Book Reviews!

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.

Book Reviews!

Hello everyone! I’m off to Australia in a few hours but wanted to let you know that I am thrilled to feature the return of Book Reviews from the one and only Kristina Gill! It’s such a great way to discover new titles and I always appreciate Kristina’s curating. Enjoy this installment and I’ll be back soon after a very long, long long plane ride! – Matt

Kristina: I am sorry.  I am SOOOO woefully late on my cookbook reviews, that I will spend time over the next few weeks to catch up.  I’m still not so convinced that wrapping up the end of the year, going home for Christmas and New Year’s, starting the new year,  and getting unexpectedly snowed into my house for seven out of the past ten days, are good excuses for my absence.  But I hope you’ll let me make it up to you.   There isn’t any rhyme or reason to this grouping of books because I just couldn’t wait to dig into my stack and let you know just what you’re missing (and what you’re not missing).   I know I say this a lot, but just when I think that I can’t get passionate about another cookbook, one comes along that changes my mind.  There are a couple in this week’s reviews.

My Family Table by John Besh (Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2011.  Photography by Maura McEvoy)
Well-known New Orleans chef John Besh has put together an unforgettable collection of Southern recipes that anyone passionate about Southern cooking, or even just curious, should want to read.  I like it because they are the staples from my childhood and therefore recipes that I really would eat at home and can prepare on my own, without any special skills or knowledge, as “chefs at home” books often are.  It has the corn pudding, two recipes for fried chicken, fried catfish, cheese grits, angel biscuits, drop biscuits, buttermilk pancakes, sloppy joes, baked beans… with a few little ‘inspired’ recipes thrown in for good measure.  I would love a paperback version because this bound version is large and heavy (and beautiful).  I am biased when it comes to Southern cooking, so I think everyone should have a copy of this.


Small Adventures in Cooking by James Ramsden (Quadrille Books, 2011.  Photography by Steven Joyce)  

For those not in the UK, and those in the UK who are unfamiliar with Quadrille Books, I think it is probably one of the best producers of cookbooks in the UK, rivaled perhaps only by Murdoch, which I consider Australian, and which is an entirely different beast.  Quadrille is a small publisher which punches way above its weight in the quantity and quality of cookbooks it publishes each year.  Two years ago, breaking with the name-brand authors typical of cookbooks, they started a series called “New Voices in Food” which debuts cookbooks by up and coming food professionals.  The books are paperback,  a little smaller in dimension than an iPad, beautifully photographed, and attractively designed.  James Ramsden’s book, Adventures in Cooking, is the third in the series of which four have been produced so far.  All of the books have quite easy recipes, tending toward British-y and international recipes.  James is one of the best of the four because it’s not too simplistic, but not so complicated you’d never use it.  (Any book which has recipes for English Muffins and also Homemade Baked Beans gets an A+ from me!).  The recipes evenly cover savory and sweet, with notes in the margin occasionally suggesting how to change the recipe up with minor “tweaks” and what to do with the leftovers.  Ramsden also experiments with hashtags for recipes, which don’t convince me, but the rest of the book is great.

Kitchen Simple by James Peterson (Ten Speed Press, 2011.  Photography by James Peterson)  

While we’re on the subject of basics, I thought I’d do a couple more titles aimed at the “basic” repertoire of recipes for quick and easy meals.  There is nothing extraordinary in this book, unfortunately.  I will say that the chapters on Salads and Vegetables are the most inviting, though nothing innovative.  Vegetable gratins, glazed vegetables, tomato and mozzarella salad (better known as a caprese), Moroccan spiced carrots… you get the point.  I guess if you like James Peterson, and you want a book that has recipes of food you’ve probably had in a restaurant somewhere, this is the book for you.  If you’re looking for a twist on a favorite, or something new, this isn’t for you.

Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough (Ten Speed Press, 2011.  Photography by France Ruffenach)  

Now this is a good basic cookbook.  It is perfect for beginners but also for seasoned cooks who like to keep a reference book on food on the shelf.  What I like about this book is that it explains how to select, store, and prepare everything from herbs to meat.  There are recipes included throughout, but this book is more about the food itself and the community which produces it.  Stories about the producers and the people involved in bringing the food to the Bi-Rite Market also make the book seem very familiar.  This is an amazing book, and I think it is a book everyone should keep on their bookshelf.  It will quickly become your most used cookbook, I bet.

