Deb Perelman is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Her blog, smittenkitchen.com, is one of the most beautiful and well-cultivated on the web. She writes with good grammar, common sense, and maturity: all too rare in the world of blogging. Her photos are sumptuous; her voice is authentic and charming; her advice is encouraging but never preachy. Her recipes range from moderate ease (mixed bean salad) to incredible ambition (Moules à la Marinière) . Most importantly, her lifestyle (which is what any blogger on any topic is ultimately selling) seems attainable, realistic, homey, and good. Now, she has “arrived,” so to speak, by getting herself published in “real life,” aka, a glossy hardcover book published by Knopf.
And what a hardcover it is! I have it checked out now, but I know I’ll be returning to it too often not to make a home on my own bookshelf for it. Most of the recipes are new, which is to say they have never appeared on the website. The design is crisp, the photos delectable, the writing full of warmth. I have no reservations whatsoever about recommending this book to anyone who has a kitchen!
Having children changes your life, but it doesn’t have to change what you cook. The Naptime Chef by Kelsey Banfield is equal parts pragmatic parent and ardent foodie. The result is a tasty playbook of meals, made over to save time without compromising taste.
Some favorites are the 45-minute artichoke lasagna, assembled in the morning or afternoon and held in the fridge until dinnertime; a roast chicken that’s rubbed down with herbs in the morning stays moist and flavorful when roasted later in the evening; a French toast casserole that can be tossed together the night before and popped in the oven in the morning for a special breakfast. Soups, salads, veggies, sides, main courses, and desserts are all adapted to the time that you have—whether it’s during naptime, before bedtime, in the morning, or on the weekends—without sacrificing quality or flavor. Take back dinner, one dish at a time! (description from publisher)
Have you been languishing waiting for Ireland to produce a chef as healthy and good-looking as Jaime Oliver? FINALLY that wait is over! Let me introduce you to the young, Irish chef/blogger Donal Skehan, aka “Ireland’s answer to Jaime Oliver” (as stated on the cookbook’s cover), who appears to be an expert at creating simple and cozy recipes that make me want to curl up in a country cottage and watch him cook for me. Just kidding! Actually, Good Mood Food is one of the few cookbooks that actually made me want to cook. I do not usually enjoy cooking, and probably only checked out this cookbook because I liked the rhyming words in the title, but within a few days of having the book on my kitchen table I discovered I had made Perfect Parmesan Parsnips! What happened?! I just don’t do things like that! Soon afterwards I found a Bacon Avocado and Sundried Tomato Sandwich in my hands. The recipes are so easy and the photographs so lovely that I couldn’t resist. Yup, this Donal Skehan guy is good. Check out his blog at: www.donalskehan.com.
Celebrating the simple beauty of food, A Platter of Figs by David Tanis will tempt you with beautiful, unpretentious recipes, gorgeous photos and a simple philosophy – cooking should be a joy, eating should be a pleasurable experience and both should preferably be shared with friends.
The recipes are arranged seasonally, spring through winter, rather than by course, the idea being you should celebrate what each season offers. This fits in nicely with the current trend toward eating locally and sustainably, but it also has everything to do with flavor – fresh picked, in-season food is undeniably the best tasting.
Recipes range from the simple – Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette – to the more complex – Chicken Tagine with Pumpkin and Chickpeas – but all are clearly explained. Stories of Tanis’s life and travels (which are reflected in his recipes) are scattered throughout the book, adding a warm and friendly atmosphere to the cookbook. A beautiful book about beautiful food.
Love Chinese food but are intimidated by the thought of cooking a cuisine so different from what you grew up with? Looking for some family-satisfying meals that go beyond chicken and hamburgers? Kylie Kwong provides just the help you need with Simple Chinese Cooking.
Starting out with detailed descriptions of equipment and ingredients unique to the Chinese kitchen, Kwong presents recipes by ingredient – beef, pork, chicken, tofu, vegetables, noodles and wontons, etc. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful color picture; if more detailed preparation techniques are required, the recipe is accompanied by a series of step-by-step black and white photos. The book finishes with a chapter on “Eating Chinese-Style” (just exactly how do those chopsticks work?) and menu planning.
This lovely, encouraging book will have you enjoying Chinese food right from your own kitchen in no time.
The “breath” of a wok is the steam that rises from a sizzling hot finished dish. This charming cookbook takes a slightly different approach to Chinese food by focusing on the wok and its recipes. In addition, there is a history of the wok and it’s importance (central to so much Chinese cooking), the construction and manufacture of woks and advice on buying and seasoning a wok.
While many of the recipes are familiar, there is also a wide range of fresh ideas, gathered from a variety of people including chef Michael Yan, writer Amy Tan and Young’s own family, and range from beginner friendly to master lessons.
Practical, smart and fun, The Breath of a Wok will have you cooking confidently with a wok in no time.
Stepping beyond the familiar Chinese cuisines, Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid explores the flavors and foods of the outlying areas of China, including Tibet and Xinjiang in the far west of the country. Authentic recipes, gathered by the authors over a series of visits to China over the past 20 years, are “translated” for the Western kitchen (no need to go looking for camel meat!)
However, this is much more than a cookbook; stories of the adventures and people that were met along the way are scattered throughout the book. The photography is spectacular – there are the usual mouth-watering close-ups of delicious dishes, but there are also sweeping views of the landscape, intimate portraits of the people, and a careful recording the customs and practices of this distant land.
Part cookbook, part travel book, part cultural education, Beyond the Great Wall will feed the soul as well as the body.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been having a dozy of a winter with rain, freezing rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures all making headlines. And, I hate to be the one to tell you this but warmer temperatures are still a few weeks away for the Midwest.
What better time for the warmth and comfort of homemade soup? The New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker will provide you with dozens of ideas. Soups as varied as “Wild Mushroom and Barley” and “Curried Crab and Coconut” as well as familiar favorites such as “New England Clam Chowder” will inspire you. Luscious photos may tempt you to chew on the pages (please don’t) and the stories of the restaurant (a long-time favorite located in Boston) will keep you entertained.
It just might be enough to get you through those last few weeks of cold and snow.