Boing Boing 

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

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.

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

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. Further informational gems reside in the introduction and the back of the book: recipe notes, techniques in detail, glossary, index, and menu ideas. Will you like this book as much as I do? I cannoli hope so. – Aaron Downey

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How to eat eggs for every meal

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. No chef can do both and the wise ones, like Charles Phan, hire a specialist. Charles Phan made a good decision hiring Janny Hu. The recipes work and Hu successfully created a voice that I, for one, believe is that of Charles Phan. To sublimate one’s own personality and successfully translate that of Chef Phan’s into a voice is a true gift and Janny Hu has done well.

I began eating Vietnamese food in 1980 when the first Vietnamese restaurant opened in New Orleans to serve the some 20,000 Vietnamese located here after the fall of Saigon. I also included a number of Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans Best Ethnic Restaurants, so I enjoyed exploring Charles Phan’s growth as a restaurateur and comparing it to what my local Vietnamese restaurant friends have done. Charles Phan primarily keeps to traditional Vietnamese dish preparation for his entrees and appetizers. A few of the dishes are more Vietnamese fusion than traditional Vietnamese and I find that they do not work as well as the traditional recipes which have had hundreds of years to develop a flavor profile. For desserts, Phan provides exquisite pastries in the tradition of the French occupation of Vietnam and forgoes the fruit-based desserts so often seen in local restaurants.

His two smartest moves as a restaurateur were to free himself from the tyranny of local soda distributors and his creation of a wine list and a spirits menu totally unrelated to Vietnam. Phan removed the soda guns from his restaurant – an action so without precedent in San Francisco restaurant history that the distributor was not sure what he meant. No well-known commercial sodas at The Slanted Door, rather hand squeezed juices, made to order and combined with small bottles of sparkling soda water in the tradition of Vietnamese soda chanh. Soda chanh, a combination of fresh squeezed lime juice, sugar and club soda, is one of my favorite drinks. Hiring an expert, wine wizard Mark Ellenbogen created the wine list for The Slanted Door. He found that low alcohol wines with some residual sugar and high acidity like a German Riesling worked with spicy Vietnamese dishes and concentrated on whites made from cool-weather grapes and reds with low tannin. For the spirits menu, the fresh squeezed juices of the non-alcoholic beverage menu was a natural springboard for fresh juice and homemade syrup based cocktails with an emphasis on tropical cocktails, extremely well done. The cocktail recipes include cute bits of info. One bit that I did not know is who drank the French 75 in the movie Casablanca. Read the book to find out.

Most impressive, however, is Charles Phan’s story of how he raised capital for his restaurants, avoided double-dealing landlords and used DIY skills to remodel and decorate his restaurants without the all too often amateur look resulting from DIY restaurant design. The Slanted Door provides a fascinating look into the evolution of a restaurant dynasty, some great recipes, some even better cocktail recipes and a romping fun read. If I were to be forced to find a drawback, it is that I would have enjoyed the book much more if I lived in San Francisco and knew Charles Phan personally – but there are always vacations. Traveling to San Francisco soon? Put this book on your to-read list and visit the restaurant while you are there. I know I will. – Ann Benoit

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The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

At first glance, I thought The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook might be too gimmicky to take seriously – recipes by top mystery authors, including Mary Higgins Clark, Gillian Flynn, James Patterson, Lisa Unger, and dozens of others.

But its thick textured pages and beautiful photographs drew me in, and before I knew it I was eating a bowl of zucchini pasta-less pasta from a recipe that First Blood author David Morrell offers (my dish is pictured above). The green ribbons of “pasta” were simple to make and absolutely delicious.

I’ve now got Post-it notes stuck on all the recipes I want to try, including Hallie Ephron’s simple potato pancakes, Mary Higgins Clark’s “Game Night Chili,” Adrienne Barbeau’s stuffed grape leaves, and for when I’m feeling extra decadent, James Patterson’s “Killer Chocolate Cake” (which has butter listed as its first ingredient!).

