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Thursday, January 12, 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.MOZZA AT HOME (Knopf, 2016, 415 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35432-5, $35 USD hardbound) is by Nancy Silverton, co-owner or founder of five restaurants and author of nine cookbooks. As a chef, she has also won two Beard Awards. Carolynn Carreno, her focusing food writer, is a Beard Award journalist and co-author of many cookbooks. Here, Silverton  gives us 19 menus of recipes that can mostly be prepared in advance with the purpose of entertaining (a main, apps and sides). And of course all of these can be mixed and matched. At the end, she has 17 desserts in a separate section. Typical menus include "Umbrian tavola", "Nicoise deconstructed", "Sicilian swordfish spiedini", lamb and chicken tikka kebabs, flattened chicken thighs, "Southern-style Korean cut short ribs with vinegar onions". The book is a real treat with innovative groupings for the home cook. I loved the avocado salsa. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but unfortunately there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
12.MOLLY ON THE RANGE (Rodale, 2016, 284 pages, ISBN 978-1-62336-695-7, $32.50 USD hardbound) is by Molly Yeh, food writer and blogger. It is a celebration of family roots, cultural exchange, and the "meaning of home" – an extension of her blog. She is currently a farmer on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, but her story goes from Chicago through New York to her current sugar beet farm – along with her photography. It is self-referential and memoirish but then most food blogs tend to be that way, although there is more permanence about them when they are published on hardbound paper. Among the eight log rollers are Amanda Hesser and Marian Bull, prominent food writers. It is arranged by course, beginning with breakfast and brunch, moving through mains, snacks and desserts. She's got 120 preps to suit all manner of talent, including schnitzel bao with sriracha mayo and sesame pickles, black sesame milk, quinoa carbonara, Asian Scotch eggs, latkes, and marzipan. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
13.THE RYE BAKER (W.W. Norton, 2016, 368 pages,ISBN 978-0-39324521-9, $35 USD hardbound) is by Stanley Ginsberg, co-author of the 2012 IACP award winning "Inside the Jewish Bakery" and owner of The New York Bakers website which sells supplies, equipment and rye flours.
There is some impressive log rolling from Peter Reinhart, Tartine Bakery, and King Arthur Flour. He's got 70 recipes dealing with the classics of rye breads from both the Old and the New Worlds: alpine Austria, upper Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, Baltics, Poland, Russia, immigrant breads of North America. There's Swedish gotland rye, Russian Borodinsky, Westphalian pumpernickel, Old Milwaukee Rye, plus Austrian country boule. The range embraces the nearly black colours to the lighter shades, and many include caraway seeds. Good detail. Of course, everything is scaled, with Baker's Percentages, and great directions for the home cook. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, and there are also multiple tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
14.CURATE (Flatiron Books, 2016, 290 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-05944-4, $35 USD hardbound) is by Katie Button, chef-owner of the Spanish tapas bar Curate in North Carolina, as well as Nightbell, an Appalachian restaurant/bar. She interned at elBulli (Ferran and Albert Adria are two of her eight log rollers). Genevieve Ko is the focusing food writer and recipe tester. It's arranged by course, beginning with starters, soups, moving through seafood, meats, veggies, rice and beans, brunch and lunch, desserts – and then drinks. There is also lots of material about Curate along with the photos. Tapas from Curate have been adapted to be larger dishes for the home cook, and  Button also gives us other Spanish cuisine dishes. She carefully explains the principles of Spanish cooking (food shopping, meat treatment, pantry/larder, et al) and also re-creates the meals that she has at home with her family in North Carolina. The photography is extensive. Typical are artichoke salad with radishes and salted yogurt, grilled sardines, marinated lamb skewers, blood sausages with rice, sherried mushrooms, quail in escabeche. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
15.THE MOON JUICE COOKBOOK (Pam Krauss Books/Avery, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8820-3, $30 USD hardbound) is by Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of the US Moon Juice wellness brand. The subtitle indicates "cook cosmically for body, beauty and consciousness". There are 75 preps for the cult brand's most popular healing beverages and foods. The pantry needs to be stocked with milks, juices, doughs and cultured foods – which can be combined together to create power meals. It is arranged by liquid: juices, well milks, moon milks, lattes, kefir, followed by cheeses, fermented veggies, and raw chocolate. There's a well milk chart, which details how to make almond milk, walnut milk, Brazil nut, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, lait de coco, hemp and coconut milk, and sesame butter milk. She's got some good notes on how to become an alchemist. First rate photography. If you need this, you've got it. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
16.COOKING WITH MARY BERRY (DK Books, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-5951-0, $25 USD hardbound) is by Mary Berry, well-known British cookbook author who has appeared as a judge on UK cooking shows and competitions in the American market. This is one of her first books for US viewers, although she has written over 70 (seventy!) cookbooks in the UK. Here are 150 everyday recipes "that my American viewers will love". There are also some UK specialties in the mix as well, such as Chelsea buns. Bath buns, It is a standard arrangement: breakfasts, soups & starters, mains, sides, breads, and desserts. It is international, with curries, enchiladas, hummus, salade nicoise, focaccia, Persian pilaf. Standard and classic Mary Berry. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and  avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
