Joanne's Cookbook Reviews, Part 1
Updated August, 2011

More Cookbook Reviews
Artisanal Cooking
Breath of a Wok, The
Cook and the Gardener, The
D’Artagnan’s Glorious Game Cookbook
Gordon Ramsey Makes It Easy
Herbfarm Cookbook, The
Instant Entertaining
Joy of Cooking, The
Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant
Kitchen Playdates
Magic of Fire, The
Martha Stewart Cookbook, The
Mediterranean Street Food
Mes Confitures
Nobu: The Cookbook
Savoring the Spice Coast of India - Fresh Flavors from Kerala
Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, The
Two Fat Ladies Obsessions

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients
by Jeff Hertzberg &
Zoe Francois

The authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes have found another slot on my shelf with this method of Healthy Grains breadmaking. It's a winner.

Primal Cuts: Cooking with america's Best Butchers by Marissa Guggiana
Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers
by Marissa Guggiana
Another essential meat lover's library addition with 50 Profiles of America’s Best Butchers and 100 Meat Recipes. Primal Cuts is filled with hundreds of Diagrams and illustrations. It's the trade secrets that clinch it as a top pick.

Tartine Bread
Tartine Bread
by Chad Robertson
with Eric Wolfinger (Photographer)
The highly anticipated bread bible from the venerable SF temple of bread.

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders
The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
by Rachel Saunders
I'm loving Blue Chair Jams, so it seems perfect that Rachel Saunders teach me the art of jam-making. In the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook she offers more than 100 original jam, jelly, and marmalade recipes, Also she shares all of her technical preserving knowledge, as well as her perspective on fruit.

How to Build a Gingerbread House by Christina Banner
How to Build a Gingerbread House:
A Step-by-Step Guide to Sweet Results

by Christina Banner
A real step by step guide to building and decorating gingerbread houses. Great for a beginner. The plans are simple and straightforward but also very easy to 'build' upon to expand the vision. Basic recipes and tips and tricks round it out to make it a lovely gift or a perfect starting point.

Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York’s Savviest Hostesses

By Florence Fabricant (editor)
And the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

A wonderful collection of tried-and-true entertaining recipes. The selections are relatively easy to prepare and attractive choices. We tried the Sweet Potato (yam) and Apple Casserole for a Thanksgiving side dish to critical acclaim. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is a winner. There are lots of recipes easy to imagine serving at home or taking to a party. This cookbook is likely to get lots of use. It could be better, and since it is a potluck cookbook, I would have liked to have seen more “do it ahead” or “reheating” or “do in advance” tips, however, there are some, but not all recipes have them. I especially liked the casseroles for a crowd section, however, not all recipes indicate that they can be done ahead and cooked before serving.

Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon
: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon
by Claudia Roden

Claudia Roden is a leading authority on Middle Eastern and North African food and with Arabesque she offers the cuisines of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. While certainly not a tome middle eastern cooking, this cookbook has about 150 recipes, many of which have peaked my interest and seem accessible. I've marked recipes such as artichokes braised in oil, zucchini fritters, potato and tomato cake, New-style Shish Barak and chicken with plums. It's not heavy on desserts and the desserts offerings are very light like milk pudding, sweet couscous and rice pudding with rosewater.

Arabesque contains enough exciting recipes (and seemingly simple ones) that a planning a dinner party menu is easily conceivable and at the same time it is a great resource for an intriguing potluck dish or small plates (mezze, tapas) dinner.

Gordon Ramsey Makes it Easy
Gordon Ramsey Makes it Easy

by Gordon Ramsey

Okay, I admit I like Mr. Ramsey. I like his cooking style and I want to like this cookbook, but the 100 plus simple recipes are about 50 short of a great cookbook for me. I think perhaps I’m just not the target reader. Every other recipe seems to me a dish which I don’t really need a recipe for, like Grilled Fennel, Fruit Kebabs, tomato and mozzarella pizza, tortilla wrap with chicken and avocado - you get the idea. Many of these no-brainer recipes do have a twist which makes them unique - or a recipe for an accompanying sauce, or marinade or an extra element which you might need a recipe for. Perhaps that’s where the cookbook succeeds - in taking standard fare to a new level. I loved the Halibut Bourguignon recipe I tried. Chapters include breakfast and brunch, Great fast food, Family and Friends, Dinner for Two, Cooking for 2, Summer Barbies, Just for Kids, Bellinis and Blinis, and Posh.

