Cooking Reviews | August 15, 2013

al-Hamad, Sarah. Sun Bread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from Everywhere. Interlink. 2013. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781566569217. $26.95. COOKING

Despite their ancient origins and global popularity, dates are rarely featured in American cookbooks. Here, London-based writer al-Hamad (Cardamom and Lime) gives these sticky fruits their due. After a brief historical introduction that includes suggested readings, al-Hamad shares sweet recipes from around the world, such as date, pear, and stem ginger jam; rose water, date, and cashew pudding; and vanilla and date cheesecake. Excepting some dainty macarons, most of these recipes are both easy to prepare and rich with dried fruits and nuts. Recipes include both U.S. and metric measurements. VERDICT An attractive niche title filled with great ideas for date lovers.

Constantino, Rosetta. Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily. Ten Speed: Crown Pub. Group. Oct. 2013. 224p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781607744023. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781607744030. COOKING

With this stunning collection, author and cooking instructor Constantino (My Calabria) seeks to preserve the history and craft of Southern Italian pastries. In five regional chapters, she shares recipes for popular and lesser-known desserts such as cannoli Siciliani, la pastiera Napoletana (Easter pie), and crostata al gelo di mellone (watermelon pudding tart). Though Constantino claims otherwise, many recipes will be too challenging for novices. Pastry enthusiasts and fans of Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Francine Segan’s Dolci: Italy’s Sweets, however, will want to start cooking immediately. VERDICT A notable addition to Italian dessert cookbooks. Highly recommended.

Crocker, Betty. The Big Book of Cakes. Houghton Harcourt. (Betty Crocker Big Book, Bk. 18). 2013. 336p. photos. index. ISBN 9781118364031. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9780544177581. COOKING

Whimsical and creative decorating ideas abound in this easy baking book from Betty Crocker (a registered trademark of General Mills). Layer cakes, Bundt cakes, cheesecakes, cake pops, and more appear in seven chapters that include tempting photographs, easy-to-read instructions, nutrition facts, and “Sweet Tips” (e.g., what to do when you don’t have enough cake pans). Like Karen Tack and Alan Richardson’s Hello, Cupcake! and Anne Byrn’s popular Cake Mix Doctor series, this book relies heavily on store-bought ingredients such as boxed cake mix and instant pudding. VERDICT This beginner-friendly cookbook keeps cake baking simple, allowing readers more time to decorate and celebrate. An excellent value.

Feinberg, Andrew & others. Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian. Artisan: Workman. 2013. 376p. photos. index. ISBN 9781579654641. $35. COOKING

Married chefs Feinberg and Francine Stephens own Franny’s, a Brooklyn restaurant that serves pizzas, pastas, salads, house-cured salami, and more. With noted food writer Melissa Clark (Cook This Now ), they share eight years worth of rustic Italian recipes like bucatini with ramps, tomato salad with burrata, and lemon sorbetto. Most are accessible, but some contain unconventional ingredients (e.g., xanthan gum, bottarga). Each chapter (e.g., “Crostini,” “Fritti,” “Fish”) shows balance and variety—rare in a genre in which cocktails and desserts can be scarce. ­ VERDICT This beautiful restaurant cookbook, with a foreword by Alice Waters, will excite readers who enjoy quality ingredients.

Fieri, Guy & Ann Volkwein. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives: The Funky Finds in Flavortown; America’s Classic Joints and Killer Comfort Food. Morrow. 2013. 320p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780062244659. pap. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 978006224466. COOKING

This is Food Network star Fieri’s third cookbook with ties to his immensely popular television show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives ( DDD ) and his first to feature Canadian locations. With food and lifestyle writer Volkwein, who collaborated on Fieri’s previous books as well, he shares recipes (e.g., green chile stew, Sonny’s steak hoagie) from restaurants featured on the show. Restaurant profiles, organized by region, include behind-the-scenes notes from Fieri’s “Krew” and updates on how the businesses have fared since appearing on the show. The book also has a fold-out map of diners, a recipe index, and a complete list of restaurants shown on DDD . VERDICT This tie-in cookbook effectively complements Fieri’s program and will please fans. Public libraries should expect demand.

