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level-teaspoon-icon-512-x-512It’s here…!!!  After 15 years of reviewing cookbooks in print and radio (and 1 frantic month learning all about podcasting), may I present to you my weekly all-cookbooks all-the-time podcast, The Level Teaspoon.  You can find it on iTunes,  Stitcher, Google Play and others.

Is it informative?  Is it authoritative?  You’ll have to judge.  But I promise you won’t find a more irreverent cookbook review podcast anywhere.

WARNING: Listening when hungry may make cause you to eat way sooner than you meant to. Show notes follow.


Episode 1 Review titles:


Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia & The Caucasus by Caroline Eden & Eleanor Ford (Kyle Books)
ITSU 20 minute suppers: Eat beautiful with noodles, grains, rice and soups, by Julian Metcalf & Blanche Vaughan (Mitchell Beazley)
All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China, by Carolyn Phillips (10 Speed Press)


Episode 1 Noteworthy titles

Not One Shrine: Two Food Writers Devour Tokyo by Becky Selengut  & Matthew Amster-Burton  (Thunk Books)
The All New Ball Book Of Canning And Preserving: Over 350 of the Best Canned, Jammed, Pickled, and Preserved Recipes (Oxmoor House)
Ice Cream Adventures: More Than 100 Deliciously Different Recipes, by Stef Ferrari (Rodale  Books)



Episode 1 Recipe Test

Guest: Mark Lattanzi works by day at 93.9 WRSI, a popular local radio station here western Massachusetts.  The rest of the time, Mark and his wife Cindy grow, make, and experiment with a ridiculous amount of food, much of which has been enthusiastically eaten by me.

Book tested:  Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, by Meathead Goldwyn (Rux Martin/HMH)


Episode 1 Music:

Little Lily Swing, by Tri-Tachyon
Ille de Roman Olsun, by Wind of Anatolia
Shange Mountain Song, by Chan Wai Fat


The Level Teaspoon‘s theme music:
Não me touques, performed by The Bees Knees International Café Orchestra


Welcome, NPR listeners, chowhounds and recipe hunters Whether you’re here because you’ve just run across the “Best Cookbooks of 2015” feature at or because you heard there’s a “Best Recipes of 2015” countdown going on, you’ve come to the right place.

Just want the list?  OK!  NPR’s Top 11 Cookbooks of 2015 (in no particular order)

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

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.

Just want the list?  OK!  NPR’s Top 11 Cookbooks of 2014 (in no particular order)

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

Hooray for summer cookbooks!

 After a year’s budget-induced hiatus, NPR is back with the summer roundup!  10 new and juicy, sun-kissed, wave-splashed cookbooks for the well-intentioned and the self-indulgent alike.

Click here for the official NPR summer cookbooks roundup.

Here’s a quick and dirty rundown in case you just want to check out the list:[Please note that I’m taking a leaf out of Stephen Colbert’s book this month to show solidarity with those publishers struggling with Amazon’s monopolistic recent moves: This summer roundup list features Powell’s affiliate links instead of Amazon links. Powell’s has excellent prices, fantastic customer service, and ethical business practices, so shop with confidence.]

Top 10 Summer Cookbooks of 2014

And here’s the shortlist:

Because Kale Is Only the Beginning
Brassicas, by Laura Russell.

Memoir/Cookbook for Lovers of Whimsical Food Writing
Slices of Life, by Leah Eskin

Slightly Less Guilty Pleasures
Honey and Oats, by Jennifer Katzinger (Sasquatch)

Best Barbecue Book by a Former Baseball Star
The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook, by Nolan Ryan (Little, Brown)

Because Backyard Chickens Don’t Take a Vacation
Egg,  by Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown)

Most Empowering Buttercream Book Ever
Sensational Buttercream Decorating, by Carey Madden (Robert Rose)

Eye-popping Tropical Savories from Our Island Neighbors
Caribbean Potluck: Modern Recipes from Our Family Kitchen, by Michelle Rousseau and Suzanne Rousseau

recipe testing bw

Behind the scenes at Roundup Testing Central.

Thrilled to report that the NPR Summer Cookbook roundup is back! I’m deep in testing right now. Keep an eye on this space for the announcement and link, first week of June.

Mostly, my work for NPR can be found in the mouthwatering weekly Kitchen Window series.  But yesterday, after collaborating with the terrific NPR books team, I released a story for another NPR series I love, ” Three Books”.  It’s not my first; I did one some years ago on “stone soup” books – books on cooking with bare-bones ingredients during lean times.

This one is kind of the opposite.  They’re “let them eat cake”  books that are so frivolous that I’ve always felt actually making something out of them is strictly optional – cakes like Colette Peters’ magnificent  trompe l’oeil stack of cushions, pictured at right.

It’s not that lean times have deserted us – far from it.  But even in lean times, you still have to feed your imagination, too, don’t you?

Click here to read Feast for the Eyes: 3 Cookbooks Just for Looking, from NPR’s 3 Books series.