The kids chapter falls way short of my benchmark, offering Salmon Fishcakes, Cheese toasties, Chunky vegetable soup, Mini burgers and oven-roasted fries, banana split and fruit and honey cereal bars.

We just don’t eat like this but I know others do - and the recipes are solid as they are. For instance the cereal bars don’t use cereal as an ingredient they use oats - the banana split does it right with real strawberries and melted chocolate and fresh whipped cream.

There are some fantastic recipes for casual entertaining, like cold roast beef tenderloin lime panna cotta, and fennel soup. Two of the chapters, Summer Barbies and Bellinis and Blinis seems perfect for summer outdoor parties. In fact many of the recipes have a decidedly summer feel to them.

Overall, it's worth a look and would make a great gift for a wedding, a beginning cook or a new family. The recipes are generally simple and straightforward, a few are multi-step and take a bit of finesse. There is a DVD included with the book.

Breath of a wok
The Breath of a Wok:
Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore

by Grace Young, Alan Richardson (photographer)
This book - a treatise on wok cooking is truly inspiring. It’s beautifully illustrated even though there are not photos for each recipe.

Breath of a Wok breaks down the mystery and brings the art of Chinese wok cooking smoothly into the American kitchen. As you would expect, most of the recipes are for stir-fried food but there are also chapters on braising, pan-frying and smoking, plus small chapters on boiling, poaching and steaming.

The first 50+ pages cover the history, choosing and care of a wok. One of the most fun stories is called “Amy Tan and the New Year’s Dumplings” with Tan’s recipe for jiao-zi. Martin Yan also makes an appearance with two recipes attributed.

Maya Kaimal Cookbook
Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala
by Maya Kaimal

The recipes in this book focus on the cuisine of Southern India. That means lots of fresh ingredients like curry leaves, ginger, tamarind, fish (and shellfish) and coconut milk - almost an “island” slant on the Northern cooking I’m more familiar with. Sauces are lighter and a bit more brighter. Dishes like batter-fried bananas and vegetables in fragrant coconut milk tips you off that the cuisine includes ingredients you might be more familiar with from the cooking of other countries.

The introduction gives an overview of how religion effects cooking. As well Kaimal offers a very personal reminiscence of meals at Aunty’s house where we learn that food is always eaten with the fingers of the right hand, almost everything has mustard seeds and curry leaves, and breakfast was sour rice dumplings with chutney or sugar.

The Pantry chapter outlines everything that  Kerala pantry would have with suggestions of what to substitute when needed and where to go to find ingredients. She warns that some recipes require a lengthy set up time so to be careful in not overdoing your menu at first. Each recipe is given a helpful table at the end showing prep time, cooking time, yield, etc., and often what can be made in advance. Many of the vegetable curries are quite straightforward while appetizers (many are fried) may take more time. Meat dishes like Chicken Kurma (the Kerala version of Korma) takes about 1.5 hours as does Shrimp Biryani (in Rice & Breads).

There are some beautiful photos throughout the book but the recipes are not individually pictured, but the text of the recipes is large and easy-to-read. The final chapters are on Chutneys and Desserts and hold a wonderful assortment of recipes from White Coconut Chutney to Christmas Cake. The final chapter is on essential recipes for Ghee, Pappadam, Coconut Slices, Sambar Powder and Garam Masala.

Two Fat Ladies Obsessions
by Clarissa Dickson Wright, Jennifer Paterson

It’s really hard for me not to like food that looks hearty and that would be welcome on a cold rainy day. In addition, the Two Fat Ladies often dish up delectable sweets or savories perfect for a tea table and that I can’t ignore.

I like the idea that these women would tackle almost any part of beast or fowl and serve it dollied up. It’s far from heart healthy cooking but that doesn’t seem to bother me when it’s offered so genuinely.

Perhaps it’s my Anglo heritage but the show was fun to watch and the cooking inspires me. The cookbook? Well it’s organized by food – chicken, lamb, cardoon, lobster, etc. with multiple recipes in each section. I’m not probably going to go out snail catching anytime soon – it was still fun to read how to do it and why. The book like the show has honest approach. Recipes like Salmon Rilettes or Georgian Pheasant or Apple Tansy or Chicken Jerusalem.

Cons: The books is organized by main ingredient and while that seems fun to read - it makes it more difficult to browse it for a recipe - just trust me for instance there is a spanish cake called Branzo Gitano in the chocolate section because it's filled with chocolate. Also, obviously the calorie count of the recipes should not be an important issue to the reader.

