EveryDayCook – A welcome evolution from what Alton Brown did with Good Eats

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I discovered Alton Brown during the last few seasons of Good Eats, and I was instantly a fan. You’ve got to appreciate someone who can make a good martini. Brown’s Monty Python humor and Bill Nye nerdiness was right up my alley. Since the show ended, he seemed to publicly take off his apron and put on a jacket, acting as host and performer in many popular shows, a podcast, and live road show. But, if you’re like me, and missed Alton behind the stove, then get excited. EveryDayCook feels like his triumphant return as a cook.

The book’s a welcome evolution from what Brown did with Good Eats. While you won’t find yeast puppets, you will find his familiar humor and meticulous attention to detail. Each recipe is broken down with Brown explaining how to prepare the dish in a simple and clear way. It’s very apparent that this was a personal project for him, and that he had a hand in every aspect of the book, even the photography.

Each and every picture in the book was taken using an iPhone. A 6s Plus to be specific. Why? Because he uses an iPhone. But then, because he’s Alton freaking Brown he takes it a step further, and uses a top-down perspective for all of the photos. Now for non-photographers out there, just know, this is an incredibly difficult angle to shoot at. There are lighting issues, shadows can be a nightmare, you’re left wondering what kind of masochist would do this? Read the rest

The Sweetapolita Bakebook – Transform baking staples into (edible!) fine art

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The Sweetapolita Bakebook: 75 Fanciful Cakes, Cookies and More by Rosie Alyea Clarkson Potter 2015, 208 pages, 8.6 x 10.5 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $15 Buy a copy on Amazon

Since she was a teenager, Rosie Alyea has been obsessed with “whipping up a sweet life.” She began as a professional baker and then veered into the world of entrepreneurship, launching a decadent beauty product line. In 2010, Alyea began dreaming up creative confections for her blog, Sweetapolita. Her ribbons of Swiss Meringue Buttercream piled up rave reviews, and with each colorful cake creation she cultivated an adoring crowd. Today, Sweetapolita has nearly half a million followers on Facebook, and now Alyea is also an author with her first cookbook, the The Sweetapolita Bakebook.

This bakebook is a showstopper, full of bright, vibrant pastels. Rosie obviously has a passion for color, evident in the line of every dazzling dessert she fashions. Her cookies transcend bakery staples into the realm of fine art. The buttery rounds are swimming with swirls of watercolor frosting and then dipped in edible gold so that they look like gilt-edged framed paintings, worthy of gracing any museum wall. Her infamous cakelets stand like fairytale towers, adorned with charming children’s fondant doodles in carnival colors.

If the Sweetapolita recipes look daunting, don’t despair. Rosie has included lots of basic baking and decorating techniques, as well as an extensive section stocked with easy favorite frostings and simple cakes. Even beginning bakers will find bite-sized inspiration in the shape of Jumbo Frosted Animal Crackers. Read the rest

How to cook Japanese hot pot dishes

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Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton Ten Speed Press 2015, 328 pages, 9.4 x 9.4 x 1.1 inches $20 Buy a copy on Amazon

Donabe (doh-nah-bei) is Japanese for clay pot. It is traditional Japanese earthen cookware and its popularity has waxed and waned with the centuries. Today donabe cooking is a family (and friends) activity, bringing people closer together with communal dining. The book features traditional as well as modern donabe recipes created by the authors and takes readers through the history, manufacture and culture of the donabe.

The authors Takei-Moore and Connaughton create an intimate communal experience with the narrative and sharing of stories. Each recipe begins with a bit of an anecdote, such as “I’ve been making this dish for years, and it’s also one of the most popular rice dishes in my cooking class.” Then the instructions follow with tips and reminders, and include serving suggestions. We can almost hear Ms. Takei-Moore gently instructing her students, “Using a paring knife, score the skin of the duck breast ... Be careful not to penetrate the meat.”

