Cookbook Reviews, January 2012

Whether you’ve resolved to improve your cooking repertoire, routine, or technique, you’ll find great choices in this month’s column, which includes three books by new moms (Giada De Laurentiis’s Weeknights with Giada , Béatrice Peltre’s La Tartine Gourmande , and Debbie Koenig’s Parents Need To Eat Too ); single-subject titles on pizza, fish, and vegetables; and a debut from the first vegan to win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars .

Chef Recipes Made Easy: Over 100 of America’s Favorite Restaurant Dishes. American Express, dist. by Imagine: Charlesbridge. (Food & Wine). Feb. 2012. 256p. ed. by Dana Cowin. photogs. index. ISBN 9781932624403. $29.95. COOKING

Food & Wine editor in chief Cowin compiles recipes from the magazine’s Chef Recipes Made Easy column, which offers simplified versions of dishes created by celebrity chefs (e.g., Nobu Matsuhisa’s Black Cod with Miso and Rick Bayless’s Carne Asada). The text and photographs here are what you’ll find in the magazine and online, but gone are the magazine’s color-coded symbols that identify fast, healthy, make-ahead, vegetarian, staff favorite, and basic/easy recipes. Still, this book’s clear organization and elegant, effective visual design make it a compilation worth having, especially for pragmatic home cooks who want quick recipes that are still a little out of the ordinary.

Coscarelli, Chloe. Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way. Free Pr: S. & S. Mar. 2012. c.288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781451636741. pap. $18.99. COOKING

Coscarelli is the first vegan to win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars . After an introduction to the vegan diet and a guide to pantry staples, she here offers veganized recipes for familiar favorites, e.g., Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Thyme for Creamy Scalloped Potatoes, Tempeh Piccata, Baked Sprinkle Donuts, and her winning Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes. Coscarelli’s contagious enthusiasm and full-flavored recipes will appeal to readers who are considering going vegan but aren’t sure if they’re ready. Recommended for vegans interested in appetizing recipes that emphasize taste over health benefits.

De Laurentiis, Giada. Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes To Revamp Dinner. Clarkson Potter: Crown Pub. Group. Apr. 2012. c.240p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780307451026. $35. COOKING

As a busy cookbook author, television host, and mother, Food Network darling De Laurentiis has learned to streamline her weeknight cooking routine. Here, she shares a variety of main courses, sides, and desserts that home cooks can complete in under an hour. Some recipes (e.g., Turkey and Pancetta Pot Pies) save time with frozen vegetables and store-bought shortcuts, but most are simple preparations of fresh ingredients. This book recalls some of De Laurentiis’s previous titles ( Giada at Home ; Giada’s Family Dinners ); however, it offers new flavors, including a globally influenced Change of Pace chapter and a Breakfast for Dinner section. Expect demand. [See Prepub Alert, 10/27/11.]

Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh & Nick Fisher (text) & Simon Wheeler (photogs.). The River Cottage Fish Book: The Definitive Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Fish and Shellfish. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Mar. 2012. c.608p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781607740056. $45. COOKING

In Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest River Cottage book ( River Cottage Everyday ; The River Cottage Meat Book ), he is joined by fish authority Fisher, and they include an introduction to sourcing and preparation, a cooking primer with recipes, and an encyclopedic guide to fish and shellfish. This timely reference emphasizes sustainability and puts the conflict of conscience and appetite at the forefront. The book is dauntingly text heavy, but the prose is entertaining (for instance, an entry on lobster references Monty Python and the Holy Grail ). This book alone can help you become a fish expert, but also consider Barton Seaver’s For Cod and Country , Paul Johnson’s Fish Forever , or Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore’s Fish Without a Doubt .

Fresh from the Farmstand. Gooseberry Patch. Jan. 2012. c.224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781612810348. $16.95. COOKING

Gooseberry Patch cookbooks feature homemade favorites contributed by readers from across North America. This illustrated spiral-bound title has 240 recipes for a variety of dishes that incorporate fresh produce, such as 4-Ingredient Broccoli Soup; Spinach, Strawberry & Walnut Salad; and Luscious Peach Ice Cream. The recipe headnotes are often charming, and the easy preparations are suitable for novices and young cooks. Loosely organized by course, the book is more difficult to browse than farmers’ market books organized by season or primary ingredient. Additionally, some recipes (e.g., Pork and Bean Bread) don’t fit the theme. For readers who enjoy shared family recipes from home cooks.

Gelman, Judy & Peter Zheutlin. The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men. Smart Pop: BenBella. 2011. c.288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781936661411. pap. $16.95. COOKING

Part cookbook, part annotated episode guide, this entertaining read has everything the die-hard Mad Men fan needs to host a fantastic cocktail party. In chapters covering cocktails, appetizers, salads, main dishes, and desserts, retro recipes are introduced by a scene from the show and put in historical context. Most recipes come from famous Manhattan bars and restaurants (e.g., Keen’s Caesar Salad) or period cookbooks and periodicals (e.g., Date Nut Bread, sourced from the 1960 newspaper column Heloise’s Kitchen Hints). Given the book’s historical emphasis, some dishes will please modern palates more than others.