The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen by Laura B. Russell (Celestial Arts, 2011.  Photography by Leo Gong)

As with most Asian cookbooks, you will need to make a small upfront investment in some items which you may not already have in your pantry–  dry sherry or Chinese Shaoxing rice wine, mirin, miso paste, sake, rice vinegar.  Buying these items is a tiny price to pay to be able to make fabulous Asian food thereafter, however!  This is a beautiful cookbook with an abundance of recipes, starting with a section on sauces and stocks, and going through all my favorites:  skewers and snacks, dumplings and savory pancakes, noodles, rice (bibimbap, hello!), vegetables and tofu…  The sweets chapter isn’t very Asian, and some of the recipes are clearly Americanized but I’m not one to nitpick with authenticity or leave room for dessert when I am enjoying a great red curry soup, minced duck salad, spicy pork with kimchi and tofu, mu shu pork, or salt and pepper squid.  Speaking of mu shu pork, there is a recipe for the mandarin pancakes to go with!(which you can freeze for up to a month!)  Most importantly are the opening pages of the book which contain a chart and valuable information on identifying sources of gluten in Asian cooking, including which brands are gluten free.  I recommend this book to anyone looking to add variety to their usual diet (if it doesn’t contain Asian food), regardless of gluten tolerance.  Is an excellent book to keep if you have other Asian cookbooks (like Bill’s Everyday Asian) you’d like to be able to use with gluten-free products also.


Book Review: Say Cheese!

I think I can say that my love of cheese is no secret. It’s my favorite food group (yes, I consider it a group that must be eaten regularly). I was excited when Kristina told me her next book round up would be all about cheese. BRING IT. Oh, and bring me some wine while you’re at it. Take it away, Kristina! — matt

Kristina Gill: I read on Twitter that it is National Cheese Month, so I thought I’d bring you guys a small selection of the books I have on my shelf about cheese.  Something old, something new, but infinitely useful to cover all the bases from buying it, making it, cooking with it, pairing it with other foods.  Last year, Matt did a brief video providing tips on cheese plates.  You should check it out again if you missed it the first time.  (You can just see me sitting at the table at 2:29, then I got sent upstairs!!  But I was allowed to hoover up all the leftovers afterward!)  I must say that after having written these reviews, I sooooo wish I had a cheese plate.

Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins (Workman, 1996) and Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman and David Gibbons (Clarkson Potter, 2009)  Two books you could consider your cheese atlases.  They take you on a trip around the world of cheese.  The Cheese Primer is 90% about individual cheeses and how to choose and serve them, spanning Europe and the United States.  Mastering Cheese on the other hand is the opposite.  It’s about the food itself, cheese from A-Z, with 25% about the cheeses of Europe and the United States, a little by country a little by type.  The Cheese Primer is a very useful reference book for when I want to hone in on a specific cheese.  When I got the book in 1996, it was so exciting to read, now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I moved to Italy…  I’ve tasted almost all the Italian cheeses in the book, but not many of the others.  And though Nancy Silverton likes to say that it was LA that put burrata on the map in the United States, Steven Jenkins did indeed have burrata in his book in 1996 (and he includes my favorite castelmagno from Piedmont)!  I would highly recommend either (or both) of these books if you want to know about a lot of different cheeses, where they’re from, and what they’re about.

 (Matt’s notes: I don’t think you could find a greater example of mid 90’s graphic design than Cheese Primer’s book cover. Whoa.)

Artisan Cheese Making at Home:  Techniques and Recipes for Mastering World Class Cheeses by Mary Karlin (Ten Speed Press, 2011; photography by Ed Anderson)  I have never used this book because there are three farms not too far from my home which make their own cheeses.  One makes only mozzarella, one makes an entire range of raw milk cheeses including very good mozzarella, and a third organic farm specialized in aged cheeses, up to 8 years.  If I didn’t live so close to these three farms, I might indeed be tempted to do some experimenting.  This book is beautiful (Ed Anderson’s photographs are wonderful) and goes from the beginning to the end of the cheese-making process.  It has recipes for traditional cheeses, like provolone, queso blanco, whole milk ricotta, and chèvre.  It also covers rubbed cheeses (cocoa, honey, etc) and more advanced bloomy rind, surface-ripened, smeared-rind, and blue cheeses.  I am curious about everything and I find even reading about how these cheeses are made fascinating, and understanding the process only increases my respect for the artisans who make good versions of them!  This is a book for that person you know would love to try out cheese-making, or for someone who is just really curious about how cheese is made.  There are also recipes in the book that use cheese as a featured ingredient.

Fiona Beckett’s Cheese Course (Ryland Peters and Small, 2009; photography by Richard Jung)  Now that you know everything there is to know about cheese– where it’s from, how it’s made, how it should taste, how to choose it, and how to serve it, enter British food journalist, Fiona Beckett, with her book on cheese and how to pair it and serve it.  Beckett has cheese covered, from the explanation of the types of cheeses to wine/drink and cheese pairing, cheese boards, and recipes.  Richard Jung has beautifully photographed it all, and it really is torture looking at the photographs if you’re trying to keep a low-fat diet (hello leek and blue cheese quiche with hazelnut crust…lavender honey and vanilla cheesecake anyone??).  This is a book for someone who loves putting together cheese plates and boards.  This is perfect if you don’t need to know too much about any single cheese, but you like to have a general guide on pairing different types of cheese with each other and with other items.  If you need the reader’s digest version, watch Matt’s video!  [There is a recipe in this book for oat crackers, divine with cheese, or you can use my favorite recipe from Richard Corrigan’s Clatter of Forks and Spoons].

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

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.