Aspiring donabe chefs need not think they have to acquire many different donabe (although that might be fun!). The authors encourage experimentation and provide instructions for using a classic donabe or even a dutch oven if you do not have the type of donabe specified. The book itself is a delightfully sumptuous eyeful with beautiful photographs of different donabe, ingredients and finished dishes. Read the rest

Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water demystifies the art of infusing

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Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water demystifies the art of infusing

Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water by Eric Prum and Josh Williams Clarkson Potter 2015, 176 pages, 8.5 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches (softcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon

To infuse a liquid is to place a flavoring agent such as herbs in it until it takes on the flavor of the agent. In Infuse: Oil, Spirit, Water, authors Prum and Williams demystify the art of infusing and show us how easy it is to create infusions. Simple prose, simple recipes, clear instructions and gorgeous photographs of the tools, ingredients and finished product will guide beginners in this art and inspire the experienced to experiment.

First make sure you have the tools: a muddler (good excuse to get one, or you can always use a pestle), sieve, cheese cloth and funnel, and of course containers – most any old jam jar will do, but recipes are tuned for mason jars, 8oz (cup), 16oz (pint) and 32oz (quart). Basically tools that most readers will have in their kitchen.

Divided into three sections using different liquids, readers start by learning how easy it is to make vinaigrette salad dressings – four parts oil, one part vinegar – and other infused oils. Prum and Williams also provide a few recipes to use the infused oils. They then move on to spirits and a few cocktail recipes to use them in, and finally to infused waters, which are great flavorful substitutes for sugary sodas and just perfect for warm weather. Read the rest

Deceptive Desserts – Bake the most ghoulish sweet treats you'll ever eat

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Deceptive Desserts: A Lady's Guide to Baking Bad! by Christine McConnell Regan Arts 2016, 288 pages, 8 x 10 x 1 inches $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

Take a ripened crafter, mix in a pinch of YouTube lessons on cake decorating, blend that with a humorous fascination with the macabre, and you’ve got Christine McConnell’s new cookbook, Deceptive Desserts. Read the rest

CCCP Cook Book – recipes from the days of Soviet food planners

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Fuel Publishing, based in London, has carved a niche in the book world by creating books that document the small dark corners of Soviet history. You may be familiar with the series of books, Russian Criminal Tattoos, that revealed the language of body ink and the hierarchies of gulags. CCCP Cook Book uses the same obsessive attention to detail to great effect. When your country is wholly dependent on what the obshchina (collective farm) produces, what you eat is a political act. CCCP Cook Book delves deep into the history of dishes beloved by generations of Russians evolved from both the ideal of equal for all and the realities of planned food production in a country of nearly 170 million.

Visually, CCCP Cook Book adheres to Fuel’s high-minded design aesthetic. The full-page photos that illustrate the recipes are faithfully reproduced in the faded colors and garish contrasts that plagued cookbooks (regardless of origin) throughout the mid-century period.

Knowing that “Soviet” in Russian means "assembly" helps understand that Soviet cuisine isn’t necessarily Russian food. Central planners developed recipes based on projected harvests and preserved foods. Fresh herring wasn’t available in Taskent, but tinned (preserved) fish could be distributed throughout the country. Workers were fed meals at their workplaces that helped standardize recipes, as commissary cooks were required to follow the famed manual, “Book of Tasty and Healthy Food.”

That guide purposefully adapted regional dishes into new, improved Soviet recipes. Vorschmack has its roots in Jewish cuisine, but is easily recognized today as our own deviled eggs. Read the rest

White Heat 25 – A cookbook about a sleep-deprived, nicotine-fueled mad man in the kitchen

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White Heat has long been my White Whale when searching through used bookstores. I’ve wanted this book for going on ten years. The first time I heard the name Marco Pierre White I had been reading a copy of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, wondering if I had what it takes to be a professional chef (I did not). Bourdain mentioned White’s book, saying that it was the first time he’d seen a “real” chef in a cookbook, a sleep-deprived, nicotine-fueled, mad man in the kitchen.

I thought that I’d finally found my copy when there was a re-release a few years back, but that paperback copy is the TV dinner to this 25th anniversary edition’s three-course meal. Can a home cook use any of these recipes? Maybe. The recipes are French. They’re complicated. And the ingredients include things like caviar, lobster, and pig trotter. But, the mistake is to think of this as a straight-up cookbook. You wouldn’t flip through a book on Picasso and expect to learn how to paint. This book is evidence in the argument that food can be art.

