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Saturday, February 11, 2017

* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. 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 –
15.COCONUT OIL (Quadrille, 2015, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-838-8, $22.95 USD hardbound) is by Lucy Bee, founder of the leading UK brand of coconut oil: it is raw, organic, extra virgin, cold pressed, and Fair Trade. As a celiac, Lucy found coconut to be extremely useful. The book was originally published in the UK last year, and this is its Canadian release. She's got over 100 recipes, mostly on ingesting but also on beauty ideas to feed one's skin. It's arranged by mealtime and by course, apps to desserts, with material on a pantry. There's a glossary and nutritional information; there are also icons for gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, vegetarian and vegan. Try lentil and vegetable moussaka, blackberry and lemon sauce pudding, or sweet potato nachos. One drawback: the index has a teeny tiny type font. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88. 
16.DEEP SOUTH: new Southern cooking (Quadrille Books, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-720-6, $35 USD hardbound) is by Brad McDonald, Mississippi-born career chef who now explores Southern foodways as a chef outside of North America. The book is loaded with pix of Southern life and plated dishes. It's arranged with a larder/pantry first, followed by  apps, fish, meat, veggies, sides and sweets. The range is thorough and comprehensive, from pickled watermelon rind through chess pie, collard greens, grits, shrimp, crawfish boil, and pork rinds. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
17.ALIMENTARI (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-74379129-5, $29.99 USD paperbound) is by Linda and Paul Jones, owner-operators of two Mediterranean eateries/delis in Victoria, Australia. These 100+ dishes are they ones that they serve (among many), scaled to home use. It is arranged by time of day (morning, midday, and later) with sweets. The first two emphasis a diner with takeouts; the later meal is the substantial dinner. Lots of pix and memoir-words describe the feel and history of the place, as well as how they do food. It is all very engaging, with smoked salmon, Persian feta, and cherry tomato tarts or saffron rice with chickpeas, lentils and baharat salad.  Larger dishes include sambusic, whole snapper, roast chicken with harissa or slow-cooked lamb shoulder.  Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
18.LOVELY LAYER CAKES (Quadrille Publishing, 2015,  160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-729-9, $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Peggy Porschen, who has prepared cookies and cakes for many A-listers such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. Many of her preps and commissions have been written up in a variety of UK celebrity watch magazines. Here she gives us thirty recipes for such as passion fruit and mascarpone cake, cheeky monkey cake, mad hatter's checkerboard cake, and pina colada cake. Instructions are detailed and go for pages, with pix of final product and slices and techniques. At the inside back cover there are two cake decorating stencils that can be useful for budding cakers. This is a well-thought through tome for home use. Needless to say, all the baking preps are scaled. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
19.PEACE & PARSNIPS (The Experiment, 2016, 328 pages, ISBN 978-1-61519-321-9, $25 USD hardbound) is by Lee Watson, an experienced chef who has also hosted and worked on the Fox TV show "Meat v Veg". He now works as a vegan chef in Snowdonia National Park in Wales. This current tome has 200 plant-based recipes in an adventuresome mode for both the committed and the newly arrived. Four years ago he went completely vegan, and has adapted many of his earlier influences into strong flavoured foods: Mexican street food, Turkish bazaars, French country food, Spain, and India. It's arranged by course, beginning with breakfast and moving through juices, soups, salads, sides, small plates, big plates, curries, burgers, stuffed, and sweets. Typical are turnip and spinach kashmiri curry with beet raiti, clay-baked potatoes and parsnips with roasted garlic and date masala, smoked tofu sausage sandwiches with red onion marmalade, and dark chocolate and beet brownies. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.

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