Book Reviews!

by Matt on December 6, 2012

Here are some holiday book reviews from the one and only Kristina Gill. There are a few titles that didn’t make it into this review but will be in next time, but in the meantime enjoy this review which happens to include some of my favorite recent titles, too! — Matt

It has been crazy busy these past few months for me, in a good way.  That hasn’t stopped me from periodic shopping frenzies on Amazon to make sure I get my favorite authors’ latest books, fill cravings with others, and spend some time reading through review copies.  Knowing how the end of year usually goes, we might not have time for another round of reviews in 2012, so I thought I’d get in a longer list.  Between this list and October’s reviews, you have my absolute favorite books of 2012;  One exception is Katie Quinn Davies’ new book, which I have not yet had the opportunity to see, but knowing Katie it’s the bomb.  I’ll have it at the top of my list for the next reviews.

This week is a collection of books that I just want to eat from.  Now.  -Kristina

 The Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater (4th Estate 2012; photography by Jonathan Lovekin).  I really don’t think more is needed in this review than the title and author’s name.  The more cookbooks I read, the more I am certain in my choice of Nigel Slater as my favorite author.  Kitchen Diaries, a year long journal of what Nigel Slater ate, is one of my favorite cookbooks along with Slater’s Tender Volume I and II, and a select few others.  Kitchen Diaries II joins that elite group.  Nigel Slater’s cooking is intuitive, simple, what’s on hand;  There is very little in this book I wouldn’t eat, and I wish, somehow, he could adopt me so that I could eat dinner (and lunch) at his house every day.  A lattice work pie of plums and raspberries, five-spice chicken and pea shoot salad, pulled pork baps with carrot and galangal slaw, Nigel’s chocolate muscovado banana cake, crab and coriander cakes, another wonderful sandwich (mushrooms, grated cheese), spiced lentils with mint labne…  Slowly cooking through this book will be a pleasure.  Kitchen Diaries II is the perfect book, and will be used and re-used by anyone who owns it!

 Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (published by Ten Speed Press in the USA 2012; photography Jonathan Lovekin and Adam Hinton)  For those of you unfamiliar with the food prepared by Yotam and Sami, this third cookbook goes back to their native Jerusalem and draws upon traditional recipes, as well as modern ‘improvements’ on traditional recipes, and new creations which are inspired by the flavors and foods of traditional Jerusalem cuisine.  Herein you will find recipes using eggplant, chickpeas, tomatoes, spice and spicy pastes, couscous, chicken, garlic, eggs, cumin, cardamom, yogurt, citrus, mint, rice, walnuts…  There are soups, one pot meals, fish dishes, desserts — yes desserts, wonderful desserts.  I could eat food from this book every day and never tire of it.  I love the depth of flavors and textures and the colors of the dishes.  For some reason, I can’t explain, I feel alive when I connect with the food from Ottolenghi, whether in their shops or their books.  And none of it is complicated or difficult to make.  You can have stunning results without risk of failure.  In addition to food photography, there are very many editorial photos of the food culture of Jerusalem.  This is a book for anyone who loves food.  It is a special treat for people who love to be transported to another country/city/culture through images and recipes.

Wahaca Mexican Food at Home by Thomasina Miers (Hodder and Stoughton 2012; photography by Malou Burger and some by Tara Fisher)  I loved Thomasina Miers first book, and somehow became obsessed with making Mexican food at home, so I had to go out and buy her second book also.  Up front I will say that I resisted SO LONG because seeing Oaxaca spelled Wahaca is just…the worst.  But what do they say?  Don’t judge!! So I didn’t, and was rewarded.  This book is one recipe after another of food I want to eat:  Corn pancakes with avocado cream and crispy bacon, crispy prawn taquitos with spicy avocado salsa, fiery little chicken tostados, black bean and chorizo empanadas, sweet potato gratin with thyme, chilli, and feta, mole amarillo, and octopus ceviche.  There are chapters on drinks, desserts, side dishes, soups…  Many of the recipes are based on experiences Thomasina had while living in Mexico for many years and running a food business there.  The photography is sublime also.  Perfect for anyone who wants to make Mexican food at home!

 

Fire in my Belly by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2012; photography by Angie Mosier)  Most of you have the fortune of knowing Kevin from Top Chef, and another lucky few know him in person.  I know him only through his recipes.  His first book, Fire in my Belly, is a book that really made me say Wow.  Laid out like my senior college year book (that’s not a bad thing!  I was on Yearbook staff!), this book is rich with personal details, explanations, and most importantly recipes.  I was genuinely impressed by the breadth of food covered, not just American, but internationally inspired, like Livornese fish stew (cacciucco), and shawarma, and of course what you’d expect like biscuits (with step by step tutorial), sausage (make your own), banana pudding, and then more original fare like buttermilk marinated fennel with satsumas and jalapeños, brûléed grapefruit with Greek yogurt, African squash tart with whipped eggnog topping, savory fig tart.  There are so many recipes here,  My favorite design element of the book is the table of contents.  This is a good all around cookbook.  Would make a perfect gift for someone who wants to be able to cook healthy food as well as “junk food” or something heavy from time to time.

Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga (Little Brown 2012; photography by Aran Goyoaga).  Aran, best known for her blog Cannelle et Vanille, has published her first cookbook about her family’s journey to gluten-free cooking.  Looking through the pages, you can see that Aran has put her heart and soul into making this book which is a mix between new recipes and recipes from her blog.  Though Aran’s recipes on the blog have veered far from her trained pastry chef beginnings, it is precisely in that area that her book shines:  coconut and lemon soufflés, frozen pistachio nougat mousse, coconut cream cookies, coconut doughnuts (I love coconut), lemon buttermilk and olive oil madeleines.  This isn’t the only place it shines– Aran includes recipes which are quite refined like leek and chive flan with smoked salmon, herbed lamb meatballs in coconut milk, creamy red lentil & squash soup with purple potato chips and scallops, fennel and brown butter risotto with parsley pesto.  This book demonstrates Aran’s knowledge of food and a real cooking ability.  It is a perfect book for a gluten-free family with time to dedicate to making seasonal and nutrient rich food.  It is also the perfect book for anyone who is interested in original gluten-free sweets guaranteed to work!

 

Real Snacks by Lara Ferroni (Sasquatch Books 2012; photography by Lara Ferroni)  Lara did one of my favorite little books about doughnuts a couple of years ago, so I knew what to expect when I heard about Real Snacks.  This book, like doughnuts, punches way above its weight in every category– aesthetics, recipes, variety, and nostalgia.  All your childhood favorites are here:  twinkies, Hostess cupcakes, powdered donettes, caramel corn, fig newtons, goldfish, moon pies, sugar wafers, pop tarts, thin mints, cheez-its…  The mindboggles!!  I really can’t believe Lara has put this together!  Gluten-free and vegan options make it accessible for everyone.  This book is worth every penny, and would be tremendously appreciated by anyone who loves baking!

Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims (Ten Speed Press 2012; photography by Jennifer Martine)  Coincidentally, this book could totally work as the savory companion to Lara’s Real Snacks. Salty Snacks runs the gamut of salty treats– pretzels, chips of all types, grissini, crackers, savory waffles, savory cookies, and dips to accompany them.  Between the two of these books, you should never buy processed snacks again.  This book is perfect for anyone who loves to entertain or who loves to have high quality snacks on hand for any occasion.    Photography by Jennifer Martine is beautiful as always.