While you might not find a recipe for something to cook on a Tuesday night, you will find: Beautiful, gritty, black and white photography that makes you feel like you’re in the kitchen with this lunatic. A chef doing what chefs do, smoke. The word “fuck” on more than one page. A fresh-faced Gordon Ramsey before he started calling people “donkeys.” And a handful of recipes for dishes that allowed White to become the youngest chef to hold three Michelin Stars. Read the rest

Perserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen

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I saw the sour plums on the cover of Preserving the Japanese Way calling out to me from the highest bookshelf at teeny-tiny Moon Palace Bookstore, Minneapolis. As the Master Food Preserver for my county, I’m a sucker for beautiful books on food preservation. Angela, the owner, clapped and oohed as I plunked it down. “I love this book. I can’t cook, but this book makes me want to eat!”

I’m authorized by the State of Wisconsin to teach the safest scientifically proven methods of food preservation. In my teaching, I’ve heard lovely stories of immigrant grandmothers and their favorite recipes and the joy keeping these traditions alive brings to people. This connectivity to our shared and adopted cultures is one of the most compelling aspects to Preserving the Japanese Way. Nancy Singleton Hachisu is a wonderfully opinionated ex-pat who embraced rural Japanese culture with her marriage to a Hokkaido farmer nearly thirty years ago. Her notes and recommendations are informed by her American “keep trying” attitude, coupled with the Japanese concept of perfecting a singular thing.

Hachisu follows her insatiable curiosity in discovering the old ways. Her vignettes of meetings with artisanal makers are entertaining and informative. Her explanations and definitions of very specific Japanese ingredients are profoundly useful; for the first time ever I understood the nuances of soy sauces. She also acknowledges that artisanally made food is expensive. She recognizes that not everyone has the monetary luxury of purchasing small-batch regional soy sauces and offers accessible and easily available substitutes. Read the rest

Out of the Shadow of Aunt Jemima: the real black chefs who taught Americans to cook

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Featuring reviews of more that 160 cookbooks written by African Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries, Toni Tipton-Martin's The Jemima Code is a much-overdue look at at how African Americans really cooked over the last 200 years, as well as how caricatures of African Americans were used to sell white homemakers everything from "Pickaninny Cookies" to pancake mix. Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa Hix interviewed Tipton-Martin to learn more about this heretofore malnourished chapter in America's culinary history.

Aunt Jemima the Pancake Queen became a national sensation in 1893, thanks to Davis’ ingenuous promotion at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The company hired 56-year-old black actress Nancy Green to play Aunt Jemima at the fair. A former slave, Green was eager to leave behind a life of drudgery — as her other career options involved washing dishes or sweeping floors — in favor of the world of entertainment and advertising. With her warm, smiling persona, Green made pancakes, sang songs, and told nostalgic stories about the “good ol’ days” making breakfast for her plantation masters. Her pancakes were believed to be made of love and magic, not culinary artistry or domestic science.

That image of a fat, happy slave — who faithfully nurtures a white family while neglecting her own — lived on for 75 years through the Aunt Jemima Pancake line, purchased by Quaker Oats Company in 1925. Ubiquitous in ads, she promoted easy-to-make variations on pancakes, waffles, and other pastries in promotional recipe pamphlets, and an Aunt Jemima impersonator even received the keys to the city of Albion, Michigan, in 1964.

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The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: a cookbook and culinary survival guide

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A delightfully funny and punny read, The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: A Cookbook & Culinary Survival Guide isn’t merely humor, it actually provides sound advice for the survivalist. The book begins with “entry level preparedness” and runs through the gamut of various apocalyptic survival scenarios, providing illustrated information, advice and recommendations for further reading in every section.

This book is one part apocalypse prepper, one part outdoor survival guide and one part apocalypse cookbook. No reason not to eat well, even in a zombie apocalypse, right? Humor is found in the flowing narrative that is sprinkled with puns, amusingly titled recipes as well as bloodstains and spatters that decorate the introduction of major sections of the book. The pages are a textured grey-green to simulate age and mold.

