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Sunday, July 22, 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 –
2.EVERYONE LOVES TACOS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2018, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-933-5 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Felipe Fuentes Cruz and Ben Fordham, partners in Benito's Hat (2008) and Every Juan Loves Tacos (2017) in London. Felipe also has Dona Nata Mexican Kitchen in Los Cobos, Mexico. There are 65 preps here; most use both flour or corn tortillas. It's arranged by filling, such as meat, seafood/fish, vegetarian, with chapters on antojitos apps, breakfast/brunch, salsas, desserts, and drinks. They even have a list of substitutions for ingredients hard to come by (especially in the UK). Noteworthy are beer-battered avocado dippers, avocado stuffed with shrimp,tacos de carnita, tacos de atun, and tacos de papa con curcuma. 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.
3.GIADA'S ITALY (Clarkson Potter, 2018, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-98722-8 $35 USD hardbound) is by Giada de Laurentiis, the Emmy winner from the Food Network multiple series, a TV food judge, and author of many Italian food cookbooks. These are her recipes for La Dolce Vita – the comfort/sweet life. The book is filled with her recipes, photographs of in and around Rome, family photos, and stories of life. The arrangement is pretty well standard, starting with "starters" and moving to lunch, in-betweens, weeknights, "la dolce vita", sides and sweets. Something for everyone at feeding time. She's got some good notes on the Italian pantry which can easily double for a Mediterranean pantry. The main part of the book is the "mains" of "la dolce vita", and includes such basic preps as penne with parmesan pomodoro, ziti stufati, creamy lobster linguine, lamb osso buco, veal saltimbocca milanese-style, and hazelnut chicken. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. They could have easily dropped one of the many photos of Giada and put in equivalent tables. Her fans will enjoy this book. Quality/price rating: 85
4.SALADISH (Artisan Books, 2018, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-695-9 $24.95 US hardbound) is by Ilene Rosen, co-owner of a specialty grocery shop in Brooklyn who had previously spent a decade-and-a-half as the savoury chef at City Bakery where she crafted her famous salad bar. Those deets are impressive. The associative food writer is freelancer Donna Gelb who also develops and tests recipes. Their main premise is to make a "salad plus", hence "saladish", something like a salad. The book comes with some log rolling, but that is needed to sort out one salad book from another. We've just gone through a whole variety of books on "salad bowls", where salads are augmented by grains and beans and assorted protein sources. This one is, according to the subtitle, "a crunchier, grainier, herbier, heartier, tastier way with vegetables". There are five basic principles: use best ingredients; contrast texture and flavours; taste throughout the recipe creation to balance the seasoning; add some surprise; and if it needs something extra, diced red onion is the secret fix. The basic difference between the preps in this book and the salad bowl books is simply a wider range of ingredients, contrasting flavours, and the red onion trick. They've got 100 recipes here, organized seasonally, and with a range of aromas, textures of heartiness, party menus, timelines for prep work, and charts to show placement on the table. So you CAN have your own salad buffet at home...For winter, they present slightly spicy carrots with buckwheat honey, broccoli rabe with roasted oyster mushrooms, acorn squash with green olives and curry dressing. Some meat is involved, such as bacon and chorizo, but only as garnishes. The appendix lists all the vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free recipes. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least it had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 87.
5.MICHAEL SYMON'S PLAYING WITH FIRE (Clarkson Potter, 2018, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-8658-2 $30 USD hardbound) is by the chef and co-owner of three restaurants in Cleveland and also the host of many food shows on TV. He's got 5 other restaurants around the US plus the B Spot chain of burger joints. He's authored four other cookbooks, mostly dealing with meat. Here he delves into meat again, but this time it is BBQ from his newest restaurant, Mabel's BBQ in Cleveland. It's also a live-fire place, and hence this book has both BBQ and freshly cooked foods from the fireplace. Douglas Trattner assisted him. It's divided into types of animals – pork, beef, chicken, seafood, lamb, veggies and sides, completed by BBQ sauces, relishes and rubs. Scattered throughout are profiles of various pit-masters that he consulted in a swing around the United States. It's another great book for his followers, well-written and virtually complete. My faves are smoked pork butt, Mabel's Hungarian smoked kielbasa, fireplace chicken on a string, and cedar-planked salmon. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. But very few American books are doing this today. Quality/price rating: 89.
