Archive for the ‘Cookbook reviews’ Category

Everyone has experienced the disappointment of buying a lovely looking piece of fruit only to discover it is as appetizing as cardboard. Deborah Madison hopes to redeem the paradise-lost pleasures of truly ripe fruit. The cookbook guru has written a bit of a love letter to summer’s jewels with her new “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” (Broadway Books, $32.50). A perusal of the gorgeous photos alone will prompt you to rush to your nearest Farmers’ Market and load up your canvas shopping bags.

Madison wants us to rededicate ourselves to the fleeting joys of locally grown, seasonal fruit – even if it requires the discipline of putting those well-traveled strawberries back on the shelf in mid-December. Whether it is figs and raspberries elegantly presented unadorned or a recipe for a compote, “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” advises even as it tempts. “Don’t assume that everything from the farmers’ market or farm stand is stellar,” she cautions. “Be watchful, asks for tastes, sniff, ask questions, and be prepared to say, ‘No, thanks.'”

I was delighted that Madison includes a mention of pawpaws, a fruit native to the Midwest that some say should replace the carbon-footprint-ladened banana of the tropics. In fact, the pawpaw is a distant cousin of the banana. “Its bananalike notes are probably what account for its other names – prairie banana, Hoosier banana – and other banana appellations for every state where the pawpaw grows,” writes Madison. “[T]he pawpaw is the only member of the [Annonaceae] genus that doesn’t require a tropical climate to survive.”

How about them apples – er – pawpaws?

As always, Madison offers tips for preparing fruit, techniques for coaxing the best flavors out of your dishes, and advice on the best kitchen equipment to have on hand. “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” will set you up perfectly to enjoy the sweetness of slow summer evenings.

Read my article about shopping at Farmers’ Markets and listen to my interview with Deborah Madison by clicking here.


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Alice Waters believes in puttering in the kitchen. Chop and grind your own food. Cook slowly over moderate heat. Breathe. Taste. Compost. What’s the big rush, right?

Just in time for Earth Day, the ideas behind the Slow Food Nation 2008 event that brought together reform-minded foodies in San Francisco can now be savored at your leisure with Waters’ new cookbook “In the Green Kitchen” (April 2010, $28). Photographer Christopher Hirsheimer has captured gorgeous profiles of the chefs who offered cooking demos in the event’s Green Kitchen during the weekend. Simple recipes accompany each photo, their bylines reading like a “who’s who” of the foodie world: Tomatillo Salsa from Rick Bayless; Buttermilk Biscuits from Scott Peacock; Simple Tomato Sauce from Charlie Trotter; Linguine with Clams from Lidia Bastianich; Buttered Couscous from Dan Barber; Potato Gratin from Deborah Madison, and the list goes on. (Kinda makes you wish you had flown out there, huh?)

“All the good cooks I know are sensualists who take great pleasure in the beauty, smell, taste, and feel of the ingredients,” writes Waters in the introduction. “The value of learning a foundation of basic techniques is that once these skills become instinctive, you can cook comfortably and confidently without recipes, inspired by the ingredients you have.”

A cookbook that says forget about cookbooks? That’s about right. But sometimes we all need a reminder just to jump in and swim, er, cook and “In the Green Kitchen” with its pantry and essential kitchen-tool list is a good place to start.

Or if you are a procrastinator, take some time and copy this down and fasten it to your ‘fridge door:

A Green Kitchen Manifesto

Delicious, affordable, wholesome food is the goal of the Green Kitchen.

An organic pantry is an essential resource.

Buy food that is organic, local, and seasonal.

Cooking and shopping for food brings rhythm and meaning to our lives.

Simple cooking techniques can be learned by heart.

Daily cooking improves the economy of the kitchen.

Cooking equipment that is durable and minimal simplifies the cooking.

A garden brings life and beauty to the table.

Composting nourishes the land that feeds us.

Setting the table and eating together teaches essential values to our children.

Now get cooking! Slowly.

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Reviewed by: Leigh Montgomery

“Of all of this year’s Christmas gifts – this is one that has been getting a lot of use in recent days. Boston star chef and restauranteur Barbara Lynch deserves all accolades, for her divergent styles that all have a kind of primacy. She’s also very pragmatic. While locals know you cannot go wrong with any of her establishments, I’ve also found that the case with this cookbook, which focuses on Northern Italian – with French influence. With clear instructions and multiple suggestions for hard-to-find items, it is a book for cooks of all levels – for very basic weeknight fare to ambitious menus for the more technically adept (pain au poulet – a chicken wrapped in bread dough, for example). Plain, explanatory language is used, and you’ll find yourself making things you might never have occurred to. Which brings me to mention that being an Italian cookbook, there are more gnocchi variations in this book than anywhere – because, Lynch maintains, it is so good, yet so easy, you don’t need a machine, and you can freeze it. Of course. What’s been the most impressive is finding yourself attaining restaurant quality at home – even me.”

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In her recent memoir “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food” (2008), Judith Jones, the editor of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” urges singles to get in the kitchen and cook. In her new book The Pleasures of Cooking for One, Jones shows readers just how easy, adventurous, and rewarding it is to do so.

Cooking for one on a regular basis tends to be seen as problematic. Most recipes serve at least four people, a turnoff for solo cooks who don’t enjoy eating the same meal three days in a row. Reducing recipes isn’t always that easy: For example, how does one use half an egg? And sometimes cooking and eating at a table set for one can feel just plain lonely. It all adds up to keeping the stove top cold and frozen meals humming in the microwave for weeks on end.

Jones, who has edited and cooked alongside such household names as Edna Lewis, Marion Cunningham, Lidia Bastianich, and James Beard, insists it doesn’t have to be this way.

To read the full review, click here.

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