3.TASTING TABLE COOKING WITH FRIENDS; recipes for modern entertaining (Flatiron Books, 2019, 310 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-13954-2, $32.50 USD hardbound) is by Geoff Bartakovics (who created www.tastingtable.com in 2008) and his culinary partner Todd Coleman (food editor and director). The idea behind the book and the website is basically: to entertain with menus and recipes that are designed to be made with the invited-guests who are now the sous-chefs. It's a variety of team sports, and comes with log rolling by Marcus Samuelsson and Antoni Porowski. It's a manifesto for entertaining, with guidance and instructions for confidence and food dishes. It's an accessible book with separate chapters for each theme: appetizers before going out; picnic; a formal affair; dinner and a movie; all-day brunch; shrimp boil; vegetarian dinner for omnivores; modern retro dinner; and Friday night feast. You could also invent your own theme: the point is to get everybody involved. We did something like this numerous times with apps and desserts, as part of a wine tasting for twelve of us. Some examples of participation include the fact that no two recipes require the oven at different temperatures at the same time. The preps also have different skill levels, so the overall work can be rationed out to everybody. Plus: there can be mix and matching with the hosts co-ordinating the kitchen OR outsourcing the dishes by a co-ordinated potluck. The book could have been improved if it had also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart.
Audience and level of use: party goers; definitely millennials; and just about every guy who is interested in food and hosting.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: tomato tart with feta and za'atar; gyro meatballs with hot sauce; smoky eggplant; sheet pan nachos; smoky shishito dip; goat cheese stuffed pepperoncini; bigos; baked oatmeal with blackberries; green bean poutine.
The downside to this book: it can be a bit regimented and organized.
The upside to this book: this is "crowdsourced" cooking and cleaning.
Quality/Price Rating: 90
4.NATURALLY SWEET BAKING; healthier recipes for a guilt-free treat (DK Books, 2019, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-8395-9, $17.99 USD paperback) is by Carolin Trothe (food photographer and food blogger) and her husband, Sebastian Keitel. They got Jamie Oliver to say "One of my favorite baking books ever!" as endorsement log rolling. The idea is to reduce the amount of highly refined sugar in baking by using naturally sweet products
and cutting back on sugar in general with these 70 recipes. The authors encourage us to explore the multitude of natural flavours in foods and to bake with some unusual ingredients such as parsnips and kidney beans. The natural flavours will replace the perceptible sweetness of "sugar". A variety of flours are used (spelt, almond, oat flour, chickpea, rye, teff, et al). Sweeteners include maple syrup, dates, honey, and dark brown sugar. One of the indexes lists the type of prep for a food category: beginners, finger foods, afternoon treats, quick and easy, old classics, modern classics, etc. The book could easily have been improved if it had also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Most baking should be scaled.
Audience and level of use: bakers; those who wish to control their sugar.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: beet bundt cake; blackberry cheesecake; cherry tart; oat waffles; hazelnut bundt cake; raspberry and blackberry cobbler.
The downside to this book: the authors are German, and the Germans have always been big on stevia – yet I don't see it in this book.
The upside to this book: there are symbols for food, such as gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, etc.
Quality/Price Rating: 85
5.BEER SNACKS; tasty bites from around the world (Smith Street Books, 152 pages, ISBN 978-1-925811-17-9, $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Oscar Smith. These are 70 preps for enjoying beer, divided into categories such as nibbles, bites, dips, and plates. There are about a dozen different styles of beers, ranging from lager through stout, and Smith tries to accommodate all of them, starting with chicharrones and ending with beef tacos. A lot of the food is global (India, Mexico, American, South East Asia). Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements.
Audience and level of use: pub crawlers, beer drinkers at home.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: chilli bourbon jerky; potato chips three ways; cheesy bacon and rosemary polenta fries; tteokbokki (South Korea); tsukune (Japan); boquerones (Spain).
The downside to this book: very few actual beer "style" recommendations.
The upside to this book: a good collection of recipes.
Quality/Price Rating: 87
6.VARIATIONS; simple and delicious dishes, two ways (ArtsScroll/Shaar Press, 2019, 296 pages, ISBN 978-1-4226-2333-6 $46.95 CAD hardbound) is by Daniella Silver, author of the popular "Silver Platter" cookbook series. Her latest book gives us 120 recipes, each with a complementary variation. There are pix with every prep, gluten-free recipes (labeled as such) are included, and nutritional data is also here. It's arranged by course, from appetizers to soups, salads to fish, chicken to meat, dairy, grain, veggies, and dessert. It is all useful for kosher/pareve food preparations. The theme for all of her books is simple, elegance, and spectacular. So it is a book that fits in quite well with entertainment, and she describes how to get a "big bang elegance/spectacle" for your simple buck. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents, which is a shame for international sales.
Audience and level of use: those looking for simple/elegant kosher recipes
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: sesame seed rice balls; za'atar avocado; celery soup; no-mayo avocado tuna salad; sheet pan chicken with heirloom carrots and sweet potatoes; baked almond flour chicken.
The downside to this book: no metric
The upside to this book: large typeface and integration with the photos.
Quality/Price Rating: 86
7.UMAMI BOMB; 75 vegetarian recipes that explode with flavour (Workman Publishing, 2019, 246 pages ISBN 978-1-5235-0036-9 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Raquel Pelzel, who has authored and co-authored over 20 cookbooks. Her preps are built around eight umami-rich foods: aged cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce, miso, caramelized onions, smoke, and nutritional yeast. Each is given a separate chapter, but there is also a recipe index at the back, listed in course order from breakfast through soups, salads, sandwiches, mains, sides, and desserts. The cheeses are mainly parmesan, cheddar, and aged gouda. Smoke also includes smoked cheeses as well as smoked tofu. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: vegans, those who want a lot of flavour
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: smoked trout dip; honey-soy grilled salmon; miso broth and clams on toast; grilled banana splits; French onion gratin; caramelized onion Korean pancake; tomato-cucumber sandwiches with roasted tomato mayo; tomato 'nduja.
The downside to this book: there are, of course, other foods, such as blue cheese, which is not covered here.
The upside to this book: I think I could survive on just nutritional yeast and parmesan cheeses alone.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.