Book Reviews: Italian Cookbooks

I’m happy to announce the return of book reviews from Kristina Gill. Her book review column has proven to be quite a great lil resource for books, her selections knock it outta the ballpark each and every time. And having just released my own book, well, I’m realizing that one must share the booklove as much as possible. Take it away, Kristina!

I stumbled across a nice book 15 years ago called Sua Maestà, il Raviolo (“Her Majesty, the Raviolo”). It was a book about ravioli from every region in Italy. That book, in 1996, introduced me to Slow Food, and the Slow Food publisher in Italy. I have been a member of Slow Food Italy off and on since…longer than I can remember. I have slowly bought most of the Slow Food recipe books, as they’ve been released, region by region (most of them anyway), including the four monothematic volumes. A new one on Pasta was just released. I think these books are, hands down, the best Italian cookbooks out there (they have no pictures). They are thin paperback volumes, and include socio-cultural notes about the origin of the recipes, ingredients, and people. Nothing excessive, just a sentence or two, here and there explaining what’s what. The recipes are often from the osterie which appear in the Slow Food annual restaurant guidebooks. If you can read Italian, or even feel your way through it, they are worth having a look at, especially the monothematic or raviolo book.

If you can’t read Italian, but are looking for something authentic or just inspirational, there are a few choices out there which I believe produce great results that you will be happy with. That’s what this week’s reviews are about: great Italian cookbooks. This list is by no means exhaustive!! I have many others, but today, these are at the front of my section.

Italian Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America by Gianni Scappin, Alberto Vanoli, Steven Kolpan (Wiley 2011; photography by Francesco Tonelli)

Wiley has been doing the “At Home with the Culinary Institute of America” series for a while now. I think they are excellent books. This Italian cooking one is no different. It is a comprehensive collection of the most common Italian recipes– carbonara, ragù, polenta, gnocchi, antipasti of all sorts, soups, fresh pasta. This is a big book, kind of formal, but right on the money for your classics. This is for someone who wants a solid reference of Italian cooking.

The River Cafe Classic Italian Cook Book by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (Michael Joseph, 2009; Photography by various photographers, including Jonathan Gregson and David Loftus) This book offers a similar range of Italian classics, but a bit more modern if I may. The classics are interspersed with “typical” Italian preparations, mainly Tuscan. It goes beyond the sampling of dishes that a one time traveler may know and gets into the boiled octopus with potatoes, penne con stracotto (penne with beef braised in Chianti), and roast guinea fowl stuffed with lemons. That is to say, it gets into what you might find on the table for lunch on a Sunday afternoon at your Italian mother-in-law’s house (not my Italian mother-in-law, though). Of enthusiastic note, this has a section on gelato (gelato al gianduiotto anyone?) and desserts including strudel, panettone, and ricciarelli the Siennese almond meringue! Again, this is for someone who wants a solid reference of Italian cooking, home style.

Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (Quadrille, 2011; Photography by Christopher Terry)

This is a book to accompany the BBC series of the same name, which I’ve never seen. However, how can anyone resist an Italian cookbook with a perfectly baked Neapolitan margherita pizza on the back cover?? Two giants of the Italian cooking scene in the UK take readers on a feeding frenzy around Italy. In addition to the recipes which have little overlap with the previous two titles, you have lots of notes on socio-cultural aspects of Italy and its food and dining culture. Like The River Cafe Classic Italian Cook Book, this book has a very ‘home cooked’ feel to it, which I like a lot. This doesn’t have the range of recipes that the River Cafe book has, but it has an excellent and numerous selection. This would be the perfect book for someone leaving on a first time trip to Italy, or someone who has just returned and wants to keep the memory alive.

Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph 2005; photography by David Loftus).

This book is Jamie’s interpretations of the food he ate and cooked with people during a trip around Italy. I wouldn’t say it has an “authentic” feel to it, at the same time, I think it is solid enough to stand in this round up of reviews, and because of Jamie’s ability to transmit his enthusiasm, it’s one of my favorite non-Italian Italian cookbooks. Jamie’s no-nonsense style of cooking and Italian food are a natural marriage. That’s why I recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel quite at ease about trying out Italian food, but who doesn’t want to get bogged down in detail. Jamie is also fun, has a great writing style, and David Loftus shoots all his books. What’s not to like? This is a great book for anyone interested in good food (and great pictures of good food).

Eat Ate by Guy Mirabella (Hardie Grant Books, 2010; Chronicle Books in the USA; photography by Earl Carter).

I felt like including this book because it is a very nice book, especially aesthetically. It is by an Italo-American-Australian cafe-owner and artist named Guy Mirabella. Honestly, I think the most Italian thing about the book is the author’s set of maternal grandparents from Sicily. But I love his spirit for telling his family history and childhood memories related to extravagance, generosity, love, tradition, life, and food, the chapters of the book. This is probably a more “modOz” take on Italian food, but that shouldn’t detract from the great flavors the author puts together in his recipes: pumpkin, ricotta and herb pizza, chicken, capsicum, and leek couscous, roast pumpkin and asparagus lasagne (lots of pumpkin in this book), chargrilled calamari, fennel, and Asian herb salad. This is a book for anyone who wants to serve ‘grown-up’ food that you won’t find on any other table.

