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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

* 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 –
11.STORM THE KETTLE (Whitecap, 2016, 200 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-299-4, $29.95 CAD paperbound) is by Elaine Feore, who did catering and ran a restaurant in Windsor ON. Now she's in Newfoundland with Joanne Goudie, running The Blue Fish Bistro and Cafe. They've got some classic dishes and local foods, and some contemporary international offerings as well as Newfoundland stews and seafood dishes (salt cod soup, cod tacos, poached cod with mixed veggies). There are additional sidebars on Newfoundland's heritage and culinary evolution. It is all arranged from apps to sweets, with courses also in sections (lunch, dinner). There is a pantry, of course, with lots of food and local colour photos. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois. Quality/price rating: 89.
12.GOOD TASTE (New American Library, 2016, 180 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-58337-7, $30 USD hardbound) is by Jane Green, bestselling author of The Beach House and Falling. It is her collection of simple and delicious recipes for her family and friends. The arrangement is by beginnings, middles and endings (starters/soups, mains, desserts). Along the way there is some good photography and memoir-like materials. It's pretty basic, such as French Onion soup (not sure why she needed to add sugar) or sweet corn and chili soup, mild green fish curry, warm chocolate and banana cake. Many preps come from her mother. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. A nice book for her fans. Quality/price rating: 86.
13.RAO'S CLASSICS (St. Martin's Press, 2016, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-00628-8, $35 USD hardbound) is by Frank Pellegrino Sr and Jr, with Joseph Riccobene. Senior had written two previous Rao's books; Junior had written Rao's Grill book, is the fourth generation owner, and runs the Western operations (Hollywood and Las Vegas). Log rolling comes from Bobby Flay and Drew Nieporent. Their book has more than 140 Italian faves from the New York restaurant in East Harlem since 1896 – with ten red-checkered tables for service. The range here is from antipasto through dolci, highlighted with pasta, seafood and meats. And there is a good history of the restaurants and of the people (lots of portraits at the back). Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. This is definitely one for the fans who need their fix. Quality/price rating: 86.
14.FIREHOUSE CHEF (Whitecap, 2016, 196 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-306-9, $34.95 CAD paperbound) is by Patrick Mathieu, a firefighter and a cook, owning a catering company while also teaching culinary management, writing about food for a firefighting magazine, and appearing on TV's Chopped Canada. This book is part memoir as Mathieu describes his 15 years as a firefighter-cook. He's got some preps of his own as well as contributions from firehalls across Canada (but no calendar). The range is basic, from apps through sweets, with lots of photos of food and firetrucks, etc. It is a little bit on the guy side as firefighters want extra protein, so there is pulled pork, wings, elk chili, goulash and other stews. Hearty food for the winter. Anecdotes abound, woven in with the memoir material. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
15.BREAKING BREADS; a new world of Israel baking (Artisan, 2016, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-682-9, $35 USD hardbound) is by Uri Scheft, owner of Tel Aviv's Lehamim Bakery (2001) and NYC's Breads Bakery (2014). He deals with classics such as babka and pain de mie. He has recipes for Yemenite kubaneh. His focaccia is topped with shakshuka (eggs poached in tomatoes). His poppy seed hamantaschen turns savoury with beets and potatoes. There are also 130 colour photos as well, to complement the 100 preps for flatbreads, stuffed breads, challahs, and cookies. Preparations have their ingredients scaled and listed in both metric weights and avoirdupois volumes, but there are also tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
16.THE ENCHILADA QUEEN COOKBOOK (St. Martin's Griffin, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-08291-6, $27.99 USD hardbound) is by Sylvia Casares, owner of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen in Houston. It was recently chosen by USA Today as in "The Top 10 Great Mexican Restaurants" in the USA. A lot of the food, of course, is Tex-Mex in style, with enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, tacos and other classics. Strangely, tortas are missing, and there is no pozole or lamb dishes. There's a quail recipe for the grill, chili gravy, slow-fried pork, stewed chicken breasts, and stacked enchiladas. Great looking food, filling for the colder seasons ahead. This is typical food from the restaurant, along with some of their fave drink and cocktail recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
17.SCRATCH (Rodale, 2016, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-643-8, $35 USD hardbound) is by Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale. She's the granddaughter of the founder. She's authored many books on organic food and gardening, but this is her first recipe book. These are 215 recipes developed from "scratch" (I have a whole roomful of scratch beside our freezer). Farm-to-table is the main theme of "home cooking for everyone made simple, fun and totally delicious" (subtitle). Melanie Hansche is the editor, recipe tester, and food stylist. The arrangement is typical: breakfast, salads, noodles, soups and sandwiches, snacks, mains (56 pages), sides, and baked desserts. And she endorses Michael Pollan: "East food, Mostly plants. Not too much". Try roast pork with sauerkraut, three-bean salad, panisse, escarole-farro-chicken soup, or celery with brown butter and toasted almonds. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
18.ANNA MAE'S MAC N CHEESE (Square Peg, 2015, 144 pages, ISBN  978-0-22410121-9, $27.99 CAN hardbound) is by Anna Clark and Tony Solomon; they run a food truck in London UK with that theme. They've been nominated for several BBC Good Food awards. It is an open and shut book: there are 50 preps for exotic mac 'n' cheese, sides, desserts and beverages. Mac 'n' cheese fries starts with leftover mac 'n' cheese and adds panko crumbs. Leftover mac 'n' cheese? Not in my house...Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric with few avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.LAYERED DESSERTS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-763-8, $21.95 USD hardbound) is by Hannah Miles, who competed on the BBC MasterChef series. She's published other niche cookbooks for RP & S, including ones on popcorn, cheesecake, and milkshakes. Here she zeroes in on 65 "layered cakes" which are retro but enjoying a revival: trifles, tiramisus, ice cream cakes, black forest, strawberry shortcake mousse and other similar goodies. It is arranged by themes: classic (mille-feuilles), fruity layers, frozen layers, and international. Preparations are scaled and have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.PERFECTLY PALEO (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-770-6, $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Rosa Rigby, a UK chef who now regularly hosts Paleo pop-up dining events. These are some 60 recipes for clean eating on a paleo diet. There is a wide-range of ingredients here, designed to provide sustainability and vitality. No processed foods, dairy or grains. Instead, nuts, seeds, eggs, quality meat and fish lead the way. It is not a diet so much as it is an approach. Typical arrangement includes breakfast, snacks, salads, soups, sandwiches, sides, mains and "tasty treats" (sweets). Preparations have their ingredients listed in mainly avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
21.SCANDIKITCHEN FIKA & HYGGE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-759-1, $21.95 USD hardbound) is by Bronte Aurell, a Swede who runs the ScandiKitchen Cafe and shop in London UK. Her food has also been featured on BBC and Danish TV. FIKA is a Swedish tradition for meeting for coffee. HYGGE is Danish for "coziness", as in comfort food. Together, these are the themes of the ScandiKitchen, and this is the resulting cookbook: comforting cakes and bakes. Arrangement is by form: biscuits and cookies; traybakes and no bakes; little fancy cakes; celebration cakes; breads and batters. Spices used include caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, ginger, saffron, orange peel. Grains are mostly oats and rye, with spelt and potato flour. Try custard tarts, blueberry stud muffins, honey cake, or hazelnut and mocha square.

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