Fresh Made Simple: A Naturally Delicious Way to Eat: Look, Cook, and Savor

Despite making a weekly meal plan, we eat at least one dinner a week out of the freezer and often ditch another well-planned meal for something quick and easy. Lauren K. Stine’s recipes in Fresh Made Simple are not only great for fast, fresh, mid-week eats, but also for quick, clean snacks and spreads to whip up when unexpected guests come knocking. This book is so inviting and easy to use. All it takes is a quick look at Stine’s simple list of staples for stocking a “fresh kitchen” and a scan of one of Katie Eberts’ illustrated spreads before heading to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Much of the actual meal-making takes 10 minutes or less of prep.

Unlike a traditional cookbook, Fresh Made Simple's recipes don’t include a list of ingredients or even precise measurements. All of the ingredients and most of the kitchen action is illustrated rather than written out. Amounts appear as written-in labels. In the Ginger Lemon Honey Butter recipe, for example, lines connect a bright yellow lemon to the word “zest” and a tipped bottle of honey to “just a squeeze.” Eberts draws most of the meals in-the-making: salad components cascading down into a bowl, pesto ingredients sprinkled, squeezed, and grated into a food processor. The whole thing is designed perfectly to convince the crunched-for-time cook that a fresh meal really can be simple. As an added bonus, my preschooler was thrilled to “read” her first recipe (a fruit and veggie smoothie) and tell me how to make it. Read the rest

A handbook, a cookbook, an eggbook: this quasi-encyclopedic ovarian overview is the only tome you need to own

There is something irresistibly gross about Lucky Peach food photography. The bizarre lightening and color correction, the styling that fluctuates between offbeat and grotesque. It’s so weird, it’s amazing. Aside from it’s unique visual appeal, Lucky Peach is consistently packed with culinary expertise and damn good journalism. Though the magazine will soon be gone, the brand’s fourth (and presumably final) book, All About Eggs, embodies everything that was great about the publication compiled in a kelly green hard cover.

All About Eggs really is all about eggs. It examines the egg from every angle. There are essays on the evolution of the egg tart in Asia, an egg-fueled murder in a San Francisco diner, and the egg throughout time. There are guides on deciphering egg carton labels, egg varieties, and egg substitutes. The bright yellow yolk at the center of the book houses strangely photographed finished recipes ranging from deep fried Filipino Kwek Kwek to classic, crisp French Meringues. The egg white pages on either side of the recipe section are generously peppered with egg photo illustration—egg art objects, repurposed egg shells and cartons, egg ephemera, and many, many altered photos of eggs (anthropomorphized, animalized, and otherwise reimagined). If you are at all interested in eggs, you need this book!

All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World's Most Important Food by Rachel Khong, the editors of Lucky Peach Clarkson Potter 2017, 256 pages, 6.8 x 1 x 8.8 inches, Hardcover $16 Buy on Amazon

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Learn how to eat a lobster and answers to other etiquette questions with this beautifully illustrated guide

Say you’ve ditched your frozen dinners, gotten swept up in foodie culture, and, with new found enthusiasm, eat out and order seafood. You wax poetic about the merits of sustainable fish farming, but your smile suddenly wanes when your server brings the fish — whole. Or maybe you’re a college student embarking on your very first unpaid internship company lunch meeting. You arrive at the office looking sharp in that smart new number you scored off the clearance rack, only to discover that the boss has a hankering for barbecue. Or maybe you simply love food and self-improvement and are dying to find a new book to meet your niche! Whatever the case may be, How to Eat a Lobster has you covered.

The book’s guidance is served up in three courses, each packed with easily digestible bites of how-tos. Tricky Techniques covers dissecting and devouring everything from escargot to pig’s head. Etiquette Enigmas finesses table manners like sipping soup and dividing up a bill. Foodie Fixes goes inside after the bite with tips for handling spicy food and bad breath. It’s even small enough to fit neatly in your bag in case any unanticipated food adventures pop up and leave you scratching your head over which fork to use. If you plan to sneak away to reference check your etiquette in a bathroom stall, just be sure to read the How to Excuse Yourself section before you take your seat at the table.