Book Reviews: Paris

I’m off to Paris and am leaving you in the mighty fine hands of Kristina Gill. She regularly covers book reviews here and this week it’s all things Paris! Take it away, Lady K!

Despite my hourly contact with Matt on a daily basis, it was way after the fact that I learned that he and Adam would be taking a trip to Paris this September. And actually, I have been thinking about what books I could put together in a round up that would be a bit of a Parisian experience for people going and/or returning. What food is it that people love? What “institutions” do they love? Well, in the past year (and earlier) several books have passed through my hands and this round up is all on how to get your Paris on -before, during, and after. I know many of you will have other titles to add. I admit, France is in my “to build up” category on cookbooks. So please please please share all your recommendations!

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Book Reviews: Back To Basics

I’m thrilled to bring you another installment of book reviews from my dear friend Kristina Gill. This week we’re heading back to the basics. And I’m not just saying this as an upcoming author but it makes me so happy that so many of us are book lovers. I’ve really grown to love K’s reviews and am fortunate to share them with you. Take it away, Kristina!

Getting back to basics

Within a 10 mile radius of where I live there are beekeepers, wine growers, olive presses, cheese producers, working farms.  We buy 70% of our food from these local producers during spring, fall, and winter, and 100% in the summer.  I buy my olive oil from the farmer who lives across the street from me.  And yes, I am also surrounded by many supermarkets within the same ten mile radius.  Still, I prefer to eat locally because I can see where the food comes from, from seed to harvest, from birth to prosciutto sandwich etc.

I learned about being self-sufficient from my grandmother, who grew up in rural Alabama.  Though she moved to the city as an adult, she made sure she had a yard big enough for fruit trees and a vegetable garden.  I always thought she was a magician because I always saw food on the table, but never saw where it came from.  Later I learned that in addition to the refrigerator and freezer in the house, there was also a deep freeze in the utility house.  She preserved, froze, and ate what she got from her garden.  What she couldn’t produce on her own of course she bought. I went to my first farmer’s market with her.  She did supplement her home grown food with supermarket purchases, but I remember her always out in the garden with her large floppy hat.  In part because of these memories, I’ve always carried a tremendous amount of respect for people who grow and eat their own food.

Eating and growing locally seems to have a romantic connotation and is quite “fashionable” in the United States these days, but it is a vocation for much of the world, and for a large number of these growers it is barely subsistence.  This week’s book reviews draw on eating locally and the people in the developed world who dedicate their lives to producing food.  Whether for vocation, or necessity, it is a lot of hard work.  Though they have only recently come into the spotlight, their greatest satisfaction is in knowing that the food they’ve produced is truly enjoyed.  With these books, perhaps you’ll be able to make yourself and some of your favorite local producers quite happy.

edible:  A Celebration of Local Foods by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian (Wiley 2010;  photography by Carole Topalian) Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian are the co-founders of Edible Communities, a family of magazines nationwide which celebrate the local foods and people who produce them. This book celebrates the local foods movement, capturing the best of what is featured in the Edible Communities magazines,  divided into regions and told through Edible Stories, and concludes with chapters of recipes, divided seasonally, of course.  I flipped right to the Southeast section and started to read about Tennessee, and every state my family lives in.  If you like personal stories, you will love this book.  I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but take for granted that they will be good because they are based on the seasonal harvests of the different regions of the United States.  Reading through the various chapters of this book I am learning so much about the food we produce in the United States, and the issues confronting the producers.  I find it fascinating and am really sorry that I have been out of the United States so long that I only learned about the Edible Communities through this book.  In the back of the book is the comprehensive listing of all the websites for the communities.  I consider this one of the best all around food books I’ve seen this year.  You can find podcasts by the Edible Communities as well.

The Italian Farmer’s Table:  Authentic Recipes and Local Lore from Northern Italy by Matthew Scialabba and Melissa Pellegrino (2010 Morriss Book Publishing photography by Melissa Pellegrino) Matthew and Melissa, a husband and wife team, took a year to live in Italy and produce this cookbook, a dream they both had since they met in Italy.  They were able to produce the book by living and working in Northern Italy at agriturismi, working farms and guest houses.  The book presents recipes from these farms in the regions north of (and including) Emilia-Romagna.  Matthew and Melissa captured some of my favorite recipes, like the bigoli con ragu di anatra (pasta with duck ragu), Polentina con Ragu di Maiale e Noci (shaped polenta forms with ground pork and walnut ragu), Torta di Mele (Apple Cake),  and many others which are so seasonal and local, that you would not ever find them in Italy outside of the region of origin, sometimes not even outside of the town where a particular recipe or vegetable/fruit is harvested.  Each chapter introduces a different agriturismo and its recipes (you can’t get any more authentic than this), and the chapters are dotted with stories and facts about the producers and the areas in which they live.  Quite impressive coverage, and a great first book!

The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans (2010 Murdoch; photography by Alan Benson) Oooops they did it again.  Murdoch has made another amazingly beautiful book shot by none other than Alan Benson!   Matthew Evans, chef and food critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, has written a gigantic volume on food, the ethics of food choices, the importance of eating local food, and recipes which bring out the best of the food’s flavor.  The book is divided into chapters based on food type (meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry & eggs, etc).  Each chapter opens with a description of the food type and how to select the best ones.  Evans has gone back to basics with a collection of recipes which are neither difficult nor time intensive, in fact they seem almost intuitive to me and reading through them you can really begin to see how a certain dish or way of preparing seasonal foods could indeed grow out of eating ingredients when they are available.  This is a good book for someone who loves beautiful images to accompany beautiful recipes.  It’s also a good gift book for someone who doesn’t want to amass a library of cookbooks, but would like a few quality books with lots of great recipes.

The Clatter of Forks and Spoons by Richard Corrigan with Sheila Keating (2008 Fourth Estate; photography by Kristin Perers) Even though I opened this week’s reviews with a backhanded slap at treating food as anything other than a necessity for survival, I have to say that there is indeed something so very dreamy about Richard Corrigan’s book.  Irish-born Corrigan is a fanatic about farm-to-fork eating, and his upbringing on a farm transpires in his writing and knowledge of ingredients and combinations to make the best tasting food ever.  As someone who does not believe in waste, Corrigan gives you your fair share of kidneys and liver and the likes, so don’t say you weren’t warned!  However, this beautifully photographed book is as much about the food as it is about its origins, the farmers, fishermen, butchers, et al with whom he works, and how to prepare their food.  It’s a perfect balance of prose and unpretentious recipes, a little British, a little Irish, with a touch of Italian here and there.  The narrative and recipes are so finely woven, in fact the book seems more like a diary than a cookbook even in its design.  I absolutely love it, and often visit it on my bookshelf just to be reminded of the good food and producers there are out there and what I should be looking for when I shop for our food.  (And to make the oat cookies that my husband loves so much).

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook:  Four Seasons of Great Food and the Good Life by Sam Beall  (2009 Clarkson Potter; photography by beall+thomas photography) You didn’t really think I’d let you get away without a little bit about Tennessee, my home state, and home to Blackberry Farm, did you??  This is the cookbook and story of Blackberry Farm and is a beautiful book in its own right, but a great treasure of Southern recipes starting with blackberry cobbler, peach shortcake and running the gamut of coleslaw, barbecue (ribs and sauces), fried chicken, biscuits, greens, cornbread, chess pie, and then more ‘inventive’ dishes which all draw on ingredients harvested on the farm itself.  Of course I feel compelled to say that this is but one version of Southern cooking and if you’re really interested in our food, you should also try out some traditional Black Southern recipes in books by Edna Lewis, for example.   But this book holds its own, and was a very welcome book to the cookbook market not only for its focus on Tennessee, but also for the story of a working farm and the food it produces over each season.  The book is so beautiful you may not want to risk getting it dirty in the kitchen, but it is totally worth using!

Book Reviews: Baking

I’ve had many jobs over the years and can wear many hats. One thing I will never be is a baker. Ever. At this point in my life I have accepted that it’s something I will never perfect, and really, why should I? So many of my friends are excellent bakers and authors on the subject, and I can just coast along with my sad baking skills and enjoy their expertise. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love reading about baking and eating whatever I can get my hands on.  Because I really really do. And I love photographing baked things because they are just naturally pretty. Unless I made it. Then it’s a trainwreck. Anyway, this week Kristina gives us baking reviews and I’m jazzed about it. There are some amazing book titles here and a word to the wise: stay away from Kristina when she’s mixing dough. It ain’t pretty.

Kristina: One summer, when I was living in Washington DC, I happened in a gourmet shop.  While talking to the Shop Guy, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, my new found interest in bread baking came up.  When his father had started the Marvelous Market, Carol Field had provided invaluable bread baking tips to help him out.  The Shop Guy recommended I use her book, The Italian Baker, to learn more about bread.  The next time I came back to the shop, he had special ordered a copy for me and gave it to me as a gift.  I methodically went through the book and worked on quite a few recipes until I learned to produce very good bread.  From there, I bought Nancy Silverton’s book, the Breads of La Brea Bakery, and started my own starter which stayed with me for two years until a subletter “threw away the foul nasty stuff” he found in my refrigerator.

This week’s books are about learning to bake, and represent a bibliography for all levels of interest.  I don’t get road rage, I wait til I get home and get kitchen counter rage and pretend that the dough is someone’s face I want to box in, as I develop the gluten.  I find that kneading to be quite therapeutic.  If you bake, or once you start to learn, you’ll know what I mean.  If you’re serious about baking and bread isn’t your thing though, don’t miss the last book.

