The Pioneer Woman Cooks is an unique combination of cookbook and sociological essay. Ree Drummond got sidetracked on her journey from L.A. to Chicago, when she stopped in Oklahoma and met the cowboy who was to become her husband.
The photographs of horses, dogs, cowboys and rainbow straddled fields are sometimes cute and funny, sometimes striking and romantic. They alone make you want to pack your bags and move to a ranch out West.
The recipes are clear and simple, and each step is accompanied by a photograph. They are not definitely not for someone looking for low-fat or low-cholesterol meals. However, if you go to her blog, http://thepioneerwoman.com, you’ll find a “Cowgirl Food” category with dishes like lettuce wraps and sundried tomato pasta salad. Drummond actually got her start as a blogger, and both the book and blog are breezy, personal and easy to digest.
Part travel guide, part cookbook, the best word to describe this gorgeous book is “stunning”. Koto: a Culinary Journey Through Vietnam is filled with beautiful photography, mouth-watering recipes and an eye-opening look into this complex and distant land.
Beginning with a thoughtful overview of the long history and diverse cultures of this beautiful nation, the authors then bring us to contemporary Vietnam where they lived and taught for two years. Divided into seven main food regions, the book provides a dish by dish journey through the long, skinny country. Recipes are relatively simple – very few take up more than a page – and where necessary have been adapted to the Western kitchen with ingredients that are available in most Asian supermarkets.
To page through this book is to immerse yourself in another culture on a delightful – and delicious! – journey of discovery.
Falling in love in Paris – what could be better than that? How about falling in love in Paris with recipes! Elizabeth Bard lets us tag along in Lunch in Paris as she meets and falls in love with Gwendal, maintains a long-distance relationship (with frequent visits to France), and then at first reluctantly, then whole heartedly, becomes an ex-pat living in Paris.
As a student in London working on her PhD, Elizabeth is able to make frequent weekend trips to Paris to visit friends. Her travels quickly center around food – the sidewalk cafes, the shop with the best croissants, the tiny restaurants known only to the locals. When she begins dating Gwendal, she begins to view meals and eating like the French do – even the simplest meal should be created with care and attention, eaten slowly and enjoyed. She learns to shop like a Parisian, buying just enough food for each meal, going to the fishmonger, the butcher, the farmer’s market for fresh ingredients. Along the way she finds a doorway into the French culture and thought, while gaining new insights into her American heritage.
Bard writes with confidence and wit, unafraid to expose her American learning curve. She is enthusiastic about trying any dish, and an adventurer in the kitchen. Each chapter is wrapped around a meal (or the memory of a meal) that fits the current stage of her life and finishes with recipes for the food she’s written about. While the recipes are mostly French, she has rewritten them for Americans, with ingredients that are easy to find in the US. This a delightful, mouth-watering memoir will satisfy the cook, the foodie and the traveler in all of us.
We finish up our week-long look at new cookbooks with a look at comfort food – always in season!
The winter holidays bring us back to home, to memories and to traditions. Now, even if you no longer go to grandmother’s house for you family dinner, you can bring some of those traditional foods to your own kitchen with the help of Mother’s Best by Lisa Schroeder.
Although leaning toward Southern favorites (pulled pork, biscuits and gravy, crab cakes) this book is filled with favorites from many different traditions and is based on a popular Portland, Oregon eatery. Recipes range from hummus to creamed spinach to french toast to tofu scramble. An entire chapter is devoted just to macaroni and cheese, the ultimate comfort food. Don’t dismiss these recipes as fuddy-duddy though – they’re written for the modern cook with straightforward instructions and lots of tips and hints. It’s almost as good as having Mom helping you out in the kitchen!
It’s almost here – the non-stop food fest that we call “the Holiday Season”! The next six weeks, from Thanksgiving to New Years will be filled with eating opportunities galore. In any culture, sharing food – especially homemade food – brings together families, friends and communities, creating bonds that last. Putting together all of that food can be a lot of work though, so this week the Info Cafe blog is going to focus on some of the new cookbooks that are now available. Be sure to stop by the library and check out a copy!
Thanksgiving, a holiday celebrating the harvest, is all about food – there’s no pressure to find the perfect present or outdo the neighbors with your light display. It’s also maybe the most traditional – almost everyone automatically thinks of turkey when they think of Thanksgiving. It’s how you fix the turkey and your choice of side dishes where family traditions take over.
If you’re looking for something different, or if this is your first year hosting the big event, take a look at The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan with it’s traditional yet fresh approach to the meal. There is a nice variety of choices listed for the basics – turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, deserts – with some interesting twists included. How about Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting instead of the ubiquitous pumpkin pie? Or shake things up with Molly’s Pumpkin-and-Sage Lasagna.
Two chapters make this book a stand-out – “Regional Thanksgiving Menus with Timetables” that will help any cook plan for the big day, and “Leftover Favorites” which lists several tasty ways to deal with leftovers that go beyond the turkey sandwich.
And don’t despair if you can’t get ahold of this book in time for Thanksgiving – the autumn themed recipes will be just as delicious at Christmas or New Years, or any wintertime family gathering.