Well, the list has gone live! After about 4 weeks of reading, browsing, asking the 7 questions, and recipe-testing (ask my family), my top 10 choices for summer cookbooks are now public.  Read the story on the NPR website.

Following the top 10 is my own shortlist, which includes all the outstanding cookbooks that didn’t make it into the NPR article–lots of terrific choices for newlyweds, new college graduates, parents, and, well, everybody.

The NPR Summer 2012  Top 10:

  1. The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook
  2. The Fresh & Green Table, by Susie Middleton
  3. Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin
  4. Asian Tofu, by Andrea Nguyen
  5. Pasta Italiana, by Gino d’Acampo
  6. The Fresh Egg, by Jennifer Trainer Thompson
  7. Ripe, by Nigel Slater
  8. Ripe, by Cheryl Sternman Rule & Paulette Philpot
  9. United States of Pie, by Adrienne Kane
  10. Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, Frankie Frankeny and Paolo Lucchesi

The Shortlist:

Outstanding Book for Slow Foodistas
A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, by April Bloomfield with J.J. Goode

Outstanding Seasonal-Eating Cookbook 
The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food, by Ian Knauer

Best Kitchen Gardener’s Book:
Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips, by Willi Galloway

Best Reboot-Your-Salad Book:
Salad for Dinner: Complete Meals for All Seasons, by Jeanne Kelley

Exquisite Gluten-Free Book
La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, by Béatrice Peltre

Ingredient-Focused Book from a Hunky Newcomer
Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, by Seamus Mullen

How-to-Cookbook with an Emphasis on Lots of Recipes
How to Cook Everything the Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food, by Mark Bittman

How-to-Cook Book with an Emphasis on Helpful Process Photographs
What to Cook and How to Cook It: Fresh and Easy, by Jane Hornby

Food of Many Nations Primer
Cindy’s Supper Club: Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends, by Cindy Pawlcyn

Buzz-Free Liquid Refreshment Book
Sip and Savor: Drinks for Party and Porch, by James T. Farmer III

Mouthwatering Ice Cream Book
Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery, by Kris Hoogehyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough

Multiethnic Comfort Food from a Talented Newcomer
Comfort and Spice, by Niamh Shields

Fun Trend Cookbook for Bedside Reading
The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America’s Best Restaurants on Wheels, by John T. Edge

Giftworthy-Design DIY Book
A Country Cook’s Kitchen: Simple Recipes for Making Breads, Cheese, Jams, Preserves, Cured Meats, and More, by Alison Walker

Make-Your-Own-Snacks Book:
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You can stop Buying and Start Making, by Alana Chernila

French Country Fantasy Book:
Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good, by Alain Ducasse

Seasonal Cookbook Best Suited for an Art Gallery
The Perfect Ingredient: 5 Fantastic Ways to Cook Apples, Beets, Pork, Scallops, and More, by Bryn Williams

Even-in-the-Summer Baking Book
CakeLove in the Morning: Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Panckaes, Waffles, Biscuits, Frittatas, and Other Breakfast Treats, by Warren Brown

Attractive Glossary for a Dwindling Food Supply
Fish: Recipes from the Sea, by C.J. Jackson and Barton Seaver

Perfect Gift in Lieu of a Bouquet
Edible Flowers: 25 Recipes and an A-Z Pictorial Directory of Culinary Flora, by Kathy Brown

Good New Idea for a Regional Cookbook
The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes from Veggiestan, by Sally Butcher

Just-For-Fun, Not-a-Book Cocktail Guide
Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

And don’t forget, summer is the season for narrative! now that you have time to read, take a moment to savor tales of food forays, quests, and misadventures.  You can find them in my own book, A Spoonful of Promises: Recipes and Stories from a Well-Tempered Table.

Happy New Year, cookbook lovers!  I’m still coming up to speed, very slowly, after a week of festivities and sleeping-off-of-festivities.

I tested this book quite a while ago, in the fall.  But as is so often the case, the review got pushed down the queue because other cookbooks of more immediate interest kept arriving, and then there was the holiday roundup season, etc. etc.

There isn’t a seafood cookbook published today that doesn’t have the word “sustainable” right up front…I guess the message is that if you’re going to make a withdrawal from the world’s dwindling supply of fish, you ought to do it as  responsibly–and deliciously–as you can.

Read the full review here.

Although there are many cookbooks and many cookbook authors I admire, not all of them fit equally easily with my family-of-four dinner routine.  Melissa Clark’s books are the exception.  Reviewing Cook This Now was a boon for the household–a week of exceptional-tasting but easy-to-cook weeknight dinners I’d be making again and again, if I weren’t forever moving on to the next cookbook…

Read the review here.

In a word, swoon-worthy.

These are the books I live for, the ones where every recipe opens up a whole new horizon of deliciousness.  I also love having an answer when people ask me “What’s your favorite cookbook this year?”

Review of Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain in today’s Boston Globe.

Now cooking

order my book!

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