Amy’s Bread revised and updated by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley books 2010; photography by Aimée Herring) This book, the book of Amy’s Bread bakery in New York, provides a good introduction to baking with useful photographs of the different stages of the proofing and kneading process so you can tell if you’re on track.  Because it is a bread bakery book, that’s all you get here.  The chapter on starters offers a range of them, some to be used within a few hours (poolish), and others which need a bit more lead time (biga), up to the sourdough starter.  This is a book for someone who wants to focus on a range of breads from white to sourdough, flavored, breads and doesn’t want anything too scientific or too technical.  Each recipe has tips and techniques as well, also quite useful as you’re learning.

Bread Matters:  Why and How to Make Your Own by Andrew Whitley (Fourth Estate 2006; photography by Jeff Cottenden, illustrations by Richard Bravery) I was first put on to the British artisanal bread movement by an article in Jamie Magazine (July/Aug 09) beautifully photographed by Chris Terry.  I wanted to know more, so when I took a trip to London later last year, I picked up this book.  It’s all about the evolution of the bread industry and the ingredients which go into industrial loaves and why you should prefer artisanal breads and even try making your own at home.  Whitley owned and ran a bakery from 1976-2002, and this comprehensive work, grew out of his experiences during that time.  I like the book because it thoroughly explains every aspect of bread making and its ingredients, what techniques and ingredients are necessary and which aren’t (‘debunking’ other bread book instructions), provides troubleshooting advice, and provides recipes for all great British baked goods.  The recipes uses quite a range of flours, and many of the recipes build on each other, so once you’ve learned the basics, you’re unstoppable.  For a beginner, this is a perfect book, and is not as technical as the Bourke Street Bakery.  What it lacks in terms of photographs of technique, it more than makes up for in clarity of text.  The images in the book are also quite beautiful.  Whitley offers “Bread Matters” courses at Macbiehill Farmhouse, Lamancha, West Linton in the Scottish Borders

Artisan Breads by Eric Kastel (part of the Culinary Institute of America At Home series; Wiley 2010; photography by Ben Fink) This is the technical and scientific book that Amy’s Bread is not.  It is practically a baking text book for the home baker.  This is the type of book you should have at least one of if you’re going to get into baking, and you should read through the notes in the beginning to have a thorough understanding of all of the elements of bread baking (environmental factors, wheat qualities, tools, temperatures, moisture, etc).  It is a comprehensive baking book, and one of the things I like most about it– something I missed in my own self-taught baking odyssey– are the photographs of the correct level of proofing, kneading, how to fold and so on.  This book, unlike Amy’s, is not limited to artisan breads however, and includes many many yeasted desserts like cinnamon rolls and sticky buns, cream cheese and pecan coffee cake, almond stollen, and there is a section on dips and spreads as well.   There is a professional version of this one as well, with larger quantities and more hard core specifications.  Also a useful reference for the knowledge hungry.

Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGuinness (Murdoch Books 2009; photography by Alan Benson). Ok, I saved best for last again.  And not just because Alan Benson photographed the book, but because when I read through this book, it makes me want to (a) book a flight to Australia tomorrow; (b) make my own pain au chocolat; (c) book a flight to Australia tomorrow.  Did I already say that?  As its ‘by-line’ suggests, this really is the ultimate baking companion.  In my line of business, I’ve learned a little bit about wheat, and a lot about Australians.  Enough to know that they know good bread (they have great wheat) and they know good baked goods.  Bourke Street Bakery cookbook takes you from savory to sweet dreams by way of conversational explanations, useful photography of techniques, and great stories to accompany the super range of recipes offered in the book (rye bread, Mr. Potato Bread, sourdough, semi-sourdough, empanadas, croissants, sausage rolls, meat pies, brownies, chocolate cake, custard tarts, bear claws, banana cake with caramel sauce…).  This isn’t really a book to take lightly though, as you will need to be disciplined in following the recipes.  Never fear, each recipe points out where the home baker may have a pitfall, and suggests how to avoid it/compensate for lack of industrial equipment. This replaces my King Arthur Flour baker’s companion book as my go to baking compendium because I find it a nicer read, a bit more sophisticated, and feel a better connection with the bakers.  It goes in front of, but doesn’t replace, my Baking With Julia because it offers more instruction, better photography, and more varied recipes.  Allam and McGuinness really did a fantastic job of putting their knowledge onto these pages, and Murdoch knocked it out of the park in the design and layout.

A final note for beginners, if you are intimidated by kneading, there is a book called “Kneadlessly Simple” by one of my favorite authors, Nancy Baggett which you may want to research and perhaps try as a way to build up to these other books.

Cookbook Reviews: Get Your Grill On!

I’ll tell anyone who will listen to me that I’m a warm weather kind of cook. I love being outdoors, I love grilling and I love summer. I’m particularly excited about this current installment of the Mattbites Cookbook Reviews with Kristina. Damn if this girl didn’t knock it out of the ballpark with this review which features both grilling and burgers. It’s abundant and now I want a beer! Enjoy it!