Koenig, Debbie. Parents Need To Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents. Morrow. Mar. 2012. c.416p. illus. index. ISBN 9780062005946. pap. $16.99. COOKING

Reassuring is the first word that comes to mind when reading food writer Koenig’s first cookbook, in which she provides doable, affordable meal solutions for new parents. The chapters are practical and original: Nap-Time Cooking divides recipes into stages to be completed while a child is napping, and One-Handed Meals consists entirely of tidy dishes (e.g., turnovers, empanadas, and hand pies) for spill-free eating. At the end of each recipe, you’ll find encouraging notes from parents who tested the recipes, as well as instructions for making baby food. The book also includes tips for stocking the pantry and freezer, infant feeding guidelines, and a food-focused third-trimester time line.

starred review star Lahey, Jim with Rick Flaste. My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way To Make Spectacular Pizza at Home. Clarkson Potter: Crown Pub. Group. Mar. 2012. c.192p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780307886156. $27.50. COOKING

In his second cookbook, Lahey (My Bread ) extends his wildly popular no-knead bread technique to artisan pizzas. The easy base dough sits unattended for 18 hours, after which readers can use it to produce gorgeous, restaurant-worthy pies like Margherita, Pepperoni, and Three-Mushroom (all cook in about five minutes under a conventional broiler). Readers looking to round out their pizza dinner can also try recipes for starters like Salt-Crusted Beet Salad and desserts like Banoffee Pie. This fantastic book truly delivers on the promise of crusty, artisan breads with minimal effort. Essential for pizza lovers.

Peltre, Béatrice. La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life. Roost: Shambhala, dist. by Random. Feb. 2012. c.320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781590307625. $35. COOKING

Award-winning food blogger, photographer, and stylist Peltre ( is equally comfortable in the kitchen and behind a lens, and her first cookbook is a feast for both the eyes and the stomach. Using props, garnishes, and bright colors, she achieves a beautiful, airy, floral aesthetic. Her fresh, innovative recipes (all gluten free) will inspire anyone who feels daunted by the prospect of incorporating more whole grains or fresh vegetables into the diet. Francophiles will enjoy recipes for sweet and savory verrines (layered dishes, similar to parfait) and tartines (open-faced sandwiches). Highly recommended for those who’ve mastered the basics of cooking and baking and have access to specialty ingredients.

Peterson, James. Vegetables. rev. ed. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Mar. 2012. c.400p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781607740261. $35. COOKING

This revised edition of Peterson’s 1996 classic vastly improves upon the original through the addition of color photographs that illustrate the vegetable varieties and step-by-step techniques. Peterson has reorganized the content into two sections: Techniques for Preparing and Cooking Vegetables and The Vegetables: A to Z. The alphabetized vegetable guide includes only one to two recipes per vegetable, so readers in search of more inspiration might try Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone or Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian . If you liked the original, definitely consider upgrading.

Walsh, Robb (text) & Laurie Smith (photogs.). Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook with More Than 200 Recipes. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Mar. 2012. c.304p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780767921503. pap. $25. COOKING

Food writer Walsh (The Tex-Mex Cookbook ; Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook) is a three-time James Beard Award winner and an authority on Texas culinary history. His latest is primarily organized by region, with chapters that focus on either a popular dish (e.g., Chili con Carne and Chicken-Fried Steak) or style of cuisine (e.g., Czech Texan, Vietnamese Texan, Indian Cowboys). Culinary explorers who like variety will find ten ways to serve oysters, seven kinds of hamburger, and plenty of interesting seasonings, sauces, and spice blends. Packed with history and stories, this is a great choice for homesick Texans and armchair travelers.


Belanger, Victoria with Raquel D’Apice (text) & Angie Cao (photogs.). Hello, Jell-O!: 50+ Inventive Recipes for Gelatin Treats and Jiggly Sweets. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Feb. 2012. c.128p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781607741114. $16.99. COOKING

Belanger, who blogs at and has been featured in publications like Food & Wine , is a professional photographer who brings an artist’s touch to gelatin-based desserts. In her first book, she divides recipes into chapters by ingredient (e.g., Creamy and Dreamy) or theme (e.g., Seasonal Holiday Molds, Boozy Molds) and even includes a Vegan Delights chapter featuring recipes in which plant-based agar replaces gelatin. Traditional desserts, such as carrot cake and banana cream pie, are given the jelly treatment, as are popular cocktails like mojitos and cosmos. The molds used in recipes range in size and shape, including conventional round molds and even lime rinds for Petite Watermelons. Belanger offers an FAQ section to address an assortment of potential problems for novice mold makers. VERDICT With many gelatin-based recipe books in recent publication, this is a welcome addition for its breadth of coverage and suitability for a wide audience. ‚ Meagan Storey, Virginia Beach

Rodriguez, Jorge E., M.D., with Susan Wyler (text) & Jennifer Martiné (photogs.). The Acid Reflux Solution: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Guide for Healing Heartburn Naturally. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Mar. 2012. c.224p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781607742272. pap. $21.99. COOKING

Rodriguez, a gastroenterologist and internist, was obese and suffered regular gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) until he began to take the advice he had been giving his patients for years. Using the latest research, Rodriguez worked with nutritionist Wyler to develop over 100 evidence-based recipes and a lifestyle plan to help alleviate the heartburn and bloating caused by acid reflux. The plan includes a surprisingly short list of the foods scientifically proven to trigger a reflux reaction. Tasty and varied recipes, many of which highlight Rodriguez’s Cuban heritage, concentrate on reducing fat and increasing fiber in the diet. Because obesity is a major cause of acid reflux, portion control and regular exercise are emphasized. VERDICT This plan provides simple lifestyle changes for long-term prevention of GERD along with recipes that will be a welcome addition to dinner menus‚ all without compromising on taste. ‚ Pauline Baughman, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR



  1. Carrie Bachman says:

    There’s an error “debut from the only vegan to win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars” – actually in March the other vegan TWO time Food Network Cup Cake Wards winner has a book coming out – Doron Petersan author of STICKY FINGERS’ SWEETS: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes (Avery; $27.50, February 16, 2012).

  2. Anna Katterjohn Anna Katterjohn says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Carrie. The intro has been corrected.