THE COMPLETE COOK'S COUNTRY TV SHOW COOKBOOK (America's Test Kitchen, 2017, 691 pages, ISBN 978-1-940352-93-0 $32.95 USD paperbound) is from the America's Test Kitchen team. Every recipe from all ten seasons of this popular PBS show is here, along with played photos. This is US regional home cooking. Everything has been tested and retested to arrive at the best version. Included also are tests of kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients: to see which brands offer the best value and performance. There are bonus variations and accompaniments, tips and advice, shopping guides, and stories behind the recipes. There is an index to the shows themselves, so you can spot some of the recipe titles. The extensive index also covers courses and photos; it is in big type with some bold lines.
Audience and level of use: beginners, staunch lovers of US regional cooking
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: it is arranged by type of food, eg. Grandma's food, diner food, steakhouses, Sunday best food, Tex-Mex faves, Italian, grilling, breakfasts and breads, cakes and cookies, other desserts and pies.
The downside to this book: the book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least it had conversion and equivalents charts.
The upside to this book: good clinical work
Quality/Price Rating: 90.
4.DUTCH FEAST (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017, 263 pages, ISBN 978-1-55152-687-4 $32.95 CAD hardbound) is by Emily Wight, a writer and recipe developer. This is her second cookbook for Arsenal. The publisher notes that this is the first extensive Dutch cuisine book to be published in North America in three decades. Dutch food has been characterized as local and seasonal with international flavours, lots of sugar and dairy with cheese and breads not far behind. Many foods have been brought to America, such as pancakes and waffles, apple pie, doughnuts, and coleslaw. Overall, these foods are also upfront in Dutch cuisine, with apples, potatoes, endives, onions and kale being most important. The 120 preps are arranged by course (breakfast, coffee time, dinner), with side chapters for borrels (Dutch small plates), rijsttafel, gezellig (comfort food), and Christmas. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes along with the avoirdupois, or at least had a metric conversion chart.
Audience and level of use: beginners, those interested in Dutch food.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: sauerkraut stamppot; semolina pudding with rose and honey; cranberry and persimmon pastechi; farmer's cheese soup; hutspot; prune tart; spicy prawns with green beans; marinated herring; meatball curry.
The downside to this book: I wanted more on the rijsttafel since there could be some 30 or so dishes. She lists 16 and two are ice cream desserts.
The upside to this book: a good primer on Dutch food history and resources.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
5.SMORGASBORD (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 170 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57909-7 $17.99 USD hardbound) is by Johanna Kindvall, a Swedish illustrator and cook based in Brooklyn. She had previously authored Fika: the art of Swedish coffee. She's illustrated her own books, and quite deftly too. This is the art of Swedish breads and savoury treats, as found throughout all of Scandinavia (but is more commonly associated with Denmark; no matter). It is a basic primer at an affordable price, which separate chapters on breads, everyday smorgasbord, outdoor seasonal spreads, smorgasbord celebrations, and condiments and sides. Baking preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but overall it is mostly US volume measurements. There is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those wishing to expand their repertoire or wish to do a buffet.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: butter-fried chanterelles with walnuts; smoked fish salad with horseradish; elderflower-cured rainbow trout; quick pickled veggies; Christmas malt bread; stinging nettle pesto; orange marmalade with thyme.
The downside to this book: I wanted more
The upside to this book: affordable introduction to smorgasbords.
Quality/Price Rating: 87
6.THE NEW NOURISHING (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-859-8 $21.95 USD hardbound) is by wellness lifestyle food editor Leah Vanderveldt. She believes in plant-based comfort food to feed the body and the soul. It is all arranged by course, beginning with breakfasts, and then moving on to soups and stews, big bowls, entertaining, savoury snacks, and sweet snacks. She doesn't count calories or believe in guilt-free foods. Veganism, for the most part (honey is used), is the way to go, and through plant-based foods one can promote a sense of well-being and find a feel-good point. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegans, vegetarians, millennials
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: crispy chickpeas, garlic greens, sweet potato noodle bowl, mezze bowl, winter veggie bowl, sweet potato falafel, pesto winter squash pizza, farro risotto with green peas, vegetable-loaded nachos.
The downside to this book: I wanted more.
The upside to this book: good themes.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
7.DINNER WITH DICKENS (CICO Books, 2017, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-78249-449-2 $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Pen Vogler, food historian author of Dinner with Mr. Darcy and Tea with Jan Austen. She has also recreated recipes from the past for the BBC. This is the food of Victorian England, and is inspired by the life and work of Charles Dickens. His books have included a grand wedding breakfast, a bread-and-butter tea, and of course the day-to-day gruel of the children and workers. Each chapter here comes from a book, such as the family dinner in Little Dorrit, Guppy's dining house treat from Bleak House, Christmas matters from both Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol, and drinks from The Pickwick Papers. There's a bibliography of relevant additional cookbooks and of cultural histories from this time period. Each prep comes with background from the Dickens' book, an historical recipe (not from Dickens) and a modern updated version, plus a photo of the plated product. Christmas pudding, punch sauce, French plums, Leicestershire pork pie – it is all here. This is pop culture of cooking at its best.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: Dickens lovers, pop culture, Victorian times.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Dickens was fascinated by what connected people, and food was at the top of his list. His characters give, share, steal or long for beefsteak pudding, a morsel of pickled salmon, and sip of currant wine – which tells us something about the giver, the receiver, and the relationship between them in terms of their moral, economic, or social life.
The downside to this book: I wanted more
The upside to this book: a good representation of the theme.
Quality/Price Rating: 88
8.MUSHROOMS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-880-2 $21.95 USD hardbound) us by Jenny Linford, a UK freelance food writer and multiple cookbook author. Here she celebrates mushrooms and truffles, from folklore to foraging. There are 65 preps here, covering all savoury courses: apps, soups, stews, grains, rice, pasta, meats, fish, salads, veggies, eggs and cheese. She opens with a primer on cultivated and wild mushrooms. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: mushroom lovers, umami enthusiasts.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: jamon and mushroom croquettes; mushroom and bean chili; Thai mushroom soup; beef and porcini ragu with pappardelle; pan-fried fish fillets with wild mushrooms; mushroom and goat cheese and lentil salad.
The downside to this book: The publisher states in a denial of liability "There is an element of risk to ingesting wild mushrooms." I say unless you really know what you are doing, trust a "professional" forager.
The upside to this book: a good collection of recipes, augmented by terrific photos on a matte finish.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.