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I almost missed this one, which came out yesterday (I wrote it in February) – the last hurrah of the late, great Penelope Casas. As is often the case with doorstop cookbooks like this, there’s good value to be had, and a decent overview of a vast culinary landscape, but you do have to keep your wits about you.
Click here to read today’s review of ‘1000 Spanish Recipes’ in the Boston Globe. Hit the paywall? Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘1000 Spanish Recipes’ review.
If you want to see what unadulterated joy looks like, tell your children you’re going to be testing baking books for the next two weeks. Be prepared for lip prints on the ceiling. (If you want the opposite effect, substitute “vegan” for “baking”.) Even the ominous notion that these would be “healthier” sweets – with less sugar, or different sugars – did little to dampen their enthusiasm.
There’s definitely something a little overwhelming about having 3 or 4 desserts in the house at a time. I called friends over for emergency sampling. When we were invited to dinner, I brought the testing results with me. Still, sweets piled on sweets, and by the end of the testing period – as you’ll see – I felt a bit like The Hungry Caterpillar (“The next day was Sunday again. The caterpillar chewed through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better.”) Fortunately, my next testing is a vegetable book.
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘Baking with Less Sugar’ and ‘Real Sweet’ in the Washington Post.
My Perfect Pantry was one of my favorite books from last year. So often chef books fall a bit far out of reach for those of us in the home kitchen, but Zakarian’s book was just the opposite – weeknight dishes you can make just from, mostly, what’s around – canned tomatoes, popcorn, chickpeas, chocolate (though may be not all of them at once!)
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘My Perfect Pantry’ in the Boston Globe. Hit the paywall? Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘My Perfect Pantry’ review.
My other recent story is a bit of a time warp. Like many of the articles I write for the Globe, this one got written a while ago an stashed for future use. In fact, I think I wrote this one in October or November of last year. The smell of frost was just entering the air, and I was thinking cozy thoughts about soup. But now New England is in its brief high spring and winter has left us for the southern hemisphere. So much has happened in the last 6 months, yet I still think of that soup and wish, in a way, I were cool enough to enjoy it even now.
Do you ever feel that baking – the measuring, the (sometimes) weighing, the technique, the time – is just too much? In this week’s Globe, a bracing corrective to that way of thinking arrives in the form of Charmian Christie’s blog-to-book.
Testing Milk Bar Life was an education for me – and completely unlike any testing I can remember. Over the years I’ve had to hunt down all manner of seasonally ephemeral produce, little-known condiments from the back shelves of the Asian market, xanthan gum and carbonators from online sites.
But never before have I been asked to buy cake mix. Or pre-made crescent rolls. Or Ritz crackers and bread crumbs with “Italian seasoning”. I got a little lost in the supermarket looking for them, to tell you the truth.
Was it worth it? the crazy mix of highbrow and lowbrow baking? The packaged hot dogs wrapped in the homemade buns? The Ritz crackers baked into fresh cookie dough? I’m still working that out. But you can decide for yourself.
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘Milk Bar Life’ in the Washington Post.
The good folks at the Washington Post asked me to have a look at ‘Home’ by Washington restaurant insider Bryan Voltaggio, and as a non-DC-based reviewer I felt honored to be asked. Besides, who doesn’t love it when a chef takes his skills back to the home front – restaurant-quality meals scaled down for 4, with equipment all of us have. Easy! and fast! Right?
Well, maybe not. I’ll let you read for yourself. Let’s just say, this is one of those stories where I found myself obliged to use the word “compost”.
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘Home’ in the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, in the Boston Globe today, you’ll find my review of Brassicas. Kale, as you probably know, is so hot – hotter than any green has ever been, probably – that there is an actual global shortage of kale seed. (I couldn’t in fact get any for my own garden this year). But for heaven’s sake, it’s not the only crucifer there is. What about Brussels sprouts? and arugula? and cauliflower? and good old broccoli?
Russell’s book has good suggestions for them all. Please, try them! try them! then maybe we’ll have enough kale for everybody again next year.
It was almost 9 months ago that I first tested Recipes from my French Grandmother. In the interval since, New England’s been locked in winter(and now, just barely unlocked), my son’s grown 3 inches (not kidding), and half a dozen more French cookbooks have come and gone.
Yet for all that, this one’s worth a second look. It’s not showy and not particularly new, but there’s good value to be had in this small, attractive package. At least one recipe – the vegetable soup with basil pistou – has made it to the favorites list.
