Cookbook Reviews, December 2011

If you’re hosting vegetarians or vegans at the holiday table this year, look to Nava Atlas’s Vegan Holiday Kitchen and Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Tofu for inspiration. Meat eaters can try the succulent Christmas goose in John Besh’s My Family Table. If you need last-minute gift ideas, a number of this month’s cookbooks (Colby Garrelts and Megan Garrelts’s Bluestem, Lucy Lean’s Made in America, and Marissa Guggiana’s Off the Menu) will please readers who enjoy fine dining. [See also Holiday Cooking & Crafting, LJ 9/15/11.]

Atlas, Nava (text) & Susan Voisin (photogs.). Vegan Holiday Kitchen: More Than 200 Delicious, Festive Recipes for Special Occasions. Sterling. 2011. 320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781402780059. $24.95. COOKING
In her latest, well-known vegetarian and vegan cookbook author Atlas (Vegan Express) seeks to make holiday entertaining a festive, stress-free experience for hosts and guests alike. She offers festive, easy-to-make recipes along with practical tips on etiquette, healthy eating, and time-saving techniques. She also clearly identifies gluten-, soy-, and nut-free dishes. Some recipes are adapted from the previously published Vegetarian Celebrations, but most are new. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah are best represented, but ideas for Easter, summer entertaining, and brunches are also included. For other occasions, try Alicia C. Simpson’s Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations.

Bayne, Martha. Soup & Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Pot at a Time. Surrey: Agate. 2011. 206p. illus. index. ISBN 9781572841192. pap. $20.95. COOKING
If you enjoy community cookbooks, check out this thoughtfully designed compilation from Soup and Bread, a weekly soup dinner and fund-raiser held at Chicago’s Hideout bar. Food writer Bayne has gathered stories and recipes from a colorful cast of writers, designers, musicians, and chefs, and she succeeds in preserving their individual voices. Here you’ll find culturally diverse, vegan-friendly, and technically accessible soups perfect for feeding a crowd or stocking your freezer. This book’s successful balance of utilitarian and gourmet recipes will please many, though its small size and tight binding will frustrate readers who like their cookbooks to lie flat.

Besh, John. My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking. Andrews McMeel. 2011. 272p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781449407872. $35. COOKING
Of the recently published books by gourmet chefs on home cooking (e.g., Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Home Cooking with Jean-Georges and Rich Tramonto’s Steak with Friends), James Beard Award‚ winning Louisiana chef Besh’s latest is easily the most beautiful. This stunning volume is filled with intimate photographs of the Besh family in the kitchen, at the table, and outdoors with friends. Recipes like Risotto of Almost Anything and Whole Roasted Sole with Brown Butter reinforce Besh’s Jamie Oliver‚ like argument that practical home cooking does not require reliance on processed products. Includes some excellent holiday recipes. Highly recommended.

Garrelts, Colby & Megan Garrelts with Bonjwing Lee. Bluestem: The Cookbook. Andrews McMeel. 2011. 312p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781449400613. $45. COOKING
James Beard‚ nominated chef Colby Garrelts and his wife, pastry chef Megan Garrelts, worked in notable restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles before opening Bluestem in Kansas City, Missouri. Written with lawyer‚ turned‚ food writer/photographer Lee (the formerly anonymous gourmand behind the Ulterior Epicure blog,, the Garreltses’ debut is a beautiful restaurant cookbook that makes it easy for advanced home cooks to construct an upscale, multicourse menu with wine pairings. Each seasonal section is divided into eight courses featuring elegant, contemporary dishes like Nettle Soup, Whipped Lemon Ricotta; Rack of Venison, Pickled Lady Apples; and White Coffee, Passion Fruit Parfait.

Guggiana, Marissa. Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants. Welcome, dist. by Random. 2011. 288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781599621029. $40. COOKING
Guggiana (Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers ) includes recipes recommended by the staff of famous restaurants like Marea and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, both in New York; New Orlean’s Galatoire’s; and Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon. Like Lucy Lean’s Made in America (reviewed below), this collection is packed with beautiful photographs and informative restaurant and chef profiles. Here, the profiles take the form of a fun-to-read questionnaire that asks such things as, What three adjectives describe your cuisine? and What food trend would you erase from the annals of history? Guggiana’s book is organized alphabetically by restaurant, and for each she’s included several recipes and a suggested alcohol pairing. An entertaining, attractive collection.

Lean, Lucy. Made in America: Our Best Chefs Reinvent Comfort Food. Welcome, dist. by Random. 2011. 320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781599621012. $45. COOKING
In this coffee table‚ worthy collection, Lean, former editor of edible Los Angeles and current judge on TV’s MasterChef, highlights 100 recipes from some of America’s best restaurants. For each recipe, she profiles the contributing chef and ties his or her contemporary dish to a historical predecessor. For instance, she pairs Michael Voltaggio’s Modern Mock Turtle Soup with a facsimile from an 1857 cookbook. Expect demand from foodies, who will be happy to see dishes like Jason Denton’s Truffled Egg Toast and Ludo Lefebvre’s Duck-Fat‚ Fried Chicken with Piquillos Ketchup. A sortable list of the featured chefs and a map of their restaurants can be found at www.

Mason, Laura. Good Old-Fashioned Pies & Stews. National Trust: Anova, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Dec. 2011. 160p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781907892103. $24.95. COOKING
Mason (Good Old-Fashioned Roasts), a food historian and coordinator of Britain’s slow-food movement, here presents savory pie and stew recipes including Steak and Kidney Pie, Chestnut and Shallot Pie, and Rabbit with Cider and Dumplings. Many recipes are adaptations of traditional English dishes from the 18th and 19th centuries, and Mason well explains their history. Measurements are given in metric and imperial (e.g., grams and ounces), and there are few vegetarian options. Recommended for cooks who enjoy rustic, historical recipes.

