Cookbook Reviews, October 15, 2011

Just in time for fall, this month’s column includes three slow-cooker titles, five very different baking books, three foodie-focused hard-hitters from the world of fine dining, and an excellent guide to roasting. Food TV enthusiasts will be happy to see contributions from Buddy Valastro (Baking with the Cake Boss), two Top Chef contestants (Bryan & Michael Voltaggio’s VOLT ink.), and a winner from Iron Chef America (Mourad Lahlou’s Mourad: New Moroccan).

Adrià, Ferran (text) & Francesc Guillamet & Maribel Ruiz de Erenchun (photogs.). The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià. Phaidon. Oct. 2011. c.384p. tr. by Enrique Cillero. photogs. index. ISBN 9780714862538. $29.95. COOKING
Anticipating El Bulli’s July 2011 closure, chef and co-owner Adri√† decided to collect and publish the world-famous restaurant’s staff meals, which appear here as 31 three-course menus. In contrast to El Bulli’s spectacularly complex haute cuisine, these meals are simple, practical, and relatively easy to prepare. Some menus require preprepared components and specialty equipment (such as a whipped cream siphon), but most can be completed within two hours using conventional, inexpensive ingredients. The recipes are given for two, six, 20, and 75 people, with captioned pictorial instructions. Recommended for foodies and professionals. For a broader look at staff meals, check out Marissa Guggiana’s upcoming Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants. [Four-city tour.]

Good Housekeeping Comfort Food!: Scrumptious Classics Made Easy. Hearst: Sterling. Nov. 2011. 160p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781588168849. $14.95. COOKING
This inexpensive, spiral-bound compilation includes not only indulgent dishes like Macaroni and Cheese and Dark Chocolate‚ Walnut Caramel Pie but also “slimmed-down” classics like Favorite French Toast (made with whole wheat bread) and New Green Bean Casserole. In addition to providing nutritional variety, the book balances traditional dishes (e.g., Chicken Noodle Soup) with contemporary interpretations (e.g., Curried Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie). The recipes are “made easy” through the use of a well-stocked pantry and freezer, streamlined cooking techniques, and time-saving appliances. A useful, straightforward compilation for busy families.

Lahlou, Mourad & others (text) & Deborah Jones (photogs.). Mourad: New Moroccan. Artisan: Workman. Oct. 2011. c.400p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781579654290. $40. COOKING
Lahlou, owner of Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant Aziza, is a self-taught chef who turned to cooking out of homesickness for his native Morocco. His debut cookbook beautifully captures a culture, philosophy, and cuisine. The first section explains fundamentals including warqa(a pastry similar to phyllo) and hand-rolled couscous. Re-creating Lahlou’s flavors takes patience and commitment; to make his Ras el Hanout spice blend, you’ll need to gather, toast, grind, and blend 22 separate components. Given its complex recipes, this book will appeal the most to advanced home cooks, culinary professionals, and fans of Lahlou’s restaurant. Lahlou’s memories paired with Jones’s handsome photographs make for evocative travel writing. Highly recommended.

Mathiot, Ginette. The Art of French Baking. Phaidon. Nov. 2011. c.368p. ed. by Clotilde Dusoulier. tr. from French by Annabel van Nieuwkerk. illus. index. ISBN 9780714862408. $45. COOKING
Originally published in 1938, Mathiot’s Je sais faire la p√¢tisserie (I Know How To Make Pastries) was a follow-up to her wildly successfulJe sais cuisiner (I Know How To Cook, first published in English by Phaidon in 2009). Here, Dusoulier (Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris) pairs updated recipes from these definitive books with ten contributions from famous pastry chefs such as Sadaharu Aoki, Pierre Hermé, Michael Laiskonis, and François Payard. French baking enthusiasts and fans of Phaidon’s other cooking bibles (The Silver Spoon;1080 Recipes) will enjoy this historical reference packed with simple recipes for homemade French classics. Sara Mulvanny’s illustrations and Yoko Inoue’s photographs give the book a charming, vintage aesthetic.

