FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS IN REVIEW FOR FALL 2022 [published mostly monthly since 2000]
By Dean Tudor, Gothic Epicures Writing, email@example.com
Creator of Canada's leading wine satire site at http://fauxvoixvincuisine.blogspot.ca
Reviewer Timeline: Cookbook Reviewer, Library Journal, 1969-1974; Cookbook Columnist and Lead Reviewer, The Booklist (American Library Association), 1974-1985; CBRA Cookbook Reviewer, 1975-1985; Freelance Cookbook Reviewer, 1985-1999; Gothic Epicures Writing Lead Cookbook Reviewer, 2000+
These food and wine book reviews are always available at www.deantudor.com and http://gothicepicures.blogspot.ca
Prices listed below are in US or CAN currency as printed on the cover. I do this because many of my readers are American. CAN prices are inserted for Canadian produced books. In times of US-Canadian currency fluctuations, parity, and online bookstore discounts (plus the addition of GST or HST) prices will vary upwards or downwards every day.
* DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH! *
1.3 INGREDIENT COCKTAILS; 60 drinks made in minutes (Hardie Grant Books, 2021, 160 pages, $21 hardbound) is by Kate Calder who believes that the secret of a classic cocktail is simplicity. The fewer the flavours, the better. Everything is arranged by spirit, beginning with vodka, followed by gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, and "sparkling". Each has a series of snacks (about a half dozen each) to go with the drinks. Thus, gin needs sweet potato bites, chorizo, spicy mayo, baked ricotta with honey, rosemary-parmesan walnuts, et al. Typical gin includes gimplet, pink lady, negroni, dirty martini, gin rickey, et al. Great fun, especially the snacks, and a boon to the beginning cocktail drinker. Good value book too. Quality/Price Rating:91
* FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH! *
2.NOMA 2.0: Vegetable, Forest, Ocean (Artisan, 2022, 352 pages, $95 hardbound) is by René Redzepi, Mette Søberg, and Junichi Takahashi. René Redzepi is the chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen, five times recognized as the world's best restaurant. In 2021, Noma got its third Michelin star. His first book, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, was an IACP and James Beard Award winner. All three authors are the top culinary team at Noma, developing recipes in the kitchen lab. Indeed, Noma is possibly the world's most influential restaurant. The cookbook is laid out with narrative descriptions for the recipes. Dishes are organized seasonally: there is vegetable (May through August), forest (September through December), and ocean (January through April). Everything here is extremely inventive and extremely creative, and can be replicated with the right ingredients and the right equipment. It's all about stimulating the palate and the eye, with trompe l'oeil and unusual ingredients (e.g. reindeer brain). As the New York Times' Pete Wells wrote in praising Noma's flavours, "Sauces are administered so subtly that you don't notice anything weird going on; you just think you've never tasted anything so extraordinary in your life." There are 200 preps, with gorgeous photography for each plate. It's a very challenging and admirable book, but also a terrific coffee table gift book (it weighs about two kilos) for the armchair chef and traveller. The gift book of the season! Quality/price rating: 95.
* MORE FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS
3.GOOD ENOUGH; a cookbook embracing the joys of imperfection & practicing self-care in the kitchen (Workman, 2022, 298 pages, $24.95 paperbound) is by Leanne Brown, author of GOOD AND CHEAP, a bestseller cookbook. It's a mix of personal essays, stories, and about 100 recipes: "this book is about the joys of imperfection". She believes that cooking can be a healing process, acknowledging fears and anxieties as well as letting them go, slowing down, and the sensory experience of creating meals to feed yourself and family. She stresses the importance of self-care and self-nourishment by proposing a gateway to calm cooking, beginning with the pantry and the mise-en-place in the "good enough preparation". Chapters deal with mornings, midday, weeknights, fun, and "good enough for others". Her end notes deal with leftovers, with an invitation to observe what happens to food the next day. Typical preps for weeknights involve weeknight farro casserole; fast white bean, chorizo, and hearty greens stew; leek and squash risotto with goat cheese and honey; bacon and kale risotto with fried eggs; saucy spiced chicken; and summer burgers. Try also spicy ginger-honey blondies or baklava granola or banana and date and cashew muffins. Ingredients are listed in American avoirdupois units, but there are two pages of conversions tables for the metric-inclined. One of her best concepts is the TL;DR ("too long; didn't read") which is useful for those longer recipes. In her case, she summarizes many of them by using a TL;DR headnote and 25 words or so. Cooking does not need to be depressing. Quality/price rating: 90.
4.ASHIA'S TABLE; family recipes from India and beyond (Interlink Books, 2022, 224 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Ashia Ismail Singer, who pays tribute to her heritage with themes on her family's classics and modern spins on today's cuisine. She's got some memoirish material from childhood and multiple food experiences. Her collection emphasizes the culture: sharing platters with family and friends (kebab pastry twists, spinach squares, onion and potato bhajias); light lunches of easy dishes (masala omelet, chili sweetcorn, potato curry); dinner dishes from an everyday meal to an elaborate dinner (chili-crusted baked salmon, chicken biryani, lamb curry, machi fry); side dishes (naan, chutneys, rices, breads); and desserts (carrot halva, sticky date cake, chocolate and cardamom puddings). Well worth looking into. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Great food photos. Quality/price rating:88.
5.BAGELS, SCHMEARS, AND A NICE PIECE OF FISH; a whole brunch of recipes to make at home (Chronicle Books, 2022, 208 pages, $36 hardbound) is by Cathy Barrow, an award-winning creator of many other cookbooks and food article writer. Here, in about 90 pages, she runs through the home bagel-making process. This is followed by 50 pages of schmears, both savoury and sweet, and concludes with a variety of fish. Other faves include her takes on salads, pickles and ferments, bagel sandwiches with salads, and a bunch of menus. Her homemade bagels mostly replicate the New York City style, but she also does cover the Montreal bagel, the Pumpernickel bagel, and a variety of others such as the Jerusalem bagel, the Turkish simit, the Flagel (flattened bagel), the Pletzel, the Bialy, plus a lot of sweet bagels. The highlight of the book is actually the 18 or so schmears plus variations, and this is very easy to do at home. In fact, you can, of course, buy your own bagels and fish, but make your own schmears for an innovative brunch. Eggs, chickens, and vegan options can easily replace fish. A good, single purpose book. The book could have been improved if it had also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 89.
6.FOOT TRODDEN; Portugal and the Wines That Time Forgot (Interlink Books, 2021, 257 pages, $45 CAD hardbound) is by Simon J Woolf and Ryan Opaz, and was originally published in the Netherlands. It's a very comprehensive book on the current day Portuguese wines, as told through the personal histories of its winemakers and growers. Covered are materials dealing with both old and new winemaking techniques. There are a ton of indigenous grape varieties that seldom make it out of Portugal. There is a lot of detail and depth here. Foot treading is still popular, in a traditional sense, as the winemakers deal with varying harvests and vintages of some 250 local grape varieties. The most popular varieties appear to be the whites Encruzado, Arinto dos Acores, Alvarinho and Fernao Pires, and the reds Ramisco, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Baga. Nominated for many wine book awards (Andre Simon, James Beard Awards) and also chosen as the NEW YORK TIMES BEST WINE BOOK OF 2021. Quality/Price Rating: 90
7.THE MODERN TABLE; kosher recipes for everyday gatherings (Figure.1 Publishing, 2022, 192 pages, $40 hardbound) is by Kim Kushner who gives us 75 simple but delicious everyday preps, entertaining ideas, menus – all within the range of kosher cuisine. It's her third kosher cookbook. She re-emphasizes both the seasonal nature of food and the healthy requirement for busy lifestyles. She's got table settings, menus (both formal and informal), floral decorations, and culinary gifts. An all-in-one package. It's all arranged by course: starters, soups, salads, fish, meats, poultry, veggies and other sides, ending with sweets and a metric conversion chart! Some good dishes to try include sesame-scallion salmon cake, sea bass with turmeric and chickpeas, veal milanese with arugula, beef bibimbap, za'tar cauliflower steaks, charred broccoli and garlic, berry frose, and Israeli-style cheesecake. Along the way there are some memoirish materials and matters dealing with the tablescape design of logistics for people. Quality/price rating: 90.
* 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 –
8.GENNARO'S LIMONI; vibrant Italian recipes for celebrating the lemon (Interlink Books, 2021, 192 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Gennaro Contaldo, best known as Jamie Oliver`s teacher in Italian cooking. He has been chef at many London restaurants before opening his own, Passione. He has written four major books on Italian food, appeared everywhere with his TV series, teaching masterclases, and writing magazine articles. Here he promotes the multi-purpose lemon which can refresh, brighten, cut through a rich dish, preserve, and even cook (through acidifying). Contaldo grew up with lemons in his native Amalfi Coast. Lemons are used everywhere, in virtually every dish. The flesh, pith and skin are chopped into salads. The zest can, well, add zest to any dish. Its leaves (if you have them) are used to wrap fish, meat, and cheese. But I did not see any references to seeds, nor to special types of lemons such as Meyer or Menton. There are about 100 preps, all arranged by ingredient, but starting with small plates, moving on to veggies, fish, meat, and desserts. The last thirty pages deal with drinks, preserves, sauces and dressings. There's a short history of the lemon , followed by uses for lemons outside the kitchen. He starts off with the absolutely brilliant but simple fennel and apple salad with a warm citrus ragu, followed by a pizza al limone with sausage, mozzarella and arugula. There's also rabbit baked in lemon leaves and a "marmellata di limoni" that is simple to prepare. There are some pasta dishes such as farfalle with capers and lemon or linguine with lemon and eggplant pesto. In addition to avoirdupois and metric weights there are avoirdupois volume measurements. But the book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. There is excellent complementary photography by David Loftus. Quality/price rating: 90.
9.AEGEAN (Interlink Books, 2020, 2022, 224 pages, $35.95 paperbound) is by Marianna Leivaditaki, who was raised on Crete and now is a London UK chef at Morito. It's a paperbound reprint. Her paean to the Aegean is centred largely on Crete as just one of the many islands that belong to Greece. Other major islands include Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kasos. As the largest and most populous island, Crete has an original cuisine that Leivaditaki delves into. She conveniently divides the book into three: the sea, the land, the mountains, with recipes and personal stories for each. And there are lots of great photos here of prawns with ouzo, orzo and zucchini, tomato and oregano fritters with feta, and the kakavia one-pot fish stew. This is the Mediterranean diet in all of its full-blown glory, with olive oils, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish. A delight. Quality/price rating: 88.
GHETTO GASTRO PRESENTS BLACK POWER KITCHEN (Artisan Books, 2022, 304 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker, assisted by Osayi Endolyn. All are chefs, cooks and food writers. In conjunction with the Bronx Ghetto Gastro (a culinary collective think tank with intensive experiences), they merge food, fashion, music, art, and design. They use food to create immersive culinary experiences incorporating storytelling and product design to advance health sovereignty in the Bronx by feeding the local community. Endolyn is a Beard-award writer whose work explores food and identity; she co-authored with Marcus Samuelsson, The Rise: black cooks and the soul of American food. The stylish, gorgeous large form photographic images are by Nayquan Shuler and Joshua Woods. It is all a mix of 75 recipes that stress crunch, heat, and umami; with interviews, photography and art re: the nature of Black food, the Black experience, and Black food inequality. Some may call this a part cookbook and a part manifesto, with material on a unique viewpoint that even resulted in newly-designed cookware offered through both Williams-Sonoma and Target. Most of the food preps come directly from family roots and cultural heritage, many with modern updating to accompdate a plant-based diet. In the opening pages, they produce "the makings of a Ghetto Gastro dish", that being in this case, Triple Cs -- seared cornbread, crab salad, and caviar. Instruction are given (in both imperial and in metric measurements), and it is all doable, although types of caviar are not discussed. This is followed by Chopped Stease (their version of a chopped cheese sandwich), Green Juice (juiced assorted greens with black cumin seed oil), Coco Loco (coconut ice), and Seafood City (smoked paprika romesco, frito misto), Strong Back Stew, Banana Leaf Fish,Tres Leches, and others. Quality/price rating: 92.
THE FOOD SUBSTITUTIONS BIBLE; more than 8,000 substitutions for ingredients, equipment & techniques. 3rd ed. rev. and exp. (Robert Rose, 2022, 687 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0706-3, $59.95 Canadian, hard covers) has been compiled by David Joachim who has authored, edited or collaborated on more than 50 cookbooks. It was originally published in 2005, with 5,000 substitutions and again in 2011 with 6,500. This new 3rd edition has hundreds of new substitutions for existing entries and brand-new entries, e.g. bacon fat, chia, chicken salt, coquito, crab roe, date sugar, fregula, mirepoix, sorghum flour, et al. The continual globalization of ethnic foods and the COVID-19 pandemic have shown how badly home cooks all need substitutions in their cooking. Supply chains be damned! You won't have to visit a lot of specialist grocery stores. You won't have to buy a whole container just for 2 tablespoons of the required ingredient -- just substitute for something comparable, as noted in the "Bible". Joachim also has new ingredient guides and measuring tables in the appendix to cover Asiatic noodles, can and package size equivalents, and alcohol retention in cooking plus new recipes for plant-based sauces and meringues and mayonnaise. It's also physically heavier, with watercolour illustrations by Emily Isabella and heavier paper in a hardbound format meant to last longer. This is a solid reference book emphasizing, through over 1,500 complete entries, more than 8,000 reasonably approximate substitutions – all of it cross-referenced and arranged alphabetically. The ingredients are listed with both avoirdupois and metric measurements. There are more than 188 recipes for larder type items and emergency substitutions for creating vegan or kosher foods such as sauces, stocks, spice mixes, herb blends, syrups, flavoured butters, cheese and vegan cheese, dips, spreads, relishes, and beverages. There are handy reference charts for metric equivalents, high altitude cooking, stages of cooked sugar, pan sizes. There are ingredient tables for edible flowers, types of salts and vinegars, oil substitutions, picking apples and pears, dried beans and lentils, olives, mushrooms, potatoes, chilies, flours, and rice. He has useful website listings and a bibliography. This is an important food resource and reference book. Quality/Price Rating: 94.
ZERO PROOF DRINKS & MORE; 100 recipes for mocktails & low-alcohol cocktails (Robert Rose, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0675-2, $29.95 soft covers) is by Maureen Petrosky, an entertainment and lifestyle writer currently living in Pennsylvania. These are mindful concoctions devoted to socially-distanced happy hours at home. While Spring is the official season of the mocktail, it reminds us of better times. Lo-al (low-ABV) drinks are the obvious choices for the hotter climate of summer and the harshness of winter. As she says, "Today's zero-proof cocktails are complex and nuanced, worlds away from their sugar-saturated predeccors such as the Shirley Temple. She's got the basic preps for syrups, shrubs, aperitifs, and spritzers. No real extra set-ups are needed since most kitchens/bars have the basics anyway to handle alcohol. Mocktails are best as a day drink followed by lo-al happy hours. She's also got thirty pages of punches and pitcher drinks for that high volume party -- fourteen great recipes including spicy margaritas by the pitcher, sparkling peach punch, strawberry cucumber tonic, and jalapeno and honeydew sangria. Anything that reduces our alcohol consumption is a good necessity, such as the Michelada from Mexico. Most drinks can be tweaked upwards or downwards in quantities of add-ons. And every mocktail can have as much alcohol (if you need it) as you can pour into it – simply by topping up with a bland white wine. Key bottles of lo-al include Campari, Aperol, elderflower, Pimm's No.1, Amaretto, vermouth, and sherry. This is an infinitely expandable book once you have assimilated the basics. She's got easy ways to mix up flavours. Trendy titles include Bloody M, Rosemary Pear Bellini, Grilled Pineapple Mint Mojito, Lemongrass Cilantro Highball, and Grapefruit Radler. Certainly much better than a premixed non-al pretender bottle such as a gin clone, a bourbon clone, a tequila clone, which retail for $40 or more. Just use stuff like juniper berries and rum flavouring at home. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Apart from the punches and pitchers, drinks are for one person. Quality/price rating by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures Writing: 91.