...is 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 –
9.GRILL SMOKE BBQ (Quadrille, 2017, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-715-2 $35 USD hardbound) is by Ben Tish, chef-director of UK's Salt Yard Group of restaurants. It opens up the 2017 season of BBQ books with "we were determined to make it [this book] different (hopefully) from other barbecue books out there, and to show you how versatile barbecuing can be". He emphasizes the big fat smokey flavours. His book is arranged by topic: breakfast and brunch, tapas and small plates (largest chapter in the book), large plates, sides, and desserts. His suppliers list embraces both the UK and North America. His preps include some basics such as brines and cures of smoked salt and butter, chorizo ketchup, mojo verde, plus crunchy shallot and garlic salsa cruda. Desserts include charcoal-grilled peaches with lavender honey and mascarpone ice cream, carmelized oranges with orange flower yogurt and honeycomb, and smoky rice pudding with pomegranate molasses. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89
101.JAPANESE PATISSERIE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2017, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-810-9 $24.95 USD hardbound) is by James Campbell, head pastry chef at many UK restaurants (including Michelin-starred ones). Currently, he;s a product development manager for Marks & Spencer specializing in Japanese food. So here are 50 elegant recipes for desserts and confectionery with a contemporary Japanese twist: cookies, macarons, tarts, gateaux and savouries. Fusion at its finest, arranged by form (small cakes, sweet tarts, large cakes, "desserts", cookies, savouries). Try furikake popcorn, gyoza chicken wings, yakitori chicken, match-pink peppercorns-wild strawberry madeleines, or apricot-tahini-sesame donuts. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 87.
11.GLUTEN-FREE COOKING FOR TWO (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-82868-1, $19.99 USD paperbound) is by Carol Fenster, a food writer who has written many GF books and articles. She has also appeared on PBS. Here she has 125 downsized preps for two people, divided as to breakfast-brunch, soups-stews-sandwiches, mains, sides, breads and desserts. She's also got the basics of shopping and stocking and planning for the smaller household, which makes the book more valuable for any couple who are eating less of almost anything, not just GF foods. Every prep has details on kitchen equipment and kitchen waste, plus of course the usual nutritional data. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Very useful as a couples' cookbook. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements as noted, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87
12.FOOD SWINGS (Ballantine Books, 2017, 276 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-96714-0, $32 USD hardbound) is by Jessica Seinfeld, food author of three other cookbooks. She's also the president and founder of GOOD+ Foundation which supports more than 100 anti-poverty programs in the US. It's a mixed book of some 125 preps ranging from healthy through indulgent: virtue and vice. It's divided into two: Virtue is up first, with breakfast, meals, and dessert, followed by Vice, with breakfast, meals, and dessert. It's a good concept. There's no real nutritional data, but the ingredients clearly let you know what is a vice and what is a virtue. Virtue is celebrated with quinoa and date muffins, ginger salmon with sesame cucumbers, and whole roasted cauliflower with tomatoes and garlic. Vice is celebrated with fluffy buttermilk pancakes and roasted berry syrup, lasagna bolognese, and chocolate fudge cake. You're probably safe if you just indulge at lunch times. 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: 87.
13.THE PRESERVATORY (Appetite by Random House, 2017, 260 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-753005-9, $32 CAD hardbound) is by Lee Murphy, who owns and operates The Preservatory and Vista D'oro Farms & Winery in South Langley BC. She makes artisanal west coast preserves that are sold internationally, including Harrods of London. She's got 80 "simple" preps for creating and cooking with preserves all year long. Part One has 40 recipes for the seasons, beginning with spring. Part two has recipes for using preservatives in courses: brunch, aperitvo, dinner, and dessert. She's got a resources list for buying foods and equipment, and notes for making gifts. Just ahead of the index there is a list of 101 uses for jam, none of which involve toast. It's a first rate book with detailed food styling and photography by Janis Nicolay. There are savoury Dutch (bouncing) babies, brandade croquettes, and cheesy grits. Preserves include rhubarb and vanilla, strawberry with pistachio and vanilla, and raspberry with merlot and peppercorn. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes; at least it had metric conversion charts at the back. Quality/price rating: 86.
14.THE GREENHOUSE COOKBOOK (Penguin Canada, 2017, 294 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-319828-4, $24 USD, paperbound) is by Emma Knight, co-founder of Greenhouse Juice Co. in Toronto. With her are Hana James (also a co-founder), Deeva Green and Lee Reitelman (the latter two are product developers at Greenhouse). There are 100 recipes here from the company: 50 to eat with a fork, spoon or fingers, and 50 to drink. It's a boon at breakfasts, and the food is sturdy enough to make lunch last 'til dinner. Some heavy logrolling helps push the book along. The material on plant-based eating and DIY juicing is first rate: sun-dried tomato tapenade; vanilla bean cheesecake with coconut whipped cream; and chocolate hemp peanut butter balls. For drinks, try The Good (spinach, romaine and cuke), East of Eden (romaine, kale, celery), TKO (butternut, zuke, celery), or Brazil Nut Milk. At the end there are a series of cleanses, with some pre- and post-cleanse menus to enjoy. 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: 87.
15.A NEW WAY TO BAKE (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 319 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-95471-8, $26 USD paperbound) is From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart. These are classic recipes updated with better-for-you ingredients from the modern pantry. It's loaded with high reference value data, mostly at the end under The Basics chapter. The book is not really about any new techniques of baking. It's mainly using higher nutritional whole gains and gluten-free flours. There are ingredient listings for the flours and the sugars plus some valuable advice on grinding your own flour. It's arranged starting with breakfast and then moving on to cookies, brownies, bars, pies, tarts, crisps, cobblers, cakes, cupcakes, breads and rolls. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Baking is exact if it is scaled, and metric is the lingua franca of scaling. Quality/price rating: 86.
16.EVERYDAY SEAFOOD (Quadrille Books, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-915-6, $29.99 USD hardbound) is by Nathan Outlaw, who has five restaurants in the UK. One of them is the only seafood restaurant in the world to hold two Michelin stars since 2011. His previous cookbook was awarded "Cookery Book of the Year" in 2013 at the UK Food and Travel Magazine Awards. Here he has 100 recipes for both fish and seafood, with an endorsement by Jamie Oliver. He begins with apps, moves to the sea with raw foods, then on to pickled/marinated seafood, soups, salads, baked seafood, broiled and BBQ seafood, and then some 9 desserts for those Brits who refuse to leave the table without their pudding. This is an engaging collection of preps, but of course the UK orientation means that it might be a little hard to find sea robins for your BBQ. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
17.THE HAVEN'S KITCHEN COOKING SCHOOL (Artisan, 2017, 376 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-673-7, $35 USD hardbound) is by Alison Cayne, founder of Haven's Kitchen (cafe, cooking school, event space). She's also involved with Edible Schoolyard. Her log rollers include Tom Colicchio, Amanda Hesser, and Gail Simmons. These are recipes and inspiration to build a lifetime of confidence in the kitchen. There are about 100 recipes, all the basics, with some movement in the variations to allow for creativity. Everything seems to be covered by "masterclass" topics: grains/beans, fritters, veggies, soups, eggs, salads, animal protein, sauces, and desserts. It's a good layout with varying typefaces and nice leading. There are many photos of techniques. For example, the chapter on fritters includes all the technique basics and descriptions, plus preps for quinoa broccoli patties, latkes, veggie tempura, pakora, falafel, arancini, and apple beignets. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
18.THE BOOK OF GREENS (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 318 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-984-4, $35 USD hardbound) is by Portland's Jenn Louis, chef and TV cooking competitor with a string of awards. The award-winning (IACP, MFK Fisher) focusing food writer is Kathleen Squires. There are more than 175 recipes here for 40 varieties of greens from agretti, arugula to watercress, and water spinach. Along the way we are introduced to celtuce, minutina, several varieties of spinach, red orach, spigarello, and some wild and foraged greens (extending the list beyond 40, to include fiddlehead, burdock, ramp greens (don't pick too many), lemon balm – ten of them, plus some recipes following. From the main section there is braided bok choy with apples and bacon, bagna cauda, kale with anchovy, moong dal and basmati rice kitchari with beet greens, salt-roasted Yukon gold potatoes with radicchio and crème fraiche, and dandelion greens with prosciutto and olive picnic cake. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both avoirdupois and metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
19.NOPALITO; a Mexican kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2017, 242 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57828-1 $30 USD hardbound) is by Gonzalo Guzman who is a chef-partner with two San Francisco locations of Nopalito. Food and travel journalist Stacy Adimando is the focusing food writer. It comes with some strong logrolling, including Rick Bayless, who declares the salsa chapter as "so much joy to be had". There are about 50 pages of basics (food, pantry, equipment) followed by small plates (platillos pequenos), big plates, drinks and desserts, and 17 salsa recipes. He's got adobo-rubbed trout in banana leaves, salsa-dipped griddled chorizo and potato sandwiches, short rib stew, tamales with red spiced sunflower seed mole, sliced cabbage salad, and smashed shrimp with eggs and salsa. About 110 preps in all. 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.