Oleson, Jessie. CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life. Sasquatch. Oct. 2011. c.160p. illus. ISBN 9781570617560. pap. $22.95. COOKING
Seattle-based illustrator Oleson runs the popular website Don’t be fooled by her whimsical illustrations of emotive cupcakes and cake slices‚ this cookbook is not for the faint of heart. With over-the-top recipes like Glazed Cinnamon Rolls Stuffed with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Birthday Cake French Toast, S’moreos, and Deep-Fried Cupcakes on a Stick, this colorful, humorous, unapologetically excessive book promises insatiably sweet-toothed readers the ultimate sugar high. [Eleven-city tour.]

Price, Jessie & EatingWell Test Kitchen (text) & Ken Burris (photogs.). EatingWell One-Pot Meals: Easy, Healthy Recipes for 100+ Delicious Dinners. Countryman, dist. by Norton. Nov. 2011. c.224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780881509366. $24.95. COOKING
While most EatingWell publications cater to health-conscious readers seeking simple, delicious recipes, this one specifically addresses busy home cooks facing time, space, and equipment constraints. Each chapter highlights one cooking vessel, such as a pot, wok, skillet, roasting pan, slow cooker, or Dutch oven. Expect to see much more than soups and stews here; recipes like Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Nuggets, Turkish-Style Pizza, and Chorizo-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin aren’t typical one-pot fare. Helpful sidebars listing time, yield, and nutrition facts take the work out of finding healthy recipes to suit one’schedule and diet. This book will appeal to readers looking for delicious weeknight meals with easy preparation and cleanup.

Scicolone, Michele (text) & Alan Richardson (photogs.). The French Slow Cooker. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2012. c.240p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780547508047. pap. $22. COOKING
If you think cheese soufflé and p√¢té can’t be made in a slow cooker, think again! With this classic appliance, best-selling cookbook author Scicolone (The Sopranos Family Cookbook) creates such sophisticated French dishes as Bouillabaisse, Duck Confit, Veal Blanquette, Spinach Soufflé, and Ginger Crème Br√ªlée. Fans of Scicolone’s popular The Italian Slow Cooker won’t be surprised that many of these recipes begin on the stove or in the oven before moving to the Crock-Pot. While these steps may hassle the busiest home cooks, Scicolone assures readers that the extra effort will yield superior results.

Stevens, Molly (text) & Quentin Bacon (photogs.). All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art. Norton. Nov. 2011. c.592p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780393065268. $35. COOKING
Stevens, author of the James Beard and IACP cookbook award winner All About Braising, has once again delivered a comprehensive, must-have volume that deftly illuminates a seemingly simple technique. After reading Stevens’s introduction to roasting history, science, and basic principles, cooks of all levels can confidently tackle the book’s 150 recipes for roasted meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, vegetables, and fruit. The recipes progress from simple (e.g., Basic Roast Chicken) to more complex (e.g., Thai-Style Roast Chicken Pieces with Lemongrass, Red Peppers, and Shiitakes) and clearly list yield, cooking times, and wine/beer pairings. This book arrives just in time for readers hoping to sear, sauce, and serve an impressive roast this holiday season.

Valastro, Buddy. Baking with the Cake Boss: 100 of Buddy’s Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets. Free Pr: S. & S. Nov. 2011. c.352p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781439183526. $30. COOKING
Leading up to his success on TLC’s Cake Boss, Valastro was an apprentice in his family’s Hoboken, NJ, bakery, limited to assembling pastries and baking only the simplest butter cookies. Tracing his own development, Valastro here provides a method for novice bakers to build the technical foundation needed to produce cookies, pastries, pies, tarts, and cakes. This accessible primer, which includes plenty of step-by-step photos and professional tips, will please fans who have dreamed of working alongside Valastro at Carlo’s Bake Shop. The cake- decorating guidelines are suitable for beginners and clearly explain what tools are required. Aspiring bakers might also consider titles by Nick Malgieri, Flo Braker, and Rose Levy Beranbaum. [Twenty-city tour; see Prepub Alert, 5/23/11.]