The Herbfarm Cookbook
The Herbfarm Cookbook
by Jerry Traunfeld

Having been to the restaurant makes a huge difference in the review of this cookbook. While the restaurant experience could be described as nothing less than theatrical – there remains a great respect for the craft of artfully incorporating herbs into dishes.

The cookbook meets my two demands of a cookbook from this restaurant: To provide interesting and eclectic recipes, and to demystify the use of herbs common and uncommon in cookery. While I won't be using this cookbook daily, it's an invaluable reference for what to do with the more unusual herbs I grow like Angelica, Lovage and Borage. I can't wait to surprise guests with a Bay infused crème Brulèe sometime soon.

Jack has been asking for their Stinging Nettle drink since we ate there and while the exact recipe is not included the drink is based on a basic simple syrup infused with the herb and is not as daunting to make as one would expect when drinking it. I’ve since tried the Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream and the Herb Cured Salmon. The ice cream was perfect – I’ve yet to make an edible cured salmon after 2 tries.

The cookbook is divided up by type of dish (meat, vegetable, fish/shellfish, etc.). There are a lot of recipes that will seem familiar like Green Mashed Potatoes, Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Lavender or Pasta with Pesto. But then there are twists like Fettuccine with Sage Butter and peas and information on how to make Pesto with a Mortar and Pestle or blockbusters like Caramelized Tangerines with Rosemary-Lemon ice. This cookbook is full of nice surprises. I like that.

The All New Joy of Cooking
The All New, All Purpose
Joy of Cooking

by Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, Irma S. Rombauer

Must-have it. The pancake recipe is a standard. The coffee cake recipe always turns out great. It’s one of the first books I go to when I’m challenged to make something new to me. The new edition is greatly updated with more ethnic foods and more exotic ingredients considered. Recipes are easy to follow.

Cons: It’s cumbersome because it’s so thick and heavy. It doesn’t have color illustrations or pictures of finished dishes.

The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking - One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or Campfire

by William Rubel

What a fantastic cookbook for owners of pizza ovens or Tuscan ovens. I had low expectations when ordering it from Amazon. While it doesn't demystify the cooking in a wood-fire oven – it does inspire you to cook. It also provides some traditional recipes for things like possets and caudles that would be great for a gathering.

The most useful aspect is the way the recipes are introduced giving an outline for cooking and some tips then the recipe so that it can be adapted from fireplace to campfire to bread oven depending on the recipe.

I'm very glad to have this book in my possession, while it doesn't fill the void for a pizza oven cookbook it certainly bridges the gap. Any cookbook which inspires experimentation gets my stamp of approval. William Rubel has a fantastic website on traditional cooking. Click here to visit it!

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook
by Paula Wolfert

I love the concept of this book, passionate slow recipes. The choices are wide and eclectic. I’ve made the Sephardic Eggs (a huge hit – but I made it with a few twists), the Slow roasted Leg of Lamb with Pomegranate glaze (now a standard), Short Ribs a la Camargue (a lot of work but great tasting) and the slow roasted salmon (a big hit).

Cons: Some of the recipes seem involved and they tend to take awhile (hence the “Slow” in the title). The Mediterranean cuisine has a definite audience, if you aren’t into those flavors then this is not your book.

The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Every Day

by Martha Stewart
The turquoise one.

When need for cooking help ensues, I will often turn to this one instead of Joy of Cooking. I don’t think I’ve ever had a failed recipe. The chicken and turkey recipes are the house recipes. I don’t even need to refer to them anymore. This one should be on your shelf.

Cons: It’s heavy and sometimes hard to find what you looking for quickly.
Forgotton Skills
Forgotton Skills of Cooking: The time-honoured ways are the best - over 700 recipes show you why
By Darina Allen
From the owner of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, this essential guide to traditional cookery skills offers over 700 recipes covering Dairy, Fish, Bread and Preserving. Forgotten Skills explains processes such as smoking mackerel, curing bacon, making yogurt and even eating food from the wild. The layout and lovely photography make Forgotten Skills a pleasure to read through.

Flour Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery by Joanna Chang
A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes

by Joanna Chang with Christie Matheson
From the heralded Boston Bakery - 150 recipes including, Brioche au Chocolat, Lemon Raspberry Cake, Homemade Pop Tarts, Milky Way Tart & Dried Fruit Focaccia. Plus Joanne's essential baking tips.

Roast Chicken and other Stories by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey BarehamRoast Chicken and other Stories
by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham

I like Simon Hopkinson’s view of food; “good food is to be eaten because it tastes good and smells enticing”. In that spirit, Roast Chicken sets out to present a set of recipes for more simple “tastes good” fare. Recipes are divided by main ingredients, such as anchovies, endive, leeks, steak, scallops and rabbit. Each division has a short, amusing preface, which gives the reason for that element’s inclusion in the book. Simon Hopkinson’s choice of recipes is fun, and it may be that while flipping through the book it will inspire a great, simple dinner, or a great dinner side dish, such as Saffron Mashed Potatoes, or Endives au Gratin. Divisions, such as eggs, parsley, and cod, will likely get more use than those for sweetbreads and tripe. Recipes are an eclectic assortment, but have gems.

This is certainly a delightful addition to a cook’s library, especially if that cook has a penchant for English-style recipes. Roast Chicken recipes have a few British measurements, e.g. pints, however, in most cases they will transfer seamlessly to an American kitchen.

It’s a fun cookbook, however, not an essential one. It will likely find favor by followers of Elizabeth David or Hopkinson himself.

Kitchen Playdates by Laura Bank Deen Kitchen Playdates
by Laura Bank Deen

I love the title of this cookbook, but I also found it misleading. At first glance you’d think that this is a kid’s cookbook, and it is not. The premise is to suggest ideas for entertaining, which includes kids, and I still love that idea. Ten playdates are sprinkled throughout the recipes, which are divided into courses: Starters, Mains, Sides and Salads, Sweets, and Breakfast All Day.

Most recipes have small paragraphs of tips on how to include a child in that recipe’s preparation. For instance, Spaghetti Carbonara, “Kids of almost any age can help add the salt to the cold water, crack the eggs, help toss and add extra cheese and pepper.” I feel that I don’t need this instruction, but some might. There is a short introduction to the cooking with kids chapter, with lots of good tips. Laura Bank Deen was formerly the series and broadcast producer for Martha Stewart Living Television. Credit should be given that the recipes suggested are “real food” and not kid food.

The Not So: I’m not impressed by the recipe selection. They just don’t grab me. A few of the notations irk me, such as the Pantry notations that recommend mayonnaise, which may contain high fructose corn syrup, and other non-organic, or “best choices”.

I think the important thing to note is that this book is not written to me. The intended audience for this book would be those who need help getting kids into the kitchen and finding a way to make it fun to cook with them. So, despite the noted shortcomings, there are some solid ideas, good advice, and useful recipes contained in Kitchen Playdates, which would allow me to recommend it, with reservations.

D'artagnan's Glorious Game Cookbook D’Artagnan’s Glorious Game Cookbook
by Ariane Daguin, George Faisen & Joanna Pruess

D’Artagnan’s is an excellent East coast supplier for game meats and foie gras. There is a compilation of recipes (nearly 250) that are designed for the wide array of game that they offer. It is a great cookbook and one that I turn to first when cooking game. It has saved me a few times from making a cooking error. The cookbook includes a stellar recipe for goose, among others, which I have cooked twice to rave reviews. Besides game, some friendly side dishes are offered. The book is organized by type of meat and the index is very useful. Highly recommended.

Donna Hay Instant Entertaining Instant Entertaining
by Donna Hay

I love Donna Hay – Australia’s answer to Martha Stewart – at least in the kitchen. The gorgeous photography of Instant Entertaining entices the reader to peruse this “entertaining” cookbook. The cookbook is presented by occasion (BBQ, Sunday lunch, Special Occasion, etc.) and further subdivided by theme (thai banquet, asian-inspired, dinner for two, buffet for twelve, drinks party, last minute dinner, greek party, etc.).

Many of the dishes offered are attractive both in make-up and in presentation and will convince me to make them just by browsing. My caveat is that the menus seem rather ambitious and there is no way that in many cases what is suggested could be accomplished without a team of cooks to get the timing right. In fact, that is its flaw; Instant Entertaining is wonderful to take one or two recipes from, but there is little-to-no guidance given as to how to accomplish making anything in advance or in what order to tackle the recipes. The great part of Instant Entertaining is the ideas you will get from how the menus are made, the decorations, plating suggestions and the suggested flowers & table settings.

Kaiseki: The exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant by Yoshihiro Murata, with forewords by chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Ferran AdriaKaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant
by Yoshihiro Murata, with forewords by chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Ferran Adria.

The gorgeous photographs by Masashi Kuma make this a coffee table cookbook, but it’s the presentation more than the photos themselves which push Kaiseki into the category of beauty. The dishes are presented up front in colorful glory and the recipes are tucked away in the back as a reference. Inspiring to look at.

Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen
By Elizabeth Andoh

Washoku offers a ton of essential knowledge and recipes for the Japanese Home Kitchen. As a non-Japanese cook, I find that ingredients and techniques are difficult to grasp and handle in most cases. Andoh does a exemplary job of explaining the uses and preparation of Japanese ingredients for the neophyte.  The one exception is miso - which I am still unclear on - but I have learned a valuable tip to experiment and combine types of miso to achieve new depths of flavor.

The recipes themselves are inspiring to read but I find daunting to undertake. Once your pantry is well stocked of Japanese ingredients the chore becomes easier but in most cases is still a multi-step process.

If you go on a Japanese cooking binge and want to cook in a Japanese home-cooking style for a week then this book will get you there and help you to create beautiful and delicious meals. For a one night stand most of the recipes will require some pre-cooking to create (and you’ll be tired at the end). The great basic recipes at the beginning for stocks and sauces, are wonderful but often too much work to make for only one meal – you’ll need to use them in multiple meals to make it worth your time and many of the recipes include these “basics”.

The first 50 pages or so of the book are a really interesting read on Japanese Washoku technique, ingredients, prep and philosophy. The photographs which are scattered throughout are beautiful and inspiring. In fact, they inspired me to incorporate some of the ingredients and techniques into my cooking repertoire. I’ve also adapted some of the recipes to my ingredients and equipment and  they’ve turned out great. But I feel that I still haven’t created a recipe yet exactly as written. Perhaps I’ll go on a week-long Japanese Home Cooking binge with Washoku as my essential text.

Cook and the Gardener
The Cook and The Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings for the French Countryside
by Amanda Hesser, Kate Gridley (Illustrator)

I’m not sure why Jack groans when I haul this cookbook out.* I really think it’s too bad, especially since it’s inspired and helped cook one of the BEST dinners I’ve ever made. Really. On page 137 lies your link to the perfect braised lamb. The best I’ve ever had. I’ve made it twice: once with house-made beef stock and once with a combination of house-made vegetable and purchased beef broth. The result was outstanding both times. Homemade stock does make a difference.

So is this book a one-trick-wonder? No way. I made the Striped Bass with fennel recipe last night and Jack was licking the plate.

The cookbook is divided into months following Hesser’s time in the French countryside and so the ingredients chosen are seasonal - I really like that. The seasons in France seem similar to California so it’s easy for me to shop at the farmer’s market and then look for a recipe.

The recipes are real food. Not fancy - stews and soups and salads and light desserts. The choices are attractive. I admit I haven’t read the book cover to cover - as there is quite a bit of in-between commentary and storytelling that is worth reading. I should read it. It’s on my list to do

*I groan because - hmmm - I expect more from her. Recently, a recipe she touted in the NY Times called for Coke. But it was a French recipe - i.e., it used French Coke, and she didn't seem to know that there's a huge (at least to me) difference in taste and ingredients between American and French Coke. (And, personally, I would never, ever recommend using any cooking ingredient containing High Fructose Corn Syrup!) - Jack

Artisanal Cooking\
by Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman

“Artisanal is defined as made with passion, pride, enthusiasm, care and attention to detail.”

I can say that this cookbook looks to that definition. The passionate and enthusiastic choices are not too strange for dinner tonight - although I rather think that a dinner party is more likely to feature them. There is a definite world flavor and Mediterranean flair to many of the dishes. The recipes are accompanied by luscious photography and many have notes on “the reason”, embellishments, terms & techniques and variations.

A number of recipes incorporate Brennan’s vast cheese knowledge - offering a recipe for Gougeres from Artisanal the restaurant and their Cheese Fondue. There is also a chapter on cheese offering sample cheese course suggestions along with a list of some of Brennan’s favorite cheeses. A recipe for Picholine's Olives is also one to try.

Some of the choices are downright playful, like Cold Caesar Salad Soup, Miniature Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and White Gazpacho with Red Gazpacho Granite. Some recipes are twists on more common fare like Sirloin Steaks with a caraway crust, Grilled Porterhouse with Bernaise, and Lamb Steak with Orzo and Parsley Pistou.

Not all the recipes are complex but some require numerous steps while others may only have a few like the Sirloin Steak. The introduction overviews staples that a well-stocked kitchen for this cookbook will have on hand, including compound butters, flavored salts, compotes and chutneys, flavored oils among other things my kitchen does not currently offer. The good news is that there are recipes for most of the these essentials.

