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It’s not often that the Globe runs a vegan cookbook review (although we regularly run vegetarian and vegetable-centric reviews).  I think the last time was 5 years ago. The book I reviewed at that time was underwhelming, and I got slammed by assorted irate vegans who felt the author poorly represented their cause.  An unfortunate experience all around.

But when Isa Does It crossed my desk, I had a good feeling.  It seemed approachable, well-thought-out, and potentially tasty.  So I made the case to my editor that we should review it.  She agreed,  and I haven’t regretted it…so far.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Isa Does It’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Ah, chocolate! When I look at the dirty piles of grey March snow still heaped everywhere in New England,   I feel even more than usual like reaching for some chocolate.  Any chocolate.  Chocolate is sunshine! Chocolate is life! Chocolate is hope!  

This book is not for the casual dabbler in chocolate.  Every recipe is marked with the cacao percentage you’ll need – 55%, 62%, 75%, 83% – and most of them are pretty high-test.  

Someday spring will finally get here.  But in the meantime I’m 83% sure I have a substitute.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Seriously Bitter Sweet’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Quick! how many ways to cook something slowly can you think of?  

I bet you said “Slow cooker,” followed by maybe “stewing” or “braising”. But how about “slow steaming”?  How about “sous vide“? Andy Schloss can think of at least 8 (9 if you include slow-cooking desserts as its own thing), and he’s got a chapter for each of them.  

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Cooking Slow’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Joe Yonan, if you don’t know him, is a fixture on the food journalism scene.  Once a Globe food beat cop like myself, Joe made his way to the Washington Post, where he now heads up the food section.

He’s specialized in cooking for singles: first with a popular column, whose recipes served as a springboard for his singles cookbook,  Serve Yourself.  The current volume is the vegetarian followup.

It’s long been my view, though, that anyone with Joe’s effervescent personality can’t last on the singles scene for long.  I hold out hope that volume 3 will be Serves 4, with Minivan, and I won’t have to keep scaling up his recipes..!

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Eat Your Vegetables’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Of all the excellent 2013 cookbooks I had the good fortune to test last year, it’s Keepers (published by Rodale – not even one of the major cookbook players) that had the most to offer the everyday, hassled-to-the-max home cook.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from the outside.  The cover, though tasty-looking, and the title as well might be  marketing misfires.  Memoir, I thought – or maybe pastry.  What I didn’t expect (until I read the subtitle anyway) was a parade of family-friendly hits, none taking more than 45 minutes.  One of them, the skillet lasagna, even made it into my Best Recipes of 2013 list.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Keepers’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

In 1999, I was a culinary student at what was then called “Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School,” and so was Amy Thielen. I’d already spent ten years on one career (as a book editor) and was casting around for another. Amy was still a recent college graduate, but all her jobs had been in food and she knew that’s where she wanted to be. She already had the efficient moves of a kitchen worker, and she had an intense curiosity about the big picture. In our class of 15, it was clear that Amy had hustle.

We lost touch over the years, so when Amy’s book arrived on my porch with all the other review copies, I felt I could set aside the fact we’d known each other in the dotcom days and do a fair job on it. But even so I was surprised at what a strong first outing The New Midwestern Table turned out to be.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘The New Midwestern Table’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Happy New Year! everybody.

In the holiday hubbub (long road trip to see family, hosting Christmas dinner, multiple New Years’ parties –  the usual stuff) I forgot to check and see which of my reviews had published.

This one came out in the run-up to the holiday, although you may be able to tell from the recipes that I tested it way back in September.  As far as seasonal vegetable books go, it’s a charming mixed bag.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘The French Market Cookbook’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version

On  Cookbook Finder, my cookbook-rating app, you’ll find more analysis of this book, write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks, and regular cookbook news.  It’s the only up-to-the-minute cookbook app anywhere!

What, you say you’re already too much of a cookbook addict?  Ah, but you see, Cookbook Finder will help you get control of your problem.  Now you’ll only buy the good ones.