Guarnaschelli, Alex. Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned To Cook. Clarkson Potter: Crown Pub. Group. 2013. 304p. photos. index. ISBN 9780307956552. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780307956569. COOKING

In this collection of hearty dishes (e.g., broccoli and onion dip, whole duck with green peppercorn glaze, cinnamon sourdough pancakes), Guarnaschelli, a Food Network personality and the executive chef of New York City restaurants Butter and The Darby, shares a wealth of interesting and often humorous experiences, from stealing away to a bathroom to devour a king crab leg intended for the president of the French Republic to scorching a restaurant ceiling with a pan of flaming croutons. Her recipes, which pay homage to her parents and mentors, derive much of their flavor from sauces, marinades, vinaigrettes, and pickled components. VERDICT Most home cooks will benefit from Guarnaschelli’s professional expertise and enjoy her vivid personal anecdotes.

Ha, Christine. Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food. Rodale. 2013. 224p. photos. index. ISBN 9781623360948. $23.99; ebk. ISBN 9781623360955. COOKING

Ha, the winner of the third season of MasterChef (a competitive cooking show on the FOX network), memorably defeated 99 other contestants despite having lost her sight in her 20s. In this book, to which Gordon Ramsay contributed a foreword, she chronicles her culinary journey from clueless college student to confident cook and shares recipes with which she feels a personal connection. Easy crowd-pleasers such as classic bruschetta and double-fried fries appear alongside wilder offerings like symphonic sashimi and sweetbread nuggets with bok choy. VERDICT Ha is an inspiring personality, but her debut feels overproduced, in large part owing to harshly lit, hypersaturated photographs. Still, expect demand from MasterChef fans.

Katzen, Mollie. The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2013. 464p. illus. index. ISBN 9780547571591. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780544106666. COOKING

Over the years, well-known vegetarian cookbook author Katzen’s ( The Moosewood Cookbook ) recipes have become lighter, trading generous glugs of heavy cream for flavorful stocks, sauces, and garnishes. Her newest collection of recipes (many vegan and a few repurposed from previous publications) has an easy elegance reminiscent of titles by Deborah Madison and Alice Waters and includes meat-free burgers, vegetable mashes, savory pancakes, soups, desserts, and more. Each recipe (e.g., winter lasagna, soba-seaweed salad) lists alluring “optional enhancements” like a dab of salsa verde or a side of celery-almond-date saladita. VERDICT A dependable compendium of unfussy, home-cooked vegetarian meals.

Mallos, Tess.
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook. Hardie Grant. 2013. 576p. illus. index. ISBN 9781742704920. $49.95. COOKING

Australian author Mallos ( The Food of Morocco ), who recently passed away, wrote 16 cookbooks. Her opus, The Complete Middle East Cookbook , has remained in print since it was published in 1979. In this all-new edition, stunning photographs and a contemporary design breathe new life into classics from Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and other countries. Lokum (Turkish delight), batata charp (potato cakes), farroog mahshi (roast stuffed chicken), and other recipes have slightly revised measurements (metric and U.S.) and instructions but are otherwise unchanged. VERDICT The content of this classic cookbook has aged well, and in this beautiful new package, it shines. Highly recommended.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewSegan, Francine & Lucy Schaeffer (photos). Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Oct. 2013. 208p. index. ISBN 9781617690624. $35. COOKING

To research this unusual pasta cookbook, food historian Segan ( Dolci: Italy’s Sweets ) traveled all of Italy consulting home cooks, chefs, journalists, pasta companies, and other experts. In these ten chapters (e.g., “Fruit,” “Vegetarian,” “Savory Chocolate & Coffee,” “Holidays”), pasta is not only boiled but also smoked, baked, and deep-fried. Linguine simmered in red cabbage juice becomes vibrant purple pasta, and pureed macaroni forms the base of maccheroni soufflé. Pasta (mostly store-bought but some homemade) is also used as a vehicle for handheld appetizers and desserts, such as pasta sushi and chocolate-stuffed shells. VERDICT Meticulously researched, thoughtfully curated, and artfully designed, this unique collection will inspire readers to try new preparations and flavors.