Cookbook Reviews, February 15, 2012

In the wake of Valentine’s Day, enjoy the calorie-free indulgence that is William Curley’s stunning Couture Chocolate . It’s one of several titles this month that marry beauty and function, including the Cheryl and Griffith Day’s The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook , Antony Worrall Thompson’s Slow Cooking , and Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food . Love-struck vegans will find seductive menu ideas in Bryant Terry’s The Inspired Vegan .

Adler, Karen & Judith Fertig. The Gardener & the Grill: The Bounty of the Garden Meets the Sizzle of the Grill. Running Pr. May 2012. c.192p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780762441112. pap. $20. COOKING

Known as the BBQ Queens, Adler and Fertig (coauthors, 25 Essentials: Techniques for Grilling Fish ) are barbecue instructors and competitors. Their latest cookbook is full of creative ideas for grilling with garden-fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Standout recipes include unique condiments (e.g., Smoked Summer Tomato Basil Butter), substantial vegetarian options (e.g., Fire-Roasted Fava Beans with Sheep’s Milk Cheese), and fruit desserts (e.g., Planked Peaches & Blueberries with Amaretto Sauce). This book does not illustrate the finer points of grilling, so readers will need some prior knowledge of equipment and technique. VERDICT A refreshing departure from meat-centric BBQ bibles.

Banfield, Kelsey. The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food Into Family Life. Running Pr. Mar. 2012. c.224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780762442126. pap. $23. COOKING

Don’t assume that this book is interchangeable with Debbie Koenig’s recent Parents Need To Eat Too . While both books address the same audience‚ new parents struggling to put healthy, satisfying meals on the table‚ they take different approaches. Blogger Banfield ( focuses on recipes that can be prepped and cooked in short intervals, like Ham & Corn Chowder, Poached Salmon with Leeks, and Gingerbread Cupcakes with Meyer Lemon Glaze. VERDICT Banfield’s book is less comprehensive and nutritionally informative than Koenig’s, but its simpler design will help readers quickly find the recipes they have time to tackle. Great for new parents.

Curley, William. Couture Chocolate: A Masterclass in Chocolate. Jacqui Small: Aurum, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Mar. 2012. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781906417598. $45. COOKING

Award-winning British chocolatier Curley showcases his craft in this inspiring, artfully photographed cookbook featuring exquisite confections worthy of a display case. Novices can benefit from the introductory Chocolate Essentials chapter, which provides a brief history followed by practical tips and illustrated technique guides. The exacting, often costly recipes, however, are best left to professionals. VERDICT Home cooks who’ve worked with Peter P. Greweling’s Chocolates & Confections or recipes from master pastry chefs (e.g., François Payard and Pierre Hermé) should be capable of tackling these inspiring recipes, which include everything chocolate from rolled truffles to advanced patisserie.

Dahl, Sophie. Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Apr. 2012. c.288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781607741787. $29.99. COOKING

Roald Dahl’s granddaughter Sophie is a former model whose recent credits include a novel and a cookbook ( Playing with the Grown-ups ; Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights ) and a BBC cooking show ( The Delicious Miss Dahl ). In this seasonal collection of breakfasts, lunches, and suppers, Dahl weaves evocative memories of boarding school, summer vacations, and teenage heartbreak with recipes like Tapioca Stewed with Apples and Apricots, Winter Curry with Saffron Cinnamon Rice, and Ricotta Tarts with Creamy Pecorino Sauce. VERDICT Fans of stylish, anecdote-wielding celebrity chefs will find plenty to love in this collection, which favors vegetables, grains, legumes, seafood, and dairy.

Danhi, Robert. Easy Thai Cooking: 75 Family-Style Dishes You Can Prepare in Minutes. Tuttle. Mar. 2012. 162p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780804841795. $16.95. COOKING

In this vibrant, accessible take on Thai cooking, chef and instructor Danhi delivers authentic flavors through nontraditional recipes that make smart use of store-bought shortcuts. Unlike his previous Southeast Asian Flavors or David Thompson’s more comprehensive Thai Food , this book emphasizes practicality and convenience. Tempting recipes like BBQ Corn with a Sriracha Slather and Tamarind Soy Chicken with Cashews can be made easily on busy weeknights. VERDICT Danhi’s expert tips and insights provide a systematic way for home cooks to start experimenting on their own. Interested readers may enjoy this publisher’s other books on everyday Asian cooking, like Bee Yinn Low’s Easy Chinese Recipes and Debra Samuels’s My Japanese Table .