Available for  iPhone/iPad and Android devices.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and with this sweet confection we arrive at the finale of the Best Recipes of 2013 series.  But stay tuned in 2014 for another year of food stories and coverage of the latest cookbooks – and in the meantime, stay warm, eat well, and enjoy delicious holidays with your loved ones!

The book:  Family Table, by Michael Romano & Karen Stabiner (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35.00)

The recipe:  Buttermilk Panna Cotta (with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote)

Why I tried it: I can’t believe I only discovered panna cotta this year – so easy! and so good!  Violating my own rule (never count on a recipe you’ve never tried, when you’re going to a dinner party), I made it for the first time for an evening with some friends.  I even doubled the recipe and, along with it, the risk of failure.  But I felt it was high time for me to get more comfortable working with gelatin, so I pressed ahead anyway.

Why I loved it:  On the very first try, this recipe hit it out of the park.  The final product was a subtly tart and sublimely decadent custard, which slid like silk stockings over the tongue.  The compote was good, too.  But it was the panna cotta itself that had me going back, time and time again, with a surreptitious spoon.  I made it several times more afterward, and a few times experienced some difficulties – the panna cotta sometimes separated into two layers – one creamy and liquidy, one clear and rubbery.  I later learned I could avert this by leaving the custard out to cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge (I had done exactly that by accident, out of sheer forgetfulness, the first time).  So let the custard rest and give it a last whisk before you set it in the fridge, and by the time evening falls you will have an indulgence to rival the splendor that was Rome.

Estimated preparation time:  15 minutes active time, followed by half an hour of cooling down and  several hours in the fridge.

Click here for my complete list of 2013 cookbook recommendations.   You can also find many, many more recommendations for great cookbooks on my app, Cookbook Finder (available for your  iPhone/iPad or Android device).

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Buttermilk panna cottaButtermilk Panna Cotta

Serves 6

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup of the cream. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

Bring the remaining ½ cup cream, the sugar, and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute, then whisk in the cream-gelatin mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Stir in the buttermilk.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup. Divide the mixture among six 4-ounce ramekins or pour into a small serving bowl. Let cool to room temperature and whisk once again before covering with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, until set. (Well-wrapped, the panna cotta will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.)

Run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekins and unmold the panna cotta onto plates, or serve it right in the ramekins or scoop out of the bowl.

Click here for the rhubarb-strawberry compote recipe if you want to make that too.

Reprinted from Family Table.  Copyright © 2013 by USHG, LLC, and Karen Stabiner.  Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The book:  Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan, $29.95)

The recipe:  Simple Beans

Why I tried it: Green beans are a staple in our household.  We eat them pretty much weekly, so I’m always looking for new ways to make them. I like them close to plain and pristine when we have fresh garden beans in the summer, but the rest of the time I like them robustly flavored.  The moment I saw “6 garlic cloves” and “5 anchovy fillets” – all for a mere 1/2 pound of beans – I knew we had a deal.

Why I loved it:  This is one of those times when the anchovy just melts away into the butter, and you wouldn’t remember it’s there if not for the powerful hit of umami which accompanies every bite.  Technique-wise, it’s pretty usual for green beans – blanch them real quick and then turn them around in some flavored fat.  But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bean dish that packs more shout-it-from-the-rooftops flavor than this one.  Eat it with someone you love – not necessarily recommended for first dates.

Estimated preparation time:  Less than 1/2 hour – and half of that is waiting for water to boil.

Click here for my complete list of 2013 cookbook recommendations.  You can also find many, many more recommendations for great cookbooks on my app, Cookbook Finder (available for your  iPhone/iPad or Android device).

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Simple Beans
Serves 4

Kosher salt
1⁄2 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 anchovy fillets
1⁄4 teaspoon chile flakes
Lemon wedges

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and have a bowl of ice and water ready. Add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes, then dunk them into the ice bath. Allow the beans to cool completely, then drain them in a colander.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, reduce the heat to low, and sauté until golden brown but not burned, about 3 minutes. Add the anchovies and sauté over low heat until the fillets begin to dissolve into the butter, about 3 minutes. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, add the chile flakes and green beans, and cook just until the beans are tender but still crispy, about 3 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Excerpted from Balaboosta by Einat Admony (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Quentin Bacon.

