...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 –
3.AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 FOOD TRUCKS (Lonely Planet Food, 2019, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-78868-131-5 $19.99 USD hardbound) is a very well put together anthology of global food from food trucks. About three dozen writers were involved in listing food from chefs on the road in Berlin, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Lima, London, Melbourne, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and more. Veggie options are clearly marked. The arrangement is geographical by country, beginning with Europe and moving through Africa, Middle East, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania. For each there are photos and a brief profile plus social media sites (how else are you going to find them?). Then comes a recipe, such as spicy Killary lamb samosas, langoustine roll, sea bass ceviche, mollete of roasted pork, pakora wrap – all of them converted to home production for "serves four". 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: 89
4.FIESTAS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-328-56755-0 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Marcella Valldolid, a longtime Food Network host and judge. She's written three other cookbooks, details at www.chefmarcela.com Here she covers 75 Mexican-style cocktails and apps for an opener to meals, or even a meal in itself. The book is in three parts: drinks, nibbles, and sweet. It is all pretty basic but usefull compiled into one book, along with advice on entertaining. Preps include Picadillo Lettuce Cups and a crudites platter with chimichurri and some jalpeno-cilantro aioli.
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: 87
5.MY GREEK TABLE (St. Martin's Griffin, 2018, 386 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-16637-1 $44.99 CAD hardbound) is by Diane Kochilas, cooking school owner and host/chef of My Greek Table on public US television. This book accompanies the TV series, with recipes and stories about her family gatherings and school in Greece. Cooks would appreciate an avocado-tahini spread or a kale-apple-feta salad. The Aegean Island stuffed lamb will leave you, well, stuffed. It's arranged by ingredient or course, beginning with breakfast and moving on to dips, meze, salads, breads, veggies, beans, ancient grains, soups – and then some mains. There is also a good summary at the back of the state of Greek winemaking today plus its unique grape varietals. This is followed by a resources list for Greek food.
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: 89
6.STEAK AND CAKE (Workman Publishing, 2019, 260 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-8574-1 $22.95 USD paperbound) is by Elizabeth Karmel, a grilling and BBQ expert. She was the founding executive chef of the Hill Country restaurants in New York, and she has written other BBQ/grilling cookbooks. Here she has 100+ recipes for steak and for cake. She's paired various steaks with a related dessert, as, for example, "Steak and truffled eggs with latte cake with hazelnut glaze" or "Porterhouse for two and My mother's freshly grated coconut cake". It works, but it will stuff you. Not for the faint of heart. There are 35 combos, with recipes for sides and other desserts. At the end she gives us the conditions for side dishes (some of the sides can be apps), a primer on steaks, and a primer on cakes. Not everything is a steak: there are also some surf and turf, sandwiches, kebabs, stroganoff, tacos, and burgers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
7.THE BRISKET CHRONICLES (Workman Publishing, 2019, 278pages, ISBN 978-1-5235-0548-7 $19.95 USD paperbound) is by Steven Raichlen, who has been writing about BBQ for decades. He is probably best known for his public television cooking series on BBQ. He's also won five Beard Awards and three IACP Awards. Here he focuses on beef brisket to be smoked, braised, cured, grilled and barbecued, and then presented in different formats such as Texas kahuna, jerk brisket, Korean-styled, corned beef, pastrami, Passover, burgers, and tacos. Of particular note is the salty-sweet kettle popcorn with burnt ends. There's about 60+ recipes here, and sides and sauces are included. There are profiles of other BBQ competitors and some sourcing of their recipes too. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 90