HOME WITH UMAMI (Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-667-9, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Laura Santtini, UK restaurateur, food entrepreneur and food writer. She launched Taste #5 (umami paste) in 2009. Her first book was a Guild of Food Writers (UK) award winner. Umami-rich ingredients will add depth to any dish. She identifies these ingredients and then uses them extensively in her cooking, such as bonding anchovy with tomato or pancetta and Parmigiana Reggiano in spaghetti carbonara. These are home-cooked recipes sorted under compelling chapters such as: fresh and uplifting, mellow and comforting, bold and bright, heady and daring, and sweet and interesting. The primer covers definitions and food sources of umami (includes a pantry). Dishes include Thai-steamed snapper with sticky coconut jasmine rice, or truffled mac and cheese, or calamari and chorizo salad, or parmesan ice cream sandwiches with chocolate balsamic strawberries. At the end there are a handful of preps using her Taste #5 pastes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
20. MODERN MEAT KITCHEN (Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-726-3, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Miranda Ballard, who runs a food company with her husband in the UK (Muddy Boots). Together they opened The Modern Meat Shop in London. This is a basic book on choosing, preparing and cooking meats at home. There is also information on sourcing meat that is farmed responsibly. All of these are covered in the primer areas. Typical preps reflect a UK orientation, such as Scotch eggs and haggis, game and gammon, but there is also turkey, chilli con carne, and pork and beans. Korean-style butterflied lamb caught my eye, as did game rillettes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.

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