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Sunday, July 30, 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.JUNK FOOD JAPAN (Absolute Press-Bloomsbury, 2017, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-4729-1992-2 $40 USD hardbound) is by Scott Hallsworth, who has worked at Nobu London, Park Lane, opening Nobu Melbourne, and then opening Mirai in Dubai. In 2013 he opened Kurobuta, now with two London locations. It's not really junk food here, but it does have elements of both Japanese and junk cuisine: lobster and chips, Jerusalem artichoke chopsticks, crab crunchies, iced sweet and sour nasu, wagyu beef sliders, and flamed edamame. All of it tasty – and you can see the junk elements in the plating. Excellent layout in the index. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, but there are tables of conversion equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90.
12.MARY BERRY EVERYDAY (BBC Books, 2017, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-78594-168-9 $53.95 CAD hardbound) is by the star chef of her latest BBC series which ran in 2016. Here are 120 new preps from that TV show, meant to accompany her series,  ranging from family dinners, entertaining, sweets, and weekend comforts. She hits the highlights of just about every food ingredient, and also adds her own special twist in concocting surprising flavours. The range: meats, game, poultry, fish, veggie, sides, salads, desserts plus teatime, sharing apps, first courses, and lunches. Interesting twists include more herbs and spices plus inspirations from Asia and Mexico, wines and spirits, condiments of oils and vinegars, lemons and limes. She's got a recipe finder apart from the index, for 30-minute meals, prep-ahead crowd pleasrs, low-prep winter warmer deserts, and easy teatime treats, And for entertaining, there is a locator for quick nibbles, express mains, and speedy desserts. There's a nicely chosen package of recipes too. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
13.JULIE TABOULIE'S LEBANESE KITCHEN (St. Martin's Griffin, 2017, 296 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-09493-3 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by Julie Ann Sageer with Leah Bhabha. The book accompanies the PBS show of the same name. She was also the host of the Emmy-nominated "Cooking with Julie Taboulie". The theme, of course, is home-cooked Lebanese food, emphasizing the aromatic/flavourful side of Mediterranean cooking. She's got 125 family preps from her heritage, ranging from street food, mezze, skewers, sandwiches, seasonal salads, pickles, veggies, soups, stews, mains and sides, and sweets. Typical are labneh and ajin (yogurt and bread), atar (rose water syrup) and my faves sheikh el mahshi and kabis batenjen, both stuffed baby eggplants. At the end, there's a chapter on the Lebanese pantry and a resources list. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.
14.RECIPES FROM THE HERBALIST'S KITCHEN (Storey Publishing, 2017, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-61212-690-6 $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Brittany Wood Nickerson, an herbalist who owns Thyme Herbal and offers cooking classes, lectures, conferences, and so forth. Her preps offer unexpected combinations such as lavender and dandelion flower muffins or rosemary/olive oil tea cake, or red grape chimichurri with dill and oregano. Every dish uses a large amount of culinary herbs to emphasize some healing properties. Her own arrangement is by a spiritual form with empowerment, awakening, nourishing, invigorating, comforting, challenging, transforming, adapting and sharing as the main theme chapters. It is all bound together by the index, which covers the herbs, the recipes, and the unhealthy conditions (acne, acid reflux, anemia – a wide range). Most of us get tired now and again, and for that she has some preps to enliven and energize: spinach and grapefruit salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, thyme and jalapeno pickled carrots, mint and feta bruschetta with chive blossoms, vital roots kimchi, and more. About 100 good recipes with lots of details. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
15.ALCHEMY OF HERBS (Hay House, 2017, 358 pages, ISBN 978-1-4019-5006-4 $24.99 USD paperbound) is by Rosalee de la Foret, a teacher and author of online courses at LearningHerbs [] She's got a whopping big crew of 21 log rollers endorsing the book, including Susun Weed. There is a lot of herbal info here as well as herbal healthful hints. Through this book, you'll find something about cinnamon tea to soothe your throat, ginger lemon tea for cold symptoms, cayenne salve to relieve sore muscles, and even an anti-oxidant such as spiced cold brewed coffee. It's arranged by taste of the herb: pungent, salty, sour, bitter, and sweet...just as our taste buds are. Twenty-nine herbs and spices are covered this way, along with a primer chapter. Each herb is described along with photos, properties, immune support possibilities, how to use, and a few recipes. There's a glossary and endnotes, plus a resources chapter. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
16.VEGETABLES ON FIRE (Chronicle Books, 2017, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-5824-2 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Brooke Levy who develops food pairings for Winemaker Salon and has cooked at Delfina Restaurant. She's also a food/travel writer and editor. Here she has 60 preps for veggies cooked on the grill, from cauliflower steaks to beets slow-cooked like brisket. It's arranged by type of vegetable with tomatoes/brassicas/squash up front, followed by green veggies (e.g., peas and beans), grains, corn, mushrooms, and roots. There's an opening primer on dips and drizzles and basic rubs, and a closing chapter on breads. Well-worth a look, for such as patatas bravas fries, charred leeks with blue cheese and walnuts, or coconut curry squash. However, I found the book difficult to read with its white on black typography; the listing of ingredients in red gets a bit lost in the black background. Preparations have their ingredients listed in  avoirdupois measurements with some metric, but there are no tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85
17.30 MINUTE CURRIES (Absolute Press Bloomsbury, 2017, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-4729-3777-3 $36 USD hardbound) is by Atul Kochhar, an owner of multiple restaurants around the globe, including Benares in Mayfair. He's also appeared on British TV cooking shows. Here he sums up the UK's most popular dish: curry – which may or may not be better if eaten out. He's simplified things for a regular kitchen, virtually promising a finished product in 30 minutes. It will call for a pantry (which he itemizes) and pre-bought ingredients, as well as a mis en place. But after that, it's quick to do, and even quicker when you get proficient at it and it becomes routine. Veggies and pulses cover most of the book (82 pages), followed by eggs and cheese, seafood, poultry, and meat. There's pyaz ki tarkari (onion stir-fry), shalijam kori (turnip curry), kacang bendi (stir-fried okra and eggs), and the classic kairi ka murgh (mango and chicken curry). Each prep has a photo of the plated food. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both avoirdupois and some metric measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
18.TAQUERIA (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-74379231-5 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by Paul Wilson, an Australian chef who also wrote "Cantina" about Mexican food. It comes with log rolling by Anthony Bourdain. It's a book of "new-style" fun and friendly Mexican cooking all based on taco culture. The 80 preps here are all classic and  modern, utilizing fresh ingredients. There are five basic chapters: the important Latin Larder/Pantry, salsas/dips, salads and veggies, tacos, and beverages such as a variety of margaritas. It is also a very colourful book. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric (limited) and avoirdupois measurements, but there are no tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
19.LEMONS AND LIMES (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-806-2 $21.95 USD hardbound) is by well-known Ursula Ferrigno, who has written over 18 cookery books most emphasizing Mediterranean foods. She's been on UK TV quite a lot, does restaurant consultations, and runs classes at all Sur La Table stores. These 75 preps emphasize the freshness and vivacity of lemons and limes, with one excursion to pink grapefruit. The range is from small bites through soups/salads, meat/poultry, fish/seafood, veggies, and sweets plus drinks. Lemon mushroom arancini, pork dumplings in lime-leaf broth, spaghettini with calamari and lemons, and a smashing gin and tonic cake with lemon syrup. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87
20.NADIYA'S KITCHEN (Michael Joseph, 2016, 272 pages, ISBN 978-0-71818451-3 $42.95 CAD hardbound) is by Nadiya Hussain, winner of Great British Bake Off in 2015, She's also a columnist and a TV host in the UK. It was originally published in 2016 in the UK; this is the North American release of the original book. Here are 100 simple family preps, ranging from brekkies to teatime to dinners to cakes. Chapters deal with Sunday brunches, snacks, small plates, a "dinner date", midnight feasts, and sharing plates. The theme is UK family, with an emphasis on baked goods such as scones, pancakes, sausage rolls, za'atar and lemon palmiers, bakewell macaroons, parsnip and orange spiced cake, mushroom and cheese croissants. Classics and contemporary styles as well. But, the book could have been improved if it also used avoirdupois in the recipes as well as metric, or at least had a conversion or equivalents chart (this could limit sales in the USA). Quality/price rating:  86.
21.VINEGAR REVIVAL (Clarkson Potter,2017, 160 pages, ISBN 978-0-451-49503-7 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Harry Rosenblum, co-owner of the Brooklyn Kitchen, co-founder of the Meat Hook and Bierbox. He's also host of an old-time podcast on radio. The book turns back the clock in presenting heritage artisanal recipes for brightening dishes and drinks with homemade vinegars. Topics include making the vinegar master (and a primer on pasteurization, clarity, determining pH, testing, alcohol fermentation, and aging), infusions, shrubs, drinks and cocktails, and moves on to pickles and preserves. Then it is over to sauces, condiments, and vinaigrettes. After that, the dishes start: apps, mains, sides, desserts. It's an amazing resource through 50 recipes plus some experimentals. Try rosemary maple shrub, dashi mayonnaise, saucy piquant pork chops, or a vinegar compote. One for the sour lovers! But the book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89.

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