7.ON BOARDS (Appetite by Random House, 2018, 184 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-753114-8, $25 CAD hardbound) is by Lisa Dawn Bolton, a Vancouver food stylist and writer. As she says, these are simple and inspiring recipe ideas to share at gatherings. Bolton has 100 or so quick and easy preps and suggestions for creating a board of food that looks beyond being a charcuterie board or a cheese platter. Her 50 styling ideas are augmented by 52 recipes for both savoury and sweet additions such as beet hummus or mashed potato dip. The boards cover a range of occurrences, from everyday to seasonal to holiday to special occasion to international (Mexican, Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France, Holland, Bavaria, et al). The recipes are useful, but you can also use other preps that you might be more familiar with. Just play around. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart for the avoirdupois weights and measures.
Audience and level of use: those looking for entertaining ideas.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: chocolate salami; bourbon bacon ham;
The downside to this book: I wanted more suggestions. Also, you'll need a few different platters for display.
The upside to this book: a really good look at platter creation.
Quality/Price Rating: 90
8.SEASON (Chronicle Books, 2018, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-6399-4, $35 USD hardbound) is by Nik Sharma, ace blogger (A Brown Kitchen) and print food writer. As a food photographer, he did his own pix for this book of big flavours and beautiful food. He's also got seven noted log rollers, including Nigella Lawson. He's a home cook, but his 100 preps here show a global sensibility of spices and herbs and international techniques. He grew up in India and traveled widely, cooking in the Southern US and photographing his experiences. It is a colourful book, part memoir, part cookbook, with good leading and spacing for easier readability. The primer part details a flavour glossary, and this is followed by sections on small bites, salads, soups, gains and veggies, seafood, eggs and poultry, meats, sweets, and some beverages. The preps are bookended with a section on pantry staples to keep on hand. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements (except for teaspoons and tablespoons with no equivalents), and there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: adventuresome cooks.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: crème fraiche chicken salad; chile-sumac pomegranate nuts; spiced mango milkshake; cardamom iced coffee with coconut milk; bacon-guajillo salt; charred green garlic and yuzu ponzu sauce; turkey-mushroom handpies; spiced meat loaf; tandoori swordfish steaks; coriander gravlax.
The downside to this book: maybe a little too much non-food material
The upside to this book: excellent photography and layout
Quality/Price Rating: 90
9.THE FAT KITCHEN (Storey Publishing, 2018, 290 pages, ISBN 978-1-61212-913-6 $24.95 USD paperbound) is by Andrea Chesman in Vermont. Her many cookbooks specialize in traditional techniques such as The Pickled Pantry. Here she explores, in 100 recipes, how to tackle the rendering and curing of lard, tallow and poultry fat – and then how to cook with them. It's been over ten years since Jennifer McLagan's definitive "Fat" book (Ten Speed Press) and six years since Michael Ruhlman's "Book of Schmaltz" (Little, Brown). It is no secret that fat not only imparts flavour to regular food but also makes pastry more tender and flaky, cookies rise higher, and caramelizes fried foods without being greasy. Each type of fat is distinct, and Chesman tells us which type is best for which method of cooking or food. So – we have pork carnitas, Cornish pasties, duck fat french fries, and similar preps. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements (but fat is additionally expressed in metric), but there are tables of metric equivalents at the back of the book.
Audience and level of use: home cooks, meat eaters
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: potato latkes; scallion pancakes; duck fat popcorn; duck confit with potatoes; onion confit; kale chips; red bean gumbo; kasha varnishkas; jam thumbprint cookies.
The downside to this book: nothing really, fairly priced.