The desserts are intriguing with Fig Financier Tart, Raspberry Marshmallows, Chocolate Soup and Baba au Rhum with Crème Chantilly. There is also a selection of ice cream recipes for Plum-tea, Cherry, Salted Caramel, Lime-Coconut and Basil among others.

The good news is that there are numerous recipes that are likely to show up at our table - like Comte-Scallion Polenta, Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice & Figs, Lamb with Boulangerie Potatoes, Chickpea Cakes, Confit Duck with Celery Root-Apple Puree and the wonderfully crazy Halibut dish (see below).

If you throw dinner parties, this is a fantastic addition to your cookbook collection. It would also make a wonderful hostess gift.

Cons: A number of the recipes are a bit daunting when they come to steps - like Poached Halibut with Lemon Mousseline, Pistachios and Dates. I’d make this for dinner tonight if not for the sheer exhaustion of reading the recipe and trying to manage the strength to get up and destroy the kitchen - to complete the recipe you need a double boiler, 2 cookie sheets and a preheated oven, a food processor, something to fry in, a pot to poach in, something to whip cream in and a zester - plus numerous bowls.

Nobu: The Cookbook

by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, Fumihiko Watanabe

Pros. Some great basic info on fish, shellfish and Japanese cooking terms. Some great basic recipes for use in other recipes and for sauces. Gorgeous pictures.

You will definitely learn something reading through this book – especially about unusual fish and ingredients – and about Japanese sauces. In fact there is a whole addendum of recipes of how to make the Nobu sauces used in the other recipes. I have only made one recipe the Miso black cod on pg. 124 (it uses the sauce recipe on pg 172. It turns out really well.

There are some great ideas in it you can adapt to other recipes and some good new basic recipes. There is a gorgeous bento box dessert that I’d love to make sometime.

Cons: The photo and recipe ratio is a bit on the photo side. The recipes are not exactly standard fare and unless you are running a professional kitchen, they are going to send you in search of ingredients and tools.

The recipes are often multi-part and that will mean a lot of work for the average home cook. The types of fish encountered are unusual or scarce (endangered in the case of Chilean Sea Bass and Monkfish) so you may have to adapt your local availability to the recipes – but the book doesn’t make suggestions.

There is a whole chapter on Squid and Octopus. (Jack: !) Many of the recipes as a result are somewhat useless or perhaps not to the general diner’s taste like Sea Eel Roll or Grilled Octopus with Miso Antichucho Sauce. If you want to consider meat in your menu you are out of luck. This is a fish/shellfish lover’s cookbook. The price tag ($37) of the book discourages my hearty recommendation.

Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber

by Christine Ferber,
Virginia R. Phillips (translator)

Arguably a cookbook from the best jam maker in France. At least one of the best artisan jam makers. We have visited her store in Alsace. If you make preserves regularly you will be inspired by the recipes like White Cherry with Raspberry, Fig & Pear, Banana & Coconut and Apple Preserves with Vanilla and Walnuts.

The recipes are clearly presented, with one per page. There are some color plates interspersed but generally you are buying the cookbook for the unusual recipes like Wild Blueberry with Pinot Noir & Licorice or Belle Helene, and for the specifics of the amounts in the recipes. I like that the cookbook is arranged seasonally.
Cons: I’m not great at destroying the kitchen to can every week, so perhaps the cost of the cookbook is too steep for me. Although you can probably use the recipes “fresh” instead of canning them. The recipes are rather unusual for the American palate like Spring Carrot with Cinnamon or Spiced Green Walnut and as such some ingredients may be difficult to come by.

Mediterranean Street Food

by Anissa Helou

I keep hoping I’ll find time to cook out of this book. I bought it after reading a review (in the NY Times) and really enjoyed looking through it when I received it. There are a number of recipes that sound straightforward and relatively easy.

I thought initially there would be many recipes for party-appetizer style food but actually most of the recipes are more of a meal.

The most exciting chapter to me is the pizzas, bread and savory pastries - with recipes for Moroccan doughnuts, greek sesame galettes and turkish meat bread. This chapter is about a third of the book. The "One Pot Meal" is also substantial and includes recipes for Tagines and Coucous as well as stews. There are also some fun desserts like Semolina cake, watermelon pudding and clotted cream fritters. Still can't wait to try it!

Cons: Obviously highly specialized. If you are not interested in this type of cuisine this is probably not the book for you! There is a small chapter on soup, for example, which offers five recipes, two of which suggest tripe or snails as a main ingredient.

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