Voltaggio, Bryan & Michael Voltaggio (text) & Ed Anderson (photogs.). VOLT ink: Recipes, Stories, Brothers. Olive: Weldon Owen, dist. by S. & S. Oct. 2011. c.336p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781616281618. $40. COOKING
Bryan and Michael Voltaggio’s sibling rivalry on the sixth season of Top Chef was reality TV gold that launched a website (, a collaboration with Williams-Sonoma, and now, a cookbook. Forewords by José Andrés and Charlie Palmer affirm that these brothers are talented, as do their intricate, beautifully photographed recipes, which are organized into 20 ingredient families (e.g., “Avian,” “Crustacean,” “Funghi,” “Legume”). Palmer writes that this book is “for the home cook,” but it’s best for those who own a thermal immersion circulator, vacuum sealer, and food dehydrator. Despite its technical complexity, the collection is sure to be in demand.

additional cookbooks

Engel, Jenny & Heather Goldberg. Spork-Fed: Super Fun and Flavorful Vegan Recipes from the Sisters of Spork Foods. St. Lynn’s. Oct. 2011. c.208p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780983272618. pap. $19.95. COOKING
Engel and Goldberg’s first cookbook is filled with tempting recipes for the adventurous vegan. Co-owners of the Los Angeles‚ based vegan cooking class and website (, the sisters cheerily take you step-by-step through recipes for appetizers, main dishes, sides, brunch, and desserts. There is a distinctive Southern flavor, as seen in the Green Bean Casserole with Spelt Bread Crumbs and Frizzled Shallots and South Carolina Barbecue Tofu Sandwich. Suggested menus for all occasions feature helpful icons of the dish with a page number. Some of the recipes would have benefited from more testing, e.g., the Homemade “Chicken-Style” Seitan calls for far too much liquid, requiring twice as much vital wheat gluten to achieve the desired consistency. Still, this cookbook shines for its sheer inventiveness. VERDICTRecommended for vegans yearning for meat- and dairy-free versions of classic recipes and for anyone wishing to creatively incorporate more vegetables and grains into their diet.‚ Mary Schons, Hammond P.L., IN

Lanlard, Eric. Cake Boy: Home Baking from Master P√¢tissier. Mitchell Beazley, dist. by Hachette. Oct. 2011. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781845336059. $19.99. COOKING
Lanlard is a celeb of sorts in the UK, with his television show Baking Mad; London cake shop, café, and cooking school, Cake Boy; and best-selling cookbooks. The time has come to introduce this master p√¢tissier to future fans across the pond. This UK best seller has been Americanized, with converted measurements and terminology (e.g., “puddings” become “desserts”), but it maintains the best of the original version. Lanlard’s recipes are easy to follow and include hints for success, and the 260-plus myriad photos are lavish. VERDICT Presenting delicious treats from sponge cakes to muffins to pastries to tarts, this gorgeous book is essential for any baker.‚ Jane Hebert, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL

Segan, Francine (text) & Ellen Silverman (photogs.). Dolci: Italy’s Sweets. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Oct. 2011. 208p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781584798989. $35. COOKING
Segan (Opera Lover’s Cookbook) has created a scrumptious new cookbook based on the sweet treats of Italy. Her background as a food historian shows in the information on food customs, festivals, and important Italian bakers. These interesting sidebars add just the right amount of authority to recipes‚ accessible, traditional, and perfect for contemporary tastes‚ for cookies, cakes, pies, frozen and refrigerator cakes, spoon sweets, holiday traditions, and even after-dinner drinks. Also included are the weird and wonderful, e.g., Sicilian Pasta Crisps and Chocolate Eggplant. Segan scoured Italy for recipes, drawing on everyone from food bloggers to grandmothers, pastry manufacturers, chefs, historical cookbooks, and food journalists. The result is an authentic collection of recipes, each with regional information and easy-to-follow instructions. Lovely photographs provide a tempting guide to presentation. VERDICT A wonderful addition. As well as offering great recipes, this is a cookbook you will read for pleasure.‚ Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH