The Delicious Dozen 2013 Notable Cookbooks and Culinary Reads
A messy kitchen indeed. The scraps stuck to frying pans and hardened to the broiler, and the different oil traces left on dutch ovens and saucepans, reveal plenty about the eclectic dishes found in these 2013 notable cookbooks. My forte is the ability to size up recipes, to judge if they hold promise. So many recipes! The surprises this year ranged from crispy calamari with saffron aioli, to Moroccan spiced couscous, to broiled eggplants with chile and honey, to Turkish coffee brownies to sticky sponge cake with date toffee sauce -- all delicious and all fairly easy to make.
This year’s choices aren’t as much about the mastery of single cuisines as they are about the authors’ culinary wanderings. Ivan Orkin’s recipe for schmaltz-fried chicken katsu tells you where he’s from and where he’s been – from Long Island to Tokyo where he has two wildly popular ramen shops.
Aliza Green offers a collection of international soups that are so accessible and so “use what-you-have-on hand”-friendly that the recipes seem more adventuresome than “foreign.”
A lavish cookbook with 40 recipes featuring dates includes a great British toffee recipe. Susan Puckett, author of “Eat Drink Delta,” wanders straight into other people’s kitchens in destinations throughout Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, and finds culinary wealth. When your palate is that kind of hound dog, apparently no chef says no to your begging for recipes.
Mollie Katzen has never had to travel far, although she resides out West now: ingredients once considered foreign and exotic were ushered into America cuisine via hippy communal-style gatherings in the 60s and early 70s. Katzen’s forte is still about making ingredients like tofu, legumes, and brown rice the American darlings.
For authors Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, we should leave them be in their gardens of inspiration.
Enjoy! And keep your stove and utensils clean!
Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes, by Einat Admony The overall slant is healthy Mediterranean combined with Jewish comfort food that feeds the whole family in style. The perfect housewife (the “Balaboosta” in Yiddish) not only is a great cook, she also is a great cook on demand, using available ingredients. For the most part, this book’s recipes fulfill the promise. They are robust, generally simple, and include a wide range of ingredients, but ones found in a typical kitchen – linguini, carrots, cream, mayo and some fresh veggies. One section is devoted to recipes for the kids. She separates a dozen more time-consuming dishes into a separate chapter called “fancy schmancy restaurant-worthy dishes.” This balaboosta is a kind instructor urging you on with an expert hand.
River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall As vegetarianism has veered toward veganism, this author has bucked the tide. In fact, it’s a surprisingly down-to-earth cookbook considering the British author’s highfalutin name. Most endearing is the flexibility built into these 200 recipes, only a third which are vegan. Fearnley-Whittingstall has a reputation for unfussy recipes with relatively few ingredients. Most of the dishes are ideal for sides, and many can make a complete meal.
The Soupmaker's Kitchen: How to Save Your Scraps, Prepare a Stock, and Craft the Perfect Pot of Soup, by Aliza Green Green has mugged more than 100 international cuisines and dragged their soup recipes back to the U.S. for this book. The separate chapters on stocks, broths, fish and seafood, chilled soups, bean soups and others guide readers to everything from Hungarian mushroom soup (delicious) to Senegalese peanut and yam puree (filling and also delicious) to Thai chicken coconut (delicious again). You’ll find vegetarian and even vegan recipes as well with a heavy emphasis on hearty chowders, bisques and purees. She encourages readers to craft their own soups from bits of leftovers. There are strong chapters on prepping and properly chilling soups.
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint, by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying Viewed more closely, Ivan Orkin’s journey from Long Island to opening one Tokyo’s most renowned ramen shops is not totally miraculous. He majored in Japanese language and culture at the University of Colorado and attended the Culinary Institute of America. The 40 recipes in this cookbook/memoir include many non-ramen delights that work with noodles (what doesn’t?). All that said, ramen is easy to get in 99 cent packages, but the really good stuff is an obsession. Homemade noodles, clear stock and inventive toppings can make a meal or a great starter. One warning Japanese tolerance for salt is high and evident in what the recipes call for, but you can dial down and integrity remains.
Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond, by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. There’s no sushi here. Welcome to the world of everyday Japanese cooking—ramen, curry, tempura, udon, gyoza, donburi and more. The recipes are wholesome and simple, and many ingredient substitutions are offered. They take some liberties with Japanese methods, but you can’t argue with the results. The book duplicates the Japanese preference for clean, oil-free tastes, . Even the pork chops (tonkatsu) are crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside and not greasy at all.
Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook, by Aki Kamozawa and Alexander H. Talbot Be forewarned, this is a book that tries to explain how ingredients are actually changed by cooking to enhance their taste. Chefs have a lot of tricks. In this book, tapioca replaces eggs in banana caramel ice cream. There are separate chapters on breads, soups and stews, and meats. But there are three entire chapters on deserts: cakes, pies and tarts, and a final chapter devoted to cookies, candy and ice creams. The recipes are generally healthier than their everyday counterparts, but if you’re a health buff don’t be put off by the bacon, eggs or refined sugars. They delight in pushing the capabilities of normal kitchen appliances, including the microwave.
