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Tuesday, November 9, 2021


3.NO RECIPE? NO PROBLEM! How to pull together tasty meals without a recipe (Storey Publishing, 2021, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-63586-258=4, $19.95 US paper covers) is by the remarkable Phyllis Good, creator of the "Fix-It and Forget-It" cookbook series. She is reputed to have about 15 million copies of her books in print. The name of the game here is "freestyle cooking": no net, no measurements – just instinct. She's got 250 tried -and-true tips and tricks, largely for reassurance. It is all based on three major questions: what am I hungry for? What do I have on hand? How much time do I have? But of course, the first thing is: you've got to know the elemental techniques of cooking. There's a lot of experimenting and improvisation here, plus substitution and watchfulness. The basis of freestyle cooking is to do the recipe as written ONCE, and then do it again from memory. And then do it again with substitutes or additional foods.  Hey, it's easy. It works: keep it all simple, flexible, organized, and don't get frightened. There's a lot of material here dealing with equipment and food longevity. It's worth it. It's just too bad that the book arrived near the end of the current pandemic...but we'll all be prepared for the next one. All of the recipes are basically just techniques, with no measurements. Quality/Price Rating: 90.
4.APRES ALL DAY; 65 cozy recipes to share with family and friends (Chronicle Books, 2021, 224 pages, $39.95 hard covers) is by Kelley Epstein, a personal chef and food blogger (Mountain Mama Cooks) in Utah who's been cooking for local families, Sundance Film Festival-goers, and seasonal visitors for about 15 years. Here she gives us info about cooking through the winter months where all one does is eat-ski-sleep-repeat (except for the cook). Everything here is perfect for mountain living. The chapters are divided into time periods: morning apres, midday apres, slope-side apres, happy hour apres, family-style apres, apres the apres, and thirsty apres. Kelley makes her own trail mix, which is basically nut-filled pretzels, walnuts and almonds, dried cherries and other fruit, and chocolate. She's got a list of high-altitude baking resources plus places to buy food and/or consume food. Very convenient for the upcoming winter. Quality/Price Rating: 89.
5.MY PLACE AT THE TABLE; a recipe for a delicious life in Paris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 239 pages, $39 hardbound) is by Alexander Lobrano, a food and travel writer (articles and books) now living in Paris and the South of France. The subtext is "how does a timid boy from the suburbs of Connecticut become one of the most influential dining critics in France?"  He's also met enough high flying performers along the way to get a considerable number of log rollers: Ruth Reichl, Bill Buford, Alice Waters, Devil Lebovitz, Alain Ducasse, He's adept at shaking up the bistro scene, commenting on exciting new dishes made with international ingredients. At the end, he's got 15 pages devoted to his fave 30 hangouts in Paris, ranging from simple through complex (and priced accordingly). His memoir is absorbing and well-worth reading, although it lacks an index to tie it all together. Quality/Price Rating: 88.
6.CLASSIC COCKTAILS; the very best martinis, margaritas, manhattans, and more (Artisan, 2021, 112 pages, $14.95 hardbound) is by Nick Mautone. It's a utilitarian guide to the 40 most popular and iconic cocktails. These are the basics, suitable for all levels in its conciseness. The primer has opening notes on the right tools and the right techniques, followed by a series of drinks based on the type of alcohol, from gin through vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, brandy [just two: sidecar and alexander] , and wine (including sparkling wine). 'Nuff said. Quality/Price Rating: 90.
7.CYPRUS CUISINE (Whitecap, 2021, 274 pages, $34.95 papercovers) is by Christina Loucas, a Victoria BC-based creator of Afrodite's Kitchen, a website devoted to Cypriot food. It was originally published in 2016 in Italian, and here it is translated into English. It is a very good well-researched summary of Cypriot food: she's got 80 detailed recipes that range from classic to contemporary. Food in Cyprus has been heavily influenced by the spice trade and its location in the Mediterranean near the Middle East. It's part memoir, part travel guide, and part cookbook like so many other regional cookbooks. She has the basic history of food in Cyprus, the larder/pantry needed to maintain a kitchen, some drinks (tea, lemonades, coffee), and then moves on to breads and pastries such as halloumi mint scones, tsoureki (Easter orange bread), kattimeri (crepes), and koulouria (sesame bread rings). Next up in the meal are soups, salads, small bites, mains, condimenti, cakes and sweets. Her book also concludes with some suggested dinner menus for 2, 4 or 6 persons, followed by a listing and description of local markets in Limassol and Nicosia. It is a bright book, loaded with exceptional closeups of finished plates. Quality/Price Rating: 90.
8.SUMMER; a cookbook (Artisan, 2021, 234 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-946-2 $24.95 hardcovers) is by the team of Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson, authors of such outdoor cookbooks as The Campout Cookbook and The Picnic (the latter a 2016 IACP award winner). Both are food writers living in Portland, Oregon. The book is meant for lazy days and magical nights. The key to success here is careful planning: the minimum is to make sure that you have everything yopu need before the expedition begins. Of course, if your cottage or whatever is right on the water or beach, then it is "no problem". Chapter one  covers from the beach bag to bonfire, with thirty pages of organizing. The balance of the book is fairly straightforward in its arrangement, from "beach bites" through sides, salads, mains, desserts, and beverages. And with nifty little watercolours by Emily Isabella. Typical preps include grilled oysters with miso-scallion butter, tarragon crab salad on watermelon, and raspberry-rose water pool float doughnuts. Great fun, from a simple breakfast to a firepit. Seven menus are suggested, including a brunch, a clambake, and a paella party. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents (needed here in the case of US volume measurements). Quality/Price Rating: 89.

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