Oh no!  you may be thinking.  This is Best Recipe #10! The series must be over!  Have no fear, friends. This is a 12-recipe series.  I’ll release the next two (including the easiest killer dessert you’ll ever make) tomorrow and Tuesday, before we all take off for the holiday.

The book:  Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer (Workman Publishing, $19.95)

The recipe:  Grilled Baby Back Ribs

Why I tried itGiven that I’ve loved pretty much every grilled ribs recipe I’ve ever tried, I wasn’t sure I needed another.  But the idea of starting right out a massive dose of fresh ginger and dry mustard – two of my favorite aggressive ingredients – was too good not to try.  By the time I got to the words “chunky rub”, I was sold.

Why I loved it:  In a lifetime’s and several pigs’ worth of ribs, these were exceptional, eyeballs-to-the-ceiling, swoonworthy.  There’s that “chunky rub” – an express train to flavor right there.  And then there’s that sour-sweet glaze, with that alluring tamarind thing which balances the tart and the fruity in that kiss-slap!-kiss-slap! way I can’t get enough of.  It gilds the ribs front and back and reduces you to an absolute animal, if you aren’t one to begin with.

Estimated preparation time:  1 1/2 – 2 hours, but much of that is idle time.  You can also marinate the night before, which will save you a little time.

Click here for my complete list of 2013 cookbook recommendations.  Indian Cooking Unfolded is one of my top 10!  You can also find many, many more recommendations for great cookbooks on my app, Cookbook Finder (available for your  iPhone/iPad or Android device).

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Grilled Baby Back Ribs

Author’s note:  “If you don’t have a grill (or it’s freezing outside), use your oven to roast the ribs: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly spray a broiler pan, or a rack set in a roasting pan, with cooking spray. Arrange the ribs, meat side down, on the rack and roast them until well-browned, about 45 minutes. Turn the ribs over and roast them for 30 to 45 minutes longer. The meat should be tender and almost falling off the bone. Liberally brush the ribs with all of the glaze.  Continue to roast the ribs meat side up, until the glaze looks slightly opaque and the meat is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Let the ribs rest covered with aluminum foil for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing them between the bones.”

FOR THE RIBS
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground mustard
4 pounds baby back pork ribs

FOR THE GLAZE
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
1⁄4 cup maple syrup or molasses
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, or 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt

Nonfat cooking spray

1. Prepare the ribs: Mix the ginger, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the mustard together in a small bowl. Smear this chunky rub over the meaty side of the ribs. You can cook the ribs right away or you may also choose to cover the ribs and refrigerate them overnight to allow the flavors to permeate the meat. (I usually put the ribs on a sheet pan or baking sheet, as they are easily contained in one tray and don’t take up that much room in the refrigerator.)

2. Make the glaze: Combine the tomato paste, maple syrup or molasses, lime or lemon juice or tamarind paste, cumin, cayenne, cloves, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl and stir thoroughly.

3. When you are ready to grill the ribs, heat a gas or charcoal grill to high.

4. Lightly spray the grill grate with cooking spray. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium. If charcoal is the name of your game, spread the hot coals to the sides for indirect heat.

5. Place the ribs on the grill grate, meat side down, and cover the grill. Cook the ribs until well-browned, 35 to 45 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the meat drippings don’t flame up and burn the ribs (if they do, I usually move the ribs to an unlit section of the grill for a few seconds until the flames die down).

6. Turn the ribs over so they are meat side up and cover the grill again. Cook until nicely browned and the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

7. Liberally brush the ribs with the hot-sweet-tart glaze, using it all up. Continue to grill them, meat side up and with the grill covered, until the glaze looks slightly opaque and the meat is even more tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

8 Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, cover them with aluminum foil, and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

9 Slice the ribs between the bones (it’s okay to lick your fingers when no one is watching) and transfer them to a serving platter. Serve the ribs warm (this is a good time to bring out the bibs).

Reprinted from  Indian Cooking Unfolded with the publisher’s permission.  Copyright © 2013 by Raghavan Iyer.  Published by Workman Publishing.

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