The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, by Mollie Katzen Forty years after publication of her Moosewood cookbook, Katzen treats us to green matzo ball soup and dozens of other inventive, tasty delights. I was particularly drawn to her multiple takes on veggie burgers. Try the sweet potato, chickpea, quinoa burger, the caramelized onion-brown rice combo, and Cajun-style tofu burgers. The burger chapter alone includes another dozen recipes; it could be the basis of a vegetarian burger joint’s menu. She hasn’t lost her recipe-writing touch either – detailed ingredient list, followed by detailed instructions preceded by detailed intros and followed by long lists of optional enhancements.
Sun Bread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from Everywhere, by Sarah Al-Hamad The author “baked, macerated, poached, oiled stuffed, fried, mashed, minced, and chopped” her way across four continents and 40 date recipes – cakes, breads, spreads and custards among them. A Kuwaiti, she picked up ideas not only from the Arab Gulf (home of the date palm) but from Spain, England, the United States and elsewhere. The book is lavishly illustrated and her recipes are carefully detailed, a necessity for working with a key ingredient that’s unfamiliar to many for baking. I was particularly taken by her moist date and oatmeal cookies and couldn’t get enough of the sticky sponge cake with date toffee sauce.
Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler's Journey through the Soul of the South, by Susan Puckett The author meandered from Memphis to Vicksburg visiting restaurants both grand and exceedingly modest, interviewing patrons and proprietors, and mugging the chefs for their best recipes. This is hearty Southern cooking – there is plenty of sugar and butter. But the amounts seem below the norm and few of the recipes involve deep-fat frying. Try for instance, Chef Charlotte Skelton’s traditional Delta-style chicken salad, built around poached and shredded chicken breasts, or Kathleen Claiborne’s hot cakes with (and this is heretical for New Englanders) orange syrup.
The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook, by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman “Why grow your own food?” the introduction asks with a certain smugness. Why build your own home, or automobile we would reply. But once you get past that, the authors indeed offer five great chapters on planning and running a garden, followed by ten chapters of recipes. This is emphatically not a vegetarian cookbook; almost every chapter includes multiple recipes with meat and seafood. Sausage is even paired with turnip greens (recommend). Recipes rely heavily on herbs that you’re also instructed to grow. Gardeners beware: It’s arranged by meal category, rather than by vegetable ingredient, so it doesn’t function as a beginner’s guide to season-by-season locavore eating.
Christmas on the Farm: A Collection of Favorite Recipes, Stories, Gift Ideas, and Decorating Tips from the Farmer's Wife, by Lela Nargi The Farmer’s Wife was a magazine published between 1893 and 1939. It lives on in the pages of this charming book. You’ll see great recipes from an age when the Christmas goose graced the table far more often than the turkey (which had not yet been remodeled by breeders). The recipes for candies and condiments have a place on today’s table, along with the plans and instructions for making your own gifts, especially toys of wood, embroidery, and knitting. There’s something for every level of cooking and crafts competency.
Honey, Olives, Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table, by Christopher Bakken You’ll learn more about Greece reading Bakken’s adventures than you will reading about its economic troubles in the New York Times. From the bread of Kyria Konstandina to the olives of Thasos and stinky cheeses of Naxos, he loves it all and loves Greeks, too. He’s been coming to Greece to more than 20 years, originally arriving to teach. Since then he has watched McDonalds and KFC enter the country. To him the food and wine are secondary to the people. Producing food in Greece is a family affair. Our talk about locavores and eating in season almost seems clumsy compared to how seamlessly Greece’s sun, ocean and farmland are part of life from morning til dusk.
2013 Notable Cookbooks and Culinary Reads
1. Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes, by Einat Admony, Artisan, $29.95
2. River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Ten Speed Press, $35.00
3. The Soupmaker's Kitchen: How to Save Your Scraps, Prepare a Stock, and Craft the Perfect Pot of Soup, by Aliza Green, Quarry Books, $24.99
4. Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying, Ten Speed Press, $29.99
5. Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond, by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, Ten Speed Press, $27.50
6. Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook, by Aki Kamozawa and Alexander H. Talbot, Clarkson Potter, $32.50
7. The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, by Mollie Katzen, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $34.99
8. Sun Bread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from Everywhere, by Sarah Al-Hamad, Interlink Books, $26.95
9. Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler's Journey through the Soul of the South, by Susan Puckett, University of Georgia Press, $24.95
10. The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook, by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, Workman Publishing Company, $22.95
1. Christmas on the Farm: A Collection of Favorite Recipes, Stories, Gift Ideas, and Decorating Tips from The Farmer's Wife, by Lela Nargi, Voyageur Press, $17.99
2. Honey, Olives, Octopus: Adventures at the Greek Table, by Christopher Bakken, University of California Press, $34.95