...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 –
13.UNICORN FOOD (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018, 202 pages, ISBN 978-1-5107-3235-3 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Cayla Gallagher, host of the YouTube cooking show "Pankobunny". These are colourful rainbow treats to create, to enjoy, or just admire. Apparently, to maintain their magical glow, unicorns must stick to a diet of sugar, sparkle and rainbows. This book will do just nicely if you have a pet unicorn, and it must be fed. Just don't ask about road apples (well, okay, here they are called "unicorn poop marshmallows"). It's a mythical world, of course, but there are 80 realistic recipes to try out (mostly cakes and cookies). Multi-coloured layers come through on the surprise crepe cake, the rainbow-filled doughnut, the rainbow confetti cookies – even rainbow sangria. But I would not want to go near a drunk unicorn. Gallagher's YouTube show teaches her subscribers how to turn everyday re4cipes into edible cuteness. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least it had metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 87
14.TURNIP GREENS & TORTILLAS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 310 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-61882-4 $42 hardbound) is by Eddie Hernandez, executive chef of Taqueria del Sol. His recipes have appeared in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Southern Living. He's assisted by food writer-editor Susan Puckett. It comes with nine log rollers such as Jacques Pepin, the Lee Brothers, and Nathalie Dupree. This is where a Mexican chef (Eddie is from Monterrey) spices up the Southern kitchen. Personally, I would have thought that that was something related to Tex-Louisiana food. He covers the pantry, snacks, tacos, soups, stews, chilis, breads, beans, corn, rice, salsas, sauces, salads, slaws, veggie sides, drinks, and desserts. I keep waiting for someone to pickup "chess pie" with chili, but it has not yet happened. No sopes, which would actually go well with turnip greens. I like his preps for both red or green posole. 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.
15.BOQUERIA (Absolute Press, 2018, 286 pages, ISBN 978-1-63286-494-9 $35 USD hardbound) is by Yann de Rochefort, founder of Boqueria in Manhattan, and Chef Marc Vidal from Barcelona. It is a collection of their fave recipes, arranged by "The Classics", followed by salads, eggs, veggies, rice/noodles, seafood, meat/poultry, desserts, and drinks. There is some memoir material about the restaurant and the owners with plenty of photos. A great souvenir of the establishment. The classics have been slightly reworked to make them more tasty to tough New Yorkers: a hotter potatas bravas, a drop of truffle aioli on the mushroom croquette, pickled shallots added to grilled lamb skewers. These preps are Boqueria's and they should work at home. Try the pork meatballs stewed with shrimp and black trumpet mushrooms. Or the panceta rustida. At the end there is a large chapter on the pantry they use. 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.FLAVOR BOMBS (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 255 pages, ISBN 978-0-544-78489-5 $25 USD) is by Adam Fleischman who is the creative force behind Umami Burger and 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria – 40 locations in California, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dubai and Japan. Tien Nguyen is the focusing food writer. These are the umami ingredients that make taste explode. Adam began experimenting with every Japanese packet, bottle, bag that looked like it contained umami. His original burger was a Port and Stilton burger. You will need glutamate-rich ingredients (cheese, seasonings, pantry, produce, flesh protein), inosinate-rich (beef, chicken, dried and fresh sardines, pork, shrimp, et al), and guanylate-rich (dried mushrooms, nori, and truffles). The you mix away (he gives principles) and also apply some techniques to amplify umami. As he says, cook without fear. It's a hard book to read because it is white text on black. Certainly it is difficult to photocopy a recipe, which I always do when I am testing a recipe from a real book (I tend to be messy). Thankfully the basic pantry and the principles and all of the primer material is black on white. 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: 86
17.HOW TO GRILL EVERYTHING (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 568 pages, $30 USD hardbound) is the latest "everything" book from Mark Bittman. These are simple recipes for flame-cooked food. He gives us the primer, followed by the courses: apps, snacks, seafood, poultry, meat, veggie mains, veggie sides, sauces and condiments, breads and desserts. No hidden fillers. Paraphrasing Bittman, "The hundreds of variations in the book are unique dishes which treat the main recipe as a template, then spins it into different ingredients and flavour directions." Some of these include okra skewers, halloumi cheese, hot-smoked fish spread, grill roasted duck legs, and grilled potato skins. There are well-positioned photos and a decent typeface that is very readable, with white space and logos for direct fire, indirect fire, make ahead, and vegetarian option. It is hard to go wrong here. The book could have been improved if he also used metric in the recipes, but at least he had metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 91.