Humor aside, sandwiched between recipes with titles such as Going Ginko Nuts, Dead Easy Peas and Who’s Got Your Back Tuna Mac, are instructions on diverse projects including making SIPS (Self-Watering Planters) out of soda bottles or storage bins, and practical advice on various how-tos such as drying, curing, smoking, and brining. – Carolyn Koh

The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocolypse: A Cookbook and Culinary Survival Guide by Lauren Wilson and Kristian Bauthus Smart Pop 2014, 320 pages, 6 x 8.2 x 1 inches (paperback) $15 Buy a copy on Amazon

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12 recipes that will let you eat well for the rest of your life

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As a kid I’d watch my dad as he’d throw (his unit of measurement) some olive oil, onions, garlic, lemon, and olives into a pan to make a quick pasta. It’s learning to cook this way that gave me a love and appreciation for food and cooking. That’s what was so amazing about Twelve Recipes. When you read it, you feel like you’re getting that private cooking lesson from a family member. A family member who happens to be a really really good cook.

Through the book Cal Peternell, chef at renowned restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, lays out twelve-ish basic foods and techniques that he believes will let you eat well for the rest of your life. If you’re a novice in the kitchen, the first chapter eases you in by teaching you how to make toast. No, seriously — toast. I was skeptical at first too, I consider myself to be somewhat of a toast veteran, but after reading a few pages I actually learned something. I had no idea that to make thin crisp toast you should actually use a loaf of stale bread since it’s easier to cut. That’s the beauty of the book – even if you’ve been making toast, grilling meat, or cooking rice all your life, there’s still something to learn.

In the best way, this isn’t your standard cookbook. You won’t find a single recipe on each page, you’ll actually find two or three, interweaved by a story about a family ping pong game. Read the rest

How to make a Man of Steel burger, and other superhero recipes

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Fans of DC Comics greats like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash will love this superhero recipe book full of more than 50 fun snacks, meals, desserts, etc. Enjoy tons of easy-to-make themed treats like Batarang Crackers and the Boy Wonder BLT. Each dish is photographed in a fun way with various action figures or cut-outs to represent the characters. This book would come in handy for any birthday or theme party. There are even stencils and cut-outs included in the book to help you along your way. I tried a few of these and found them super easy to make, even though I'm a bit of a novice in the kitchen. One such success that I had was with the Plastic Man Cheesy Fettuccine. The recipe was simple enough, with a sauté of red and yellow peppers, shredded string cheese and pasta. My kids couldn't get enough of it – superheros to the rescue! – Matt MacNabb

Official DC Super Hero Cookbook by Matthew Mead Downtown Bookworks 2013, 128 pages, 8 x 9.2 x 1 inches $13 Buy one on Amazon

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Marshmallow Madness – dozens of puffalicious recipes

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Homemade marshmallows are all the rage, and Shauna Sever’s whimsical cookbook is the ideal starting place for whipping up a batch in the home kitchen. Sometimes, cookbooks just hit the mark, and this one certainly does. From the basic method and standard vanilla marshmallow to alcohol-infused, gourmet adult treats, Marshmallow Madness had me looking like a hero in the kitchen. Real, fresh, gooey homemade marshmallows are an entirely different confection than their store-bought counterparts, and they can do everything a name brand can and more. Try Sever’s recipe for ambrosia cake or s’mores cupcakes, for instance, or infuse a rich vanilla mallow with delicious homemade salted caramel.

It’s not just the phenomenal marshmallow know-how that makes this book special. Just look at that cover! To my surprise and delight, the front and back covers are actually puffy just like a marshmallow, and the beautiful photography is mouthwatering. Even though my copy is sticky from frequent use, it still holds an honored place in my kitchen, and I highly recommend Marshmallow Madness to book lovers, photography enthusiasts, or lovers of fun and whimsical desserts. It’s fantastic! – Kitty Lusby

Marshmallow Madness: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes Shauna Sever (author) and Leigh Beisch (photographer) Quirk Books 2012, 96 pages, 7.7 x 8.8 x 0.9 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

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Jackson Pollock has a cookbook and it's delicious

I used to have a bad attitude about Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. I thought they were junk. Then one day a friend asked me if I’d ever looked at one of Pollock’s paintings in a museum. I hadn’t. He suggested I do and see if my attitude changed. I followed his advice, and after about 5 minutes of staring at the painting and trying not to judge, it won me over. I love Pollock’s paintings now.

Dinner with Pollock is a spiral bound cookbook that combines Pollock’s art with his own recipes. He was an accomplished cook, and especially good at creating tasty dishes from the kind of food typically available during the Great Depression and wartime rationing. Robyn Lea’s photos of Pollock’s borscht, blintzes, johnny cakes, hummus, Long Island clam pie, and dozens of other recipes are mouth watering. It’s another reason to love this amazing person.

