* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK...
...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 –
17.FELIDIA; recipes from my flagship restaurant (Appetite by Random House, 2019, 246 pages, $42 hardbound) is by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, her Chef Fortunato Nicotra, and her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali who has also co-authored several cookbooks with Lidia. Felidia is one of the top Italian restaurants in North America, and it is augmented by Lidia's empire of entertainment production units (principally her PBS shows), her other restaurants, her prodigious output of cookbooks, and her food line. The upscale preps here come from her flagship restaurant, and include such oft-requested items as polenta crackers, carrot spread, eggplant flan with tomato coulis, capon broth with passatelli, gnudi, and a range of risottos and pastas. Not to mention main courses and sides. This is a well-developed cookbook for the Italian food lover. The book could have been improved if it had also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 90
18.THE CURRY GUY VEGGIE (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2019, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-258-0 $19.99 USD hardbound) is by Dan "The Curry Guy" Toombs. It's his second curry book. This one deals exclusively with over 100 meat-free Indian dishes. It is all arranged by categories, from snacks to starters to street foods, and then curries in 33 pages, dosas, idlis, outdoor cooking, accompaniments, breads, rice and desserts. There is a glossary of ingredients as well as a list of suppliers (includes USA too but not Canada). Recipes labels have been added, so you can see at a glance what prep is 30 minutes or less, what prep is low and slow, what fermenting/soaking time is needed, what is vegan, and what is gluten-free. He's got plans for storing food such as spices, sauces, pulses, rice, herbs, and pickles. Then there are the base recipes for garam masala, chaat masala, tandoori masala, various pastes and sauces. Try vegetable stuffed papad roll curry, beetroot and potato masala dosa, kanchipuram idlis, or tandoori mushrooms with paprika sauce. Everything has been created and vetted in his own home kitchen. The book could have been improved if it had also used more metric in the recipes as with teaspoons and tablespoons, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89
19.AFTERNOON TEA AT THE CUTTER & SQUIDGE BAKERY; delicious recipes for dream cakes, riskies, savouries & more (Ryland Peters & Small, 2019, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-158-8 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Annabel Lui and Emily Lui, sisters who own Cutter & Squidge. It is now in two locations in London. The cafe specializes in sweet treats and afternoon teas, and thus the book reflects those activities. The 60 preps have natural colourings and flavourings. There are even some fantasy-themed bakes here, such as rose zucchini tartlets, feta and pepper pinwheel scones, or apple pie mousse with shortbread bows. The ombre rainbow layer cake is spectacular. At the back there is a set of menus for afternoon teas for Mother's Day, quick and easy, kid's faves, vegan, picnic, et al. It's a great book for the baker who wishes ideas, especially those who live outside of London and have no physical access to the cafe. As with all good baking books, ingredients are listed with both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 89
20.CURRY & KIMCHI; flavor secrets for creating 70 Asian-inspired recipes at home (Story Publishing, 2019, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-63586-158-7, $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor, co-owners and chefs at the Maassachusetts restaurant Coco and The Cellar Bar. Abkin is a four-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast. Both of them attended the California Culinary Academy. Abkin had also worked at Chez Panisse. It's a typical book with basic Korean dishes but there is also the added spin of some Mexican- and Korean-inspired lateral foods, such as a bolognese sauce for Korean spaghetti and Korean sloppy joes. There's a chow fun sauce for coriander shrimp, a scallion ginger jam for a clay pot miso chicken, and ponzu sauce for a miso-glazed cod rice bowl. On board with the log rolling endorsements are Alice Waters, Virginia Willia, and Joanne Weir. Excellent layout with two-colour instructions.
The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, but at least it had a metric conversion charts. Quality/price rating: 88
21.THE DEEP END OF FLAVOR; recipes and stories from New Orleans' premier seafood chef (Gibbs Smith, 2019, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-5100-0 $30 USD hardbound) is by Tenney Flynn, chef at GW Fins in New Orleans. He has been assisted her by Susan Puckett, former food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His log rollers include a bevvy of Bear award winners from New Orleans. It is mostly about finfish (he's got a glossary) but also covers shrimp and crawfish, oyster, lobster, crab and other assorted denizens of the deep. It is all arranged by cooking method: raw, poached and boiled, seared, grilled, smoked, braised, roasted, fried, simmered, stewed, blended bits and pieces, plus the inevitable sauces-dressings-sides-salads. A small chapter on drinks and desserts completes the book which could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes. At least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88
22.PLANT-BASED MEAL PREP; simple, make-ahead recipes for vegan, gluten-free, comfort food (Alpha DK, 2019, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-8384-3 $19.99 USD paperbound) is by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon who now have their own YouTube channel. They also wrote "Healthy Meal Prep". This is a basic book on vegan food, emphasizing that your diet can be completely vegan or just eat more plant-based dishes. There are six quick prep day plans, with strategies, followed by 70 or so make-ahead recipes for all meals (and some of them can be mixed and matched). In addition to all preps being GF (gluten-free) there are other tags such as soy-free, gain-free, nut-free. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Nutritional data has been added to each recipe. The index is in a large typeface. Quality/price rating: 86