The upside to this book: a good book for paleo and GAPS diets
Quality/Price Rating: 89
10.BUILD-A-BOWL (Storey Publishing, 2018, 180 pages, ISBN 978-1-61212-990-7 $18.95 USD paperbound) is by Nicki Sizemore, food blogger, recipe developer, and cooking teacher, All of these 77 preps are easy and infinitely adaptable by your mastering of the build-a-bowl formula: a whole-grain base topped with veggie, protein, sauce and crispy garnish (e.g., seeds). The beauty of it is that every bowl can be customized for picky eaters, gluten-free eaters, vegans and vegetarians, and any special diet – all at the same time (if you have enough diverse foods). These are all family-oriented and thrive on leftovers. The grains can be GF or mixed, they can be just one (e.g., brown rice) or mixed, etc. The grains should be at least lukewarm for tastiness. Fruit is useful for dessert bowls at brunch or breakfast. There is good advice for actually building each of the 77 bowls – and most of the ingredients can be made in advance, except last minute things such as fried eggs or warming things up. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: families, millennials, anyone in a hurry.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: millet muesli; pumpkin pie rice pudding; hardy greens and grains with pancetta and poached eggs; balsamic roasted mushrooms and Brussels sprouts with goat cheese and gremolata; grilled skirt steak with sweet corn and cabbage slaw plus roasted red pepper cashew sauce.
The downside to this book: I wanted more recipes, maybe an even 100?
The upside to this book: there is a resources list and an index to recipe type (e.g., eggs, legumes, fruit bowls, et al)
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
11.ROAST REVOLUTION (Ryland Peters and Small, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-027-7 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Kathy Kordalis, a London-based food stylist and recipe writer. It's her sixth book, with plenty of light and accessible preps in the "heavy" field of roasts based on different cuts of meat. These are contemporary ideas for modern-day roasts. She emphasizes the "art of meat and heat" for perfect timings of tenderness. Veggies are included as well, such as the whole baked cauliflower with chimichurri sauce, and a farro bowl that also comprises favas and pistachios. Her sensibilities come from her Australian and Mediterranean heritages. After the primer, the arrangement includes classics, fast, slow, merry, and weekends, followed by sides and drinks. She also has a small number of menu suggestions for Father's Day, Summer Party, Valentine's Day, et al.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Audience and level of use: those who like variations on a roast
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: gochujang roasted eggplant steaks; salmon inferno; soy and sesame baked monkfish; stuffed porchetta; braised beef cheeks; slow roast lamb leg; Middle Eastern spiced venison shawarma.
The downside to this book: I would have liked more menus.
The upside to this book: good idea, especially with a whole meal being planned. Sides suggestions are really in line.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
12.THE MAKE-AHEAD SAUCE SOLUTION (Storey Publishing, 2018, 196 pages, ISBN 978-1-61212-959-4 $16.5 USD paperbound) is by Elisabeth Bailey, who has authored two regional cookbooks of Maritime cooking. She lives in Lunenberg, NS where she teaches classes on gardening and food. These 61 sauces can all be pre-made and then frozen, to be brought out when time is short. In addition to ragus and Thai sauces, there are also gorgonzola chive butter, coconut lemon, chimichurri, Parmesan leek and more. Each recipe has a quick-reference chart showing the best base combinations of proteins and veggies. After the primer there are chapters on regional sauces from the Americas, Asia, and the Mediterranean – followed by cheese sauces, wine sauces, pestos and salsas. Eleven bases (pork, fish, shrimp, chicken, et al) with 61 sauces leads to hundreds of different meals. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: harried homemakers; cooks wanting different flavours every night.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: sun-dried tomato pesto; cheddar ale; creamy chipotle; creole; pumpkin coconut cream; Vietnamese dipping sauce; mustard greens anchovies; primavera; blue cheese, pear and hazelnut; corn and chile salsa.
The downside to this book: I wanted more sauces.
The upside to this book: Sauces really do dress up your meal.
Quality/Price Rating: 89
13.POTATOES (Ryland Peters and Small, 2018, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-028-4 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Jenny Linford who has written other cookbooks in the UK. Here she gives us 65 potato preps ranging from soups to samosas, croquettes to chowders, curries to quesadillas, and pies to pierogi. Quite a wide range from the classics to the modern twists. It is a good basic little book emphasizing the range that potatoes can enjoy. The arrangement is useful: summery potatoes, then sustaining potatoes, followed by comfort potatoes and spicy potatoes. There are so many different things that you can do with the basic product so variables and spin-offs also come into play.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements with some metric equivalents, but there is no table of metric values.
Audience and level of use: beginner cooks
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: saffron mash fish pies; potato stuffed duck; goose fat roast potatoes; anchovy potato croquettes with salsa verde; potato chaat masala; potato wedges with romesco sauce.
The downside to this book: I wanted more recipes
The upside to this book: a useful single ingredient cookbook
Quality/Price Rating: 86.