6.THE GREAT SHELLFISH COOKBOOK (Appetite by Random House, 2018, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-753057-8 $29.95 CAD paperbound)  is by Matt Dean Petit who started the Rock Lobster Food Co which showcased, of course, lobster, making it accessible to inland Canadians. He had authored The Great Lobster Cookbook, and now he is back with a new collection of 100 or so preps for all kinds of shellfish, including lobster. It's a complete book that shows where and how to buy fresh shellfish, how to store and how to cook it. He's got crab, oysters, mussels, scallops, squid, octopus, clams, and prawns. In addition to the classics, there are Thai curry crab, fried squid pintxo peppers, spot prawn dumplings, et al. This is also a good reference book for the home cook, and includes a large typeface index. Bravo. The book was improved by also using metric in the recipes. Quality/price rating: 89
7.AT MY TABLE (Appetite by Random House, 2018, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-753106-3 $45 CAD hardbound) is by Nigella Lawson. It's labeled in the subtitle as "a celebration of home cooking". But then, aren't just about all of her cookbooks concerned with "home cooking"? (e.g. How to Be a Domestic Goddess; Nigella Express; Nigella Christmas; Nigella Kitchen; Simply Nigella). The contents seem to be arranged by course, beginning with breakfast, moving through to lunch and dinner, followed up by dessert choices and cocktails. I say that because there are no chapter headings, just a table of contents with page indications for each and every recipe (waffles on p16, hake with bacon, peas and cider on p120, roast top round on p194, double chocolate and pumpkin seed cookies on p265, and a dirty lemon martini on p272). It is a good selection, g=headed up by lamb shanks and polenta-fried fish. And worth your consideration if you are a home cook. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. There are separate make-ahead and storage notes for most recipes. The index has principal ingredients in bold face with designations for vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free (just missing soy-free and nut-free). Quality/price rating: 88.
8.EASY CHICKEN RECIPES (St. Martin's Griffin, 2018, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-14628-1 $19.99 USD paperbound)
9.HOME MADE SOUP RECIPES (St. Martin's Griffin, 2018, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-16172-7 $19.99 USD paperbound) are by Addie Gundry, a culinary arts master's grad who has worked for Boulud, Keller, Stewart, and others on management, restaurant openings, brand development, editorial, marketing, and sales. She won a Food Network competition, and now creates culinary content for web platforms: She's got 103 preps here in her latest collections of recipes. She explains that 103 recipes were used just to be different from everybody else. Her other books had subtitles with "103 easy etc.", "103 best etc.", "103 fuss-free etc.", and "103 inventive etc." – all concentrated on ease and comfort with regard to casseroles, desserts, dinners, cookies, slow-cooker, and chicken. In the first book she goes after poultry in her arrangement of appetizers, soups, stews, slow cooker, skillet, oven-baked, BBQ, and casseroles. Her second books has soups, stews, chilis, bisques and chowders – all sorted by "chilled", "slow cooker", "main course", "vegetarian". It is all good food with a flair, mostly on the Martha Stewart side. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 85.
10.GOAT: cooking and eating (Quadrille, 2018, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-118-7 $29.99 USD hardbound) is by James Whetlor, who has worked as a chef in London and latterly at River Cottage in Devon. He also set up a company to supply kid and goat meat to chefs and shops throughout the UK. There is a primer on goats and Farm Africa (half of the royalties from this book will be donated to Farm Africa). The 90-plus recipes are arranged by time and format: slow, quick cooks, over fire, roast, and baked. Plus some basics dealing with dips and sauces and spice blends. There is a general index and a recipe index. The latter has two sections: recipes suitable for goat (e.g., curry goat) or kid, and recipes suitable for kid only (e.g., herb-crusted rack of kid). A lot of the book can also be used for lamb/mutton, which enhances its value. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric (for the most part) and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
11.KOREAN BBQ (Ten Speed Press, 2018, 232 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-58078-9 $28 USD hardbound) is by Bill Kim of Chicago's "bellyQ" restaurants, with food writer Chandra Ram. He's taken the art of Korean BBQ and come up with a matrix of 10 rubs and sauces (3 spice rubs and 7 master sauces) with which one can command the art of Korean BBQ. As he says, "you are the master of your grill". Even logroller Daniel Boulud agrees. While the magic 10 are carefully explained and photographed in almost 30 pages, the end papers of the back cover have listed the basic recipes for preparation: a neat device, worthy of notice. Preps call for the sauces and rubs on a mix-and-match basis, or as straight up. The book is arranged by topic – the magic 10, snacks, BBQ meats, BBQ poultry, BBQ fish and shellfish, BBQ vegetables and tofu, sides, and desserts. There is also a special chapter on leftovers, which is actually my fave chapter here. He gives us a guide to using up leftover master sauces into such as kimchi potluck stew, grilled shrimp egg foo yung, and chicken-corn salad. Then he turns it around and gives us a "salad matrix" to use up the leftovers, followed by a "bowl matrix", a "sandwich matrix", and a "pesto matrix", all with appropriate page references. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. This fault might slightly diminish international sales. Quality/price rating: 90.
12.KEVIN BELTON'S NEW ORLEANS KITCHEN (Gibbs Smith, 2018, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-4894-9 $24.99 USD hardbound) is by the PBS Chef Kevin Belton, with freelance New Orleans-style food writer Rhonda K. Findley. Belton is a Creole who has been teaching New Orleans cooking for over 20 years, and has devoted his PBS TV shows to the genre. This book is drawn from and accompanies his latest show, "Kevin Belton's New Orleans Kitchen". He offers tasty New Orleans classic dishes like crawfish pie, fried oyster po-boy with blue cheese and Buffalo sauce, and duck and andouille gumbo with potato salad, as well as foreign favorites with a little New Orleans twist, like Cuban paella, Vietnamese wonton soup with shrimp dumplings, and Greek souvlaki with tzatziki. Belton's flavours and engaging writing alongside the fab photographs make this new cookbook of Creole and Cajun food very enjoyable. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents on the last page of the index. Quality/price rating: 87.

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