Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cookbooks: Let's Eat!

One of my passions is food & cooking.  Now mind you, I'm all for Great food, but Not difficult or overly time-consuming recipes.

This year & last I reviewed some Really Great & Totally AWFUL cookbooks. I'm going to begin with the highest rated and end with the lowest rated:

 5 stars + ♥

Tacos, Tortas & Tamales:  
Oh my, oh my, oh my goodness...... This is the street food I love and all the recipes are here in this little book.   So mouth watering, so delectable.....
There are recipes for: Salsa, fresh tortillas, lamb, pork, beef, aguas frescas, & desserts
Thankfully, there is a little place by my house that serves most of the foods in the book.

Mission Street Food:
Oh My Goodness..... The richness, portion size, variety, lack of attitude, & pretentiousness.... The recipes...I am so Drooling.....  The photos, the tongue in cheek Business Plan.
I was already planning my trip and how many days I was going to eat there when I went to Yelp and found out they had Closed!
I am Crying!   

4 Stars:

Morocco: A Culinary Journey:
Lovely, luscious, easy to follow recipes.... I am hungry.
The lamb dishes, the salads, the desserts..... Grated carrot & orange salad; Cucumbers in sweet marinade w/ oregano; Lamb tagine w/ oranges, saffron & candied orange peel; Glazed lamb w/ almonds & raisins; Chicken tagine w/ preserved lemons & olives; Couscos w/ pumpkin; Honeyed phyllo triangles stuffed w/ almonds; Milk pudding w/ almonds; Clementine sponge cake w/ clementine glaze....
An entire section on Moroccan Pantry... Yum, let's eat!

New Food Fast:
One star down for size.....
This book has it all, great recipes, easy to read print, and Great photographs!  It is a tad bit too tall.
The food is interesting, innovative, and easy to make....  All the dishes look so clean and appetizing.
Miso soup w/ chicken & noodles; Kaffir lime leaf & chili lentils; Figs in vanilla port; Grilled honey mustard & smoked ham flatbread; White bean & tuna salad; Baked eggs; Coconut rice w/ lime syrup; Sugar roasted fruit, Grilled beef w/ sweet pumpkin.
I have one of each!

The Best of Gourmet:
 Presentation: a whole lot of lovely, colorful, & saliva inducing photographs. Another nice thing about this book, at the end of each section were the mail-order sources where a person could purchase non-perishable ingredients.  The layout is interesting, first there is the list of menus w/ photos, then the recipes which are divided into sections such as: Appetizers, Breads, Soups, Meat, Sauces, and Desserts; then comes the Flavors of India section which contains more than 20 recipes.
This issue of Gourmet's Best featured a section on the "Flavors of India".  Indian cuisine is definitely low on my list of what I will & will not eat, but I do enjoy the desserts.
Some recipes sound fantastic:Roast Lamb Loin Persillade; Exotic Mushroom Pate; Crisp Skinned Roast Duck, and Prosciutto, Mozzarella, & Olive Sandwiches on Parmesan Focaccia .  
Of course there are those I'll have to pass up: Macerated Grapes in Clove & Cinnamon Syrup: broiled Brown Sugar Apples with Bacon; Lavender & Thyme Roaster Poussins, Crab, Mint, & Mango Nori Rolls, and Gorgonzola, Fava Bean & Purple Potato Canapes

My Pizza:
Wow, there is something here for everyone: equipment, ingredients, how to make oven adjustments, serving strategies.  Then there are the recipes: Pizza dough foundations; Red Sauces; White Sauces; No sauce; Toppings; Toasts, soups, salads; & Desserts.
Poached artichokes; Broccoli rabe; Charcuterie (kraut & wurst); Leek & sausage; Fennel & sausage; Stracciatella; Margherita (No Tequila or lime in this one); Boscaiola (sausage & mushroom); Popeye (spinach), Birds nest (w/ egg); and Ham & cheese.....
There were some I could live without....but most, I'd be happy to bite into.  This is even a book I would purchase.

Cook Like a Rockstar:
Well, I guess you really can't judge a book by its cover, at least not in this case
What I didn't like was the title (because I still don't get it) and her posed photographs.
I what I liked was most everything else.....
Piccolini:  Mortadella pate, Zucchini/parm fritters, Figs stuffed gorgonzola & walnuts, Peperonata w/ goat cheese, Polpettini, & Cipolline (mini onion) tempura
Firsts:  Calamari noodles w/ fingerling potatoes; Ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms; Grilled sea scallops w/ watermelon 3-way & dandelion greens; Grilled porcini w/ poached eggs & parmigiano; & Parmigiano flan
Pasta: All purpose pasta dough; Sweet & spicy sausage ragu; Raviolo al'uovo (Ricotta nestled egg yolk); Whole wheat pappardelle w/ roasted butternut squash; Risotto w/ rock shrimp, lemon & herbs
Seconds:  Grilled chicken w/ lemon & dijon; Dry rubbed bone-in rib eye; Braised cabbage stuffed w/ sausage & fennel; Rack of lamb crusted w/ black olives; Seared crispy skin black bass; & Duck breast w/ dried fruit & vin santo
Sides:  Swiss chard, pancetta & baby turnips; Chanterelles, fava beans & spring onions; Braised baby artichokes; Yummy lentils; Crispy crunch duck fat potatoes; & Spice roasted cauliflower
Desserts:  Mom;s anise seed cookies; Lemon curd w/ almond crust; Goat cheese cheesecake w/spiced nilla wafer crust; Juicy jammy jelly tart; Tarallucci w/ salty caramel; & Blueberry nectarine crisp
Gorgeous photographs, easy to follow recipes, & chef's tips. Most recipes take less than 1 hour to make, but some like the pasta sauce takes 4 hours.
But really 6 courses?  How much can one person cook & eat! 

3 Stars:

Apparently Emeril has Eight (8) different "kitchens", all but two have his name, but they are his none-the-less.
Here we go again: Presentation, all of the photos (16 double sided pages) are in the middle of the book, so if you see something that looks appetizing that you want to make, you have to hunt for the page of the corresponding recipe, which in my opinion, makes for a pain. In some cases the main recipe is on one page, but the companion to it is on the next page, which meant it took me a bit to locate the recipe (Brown sugar shortbread cookies) I specifically wanted.
The print is easy to read, the directions seem pretty clear to me, but I'm thinking, maybe I'm not going to take the time and might take "short-cuts".  So it won't taste the same, but I'm never going to know the difference, and neither will anyone else who has never tasted the original dish made by Emeril himself.

 As Meatloaf goes....... There are 60 recipes..... So I'm not a big fan of meatloaf, but the one made of corned beef sounded good as did the these others; Rolled w/ salami, deli ham & Swiss cheese (I'd use provolone), Greek w/ lamb, spinach & feta, Moroccan, and Glazed meatloaf w/ bacon strips (beef/pork & bacon: treif). 
But the ones w/ Sausage & clams and the "Frosted" w/ mashed potato crust sounded rather awful to me.
There there are the "Other Loaves" and the Sides: Turkey w/ cranberry topping, Salmon w/ lemon & dill, Lentil w/ mushrooms & walnuts, Mac & Cheese loaf, nine types of potatoes, rice, couscous, orzo, & polenta.
The ideas are creative, the recipes are easy to follow, and there are nice photographs.

Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts:
 Presentation, the book was published in 1985, so the photographs have that yellow orange tinge that was popular back then and for me that is not an appetizing color (which is why when shooting I use Fuji film [blues & greens] rather than Kodak).
Some recipes sound fantastic: Blackberry Heart; Lemon Curd Tart; and the Creme Brulee Tartlets.  But there are those I'll have to pass up: Parsnip-Carrot Pie: Beet Pie; Sweet Spinach 

Pie not to mention the fact that several of her pies & tarts look burnt on top!
Book is broken down into the following chapters: Apples: Pears: Peaches, Plums, Apricots & Nectarines; Berries; Citrus Fruits; Other Fruits; Vegetables; Nuts; Chocolate, Custards & Cremes; The Pie Party; and Master recipes & Techniques.
I prefer easier to make desserts, with the truth being.... I much prefer to eat a dessert that someone else has made, I'll stick to cooking dinner!

 2 Stars:

 This is no ordinary Italian cookbook…..  The recipes are more than imaginative and although they border on luscious elegance, I had ever heard of any of them prior to reading this book! They are also very time consuming and difficult to prepare, the ingredients are not easily found. 
Here is a sampling: Fried surf clams w/ agrodolce, onion, fennel & cherry pepper salad; Fava bean agnolotti w/ mashed black truffle; Venison loin w/ parsnips & huckleberry vinaigrette; Beer-braised pork cheeks w/ escarole; Fontina & mushroom tortelli w/ black truffle fonduta…..
The layout is wordy and rather boring, especially when it comes to the descriptions of the various areas & wines of Italy.  This is not a book I would attempt to cook from nor purchase

A Girl and Her Pig:
 <br/>I'm really just not into Anchovy Anything (especially Not on Lamb...BAH) or Deep Fried Pigs Ear Salad..... but if you can get past that, some of the recipes sound absolutely delightful: carrot, avocado, & orange salad; Caesar salad; Lentil/chickpea salad w/ feta & tahini; Grilled rib eye w/ romesco; Skirt steak w/ watercress & chiles; Tongue sandwiches; Tomatoes stewed w/ white wine & saffron; Swiss chard w/ olive oil; Beef & bayley hazen pie; or Whole suckling pig.
Then there is the section: "Not so Tasty Bites" & "Not so Tasty at All" which contains... Liver & Onions....Veal kidneys in garlic butter.....
The photographs are very nice, but not available for every recipe... The recipes seem time consuming and detailed.
I don't think I'll be using the recipes in this book any time soon.

 Another cookbook that lacks presentation...  The dishes presented in the photographs are just not appetizing.  The colors are that bland yellow/red/brown/orange.  Just very boring looking.
The print is easy to read and the recipes are easy to follow. 
Much of the food is not what is usually eaten in the U.S., unless you know Spanish families: Tuna butter canape; Canape of mackerel & cured ham; Pimiento & dry cod salad; Calves live in almond sauce; Stuffed pigs feet vinaigrette; Blood sausage in puff pastry...
I'll pass.

Little Foods of the Mediterranean:
I realize that cookbooks are a wonderful way to learn about new tastes, textures, foods....  But, PRESENTATION IS EVERYTHING!  In this book there is only 8 double sided photographs of the prepared dishes at the front of the book.
The rest of the 245 (double sided pages) are on cheap paper in a plain print, which runs together (I wear trifocals), and the 500 recipes read like a text book.
There are much better cookbooks presentation-wise on this subject. I can't tell you too much about the recipes, they were too difficult to read.

1 Star:

The Daniels Fast Cookbook:
This is a "Strictly Vegan: No Dairy No Eggs Healthy Delicious and Easy" cookbook..... Well maybe so, but it is cheaply printed w/ B&W photos that make even the most delicious dish look so Gawd Awful, I Ain't putting not one bite of that in my Mouth!
Let's be real here, cooking/food is a good part "Presentation".  If it doesn't look good, your mind is going to tell you that it doesn't taste good.  That's just how it is....  So if you are going to publish a cookbook, for pity's sake, use color photographs!
The food: Tropical coconut coffee cake....with raw agave nectar and bananas. I know for a fact that Agave nectar has a high glycemic index. As for bananas.... I want a coconut cake, not banana.....  
Fruit Balls made w/ orange juice, another not so healthy ingredient (unless it is organic, home grown, squeeze it yourself...) 
Tabouli Salad (from a box) not natural Bulgar?
Noodle Lo Mein made w/ whole-grain spaghetti?
Asian Pesto Spaghetti?  UGH! No Thank-you......
I'm so not going to make anything from this cookbook nor will I purchase a copy for the Library.

Patina Cookbook:
 This book, the recipes, the photographs, the layout did Absolutely Nothing for Me except to make me glad that I never spent the money or time to eat here.
I do not care for trying-too-hard-to-be-artistic B&W photographs. I do not like trying to read small fine script on vanilla yellow pages, especially if it is information that I night need/want to use later. I do not complicated recipes.  Nor do I like "Nouvelle Cuisine", it leaves me 

hungry, wondering what I've just tasted, and wanting to eat real food.
The recipes are definitely for the dilettantish upscale nouveau riche...and difficult to make That sure leave me out.  
Maine Lobster "Harahan" w/ White Bean Mousse and Ham Hocks?  Really?
Potato Oyster Ravioli w/ aged Zinfandel Sauce? No thank-you very much!
Sculpin w/ Zucchini Mousse (blech) and Chopped Plum Tomato Sauce? of Artichokes w/ Roasted Garlic Cloves & Hollywood Roof-Dried Tomatoes? The latter, what are those? Not to mention this was pretty unappetizing looking.
Odd Potato Plaques w/ Salmon in Lasagna Form w/ Littleneck Clam 'Vinaigrette'?  Nope.
Layer Cake of Odd Potato Chips & Smoked Sturgeon w/ Horseradish Sauce?  Still no!
Small wonder this book ended up in the book sale.

Vegetarian Meals for People on the Go:
"Who is Vimala Rodgers? (Do we care?) In the world of academia, Vimala is an educator handwriting expert, and the published author of two highly regarded books on handwriting....... Vimala is a sought-after motivational speaker, in her professional life, she is the mother of many and a dynamic cook?"  And then she makes this assumption: "Most of us know how carrots, lettuce, kale, potatoes and spinach grow since many of us have planted, tended, and harvested our own gardens." Really?
Not one of the photographs looked appetizing in any way, they all had a yellow or orange tint to them, the dishes did not look professionally cooked or presented. The Gazpacho looked like diced cucumbers in tomato flavored water; the Asian peanut salad looked bland and boring, the Avacado cups looked like guacamole mixed w pico de gallo and some leafy green stuff, the Thai noodle salad looked like a bowl of cut up spaghetti w/ tomatoes & green stuff, and theTofu dip looked like cat hork.
Don't bother...don't waste you money ($17.95) buying this book, don't waste your time trying to get it from the library.

Easy Cookies:
 Since many of these recipes call for a food processor, my interest dimmed immediately and then there are the "adult" cookies: Oat cakes, Parmesan herb crisps, Whole wheat cookies, Pogaca (w/ red cgile flakes), Walnut cheddar shortbreads, Swedish pepper cookies,  Honey almond squares (looking like granola bars), and Macadamia & white chocolate chile cookies. Nope definitely not for children.
All the recipes call for specific mixing of ingredients, except for the Classic chocolate chip cookies: "Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon". Really?  I was always taught to cream my butter w/ the sugar first!  Ans since when does Scottish shortbread contain rice flour/ground rice/cornstarch?
But I suppose since the book was only $3.99 @ T.J Maxx, then it might have been a good deal?  Oh wait, never mind, I found it in the FOL book sale donations!

Everything Vegetarian Slow Cooker Cookbook:
What a great book to live without:
Paper bound, no photos, boring green font, AND Boring recipes. Most everything sounded tasteless.
The only good thing about this book was the nutritional information that was included w/ each recipe.




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