Fed up with a Hollywood lifestyle of “doing lunch”, massive traffic jams and insincere relationships, Gesine Bullock-Prado abandoned all the things that are supposed to make you happy – money, designer clothes, access to famous stars – and escaped to the Green Mountains of Vermont. There she found peace and happiness by following her true passion – baking.
In 2004 Gesine and her husband Ray opened Gesine Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont largely on the popularity of her macaroons. Expecting to start small and build by word-of-mouth, they were overwhelmed by the long lines that snaked out the door on opening day – maybe it was the fact that Gesine’s sister, movie star Sandra Bullock, was helping at the register?
Star gazing might have brought people to the shop at first but the sweet, luscious treats bring them back again and again. Pies, sticky buns, croissants, scones and cakes of all description guarantee a slew of return customers. Customers become regulars, who become friends and consultants and the empty existence of their former Hollywood life becomes a distant memory. Not everything is perfect – there are setbacks and frustrations, bad employees and unreasonable demands – but mostly it is a dream come true.
Each chapter of Confections of a Closet Master Baker – written in a wry, straightforward voice – finishes with a delectable recipe. Gesine’s stories of her beloved family and memories of her hated Hollywood job ring clear and true. For anyone who longs to drop out of the rat race and follow their passion – or for anyone that loves to eat – this is a must read!
OK, I admit, this might not be the year that you’re worried about too many tomatoes; it may be the year that you’re worried about not enough! Just in case the weather takes a turn and starts to co-operate, we’ve got all of your excessive tomato harvest problems solved with The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook by Brian Yarvin.
You’ll find all the things you’d expect in a cookbook about tomatoes – sauces, soups and stews, pizza, lasagna and salads as well as tomato preservation basics – roasting, drying and freezing. There are also more unique entries such as Hawaiian-Style Salmon Salad, Korean-Style Tomatoes Sprinkled with Sugar, and South African Train Smash. Recipes come from across the world, proving that this uniquely New World vegetable (or is it a fruit?) has been embraced by countries and cultures as diverse as Italy, Thailand, Greece, Albania, Turkey, Hungary and Japan. Scattered throughout are various essays on tomato farmers and vendors and chefs, tomato facts and tomato-centric events. Beautifully produced with lots of goroegous photos and an encouraging and friendly writing style, you’ll find yourself reaching for this book time after time.
The long anticipated movie Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, opens today and whatever the reviews, it’s sure to be filled with beautiful food. Based on the book Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, it follows the cooking adventures of a young woman who, in an attempt to bring some focus to her life, decides to make every recipe in Julia Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking – in one year and all in her tiny kitchen.
This isn’t the first time food has been the centerpiece of a film. Take a look at these entries for more mouthwatering fun:
Big Night – An Italian restaurant on the brink of closing pulls out all the stops in one last attempt to keep the kitchen running.
Babette’s Feast- An unexpected windfall allows Babette to create a once-in-a-lifetime banquet for her longtime benefactors, a pious religious group that deny earthly pleasure.
Chocolat – When a mysterious single mother moves into a small French village and opens a chocolate shop, magic and controversy soon follow.
Sideways – Two best friends spend a week touring the California wine country, discovering passion, exploring their failures and searching for the perfect wine.
Like Water for Chocolate – In this romantic fantasy a couple is denied the chance to marry. To be near her, the young man marries her sister and she expresses her passion for him through her cooking.
Tart, cobbler, grunt, slump, crisp, crumble, betty, pandowdy, buckle, teacake, galette, fool, trifle and pie – all of the evocative names (some unique to different parts of the country), all meant for one thing – delicious fruit desserts. Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber collects some of the best of these simple and satisfying dishes in this charming book.
Recipes are arranged by season, so you can take advantage of the beautiful peaches, nectarines and apricots that are available now, open it again in the fall when the pears, apples and figs arrive and then again in the spring for ideas for strawberries, rhubarb and cherries. In addition to recipes for the more common fruits from blueberries to raspberries, some lesser-known fruits – huckleberries, currants, marionberries, plumcots and pluots – are also represented. Recipes are straightforward and unintimadating – even the beginner will find success. And what better way to take advantage of the changing seasons than with fresh fruit desserts?
This is a book about home cooking, but it’s also a book about family and the timeless tradition of passing down knowledge, from elder to child, mother to daughter or, in this case, mother-in-law to son-in-law. Daley has meticulously and lovingly recorded not only his mother-in-laws recipes, tips and advice, but also the the stories behind the recipes – family ancedotes, who passed the recipe on to her, influences from other countries and cultures, and which ones are favorites of guests and family alike. Keeping the project in the family, the beautiful photographs were made by Daley’s wife/Hirami’s daughter Salima.
You’ll find all of your favorites here, covering vegetables, lamb, chicken, rice, chutneys and sweets, all written for the home cook. There is special emphasis on the spices and techniques that make Indian cuisine so unique. While many of the dishes may seem exotic and difficult at first glance, closer inspection shows that even a beginner will soon be cooking authentic, delicious Indian food.
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