Meehan, Monica & Maria von Baich. The Viennese Kitchen: Tante Hertha’s Book of Family Recipes. Interlink: Interlink Pub. Group. 2011. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781566568654. $30. COOKING
Food writer Meehan is the great-niece of the titular Tante Hertha, whose handwritten recipe notebook is the basis for this cookbook. Meehan and her mother, von Baich, interweave history and biography with historical recipes updated for modern kitchens. Savory offerings include Fischröllchen (Fish Croquettes), Wiener Schnitzel, and Lachsfleckerln (Baked Noodles with Salmon). Roughly half the book is devoted to cookies, dumplings, tortes, slices, and other traditional sweets. Can’t get enough of Viennese cuisine? Try Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Neue Cuisine and, if you can find it, Rick Rodgers’s excellent but out-of-print Kaffeehaus.

Nguyen, Andrea (text) & Maren Caruso (photogs.). Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Feb. 2012. c.240p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781607740254. $30. COOKING
With the renewed interest in cookbooks on homemade cheese, pasta, and charcuterie, it’s surprising that no one has previously tackled homemade tofu. Enter food writer and cooking teacher Nguyen (Into the Vietnamese Kitchen), who presents homemade tofu tutorials, buying guides, and shopping tips. She offers traditional recipes, like Japanese Chilled Tofu and Tea-Smoked Tofu with Pepper and Pork, along with more surprising dishes, e.g., Tofu Tiramisu and Okara (soy pulp) Donuts. Nearly all these recipes can be made with store-bought tofu, and not all of them are vegetarian. Essential for tofu lovers and anyone unfamiliar with tofu’s cultural significance.

Villas, James. From the Ground Up: Hundreds of Amazing Recipes from Around the World for Ground Meats, Including Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, and More. Wiley. 2011. 352p. index. ISBN 9780470571651. pap. $22.99. COOKING
This cookbook is a bible of economical ground-protein recipes for canapés, loaves, croquettes, patties, forcemeats, hashes, and more. After introducing the meats (beef, pork, fish, shellfish, poultry, and offal), Villas (Pig: King of the Southern Table) shares practical tips on equipment, shopping, and food safety. The recipes are intended for beginners, who will find it helpful to own a food processor and a meat grinder. Without photos, it’s hard to imagine the visual appeal of a recipe like Scandinavian Jellied Veal Loaf; however, there are plenty of other choices that will please meat enthusiasts.

Additional Cookbooks

Blakeslee, Robert L. Your Time To Bake: A First Cookbook for the Novice Baker. Square One. Jan. 2012. c.416p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780757003554. $29.95. COOKING
Like Blakeslee’s Your Time To Cook, this collection of 150 easy-to-prepare recipes is chock-full of photos and includes basic definitions, techniques, substitution lists, and trivia. The format makes this book less visually appealing than most cookbooks; its layout, dictionary, step-by-step photos (rather than staged images of sumptuous finished dishes), and lack of tabs or color-coding give it the appearance of a home economics textbook. VERDICT Cooks who already feel at home in the kitchen will not be drawn to this book, but it is a wonderful resource for those just starting out. From middle school students trying a hand at brownies for the first time to newlyweds seeking to impress in-laws, readers who wish to become successful bakers can look to this cookbook.‚ Jane Hebert, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL

Jardine, Denise (text) & Caroline Kopp & Erin Kunkel (photogs.). The Dairy-Free & Gluten-Free Kitchen: 150 Delicious Dishes for Every Meal, Every Day. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Jan. 2012. c.208p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781607742241. pap. $19.99. COOKING
Jardine, a nutrition educator and outreach coordinator for Whole Foods, has updated and revamped her 2001 title Recipes for Dairy-Free Living for readers also looking to exclude gluten from their diets. She offers an easy-to-understand medical perspective on dairy and gluten allergies along with a thorough lesson on reading labels and learning to shop with a gluten- and dairy-free diet in mind. While many of Jardine’s recipes call for special ingredients that might be hard for some readers to find, she offers some original cooking techniques intended to contribute to overall dietary health as well as foundational recipes for ingredients like gluten-free flour mix and date syrup. This book is written from a natural foods, healthful perspective, though not all the dishes are vegetarian or vegan. VERDICT The tempting recipes and new cooking techniques included here will appeal to those with a medical reason to eliminate dairy and gluten as well as inquisitive, health-conscious cooks. ‚ Laura Krier, California Digital Lib., Oakland

Ricci, Sabra. Lobster for Leos, Cookies for Capricorns: An Astrology Lover’s Cookbook. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. c.288p. index. ISBN 9781250002136. pap. $15.99. COOKING
Ricci, a well-known chef and astrologer, has written a book with a novel concept. She believes each star sign is prone to certain physical problems and that eating certain foods will help alleviate those problems. For example, Ricci states that Cancers tend to have digestive trouble, so green tea and buckwheat are recommended. She then presents a series of recipes utilizing these foods. She also offers guidance on how to treat guests based on their star signs. VERDICT One doesn’t necessarily have to agree with Ricci’s premise to find this book useful. Her advice on what to eat to help your kidneys or tame your stomach is sound, and the recipes are well crafted and appetizing. For patrons who enjoy their daily horoscopes and are looking for an original approach to their star signs.‚ Susan Flaherty, Portland P.L., ME