Day, Cheryl & Griffith Day with Amy Paige Condon. The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. Artisan: Workman. Mar. 2012. c.272p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781579654580. $24.95. COOKING

Approaching its tenth anniversary, the Back in the Day Bakery is a popular Savannah destination serving up old-fashioned American treats with a healthy dose of Southern flair. Following an enthusiastic foreword by Paula Deen, founders Cheryl and Griffith Day share sweet and savory bakery favorites like Old-Fashioned Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting, Salted Caramel Apple Pie, and Bacon Jam Empanadas. By incorporating some less traditional ingredients (e.g., flavored sugars, guava paste, and bennecake flour), the authors successfully breathe new life into familiar favorites. VERDICT A well-rounded baking book suitable for home cooks of all levels. [Five-city tour.]

Dragonwagon, Crescent. Bean by Bean: A Cookbook; More than 200 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans! Workman. Mar. 2012. c.400p. illus. index. ISBN 9780761132417. pap. $15.95. COOKING

Dragonwagon (Passionate Vegetarian ) leaves no bean unturned as she provides recipes including hummus-inspired pureed dips, hearty soups, fresh salads, and even desserts. With clever illustrations, recipe titles (e.g., Cornbread Pie √† la Hippie), and headnotes, the book stays friendly and informative without becoming prosaic. Includes a helpful Basic Beanery appendix with dried-bean cooking instructions. VERDICT Health food‚ focused readers will appreciate icons that identify vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and meatest recipes, as well as the abundant variety of flavors and cultural influences in this exhaustive and inexpensive cookbook.

Mullen, Seamus. Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better. Andrews McMeel. May 2012. c.320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781449407582. $35. COOKING

After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Manhattan restaurateur Mullen modified his diet to improve his well-being. His debut cookbook, which pairs traditional Spanish cuisine with rustic farm-to-table fare, highlights 18 ingredients (Hero Foods) that help him manage his symptoms. Ajo Blanco with Sardine Confit and Octopus and Parsley Salad reflect Mullen’s years of work and travel in Spain, while Crispy Tuscan Kale on the Grill and Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder highlight the bounty of his Vermont farm. VERDICT Mullen’s personal success lends clout to this study in holistic, inclusive eating. Readers interested in further exploring Spanish cuisine might also try Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain or titles by Penelope Casas.

Terry, Bryant. The Inspired Vegan: Seasonal Ingredients, Simple Recipes, Mouthwatering Menus. Da Capo Lifelong. Feb. 2012. c.256p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780738213750. pap. $19. COOKING

Terry’s follow-up to his excellent Vegan Soul Kitchen lays bare the many inspirations behind his creative vegan cuisine. Each of 12 seasonal menus begins with a quote and a story, and Terry lists book and music recommendations in sidebars. This approach, while unconventional, offers an intriguing way to connect to Terry’s recipes. Among these drinks, snacks, salads, mains, sides, and desserts you’ll find sophisticated Strawberry Gazpacho Shooters with Crispy Rosemary, addictive Paprika Peanuts, and an indulgent Aromatic Asparagus and Sweet Potato Curry. VERDICT Highly recommended for vegans who like to entertain.

Thompson, Antony Worrall. Slow Cooking: 100 Recipes for the Slow Cooker, the Oven, and the Stove Top. Mitchell Beazley: Octopus, dist. by Hachette. Feb. 2012. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781845336417. $19.99. COOKING

Like Michele Scicolone (The Italian Slow Cooker ), British chef and TV personality Thompson ( Real Family Food ) seems to have unlocked the potential of this much-maligned appliance, using it to turn out such fare as Seafood Laksa, Moroccan Spiced Roast Chicken, and Rich Maple Crème Caramel. Note that these recipes often make use of the stove or oven to build flavor and texture. VERDICT Those suffering from slow cooker cookbook fatigue will find new inspiration in this beautiful book, with a tidy layout and bright photographs that will erase unpleasant memories of bland, colorless slow-cooked duds.

Additional cookbook

Yarvin, Brian. The Ploughman’s Lunch and the Miser’s Feast: Authentic Pub Food, Restaurant Fare, and Home Cooking from Small Towns, Big Cities, and Country Villages Across the British Isles. Harvard Common, dist. by Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2012. 320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781558324138. $26.95. COOKING

In his latest cookbook, Yarvin ( The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook ) seeks to correct the unfavorable perception that British cooking is usually bland and heavy. The recipes he presents are unabashedly traditional and range from breakfast fare like Kedgeree (rice with eggs and smoked fish) and main courses such as the Miser’s Feast (a Welsh dish of pork chops) to desserts, e.g., Fat Rascals (cookies studded with currants). Readers may be surprised by the inclusion of dishes from the curry shop, a mainstay of modern Britain. Yarvin is American, and his background distinguishes this book from such others as Sybil Kapoor’s Simply British . His writing is not nostalgic but appreciative, as he draws on anecdotes from his travels in the UK. Color photographs throughout heighten the appeal of the recipes. VERDICT A welcome and enjoyable addition to the ranks of ethnic cookbooks. Highly recommended.‚ Peter Hepburn, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.