Cookbook Reviews from around the world from Kristina! Welcome back!

by Matt on August 1, 2011

This week sees the return of my dearest Kristina Gill. I always love her reviews and they receive accolades from authors and book lovers alike! Yay! And as I prepare to embark on an entire month of cookbook and recipe photography with the world’s best team this seems super fitting. Take it away, Kristina!

I have been MIA.  I am sorry.  I always have great plans for projects during the summer, and then oppressive heat and other crises get in the way.  The crises take up my material time, but they don’t stop my daydreaming of  “If I won the lottery” vacation destinations.  Honestly, except for a few war torn places, and places that Americans aren’t welcome, I’d go anywhere if you handed me a sweaty wad of cash and said “Go travel for a year.”  And to be truthfully honest, I’d probably go those other places too, if it were possible!

This week’s books are my way of getting to the places I’d like to go, but haven’t yet had time (or money) to get there and see the country the way I’d like to!  They are a second round of Non-Western cookbooks.  The first round we did back here.

The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat (2011Ten Speed Press Photography by Todd Coleman and Jun Takagi)  One look at the cover, and if you’re a meat eater, you’ll be sold on this book.  {Only about a quarter of this book is vegetarian}.  Why I like this book?  It goes through different foods and offers Japanese preparations:  Yakitori, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Meat, Vegetables, Yai Onigiri, and Side Dishes.  It starts with an explanation of ingredients, secrets of grilling and a temperature chart.  If you don’t have access to a store which sells ingredients like Yuzu kosho, sansho, tobanjan, ume paste, karashi mustard, shiso, you won’t be able to get the maximum out of the book, but you can still get loads of satisfaction.  The Crispy Chicken Wings with Seven-Spice Powder Marinade uses just sesame oil, shichmi togarashi (red pepper blend), soy sauce, and salt.  This book is for someone who loves to grill and wants different flavors, someone who loves Japanese food, and definitely someone who loves beautifully photographed meat.

Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode and Shelley Wiseman (2011 Wiley; photography by Romulo Yanes)  I really shouldn’t be doing this review, Matt should.  But lately I’ve gone on a Mexican food hunt.  I started in London with the chain Wahaca by Thomasina Miers (whose book and TV program Mexican Food Made Simple is a perfect complement to Truly Mexican because hers is more street food).  And then I picked up Paletas by Fany Gerson and can’t put it down.  And then I saw Truly Mexican.  It’s everything I could ask for in a Mexican cookbook.  Because I avoid preparing foods I perceive to be complicated, I was happy to see how this book breaks it down into something so simple for me (I found a video from the book! and he’s using a mud australia pebble bowl!!).  It is comprehensive, including every single detail on what you need to know from choosing ingredients, substitutions, storage, cleaning, and preparation.  The recipes focus on the sauces of Mexican cuisine and how to use them.  Recipes have notes on where you may have difficulty and how to avoid those pitfalls.  The chapters are:  Basics, Salsas, Guacamoles, Adobos, Moles and Pipianes, More Ideas for Using Mexican Sauces, Sides.  Within each chapter there are recipes which use the salsas, guacamole, adobos, etc.  The carnitas tacos are calling me!    This is a book for anyone who wants a comprehensive book on Mexican flavors, in particular the sauces. Photography in this book by THE Romulo Yanes.

A Month in Marrakesh:  A Food Journey to the Heart of Morocco by Andy Harris (2011 Hardie Grant; photography by David Loftus)    Andy Harris is the editor of Jamie Magazine.  I love his work on the magazine, and was intrigued by the concept behind the book.  It’s a travelogue.  He and David Loftus went to Marrakesh for a month and documented their food, went to the markets, tried their hand at making traditional recipes and other their own recipes inspired by the ingredients they found.  The result is an amazing collection of Moroccan recipes accompanied by photos which make you feel as though you were walking through the markets yourself.  As with many of my cookbooks, as soon as a colleague saw this one, he took it home, made the lamb artichoke and broad bean tagine, came back to the office and ordered the book.  I have my eyes set on the stuffed potato croquettes, roast pumpkin salad, chickpea dip, and stuffed baby vegetables.  This is the kind of food that is even better the next day.  For a look at the design process of the book, visit this blog entry by InterState graphic designers.  I found it quite interesting to know what went into making the final product.  This is a book for anyone who loves North African cuisine, anyone who wants to be inspired for their next travelogue, and of course, David Loftus photography fans.

Turkey:  Recipes and tales from the road by Leanne Kitchen (2011 Murdoch; photography by Leanne Kitchen)  Murdoch Books has had a very strong cookbook collection for the past few years (although their newspapers don’t seem to be faring well…), and I’ve reviewed a few of them here.  I am therefore very interested in any large recipe volume they produce because I know it will be a quality job.  I was also intrigued by the title because I do not have a book of Turkish cuisine!  Quite similar in style to A Month in Marrakesh, Turkey is Leanne’s travelogue of her journey through Turkey.  Not surprisingly, the food is a mix between Mediterranean and more ‘Middle Eastern’ cuisine.  There are small ravioli, topped flatbreads (very similar to pizza), pickles, fried fish, kebabs  (hello Swordfish Kebab with Celeriac, Orange and Walnut Salad!).  Even more interesting to me is the section on desserts (though I’ll skip the candied watermelon!).  Leanne has beautifully photographed her book as well.  In the US, you will probably have to order from the UK.  This is the perfect book for anyone who has a hankering for Turkey, or someone like me who has never been, would love to go, and wants to get a head start on what to look for when I finally do go!

Whispers from a Lebanese Kitchen: A family’s treasured recipes by Nouha Taouk (2011 Murdoch Books; photography by Johan Palsson)  Ever since Bethany Kehdy, the food blogger behind Dirty Kitchen Secrets, started her Taste of Lebanon culinary tours, I have agonized in envy at everyone who has been able to participate.  I’ve read a a handful of features over the past few years about Beirut being the must-stop destination in its region for food. This book, by a Lebanese-Australian author, is a nice balance between personal story and recipes.  Like my Turkey book, I was so intrigued by the topic of Lebanese food that I couldn’t resist a peek at Whispers.  There are recipes for falafel (no leavening agent!), fried turnovers, kebab, salads, pickles and cheese.  The style of the book is to me quite evocative of what it was like growing up in the author’s family.  I like it when there is a very personal feel to a cookbook.  This is a book for anyone interested in Lebanese cuisine, and anyone who enjoys the personal side of recipes.

Paletas by Fany Gerson (2011 Ten Speed Press; photography by Ed Anderson)  If I had to tell you what books to pick up for the summer, and were forced to choose JUST three, I’d recommend: On A Stick! by Matt, Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, and Paletas.  I’m not going to write too much about Fany’s book, except to say that the recipes are wonderful, it is beautiful beautiful beautiful, and I use it every week.  It is a very nice simple popsicle book, but also has aguas frescas and raspados.  Who knew you could make rice based refreshing drinks like these!  My husband even shows the book to everyone who comes over, and tells them they must make something from the book.  I enjoy these books so much, I have ordered multiple copies to give to people I know will enjoy them.