See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest

Chop Sizzle Wow: cookbook / comic mash-up with 50 recipes

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The name Chop Sizzle Wow sounds vaguely like a Japanese cooking show, so I was surprised to discover that this delightful cookery and comix mash-up is actually derived from a classic 1950 Italian cookbook called Il Cucchiaio d’Argento, or The Silver Spoon. That grand work had 2,000 recipes, boiled down here to a svelte “50 step-by-step kitchen adventures.”

This large-format cookbook is categorized into the usual suspects: appetizers, pasta, main courses, and desserts & baking. But the main difference from most cookbooks is that each recipe is presented in a page or two of sequential art. It’s Mario Batali for the Marvel and DC crowd – or for anyone who learns best from visual aids. The illustrations, though, are less superhero and more quaintly utilitarian. These aren’t the gorgeously rendered drawings in Cooks Illustrated, but they do the trick and fit the format. Aside from the occasional size relativity issue, it’s quite clear what each of the illustrations is portraying, and they make it easy to envision the dish from start to finish. In an age of effortless photography, one has to marvel at the time taken to put each of these little drawings on paper.

The recipes are quite basic as well. Each set of ingredients is depicted at the top of the page and is a good reminder that tasty, wholesome food can be made with few ingredients and basic methods. There’s no molecular gastronomy here to scare off the kitchen first-timers. Kids will no doubt enjoy learning with this book, and the slick splatter-resistant cover will keep the book looking good when they do. Read the rest

How to eat eggs for every meal

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I’m quite happy eggs are back in style because they really are the perfect food. They are inexpensive, full of protein, sustainable and are the key ingredient in many wonderful dishes. The Perfect Egg is a mouthwatering cookbook highlighting this humble food. Beautifully photographed, egg dishes are accompanied by easy-to-follow, unique recipes for Morning, Noon, Night, Snack and Sweet treats. The Perfect Egg also contains information about proper egg storage and sizing, as well as fun facts about eggs (who knew a super huge Emu egg = 14 large chicken eggs?).

I made two recipes so far from the book – Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies (uses 1 duck egg or 2 chicken eggs) which were delicious; crunchy from the cornmeal and sweet from the honey – and an easy recipe for Savory Strata which is basically a bread pudding made with Hawaiian sweet bread, 6 eggs, lots of veggies and cheese.

There are also many really interesting sounding recipes for foods I’ve never made/heard of before. Top of my list to make are Shrimp Okonomiyaki (3 eggs) which is a omelet-like pancake with shrimp, veggies and dried seaweed, Parmesan Popcorn Puffs (3 eggs) which are airy, cheesy gourgeres with a buttered popcorn puree filling (!) and Brick Toast which is made with a coating of sweetened condensed milk, eggs, sugar and butter spread onto thick bread slices and then baked. Yummy! – Carole Rosner

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The Slanted Door cookbook - modern Vietnamese food

Emma Campion, the cover designer of The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food is to be congratulated for her outstanding work. The contrast in texture between the gray flannel top and the smooth photographic bottom not only enhances the work visually, but also creates a contrast to the touch. The embossed titles further enhance the tactile experience. There are many cookbooks I like to read – a very few that inspire long study of food photography – but how many do I like to touch? Campion has gone beyond the boundaries of cookbook design to create a new sensory experience of the cookbook. She is a true innovator.

The interior design of the cookbook by Bullet Liongson, with its limited color palate, slightly desaturated color photos, black and whites, and cityscapes exemplifying a pervasive feeling of gray fog, suits the San Francisco bay-front location of The Slanted Door restaurant. The food photography may not pop, but it does blend into a cohesive whole. A food photographer myself, I am always interested in the photographers and techniques of food photography found in cookbooks. Photographer Ed Anderson, known for his work in My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, has a gritty, masculine, street photojournalist style to his food shots and he is not afraid to show dirty pots and scuffed kitchen floors. His best work seems to be his beautiful landscapes and cityscapes of San Francisco.

As those of us who have written cookbooks for chefs and restaurants know, writing a cookbook is a full-time job and running a restaurant is a full-time job. Read the rest

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