Along with each entry, the author writes a fun backstory on his or her recipe. This original cookbook is perfect for all food and mystery fans.

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Relae – Michelin-star chef offers recipes and inspirational bite-size essays

Relae: A Book of Ideas is marketed as a cookbook, but it’s so much more.

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Bitter: one of the most interesting and exciting cookbooks I’ve ever read

The term bitter, when associated with food, has never whet my appetite. Bitter, like sour, leans towards the negative. “She made a sour face.” “He is a “bitter” person. Unlike sweet or savory (unami), I think of bitter as an acquired taste that does not easily enthuse. So when I ran across Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed.

Bitter is one of the most interesting and exciting cookbooks I’ve ever read, with adventurous recipes that show us how to poach fruit in tea custard, boil mussels in beer, roast squab in dark chocolate, simmer pork chops in a coffee black currant sauce, can orange whisky marmalade, and whip up many other exotic dishes with unexpected food combinations. The book explains that not all bitter tastes are alike, and categorizes bitterness in five chapters: Born To Be Bitter, Liquid Bitter, Pungently Bitter, Subtly Bitter, and Dark, Forbidden and Very Bitter. And more than just recipes, this book is loaded with fascinating facts and anecdotes about everything bitter and beyond.

It’s no fun to write about a cookbook without first tackling a recipe, so for this review I turned to the Pungently Bitter chapter and fried up the Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Chestnuts dish (shown in cover photo above). With only five ingredients and a few simple steps, I ended up with a multi-flavored delicious lunch in less than 30 minutes. I never knew that brussels sprouts were considered bitter, and realize how unfair I’ve been in my prejudice against the world of bitter food. I now look forward to many more bitter adventures in my kitchen and on my table.

Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, With Recipes

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The history and science of meringue, from a new book by Linda K. Jackson and Jennifer Evans Gardner

Meringue My friend Jen Gardner has co-written a gorgeous recipe book called Meringue, which is all about the featherweight delicacy that turns desserts into works of art. I asked Jen if I could include an excerpt that discusses the history and science of meringue, and she kindly gave me permission.

From Meringue:

Egg whites. Sugar. A pinch of cream of tartar or a dash of vinegar. And air.

Meringue. How can something be so simple, so divine, and yet so intimidating at the same time?

We both fell in love with meringue the same way. Though we grew up thousands of miles apart it was the first bite of our mothers’ lemon meringue pie, the fluffy topping still warm from the oven atop sweet lemon curd that made us swoon. But it was years before we fully realized how many different forms meringue could take -- and we were hooked for life. For Linda, it was the addictive meringue gelato at the world famous gelateria Vivoli in Florence; for Jennifer, it was a cloud-light meringue torte, le Vacherin, while living in Paris.

Our paths finally merged at a potluck “feast” at our children’s preschool. We spotted the desserts first -- Linda’s tiny, light-as-cloud meringue cookies flecked with chocolate, and Jennifer’s raspberry meringue tartlets -- amidst the store-bought cakes, cookies and one sad frozen lasagna. As the adults elbowed their toddlers out of the way to get to our desserts, our eyes met, smug smiles in check. It was friendship at first sight.

We always get the same reaction when we serve meringues. It seems that because they are so delicate and look so elegant, everyone -- even our friends who are experienced bakers -- assumes they are difficult to make. Not so. They may look intimidating, but they are actually quite simple to make. Even those with little or no baking experience can quickly master meringue.

Meringue is magical. It is incredibly versatile. It can be spooned onto pies, or piped into any number of beautiful shapes. It can be baked or poached, whipped into silky frostings, or folded into cakes to make them fluffier. It can be combined with ground nuts, chocolate or any number of flavorings. It can be formed into various vessels for Chantilly cream and fresh berries. And that’s just the beginning. We hope that Meringue will encourage you to embrace meringue as we have, and that it inspires you to create heavenly creations of your very own.

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