17.THE SAFFRON TALES (Bloomsbury, 2016, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-63286-710-0, $35 USD hardbound), is by Yasmin Khan, a UK food-writer-cook who runs classes and pop-up supper clubs. It began with a Kickstarter campaign in 2013; 277 people backed her. She's got log rollers Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigella Lawson on board for this book of recipes from the Persian kitchen. It's arranged by course, breakfast to mezze and sides, salads, soups, mains, and desserts. There are separate indexes for gluten-free and dairy-free recipes, and six menus (Iranian new year, vegan feast, Persian picnic). There is also a list of some eight quick and easy weekday suppers. Persian names for dishes are given alongside English titles and a photo of the plated dish. Cook notes and chapter outlines  provided generous detail of her travels, and who she spoke to and the kitchens she visited: rice paddies, tea plantations, coffee shops, spices and seafood. Try the spicy lentil and tamarind soup, the chicken livers with pomegranate molasses, spiced beef with eggs and spring onions, or the grilled mackerel with a spicy pomegranate salsa.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
18.THE RED ROOSTER COOKBOOK (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 384 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-63977-5, $37.50 USD hardbound) is by Marcus Samuelsson, who owns Red Rooster Harlem and other Manhattan restaurants. He's a Beard Award winner for "The Soul of a New Cuisine", and is a TV cooking show judge. Even with all these credits the publisher wanted some log rollers, including Leah Chase of New Orleans and Daniel Boulud of Manhattan. The text has been done with April Reynolds; the recipes with Roy Finamore. It is also a collection of stories from the locals of Harlem. Recipes relate to soul food (of course), but also to other aspects of Harlem: bread from Jewish emigrants, Latin food, Caribbean food, Italian pasta, Korean rice. A lot of the book has engaging personal photos and nicely written memoirish stories. It is a tome to study and contemplate. Some ingredients may be hard to source, and some dishes will need an experienced cook. But ultimately it is also a cookbook to read cover to cover, perhaps by the armchair traveller. For the musically inclined, he's also listed some playlists. Try bird funk and chicken liver butter or catfish with blackening rub or roasted turnips dduk. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
19.LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS (Bloomsbury, 2015, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-4088-6925-3, $35 USD hardbound) is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage in the UK. It was originally published in the UK in 2015, and here has its North American debut. As he says, these are "recipes for the resourceful cook", with primers on planning for leftovers, pantry/larder stocking, and some platforms for usage such as soups, salads, frittata, pies, curries, pastas – all of which can utilize leftovers in some capacity. Then come the recipes for meat, fish, roots, greens, breads, rice, dairy, eggs, and fruit. There is even a special section for Christmas, which apparently generates the most leftovers of all time. With its international scope, it is also a very colourful book. Preparations have their ingredients listed in mostly metric with just a few avoirdupois volume measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. This may not sit well with the US cook. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.COOKING FOR JEFFREY (Clarkson Potter, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-46489-7, $35 USD hardbound) is by Ina Garten, possibly the world's best selling cookbook author and host of Barefoot Contessa. This is her tenth book, and here she cooks for her husband of almost 50 years. It is part memoir, with stories of their life together. But otherwise it is a straightforward family cookbook of Jeffrey's fave foods, such as brisket with onions and leeks or roasted salmon tacos. She's also got a chapter on bread and cheese. Good heavy typeface draws out attention to the recipes and the ingredients – hard to miss. The layout, of course, is standard Ina, and concludes with a basic pantry and basic kitchen equipment. Of special note is the listing of 12 of Jeffery's all-time fave dinners, and includes scallops provencal, bolognese, herb-roasted fish, parmesan chicken,  spiced pork, et al. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
21.10-MINUTE RECIPES (Hay House, 2016, 294 pages, ISBN 978-1-4019-4970-9, $19.99 USD paperbound) is by Liana Werner-Gray, who was very sick until she turned her life around with her "The Earth Diet" (the name her first book, her blog and her company). Here she concentrates on fast food, clean ingredients, and natural health. She's got more than 350 recipes that can be done in 10 minutes or less. It covers a range of goodies such as juices, shakes, smoothies, breakfasts, salads, raw vegan mains, cooked vegan mains, meat eater dishes, sides, desserts, and condiments. With such a range of preps, she's also got some meal planning ides and guides. These do include plans for specific goals, such as breaking the addiction to junk food, alkalizing your body, detox, weight loss, anti-inflammatory, high-protein, skin guide, and kid-friendly guide. This good resource continues with recommended resources and a bibliography. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.


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