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Remember that dreadful day in 2009 when you learned that Gourmet magazine was to be no more? For many of us, it was a low point in America’s food culture. Reichl, the queen of second acts, was tweeting and publicizing the last Gourmet cookbook in no time, but privately, she was devastated. The new book chronicles that trying year and the comfort foods that pulled her through it, and I got to have a look at it for the Globe.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post asked me to have a look at two new gluten-free books. It’s an exploding genre. There’s books for pretty much any kind of gluten-free fare you can imagine, though for obvious reasons gluten-free baking probably remains the top seller. One was wildly popular blogger Shauna Ahern’s re-imagining of thickened, battered, crusty treats usually off limits to the gluten-intolerant.
The other came from British columnist Susanna Booth, who writes the “Free From” (don’t snicker, now) column for The Guardian. To tell the truth, I would have truly enjoyed reviewing Jeanne Sauvage’s Gluten-Free Wish List, also released last year, most of all. But as Jeanne is a friend, it was proscribed.
Click here to read my review of ‘Gluten-Free Girl: American Classics Reinvented’ and ‘Gloriously Gluten-Free’ in the Washington Post.
Welcome, NPR listeners, chowhounds and recipe hunters Whether you’re here because you’ve just run across the “Best Cookbooks of 2015” feature at NPR.org or because you heard there’s a “Best Recipes of 2015” countdown going on, you’ve come to the right place.
- Click here for the official NPR 2015 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 2015 series.
Just want the list? OK! NPR’s Top 11 Cookbooks of 2015 (in no particular order)
- Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham, Delicious Dishes from Southeast Asian Ingredients
- Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)
- At Home with Umami: Home-cooked Recipes Unlocking the Magic of Super-Savory Deliciousness
- A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood
- Making Dough: Recipes and Ratios for Perfect Pastries
- Lidia’s Mastering the Italian Kitchen: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook
- Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You’ll Love to Make and Eat
- Cooking at Home (from Williams-Sonoma)
- Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors
- Phoenix Claws & Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking
- Cookie Love: More than 60 Recipes and Techniques for Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary
Every year brings a plethora of fascinating new titles that are equally notable in one way or another. Although I can’t, of course, fully test and feature every one, what follows is my shortlist of titles I thought worth a second look.
Most Intriguing First Book from a Cute & Cosmopolitan Baking Blogger
Baklava to Tarte Tatin, by Bernard Laurance
For Cooks Who Utterly Repudiate the ‘Quick & Easy’
Slow Fires, by Justin Smillie
This Year’s Most Authentic Book Written By a Supermodel
True Thai, by Hong Thaimee
For Cooks Who Are Already Too Clever For Their Own Good
Cook’s Illustrated Kitchen Hacks
For Those Still Sitting Shiva for Gourmet Magazine
My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl
For Those Who Love to Eat Vegetables, and Those Who Only Love to Look at Them
V is for Vegetables, by Michael Anthony
Most Intriguing Small-Bites Book for When You’re Not Cooking for 12
Mezze, by Ghillie Basan
For Pizza Lovers Who Have Considered a Side Salad When the $2.50 Slice Is Not Enuf
United States of Pizza, by Craig Priebe
Effective At-Home Remedy for Culinary Wanderlust
Eat Istanbul, by Andy Harris
Several Dozen Vegetarian Ways to Use Up Those Spices That Have Just Been Sitting There for Years
Indian Harvest, by Vikas Khanna
For Palates Too Jaded for Hershey’s
Theo Chocolate, by Debra Music
Because, Don’t Deny It, You Know You Love Those Meatballs at Ikea
The Scandi Kitchen, by Bronte Aurell
Wings So Interesting You’d Enjoy Them Even Without the Game On
Chicken Wings, by Carol Hilker
For Church-of-Kenji Initiates, and Wannabes
The Food Lab, by Kenji López-Alt
For Those Who Feel Recipes Work Better In a Chart Format
Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix, by Mark Bittman
A few classy moves translated to the home kitchen – that’s the gist of what I found in The Broad Fork. Some, like the leek fonduta, were good enough to enter the weekly repertoire. But you’re not going to find me picking the leaves off Brussels sprouts and blanching them for one of many components in a compose- d salad – or boiling and deep-frying grains of farro for a garnish again any time soon. At least not until my kitchen staff expands from 1 to 2, or 3.
It was not without a certain trepidation that I undertook the testing of The Food Lab. “Kenji,” as so many of us casual cooks and Serious Eats readers adoringly call him, has a devoted following. Some of us are in it for the exhaustively tested recipes, some of us for the droll wit, and some of us for his pure, joyous geekery. But – when the rubber hit the road – what if it didn’t work out so well? What if the recipes didn’t work? What would that say about our idol? and what would that say about us and our competence as cooks?
Still, there was only one way to find out. Armed with measuring implements, just-sharpened knives, a pencil, and my friend Mark’s Thermapen, I gave it my best shot.
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘The Food Lab’ in the Washington Post.
It happens, every once in a while – a book comes along and I can’t keep my hands off it. I start testing even before I’ve pitched it as an assignment, and then, once I’ve got the assignment, I can’t stop testing more and more, beyond what duty calls for. By the time I’m done – if I’m ever done – the book is a porcupinish hash of Post-its and scrawled notes and mysterious stains. Afterward the resulting monstrosity takes its permanent place on the kitchen shelves, a battle-scarred altar of 70 or 80 titles I refer to regularly. The other 900 live upstairs.
Chinatown Kitchen is not a perfect book, but I adore it even with its flaws. I find myself returning to it again and again, even though I may have other plans or better ideas. That’s love, I suppose. As with death, taxes, and that last bit of pork belly, what use resisting?
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘Chinatown Kitchen’ in the Washington Post.
OK, it’s August and maybe you have no interest in turning your oven on unless it’s to make a peach pie. Fair enough. If you live in Brooklyn, you can trot on over to Ovenly in Williamsburg and get Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin to fork over one of their confections.
If you don’t live in Brooklyn, though, it may still be worth your while to brave the heat for the sake of the pistachio-cardamom cupcakes with dark-chocolate ganache. They’re potent enough keep you buzzing for days, but maybe only if you eat three.
It’s been a busy summer and I’ve been a bit behind on updates…but a couple of new cookbooks from the new crop are worth looking at. In the Washington Post last week, a review of Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield’s major release.
Click here to read this week’s review of ‘Root to Leaf’ in the Washington Post.
And in the Boston Globe, a review of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, by blogger Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. It’s yet another tale of homesteading and renewal of the spirit – but it’s a very attractively packaged one.
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.