When we moved into our current home 5 years ago, we brought our little sad deck grill with us.  We had friends over several times, and in the winter we even had people over and cooked in the fire in the fireplace. It was the best food, the best fun. And then we stopped.  I’m not sure why.  Our little sad grill is still outside, sadder than ever.  But a few months ago, when browsing Amazon, I started to see book titles which I fancied.  And I started to remember some great grilling books I already had and thought I’d go grill shopping and resuscitate my love for the grill.  Eating outdoors really opens up the opportunity to have more people over than perhaps you can accommodate inside.  Everyone can help out, and it’s just a great time all around.  So hopefully this GIANT round up has something in here that will be useful for your next get together.

The Good Stuff Cookbook:  Burgers, Fries, Shakes, Wedges, and More by Spike Mendelsohn with Micheline Mendelsohn (Wiley 2010; photography by Joe Shymanski). This is the first book by Top Chef competitor and owner of the Good Stuff Eatery in Washington DC, Spike Mendelsohn.  I like to think of this book as an all in one Burger Party manual.  It is very well organized into the different elements of a burger shop– from the sauces to the sides, the fries, the burgers, the shakes, and then the desserts, something I really appreciate about the book– I don’t have to dig for recipes, I know right where to find what I need.  You could use this book to set up a DIY burger party for your friends– offering the ingredients to compose various burgers in the book, or you could use it to make great food for yourself. Either way, it’s pure fun!

Burger Parties: Featuring Winning Recipes from Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger Contest by James McNair and Jeffrey Starr (Ten Speed Press 2010; photography by Dan Mills) If Spike’s book is a burger joint, this is the white table cloth burger book.  It is compiled of menus built around a burger theme (Burgers in Paradise, Jamaican Me Hungry, Sip and Slide, Southeast Asian Odyssey, Summer and Smoke, etc.)  So what you have in this book is not just a fab burger recipe per chapter, you have all of the antipasti, sides, and desserts to accompany them, around the theme, as well as the wine pairings!  Of all the grilling books I brought in for a colleague to choose from for a gift to someone who regularly grills, she chose this one as the most well-rounded for a complete dining experience.

The Burger Meisters:  America’s Best Chefs Give Their Recipes for America’s Best Burgers, Plus the Fixin’s by Marcel Desaulniers (1994 Simon and Schuster) This book won the James Beard Award for the Best Book on a Single Subject, and it deserved it!  This is based on a PBS series of the same name.  In addition to burgers made from everything ranging from beef to chicken to fish to veggie, you also have sides (slaws, salads, fries of different types), and even buns and some sweets as well.  I turn to this when I want to make something different for myself or friends.  My book is so used, the spine is falling apart!  Some of my favorite recipes in the world were written by Marcel Desaulniers, especially chocolate ones, and he has helped me make them work when I’ve been stuck.  (his email address is goganache -at- and he’s available to help with his recipes, just write if you too get stuck!)

Pig:  King of the Southern Table by James Villas (2010 Wiley; photography by Lucy Schaeffer) To borrow a phrase from the Waffle House menu, this book is all about pork:  scattered covered chunked and smothered.  If you don’t like pork, skip to the next book!  But me, I’m from Nashville.  I used to have my father meet me at the airport with an extra hot (spicy) pulled pork sammich from Mary’s Pit BBQ.  I love sausage.  I love bacon.  I think that the best cure for vegetarianism is a barbecued pork rib, dry not wet.  This book is all of that and more in 300 artery-hardening recipes using all cuts of pork (and there’s a cute little diagram at the beginning to show you what eating high on the hog really means), and it’s really really southern. It’s grits, biscuits, casseroles, hushpuppies, succotash, stews, burgoos, roasts, hams, if it’s pork or has pork in it, it’s here.  And it’s also Southern culinary history and background.  This book reminds me of family and home.

John Torode’s Beef and other Bovine Matters (2008 Quadrille; Photography by Jason Lowe) While it is possible to get other good cuts of meat in Italy, a good burger the way the Lord intended one to be made just can’t be found here.  So whenever I go to London, I try to get at least one good one in.  John Torode is the owner of Smith’s of Smithfields, a restaurant which stands directly in front of the Smithfield meat market, and he sells one of the best burgers in London.  John knows beef, and his and his book distills this knowledge in diagrams, photos, and explanations from the different breeds of cow to how to purchase, the cuts and carving the meat, and the preparation.  It starts with the basic beef stock and goes through all manner of recipes which have beef elements, from arancini with ragu, to beef wellington, salted beef sandwiches, yorkshire pudding, and everything in between.  It’s very British, mind you, but if there’s a recipe with “beef” in the title, it’s here.  This is every much a reference book as it is a cookbook.

