Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

* 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.DELICIEUX (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 424 pages, ISBN 978-1-74379195-0 $40 USD hardbound) is by Gabriel Gate, a Loire-born French chef who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants. He's also been a TV host for in Australia for decades and leads gourmet tours to France. This book (one of his 23 cookbooks) on French food covers recipes from all regions, Normandy to Provence and the Mediterranean back up to Alsace. He also covers local markets, cafes, patisseries, and fine-dining places. It is arranged by course: starters, salads, veggies, seafood, poultry (and rabbit), meats, cakes, desserts and tarts. Little on wine. Veal gets covered by blanquette de veau, cotes de veau panes, and veau saute. Flan de courgettes au Saint Marcellin is a good zucchini cheese dish. Preps are sourced as to region, and both French and English titles are used. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
12.GATHER COOK FEAST (Fig Tree, Penguin, 2017, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-241-21609-5 $53.95 CAD hardbound) is by Jessica Seaton (and Ann Colquhoun). These are recipes from land and water by the co-founder of Toast (UK fashion and lifestyle brand). Colquhoun is a food anthropologist looking at local cuisines, and author of "Eat Slow Britain". It's a collection of recipes subdivided by landscape types: freshwater, saltwater, home ground (yard gardens), pasture fields, and heath and wood (foraging). This is the food that one could expect to find, for the most part, in temperate regions. And, of course, if you do not want or cannot forage, then there is always the local market or a supplier of unusual ingredients (they've got a list). Typical are duck in apot with spring veggies, wild weed pasties, watercress salad with blood oranges, bitter green orecchiette, roast partridge with smoky lentils and damsons, herbed rice with saffron pike-perch. A good selection of recipes. The book could have been improved if it also used avoirdupois in the recipes, or at least had a conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.
13.THE OKANAGAN TABLE (Figure 1 Publishing, 2017, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-773270-002-9 $37.95 CAD hardbound) is by Rod Butters of RauDZ Regional Table and a number of other places in the Okanagan Valley. The book is hailed as "the art of everyday home cooking" but in the Okanagan area of fruit orchards, vineyards, and food artisans. In that case, it is quite similar to the Sonoma and Provencal landscape, especially now with global warming. The chapters are arranged by time of day: sunrise, midday, sunset, twilight. This is food from the region: whatever is grown or raised, such as duck eggs at brekkies, potted smoked salmon, halibut pastrami, turkey wings, venison carpaccio, pork roast with apples an potatoes, et al. The Okanagan Valley is indeed rich. Here are 80 recipes for use at home, with mains such as bamboo steamed fish in curry, beer-braised short ribs, braised oxtail, honeyed quail, root veggie torte, and wild boar meatballs. There are also supplier lists, principally useful if you live in the region. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
14.THE MODERN JEWISH TABLE (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017, 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-5107-1718-3, $24.99 USD hardbound) is by (Tracey Fine and Georgie Tarn, both in the UK). They've gone the promo route through TV, radio and the prss, plus cooking demos. They've updated and extended about 100 Jewish recipes from the around the world, maintaining the kosher status. The results include sephardi saffron chicken soup instead of just plain chicken soup, and princess pita instead of matzo. Other modernized dishes include Chinese chicken sesame toast, street food gefilte fish bites, and Kunafa Middle Eastern cheesecake. Pareve desserts are a specialty here, and many other items can be part of a Passover feast. It is all arranged by course: small plates, soups, green salads, fish, meat, veggies, and desserts. The book is well-laid out with leading and nice large print, and this continues with the large print index. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there conversion tables to metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87
15.PETER CALLAHAN'S PARTY FOOD (Clarkson Potter, 2017, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-553-45971-5 $35 USD hardbound) is by the owner of NYC's Peter Callahan Catering. He's created food for both corporations and for celebrities, as well as contributing to Martha Stewart Weddings. His first cookbook was "Bite by Bite". Here he expounds on serving food in style for celebrations: tablescapes, buffets, family gatherings, plated dishes, mini hors d'oeuvre, seated dinners, and bar carts. He's got stories about his career and business with anecdotes of some of his dinners. He simplifies as much as can be and organizes well with his shortcuts. There are 100 original party tricks and recipes. It's all arranged by format, from passed small plates to plates, family style, and bar carts. There are some really good ideas here, along with excellent display photos (Con Poulos). 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.
16.I LOVE INDIA (Quadrille Publishing, 2017, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84949-563-9 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by the UK's Anjum Anand who has hosted "Indian Food Made Easy" (BBC TV), and has written seven other Indian cookbooks for Quadrille. She's also been busy with her own range of Indian sauces (plus chutneys and pickles) sold internationally as The Spice Tailor. Here is a collection of recipes and stories from Indian cities and coastal shorelines, for eating morning to midnight, and created from the past to the present. Most regions of India are covered, as well as stories of traders/settlers/immigrants. She's got street food, app bites, curries from the coast, holidays and high days' food, comfort food, and regional classics. Sample Delhi papri chaat, potato burger, hot lamb sandwich, tandoori-style sea bream, sindhi-style grilled fish, chana masala, even classic butter chicken. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart for the avoirdupois elements. Quality/price rating: 86.
17.BACO (Chronicle Books, 2017, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-5468-8 $35 USD hardbound) is by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock. He's the chef-owner of five LA restaurants; she's a food writer formerly at the LA Times. These preps come from his first restaurant, Baco Mercat, and represent both Turkish and Tejano (Texas) heritage. It's a chef cookbook from his collection of recipes, and it does have international inspirations, arranged for the home cook as – chapter 1 spicy/salty/pickled/preserved; chapter 2 fresh/green/snappy/light; chapter 3 bright/citrusy/zesty/hardy; chapter 3 buttery/crispy/tangy/herbal; chapter 5 earthy/sharp/velvety/savoury; chapter 6 creamy/nutty/crunchy/floral; chapter 7 tender/juicy/peppery/rich; chapter 6 flaky/fruity/caramely/tart, plus 11 drinks (mash, shrub). A nice way to deal with food distinctions. Try roasted golden beets with radishes, cucumbers, hazelnuts, and creamy poblano-feta dressing, or lebni with eggplant puree, fava "hummus" and za'atar, or hamachi crudo with adjika, yuzu-dashi vinaigrette, avocado, and potato croquettes.
The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Still, a fab production with photos and lots of notes about his cooking philosophy, and a great looking index with large typeface and lots of leading. Quality/price rating: 90.
18.SUPPER LOVE (Quadrille Publishing, 2017, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-049-4 $22.99 USD hardbound) is by David Bez, who currently owns and operates a London cafe serving his fave bowls for breakfasts, salads, and suppers. He began five years ago with Pride Kitchen, a blog dedicated to creating a new salad every work day. This led to the cookbook "Salad Love" followed by "Breakfast Love". Here, he's got comfort bowls for quick and nourishing suppers. It is in two parts: soups and nourishing bowls, and each prep can be adapted for diets such as vegan or vegetarian with clearly marked  alternative symbols. His primer covers about 50 pages and just about tells you everything you'll need to know to make your own, inventive bowls. Typical are blue cheese, radicchio, sweet potato and broth or shrimp, brown rice, broccoli and fish broth. A bowl of solids would have roasted pepper, parsnip, quinoa and dulse or smoked ham, Jerusalem artichoke, kale and yogurt. There's some metric measurements in the recipes, but it is just weights only. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 86.
19.FARM-TO-TABLE DESSERTS (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017, 185 pages, ISBN 978-1-5107-1692-6 $22.99 USD hardbound) is by Lei Shishak, pastry chef working in Sun Valley and Los Angeles. She's authored two other cookbooks: the award-winning "Beach House Baking" and "Beach House Brunch". Here she shares her local farmers' market locally sourced organic foods and gives recipes for creating desserts from them. Eighty sweet recipes are divided by season (beginning with spring), so everything is fresh and seasonal. She's got key lime bars, quince brown butter tarts, fried fuji apple pies, dulce de leche cheesecake with fuji apples, cantaloupe soup, cherry ice cream sandwiches – an amazing variety. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
20.HONEST TO GOODNESS (Whitecap, 2017, 200 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-302-1 $29.95 CAD papercovers) is an oversized book from Christine Tizzard, Newfoundlander food stylist and host of YouTube Channel and CBC TV (Best Recipes Ever). She shares over 100 nutritious preps along the line of comfort food for the family mealtime. It's all very practical and creative, and involves the whole family. It is arranged typically, from breakfast to "packed lunches" to supper (with its soups, salads, sides, mains, and desserts). There are separate chapters on theme nights, snacks, and even bake sale recipes good for the whole year's roster of celebratory sales-in-need-of something. One of my faves is the yummy spatchcock piri piri chicken, not too spicy yet still full of flavour. Or try the pole and bush bean salad with crispy chickpeas. Food is global, with Korean Asia, Indian, Mediterranean, etc. She makes cooking fun. She's got symbols for GF, V, NF (nut-free), LS (low-sugar). On page 4 there is a detailed anatomy of a recipe. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and  avoirdupois measurements, and there is no tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.

No comments: