The first is titled The Architecture of the Cocktail: Constructing the Perfect Cocktail from the Bottom Up. Written by Amy Zavatto and meticulously illustrated by Melissa Wood, this book portrays 75 classic and modern cocktail recipes in architectural renderings, with each element of the drink represented by unique patterns and labels to indicate the amounts and proportions.
The result is a blueprint to the perfect cocktail, and Wood even sells a poster version of several drinks, which would be a wonderful decoration for any home bar. More than just a novelty book, this handy tome could be a guide for mixologists who are particularly technically minded.
Each cocktail recipe includes instructions for the proper glassware, ice and whether to mix, shake, strain or stir. The book concludes with a guide to specific stemware and the properties that each imparts to a proper cocktail. For $16, this would be a great gift for any spirits enthusiast.
For beginners, there’s The Vegan Cheat Sheet by Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey. There’s a ton of helpful advice an tips for new and experienced veg*ns alike on how to overcome the challenges they may face when dining out — either in someone’s home or at a restaurant — as well as for dining in. There’s information included on choosing wisely at the grocery, converting favorite recipes and even a good selection of what they term “no brainer” (quick and easy) recipes.
Even longtime veg*ns (or those who’d like to eat healthier) can find useful information in menu planning and shopping lists. There’s also a nice section that addresses the myths of the vegan diet, including the protein question and others related to its viability as a lifestyle.
Also good for new vegans is this year’s revised edition of Becoming Vegan, Express Edition by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, updated from the original published in 2000.
The recipes include sweet and savory and are divided by chapter into various types, such as cream pies, nut pies and even crustless pies, along with toppings and a very helpful section on crust basics. Also, while the photography that accompanies each recipe is mouth-watering, the subjects are realistic, which will help the home cook know exactly what to expect.
It’s not that the recipes are difficult to prepare (they're not); they’re just at a creativity level that’s beyond what most people (or perhaps just I) make at home. Some people may have a little difficulty acquiring the ingredients, too. All that said, the book is an excellent source of inspiration for anyone who may have gotten a bit bored in the kitchen. Or for when you need to convince dinner guests and other friends that vegan food can be exciting.
Talk about specialization: Robert Rose recently sent me a book specializing on a type of cooking device I didn't even know existed, a guide to Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining. But just because I've never seen the use for a triple slow cooker doesn't mean that there aren't 130 of them for sale on Amazon, so I guess they are a thing now.
Apparently these three-pot vessels are the perfect device for making stews, soups, dips and slow-cooked meats for entertaining, and browsing through the 100-plus recipes and the 30 different party ideas and menus, it looks like I need to pick one up before Thanksgiving. The recipes are designed to be very simple and no-fuss so that you can spend your time worrying about other details of your soiree.
Each party plan includes a countdown of what you should be doing 5-7 hours from the first guest arriving up until 30 minutes before the doorbell rings. For a party planner who wants help with the details, this is an inexpensive handy guide book.
But Seafood: Spectacular Recipes for Every Season is written by two chefs from Sweden, where the availability of good fish is not nearly the issue that it is here. Chefs Par-Anders Bergqvist and Anders Engvall (go ahead and make your Swedish chef joke, now. I'll wait. Bork, bork, bork.) take an artist's approach to their cooking, and not just a culinary artist's.
In addition to cleverly dividing their book into 52 sections based on which particular week of the year should represent the absolutely most appropriate time for a specific recipe, but they also suggest a song, album or musical artist to listen to while preparing and eating each dish.
The recipes are not overly technical, so if you can get past the ingredient sourcing issues, most of the meals in the book should be achievable by a competent home chef. If nothing else, the food photography and witty musical asides make this a fun book to put on the coffee table.
After 28 years of working as a chef, Quatrano has finally written her first cookbook, Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality. Unlike other cookbooks that are simply lists of recipes, organized my type or particular meals, Summerland is focused on entire meals, banquets even.
The 100 recipes are presented as parts of an entire celebratory meal, which perfectly demonstrates Quatrano's focus on hospitality and dedication to using ingredients sourced from her family farm, which also contributes the title of the book. Chapters are divided by month to feature the seasonal bounty, from a September pig roast to a fireside New Year's brunch to a May picnic. Quatrano also thoughtfully includes recipes for basic breads, stocks and bouillons, which serve as the bases for many of her meals. She's also not afraid of a good cocktail, so there's a recipe for one of those at the beginning of each chapter.
The photography in Summerland is gorgeous and plentiful. Quatrano's prose as she describes the stories behind the farm fêtes that inspire her menus is entertaining and profound without getting too deep for the casual reader. As a look inside the mind of a Southern cooking legend, this book is a definite winner and would make a great holiday or host gift for your favorite party planner. (Or food blogger!)
But if you've ever eaten these guys' food or seen them guesting on episodes of the Sean Brock Mind of a Chef series, you'll understand that the titles are very appropriate for these two inventive Southern chefs.
Ed Lee is the Brooklyn-born son of Korean immigrants who cooks in Louisville at two restaurants, 610 Magnolia and MilkWood, but the recipes in his book are not from his restaurants. Instead, they are drinks, snacks, main dishes and desserts that he prepares at home for his friends, and thus are perfect for a commercial cookbook. He writes, "What I cook is who I am," and the stories of his youth and progression through the chef ranks demonstrate his dedication to fusing his Asian heritage with Southern sensibilities and French techniques.
Lee's recipe for roasting a chicken is a method so ingenious that I may never cook a chicken any other way again. Looking for a solution to avoiding a dry breast while waiting for the dark meat to come to temp, Lee came up with the idea of ricing a potato and stuffing the area between the skin and the white meat. This protects the breast while allowing the skin to crisp up and allows the juices of the chicken to flavor the potatoes while the dish cooks. After removing the breast and carving it across the grain, you end up with a lovely bite of chicken with layers of meat, potatoes and skin in every bite. I am officially hooked.
Of course kimchi and pickling in general are an important part of Lee's repertoire, so if those topics interest you, this is a must-have book for your library. The chef's droll wit shines through in the introductions to each chapter and in the head notes to his recipes. Thanks to his appreciation of genuine comfort food, and of course bourbon, Lee comes across as a wonderful advocate for all the best things about Southern cuisine.
Since my review library has gotten a little backed up, I thought it would be good to do a few reviews to catch up, so fire up your Amazon Wish List and get ready for some literary enlightenment. First out of the gate are two cookbooks that are delightfully contradictory, The Mixer Bible by Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder, and Baking by Hand: Make the Best Artisanal Breads and Pastries Better WIthout a Mixer by Andy and Jackie King. In this Kitchenaid battle, there can be only one!
Let's start with the pro-mixer camp. The Mixer Bible comes from Robert Rose, a publisher known for cookbooks chock-full of simple recipes, and this particular book fits right in their model. If you're a fan of lots of pretty full-color food photos, they are generally not the publisher for you. The Mixer Bible does have a 16-page insert of finished product shots, but they're not particularly instructive.
What is admirable, however, is the clear and concise way they write their recipes. Deeds and Snyder list the necessary equipment right at the head of the recipe, and I definitely appreciate the fact that they give all measurements in conventional cups, tablespoons, etc., but also in metric. Ever since I heard Thomas Keller speak last year, I always try to measure by weight whenever I'm baking.
This book is about more than just baking, though. There are sections that cover sausage and pasta-making and recipes are organized by the traditional sections of appetizers, soups, main dishes, sides, desserts, etc. Another full-color section at the beginning of the book gives tips on ingredients and techniques and clearly demonstrates many of the attachments that are available for your stand mixer. (And that are on my holiday wish list)
Anyway, as a vegetarian (though not vegan), beans are really a staple of my diet. I’m not a big consumer of faux meats, so beans are my protein of choice. That’s why I was so excited to learn about The Great Vegan Bean Book earlier this year when I attended Food Blog Forum. The author, Kathy Hester, was in attendance and gave me a printed-out preview of the book. Covering more than just slow-cooked beans, this book includes some really creative and inventive ways to use a variety of beans. Popsicles, salads, curries, parfaits … even pancakes! And in the book, she makes note of which recipes are also, soy-free, oil-free, and gluten-free (or how to make them with substitutions, if possible). Nutrition info is also included for each recipe.
Kathy has graciously allowed me to reprint the recipe for Pineapple Rum Beans over Coconut Lime Sweet Potatoes to give you a little taste of what’s available in the book. I chose it because I think it’s the perfect dish to bridge this in-between time that’s the cusp of summer and fall. Plus, there are tons of sweet potatoes available at the farmers markets right now.
Author Ellen Jaffe Jones has compiled a list of hearty vegan recipes that are intended to comfortably take the place of a meat-centric meal in order to appease the non-veg*n at home. Main courses are heavy on bean and mushrooms, with only a handful relying on meat substitutes such as vegan sausage and vegan beef tips or even tofu. I usually avoid meat substitutes, but for the purpose of this book, it’s helpful to have these recipes included so that those who are flexible in their diets can choose meat or a meat substitute.
The book begins with some guidelines about how to make a partnership between people of varying diets work. The author then includes a list of foods and how they’re important in a plant-based diet. She also includes explanations and recommendations regarding meat and dairy substitutes. All of these tips help set a basis for a more harmonious kitchen. From there, it's right into the recipes, which also include breakfasts, soups, salads, sides and desserts.
In my home, I’m the one who does all the cooking, so I’m the one who decides what we eat. My husband will eat just about anything, so we didn’t have to do a whole lot of negotiating. However, this book could be really helpful for others, particularly if both like to cook. Regardless, I will say that many of the heartier recipes (such as the Quinoa Paella and the No-Beef Bourguignon) will make great additions to my fall menus. Over at Vegan Crunk, Bianca tried out the Chili sin Carne on her omni boyfriend, and it got a thumbs-up from both of them.
Miller was midway through a years-long project on the history of soul food in America, and I was fascinated to hear his insights into a cuisine that I really was only tangentially knowledgeable about. Sure, I've eaten chitlins and greens and neckbones at Bailey & Cato, but my real understanding was pretty superficial. That's why I was so excited this month when his book was finally released by The University of North Carolina Press.
Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time is a wonderful combination of sociological examination of African-American culture and identity, travelogue and cookbook. It is a very entertaining read as Miller injects his personal experiences as he traveled the country seeking out the best in American soul food. The chapters are divided by specific foods, from fried chicken to candied yams to red Kool-Aid as Miller examines the history of each dish and the impact on soul food through the years.
I met him for an entertaining supper at Swett's while he was in the middle of his research, and it was readily apparent how passionate he is about the topic. I suggested the hot water corn bread at the Sands Diner near the Nashville Farmers' Market as an interesting Nashville dish, but he was already on top of it. (And they made it into the book.) Readers can use Miller's book as a travel guide to hunt out the best soul food in the country or as just an entertaining read on the underappreciated complexity of the cuisine.
So I was excited to receive a review copy of Susan Crowther's instructional guide, The No Recipe Cookbook. Crowther's book is not at all a conventional cookbook, since true to the title, there are no recipes.
Instead the book is written in a very conversational tone with a series of questions and answers that cover many of the important techniques you should master in the kitchen. Some chapters are based around specific ingredients and how to use them. Others revolve around top 10 lists of meals, ingredients, condiments, herbs and spices, giving tips on how to work with them.
Helpful charts can inspire you when you've got "cooker's block" in the kitchen or are staring into your spice drawer or refrigerator trying to figure out what to make for supper. I wish I'd thought long ago of organizing my spice drawer by flavor combinations instead of alphabetically. The "tangy" section should contain basil, dill, cilantro, sage and mustard. Allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, nutmeg and ginger should be grouped together as "sweet." Cumin, thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, tarragon and turmeric are "pungent." Arranging them this way allows you to experiment with substituting spices to create a whole new flavor profile in your old favorite dishes.
I'm a fan of Michael Ruhlman's book "Ratio," where he teaches home chefs to memorize the basic proportions of water, flour, fat, etc., to whip up a bread dough, a pie crust or a vinaigrette without having to consult recipes. Do you think those contestants on Iron Chef already had a recipe in their head for jackfruit fritters? No way. They just know how to make a fritter dough and have a good idea of how much of any additional ingredient to add to work with the basic recipe.
Wait a minute. Jets? You were 6/10 of a mile away from Real NY Pie…
what a fantastic find! will definitely have to make a trip out to your neck…
I attended only 1 class last year and hope to attend more this year. Well,…
That's probably wise, Pogo! It's always tough to schedule around my busy co-instructors. Maybe we'll…
If you all think this is too expensive I'm sure you can easily find a…