Click here to read today’s review of ‘Recipes from my French Grandmother’ in the Boston Globe. Hit the paywall? Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘French Grandmother’ review.
Very excited to present my second review for the Washington Post – and my first using my own photography! D.C. and my house are 400 miles away from each other, which means my reviews can’t use the Post‘s excellent facilities. So my amazing editors agreed to let me try shooting at home, and I promptly treated myself to some pro-grade lighting. I’ve missed doing food photography since NPR’s Kitchen Window column closed, so it was nice to have an excuse to get back into it (and shop at B&H!).
Even better than geeking out with my SLR again, though, was the testing – dish after dish after dish full of glorious fungi. I didn’t have to test over a dozen recipes, but I just couldn’t stop.
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘Shroom’ in the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, in the Boston Globe today, you’ll find my late-to-the-gate but enthusiastic review of Andrea Nguyen’s The Banh Mi Handbook. (Actually, I tested it back in July of last year, but as they used to say at my local pizza parlor, “Good food takes time…”) Those of you who follow this blog already know how much I love this book, which I believe has gone into multiple reprintings already thanks to the millions of banh-maniacs in this country and elsewhere.
Click here to read this today’s review of The Banh Mi Handbook in the Boston Globe. Hit the paywall? Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘Banh Mi Handbook’ review.
Welcome, NPR listeners, chowhounds and recipe hunters, and newcomers to my blog! Whether you’re here because you’ve just heard the NPR cookbooks segment on your local public radio affiliate or because you heard there’s a “Best Recipes of 2014″ countdown going on, you’ve come to the right place.
- Click here for the official NPR 2014 cookbooks roundup.
- Click here for NPR’s Holiday Book Concierge (which includes an overlapping selection of cookbooks and food books).
- Click here to check out my Best Recipes of 2014 series.
Just want the list? OK! NPR’s Top 11 Cookbooks of 2014 (in no particular order)
- My Perfect Pantry
- Cooking Light Global Kitchen
- Apples of Uncommon Character
- Baking Chez Moi
- The Banh Mi Handbook
- World Spice at Home
- My Paris Kitchen
- Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen
- Fresh from the Farm
Of course, the cookbooks that made the roundup are just a small selection of the many wonderful titles published in 2014.
What follows is my shortlist of titles equally notable in one way or another:
Best Actually Pretty Easy, Actually Thai Book Ever
Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu
Generous Compendium From A Much-Missed Culinary Ambassador for Spain
1000 Spanish Recipes, by Penelope Casas
For Those Who Wonder What It’s Like Cooking in a Restaurant, Complete with No Handholding Whatsoever
Prune, by Gabrielle Hamilton
This Year’s “You Know You’re a New Yorker When…” Shibboleth
Eating Delancey, by Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps
This Year’s Convert-a-Carnivore Choice
Vegan Without Borders, by Robin Robertson
For Those Who Hate Wasting Food More Than Anything Else In the Whole World
The Kitchen Ecosystem, by Eugenia Bone
For Ambitious DIY-er’s Who Know No Fear
Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, by Cathy Barrow
For DIY-ers Who Are Fine With Just the One Food Group, Thanks
Fermented Vegetables, by Kirsten K. Shockey & Christopher Shockey
For Very Ambitious Pasta Lovers
Flour & Water, by Thomas McNaughton
For Pasta Lovers Who Just Want Something New In Their Pasta In 45 Minutes Flat
The Best Pasta Sauces, by Micol Negrin
For Bakers Who Own a Scale, and Are Proud Of It
The Baking Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Forget about Black Friday – you know the gift-giving season is truly underway when the NPR Book Concierge comes out, guiding you to all the best books the year has had to offer. It’s available both through your browser and as an app, and it is a Monumental Undertaking – over 250 titles picked by NPR staff and critics. Once the list comes out each year, I use it as a starting point to find reading matter for an entire year – in waiting rooms, on summer vacation, for my bedside table – until the next one comes out. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
This year I picked, I think, 9 of the 17 food and cookbook selections. And some of the other 8 – like Apples and Baking Chez Moi – were titles I would have picked too if my colleagues had not gotten to them first! But all’s fair in love, war, and reading.
Anyway, all this is just the tip of the iceberg for cookbook coverage this month.
- Starting this week, I’ll be running the Best Recipes of 2014! series again (check out the Best Recipes of 2013 here)
- I’ll be talking up the 2014 Concierge selections on (swoon!) Morning Edition next week; and
- I will be releasing my own independent Best of 2014 cookbook roundup at NPR the week after that.