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Sunday, August 25, 2019


...are the hottest trend 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 –
3.GENNARO'S PASTA PERFECTO! (Interlink Books, 2019, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-62371-926-5 $30 USD hardbound) is by Gennaro Contaldo, He has appeared on many cooking shows, most notably his own "Two Greedy Italians" on PBS. He has long owned Passione the London UK restaurant. He is reputed to have taught Jamie Oliver all he knows about Italian cooking (Oliver says: "His talent for cooking and storytelling changed my life and food forever"). His previous books for Interlink were about Italian baking and faster cooking. This one has 100 preps to create an Italian feast in 40 minutes or less. It will call for a larger Italian pantry (extended to the refrigerator, to the freezer, and to fresh produce that keeps for a bit, such as salad greens, herbs, bell peppers) to make sure that all ingredients are on hand. It is arranged by course: salads, soups, pasta, et al through to desserts. There are primer chapters on Italian fast cooking and simple sauces. As he says, "gone are the days when women stayed at home" and made their own pasta or soaked their own beans. Try prosciutto with roasted apples and pears or cavatelli with sausage, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes – or even hake with mixed potatoes and red onion agrodolce. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 89
4.CRU OYSTER BAR NANTUCKET COOKBOOK (St. Martin's Griffen, 2019, 294 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-19365-0 $40 US hardbound) is by Erin Zircher (executive chef at Cru), Jane Stoddard and Carlos Hildalgo (both managing partners), with Martha W. Murphy as the focusing food writer. It's arranged by seasonal topic, from waterfront lunch and sailing, summertime grilling, beach cruising, through to sunsets at summer's end. Along the way there are sections on the raw bar, cocktails, Nantucket Bay scallops, Christmas/New Year's, with multiple indexes by occasion (picnic, grilling, brunch, etc.) and by category (starters, mains, sides, soups, sandwiches, etc.)– with page references. At the end there is a general index to topics and to all of the recipes. Highlights include crispy fried oysters, crudo scallops, clam chowder, and pear tarte tatin. 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
5.THE FIGHTER'S KITCHEN (Alpha, 2019, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-8373-7 $19.99 US paperbound) is by champion professional boxer/kickboxer Chris Algieri. He also has an MA in clinical nutrition, and is certified as a sports nutritionist. This book is all about fighters fueling their bodies with precise nutrients delivered at specific times to help them achieve their functional physiques. If you are one of them, then this is obviously the book for you. Or if you just want to keep in shape. He's got 100 preps for meals and snacks, with macro-nutrient breakdowns to easily see the calories, carbs, protein and fat in every recipe. Weekly meal plans and detailed shopping lists complete the package. Great layout graphics. Yet the book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. It just doesn't seem right to have ingredients listed in avoirdupois and nutrients listed in metric. Quality/price rating: 88.
6.ATSUKO'S JAPANESE KITCHEN (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2019, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-081-9 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Atsuko Ikeda, a Japanese chef, writer, and food photographer. Her Japanese cookery courses sell out in Shoreditch London UK. She had previously written a sushi book. Here she promotes a wider variety of home-0cooked Japanese comfort food. These are all umami-rich dishes that are commonly found in the Japanese home and restaurant: gyoza, ramen, katsu curry, teriyaki. Basics, of course, are covered, followed by  apps, soups, noodles, one plate meals, sides, dressings, and desserts. Special occasion meals are given a separate chapter. She opens with the "secrets of Japanese cuisine" and the Golden Rule of Five (tastes, colours, methods, meal layout). The larder and tools section is next, followed by the preps themselves. By tomorrow night, you could be enjoying goma senbei (sesame snaps with miso caramel sauce) or matcha no tiramisu. Soy simmered lemon sole or simmered beef and tomatoes on rice are good for the carnivore eater. The book could have been improved if it also used more volume metrics in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 87.


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