20.SPANISH MADE SIMPLE (Quadrille Publishing, 2016, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-760-2, $24.99 USD hardbound) is by chef Omar Allibhoy, once with Ferran Adria, then his own restaurant in Notting Hill London, and now he has six Tapas Revolution restaurants across the UK. He gives us the basics in family-style for 100 classic Spanish dishes, each one full of Mediterranean-type sunny flavours. His chapters are arranged by course, beginning with nibbles, meat, game, fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, veggies, salads, soups, stews, pulses, paella, rice,and ending with desserts. Begin with salt cod fritters, mushroom gratin with ham mayonnaise, grilled cuttlefish, scallop and serrano ham gratin served in the shell, or rice with sausages, ribs and cauliflower. All very tasty, with good upfront plated photography. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
21.THE LOST KITCHEN (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-553-44843-6 $32.50 USD hardbound) is by Eric French, owner-chef of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine. It's located in an 1834 gristmill. In fact, French grew up in Freedom, working at her father's diner. But now – "Each spring, the day the phone line opens to accept reservations, the restaurant books up fore the entire year". There are about 100 recipes here, mainly from the restaurant itself, with notes about Maine and its food. The arrangement is by season, spring through winter, with three sub-categories of firsts, mains, and sweets, and 7 – 8 recipes for each category. This can also serve as a three course menu for several days of the season. As with most restaurant books of this type, it is certainly stylish and useful to the adherents. It also makes for quite a useful gift to anyone from Maine. And some cookbook collectors specialize in restaurant cookbooks for their non-recipe stories about the place and the region and the people/suppliers/employees. Hers is about 16 miles west of Belfast, a midcoast Maine town. Expect razor clam seviche with from-scratch saltines, rhubarb spoon cake, Maine shrimp roll, ramp and fiddlehead fried rice, halibut nicoise, skillet mussels, and elderflower fritters. 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.
22.CASA MARCELA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, 266 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-80855-3, $30 USD hardbound) is by Marcela Valladolid, co-host of The Kitchen on Food Network, and host of five seasons of Mexican Made Easy, also on FN. This is her third book, and based on what the eight log rollers say (including an Iron Chef, Rachel Ray, Eva Longoria) it is all about family traditions and family life that intersect with Mexican food. It ranges from apps through salads, soups, sides, salsas, mains, with breakfasts, drinks, and desserts. For salads, typical are chickpea and bean, kale and cilantro, pomegranate and chicken with lettuce cups, watermelon-mint with queso fresco. It's a combo of California and Mexican food, as would be found on the Tijuana-San Diego stretch. Red chile lamb stew is a winner, as is huita waffle salmon. But, meaning no disrespect, there are far too many personal family pix of her and her family at the expense of finished plates of the food. The stories are fine, and offer insights, but not the photos. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
23.SIX SEASONS; a new way with vegetables (Artisan, 2017, 400 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-631-7 $35 USD hardbound) is by Joshua McFadden, executive chef/owner of Ava Gene's and Tusk in Portland OR. It comes with log rolling by David Chang and Alice Waters. His collaborator is Martha Holmberg, former editor of Fine Cooking and CEO of the IACP. He believes that there are six seasons for veggies: spring (tender), early summer (fresh and green), midsummer (colour and variety), late summer (lush textures), fall and winter (storage roots). Each has a coloured margin for differentiation. From earlier stints at Momofuku in NYC through Four Season Farm in coastal Maine, McFadden cultivated a further love of veggies. His book is part memoir, beginning with basic recipes and larders. It goes in seasonal order, from asparagus and peas in spring to carrots and celery in early summer, through broccoli and summer squash in midsummer, and corn, eggplant, tomatoes in late summer. Fall has cabbage family greens, while winter has root veggies. Life is full. The 225 preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.