John Torode’s Chicken and other Birds (2009 Quadrille; Photography by Jason Lowe).  I know, I just told you that John Torode knows beef, and here he is talking about chicken!  Guess what?  He knows birds too!  I have included this book in our round up because of the variety of recipes that are prepared on the grill for all different sorts of birds, including a fair number of kebabs and a chicken burger that will knock your socks off (it has sausage in it of course, but you can experiment without it!).  This book is pure cookbook, not at all the reference book that beef is.  But if poultry is your shtick, this is worth flipping through.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (2010 EBury; photography by Jonathan Lovekin) Admittedly, this should have gone into the vegetable book reviews, but I thought it appropriate to keep a book in this round up for those people who don’t eat meat.  This is not a grilling book, but it is an amazing vegetarian resource which you can use to prepare accompaniments to the food which comes off the grill– AND there are grilling recipes in here.  Preparing any dish from this book will make you everyone’s new best friend, trust me.  Ottolenghi is the food shop you will hear so many people rave about who have visited London.    The recipes are based on the author’s weekly column in the Guardian weekend magazine called the New Vegetarian, and just looking at them makes me hungry:  Caramelized garlic tart, globe artichokes with crushed broad beans, chard and saffron omelettes, soba noodles with aubergine and mango, black pepper tofu.  It goes on and on.  The photography by Jonathan Lovekin (who has done Nigel Slater’s beautiful books) is also so very inviting.  Vegetarians looking to add great recipes to their repertoire, Plenty, and Yotam’s column at the Guardian are fantastic resources.

Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned:  A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill by Elizabeth Karmel (Wiley 2009; photography Jamie Tiampo). I was introduced to Elizabeth Karmel by Rose Levy Beranbaum a few years ago, after telling Rose I was looking for some amazing women in the food profession to interview.  Elizabeth is the Queen of the Grill, and I blindly trust anything she says about grilling.  If it can be grilled (and believe me, it can), she has grilled it and can tell you how to maximize its flavor through soaking, slathering, or seasoning.  This book is a comprehensive book of rubs, sauces, butters, marinades, brines, dipping sauces, techniques, tips, and any other vital information about how to uses these elements on your food.  It is a handy paperback size and the perfect grilling reference.  I got this book last year, and admit that I haven’t felt such an affinity for a grilling book since I bought Steve Raichlen’s BBQ Bible years ago.  If you’re going to grill, ever, you should have a copy of this tucked away.  You can find Elizabeth at Twitter, get her weekly recipes from and or find her out and about on the national BBQ circuit.

Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (2010 Andrews McMeel) I love community generated cookbooks.  I think it tells you so much about people and their cultures.  I’m a huge fan of Junior League Cookbooks for snapshots of culinary history and how people ate at any one given time.  The Kansas City Barbecue Society is the world’s largest organization of barbecuing and grilling enthusiasts, and they’re celebrating their 25th anniversary with this book.  If you are curious about the world of competitive grilling, you want some award winning recipes for barbecue (so you know they’ve been tested and are good), like to have a quick reference for grilling temperatures for doneness, or you just like to peek into the history and stories of a group of people with a common interest, you’ll really like this book. Earlier editions of this book even have the calorie breakdown of recipes, but this edition has swapped those out in favor of very useful technical information about equipment, safety tips, barbecuing terminology, metric conversions, etc.

Seven Fires:  Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky (2009 Artisan; photography by Santiago Santo Monllor) This 2010 IACP Cookbook Award nominee deserved all the attention it got and more.  This is the elegant and captivating story of the relationship Francis Mallmann, one of Argentina’s most revered food professionals, has developed with grilling throughout his life.  It is his story about the history of a place, its people, and culture.  Seven are the types of fires which “form the backbone” of Argentine cuisine: Parrilla (cast iron grate over coals), Chapa (flat piece of cast iron set over a fire), Infiernillo (two fires with a cooking level in between), Horno de Barro (similar to an outdoor bread oven), Rescoldo (cooking by covering in warm embers and ashes), Asador (method for cooking whole animals), Caldero (large cast-iron kettle or dutch oven).  This book has ample recipes for cooking according to all these methods, and the sides and other dishes which go along.  This is primarily a meat-lover’s book, however, there are plenty of vegetarian dishes included.  One of my favorite recipes is neither: the Cast-Iron Seared Octopus with Murcia Pimenton.  Served with grilled potatoes, you will never forget this.  Just one look at this book and you will understand Matt’s love affair with Argentina.

Planet Barbecue! An Electrifying Journey Around the World’s Barbecue Trail by Steven Raichlen (2010 Workman; Photography by Ben Fink, Penny de los Santos, Anastasios Mentis, Steven Raichlen.  Food styled by Jamie Kimm and prop styled by Sara Abalan). I confess that when I saw Penny’s tweet that she worked on this, the book was instantly in my Amazon cart!  And now that I have it here, I can say that I am over the moon with my ‘crime of passion’.  I bought Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue! Bible when it came out and it’s my Barbecue reference.  I’m not going to lie and tell you that if you already have the B! Bible, you need this– the two are quite similar in their geographic coverage, and I can’t really tell if this is a result of the same travels he did for the first book,or if he traveled the world again to write this one. But Planet Barbecue! covers 60 countries vs 25 in B!Bible (albeit fewer recipes), Planet B! has a more “authentic” feel to the recipes, and more variety of recipes, and most important, there are photos!  Mouth-watering photos and how-to photos.     I am especially liking Jose Andres’ grilled bread with chocolate, sea salt, and olive oil!!  One book just seems more ‘modern’ than the other, although there is not any exact recipe overlap. So I’d say if you find yourself in front of both of these books, choose one or the other…unless you need both.