How to Eat a Lobster: And Other Edible Enigmas Explained by Ashley Blom, Lucy Engelman (Illustrator) Quirk Books 2017, 160 pages, 5.0 x 0.7 x 6.6 inches, Hardcover $9 Buy on Amazon

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Breathtaking botanical illustrations and photographs in a guide to the world of spices

I pretty much sprinkle the same thing on every meal. I am admittedly heavy-handed with the cayenne on my own plate and rarely stray from the variety of basils I grow in the summer or bundles of dried rosemary in winter when cooking for my family. I am much more apt to get creative with spices while baking, to savory up my sweets. Lior Lev Sercarz’s The Spice Companion has got me pretty excited to change things up.

This book is an absolute must read for anyone who likes to cook. In it, Lev Sercarz, celebrated culinary expert and master of spices, walks readers through a collection of spices chosen based on the criteria of: 1) can be found anywhere and 2) are essential in certain parts of the world. He opens with a few short essay-like chapters on his own culinary journey, the history of spices, and overviews on procuring, blending, and storing spices, all written in an inviting tone that makes the reader, no matter how novice in the kitchen or rote in their culinary routine, feel excited and encouraged to experiment with spices. They serve as thoroughly informative, enjoyable appetizers to the main course of the collection: the spices.

“Any dried ingredient that elevates food or drink is a spice,” Lev Sercarz writes. His alphabetically organized curation of spices is gorgeously photographed by Thomas Schauer, who also gives us plenty of food-porn shots spanning the lifecycle of spices (from herbs still growing to well-seasoned meals) throughout the text. Read the rest

The Bob's Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers

I can’t cook.

A few years ago though, I had the semi-crushing revelation that it’s not that I don’t know much about cooking, it’s that I legitimately can’t cook. I’m terrible at it. No piece of chicken would go uncooked to a leathery dryness that couldn’t even be passed as “jerk.” No meat sauce could be made properly spiced, just prepared with the desperate hope that crushed red pepper and more tomato paste could cure anything. It was my wife that graciously brought me the knowledge that I wasn’t just not-so-great at cooking, but I legitimately cannot cook to save my life or the lives of whatever poor group I was cooking for. I thank her for coaxing out this revelation of myself (and for being an amazing cook).

I do, however, like cartoons. And the good news is that Bob’s Burgers isn’t a show about cooking, it’s a show about family and it’s quickly grown into one of the best shows on TV. Bob’s Burgers treads an amazing line between strange and sweet, highlighting the ridiculous exploits of the Belcher clan, a family of oddballs who love each other and are continually misunderstood by the rest of the world while running a small, boardwalk burger shop. Over the past few seasons each character has been fleshed out into people more real than anything you’ll find on your average lawyer or cop show. And it’s a lot funnier than most episodes of NCIS.

The show’s success has prompted a good sized following, and when one member of fandom created a Tumblr dedicated to creating or recreating the fanciful burgers listed in each episode as The Burger of the Day fans were naturally interested. Read the rest

Anthony Bourdain's new cookbook is as much an artbook as it is recipes

Anthony Bourdain is an idol of mine. I read his breakout book Kitchen Confidential while I was working in a dingy Teriyaki Bar. I’ve watched as he’s eaten his way around the world. I’ve read every book he’s put out. I was first-in-line to pick up his only other cookbook released more than a decade ago — a collection of recipes from his time working at New York restaurant Les Halles. But his new one, Appetites: A Cookbook, is much more personal and really captures who I imagine Anthony Bourdain to be.

The recipes are a mishmash of cuisines taken from Bourdain’s travels and experiences, they’re what he likes to eat, and what he feeds his family. You’ll find new takes on old fare, like Mac and Cheese, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Thanksgiving Dinner. Also included, are recipes for some more worldly cuisine like Saffron Risotto, Banh Mi, and Poulet “Ev Vessie” Hommage á La Mére Brazier. Just don’t expect a chocolate tart recipe, as Bourdain’s not the biggest fan of baking sweets, or as he says, “Fuck Dessert.”

On the cover of Appetites: A Cookbook is an incredible painting done by Ralph Steadman, which sets up the elegant punk rock vibe that fills the book. The food being photographed is often gristly, squiggly, and to some people “gross,” but it’s shot in a beautiful way. There are shots of his Jiu Jitsu star wife putting someone in a headlock, friend and fellow cook Eric Ripert, and lots of vivid color, making this as much of an art book as a cookbook. Read the rest

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

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

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

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

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