BY THE BOOK
Published 7:10 pm, Tuesday, December 5, 2017
I know I am not alone when it comes to reading cookbooks like one would read a novel. The cookbooks that interest me tell a story about the recipes and the author or have a unique theme.
Many of you know I am a fan of single-subject cookbooks, those that feature a certain ingredient in the recipes. This is the time of year when so many cookbooks are released, just in time for gift-giving season. Going through my ever-increasing collection, I picked some for you to consider as a gift for the cooks on your list.
I am sure you will find one to buy for the cook in you, too.
Atticus Bookstore Café, 1082 Chapel St., New Haven; R.J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison; and Breakwater Books, 81 Whitfield St., Guilford, have cookbook sections where several of these titles might be available or can be ordered.
“Friendsgiving: Celebrate Your Family of Friends,” by Alexandra Shytsman (2017, William Morrow, $16.99) is perhaps the first book about a new trend. Last year, ABC News reported that “Friendsgiving has been deemed the new ‘it holiday,’” a time for friends to gather for food and festivities. Shystsman, a blogger and Friendsgiving expert, shares theme-inspired menus, creative recipes — such as buttermilk biscuits with lemon zest served with black pepper compound butter — planning tips and everything you need for stress-free festivities. She explains that holidays are not about being the perfect host or slaving over an oven for hours. Instead, she provides insights and advice to create a fun, memorable party to eat, drink, and laugh with friends. She writes, “while Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for family, Friendsgiving gives us an opportunity to be thankful for friends.” Why not start a new tradition with hosting a Friendsgiving?
Everyone wants to eat healthy, especially after the holidays. But with the thousands of products lining the grocery store shelves it can be overwhelming. Is fat-free or gluten-free more healthful? What are food labels really saying? What does “natural” truly mean and is organic produce and grass-fed meat worth the extra cost?
It can be confusing, not to mention expensive. I have been reading ingredient listings on packages for some time now and making smart, informed decisions at the grocery store has been made even easier after reading “The Real Food Grocery Guide,” by Maria Marlowe (Fair Winds Press, June 2017, $21.99). The book helps you navigate the aisles in the grocery store, clearly outlining what foods are truly the healthiest, the freshest and the most economical, and which ones should not be in your shopping cart.
Known for his 25-plus cookbooks and acclaimed PBS television shows, Connecticut resident Jacques Pepin is a grand master of cooking. He has a new “apprentice” in the kitchen, his 13-year old granddaughter, Shorey. In his new cookbook, “A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey” (2017, Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), Pepin gives Shorey a short course on preparing simple but elegant food. Jacques said “his intention is to provide a simple cookbook for his granddaughter to show that spending time together in the kitchen can enhance your life as well as your relationship.” The recipes are a combination of classic French dishes such as hot pate in puff pastry and modern favorites such as sushi salmon cubes and fish tacos. The personal headnotes are charming. Whether it be advice on dessert — how to make shortcake dough for strawberry shortcake, being careful not to overwork the dough, or how to slice strawberries with an egg slicer — or a perfect easy cleanup meal of sausage, potatoes, onions, and mushrooms in papillote, the book provides a range of helpful tips for novices and advanced cooks alike. I enjoyed the points of view of the two generations, especially the quotes from Shorey. The beautiful line drawings by Jacques and the illustrated menus by grandfather and granddaughter add to the charm of the book.
For those on your list who can’t live without their slow cooker, “The Complete Slow Cooker: From Appetizers to Desserts — 400 Must-Have Recipes that Cook While You Play (or Work),” by the Editors of America’s Test Kitchen (2017, America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95) will be greatly appreciated. In the last few years, slow cookers have become almost as common in American kitchens as microwaves. More and more home cooks (83 percent of American households own a slow cooker) and even chefs have embraced slow-cooker cooking. They’re not just making post roast, either. Suddenly, people have discovered that slow cookers can be a ticket to exotic dishes such as chicken tika masala, creamy farro with mushrooms and thyme and luscious desserts such as flourless chocolate cake and key lime pie. The book includes what America’s Test Kitchen fans have asked for: more recipes that can cook all day (at least 8 hours) and more easy-prep recipes (no more than 15 minutes prep time). For those new to slow-cooker cooking, the chapter “Slow Cooker 101” discusses the different types of slow cookers as well as America’s Test Kitchen’s top secrets to slow cooker success.
Food history buffs and dessert lovers on your list will treasure “A Sweet Taste of History: More than 100 Elegant Dessert Recipes from America’s Earliest Days,” by Chef Walter Staib (2013, Lyons Press, $29.95). It captures the grandeur of the sweet table — the grand finale of an 18th century meal. Rather than serving something simple, hostesses of that time arranged elaborate sweet tables, displays of ornate beauty and delicious edibles meant to leave guests with a lasting impression. I enjoyed the manner in which American history is blended with the recipes. Recipes for cakes, cobblers, pies, cookies, quick breads and ice cream will assist in creating an exquisite sweet table. Original recipes from first ladies well known for entertaining, such as Martha Washington’s An Excellent Cake and Dolley Madison’s French vanilla ice cream are part of the repertoire. Staib offers sources for unusual ingredients and step-by-step culinary techniques, updating some of the recipes for the modern cook. This keepsake books brings a bygone era in America to life and will inspire the recipient who loves to cook, entertain, and follow history.
Children on your gift list will adore “Fairy House Cooking: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes & Fairy Part Fun!” by Liza Gardner Walsh (2017, Down East Books, $16.95). Walsh presents a new dimension in fairy-themed activities — cooking! Kids will enjoy making delicious recipes, such as pretty fairy muffins, tiny confetti cookies and candied violets. There are also recipes for tiny snacks meant for fairies, and fun recipes for treats to leave out for the animal friends of fairies. Complementing the recipes are fun sidebars of fairy lore and guides for hosting fairy-themed teas and birthday parties.
What to do with leftovers is a common challenge. “Love Your Leftovers: Through Savy Meal Planning, Turn Classic Main Dishes into More than 100 Delicious Recipes,” by Nick Evans (2014, Lyons Press, $22.95) teaches how to repurpose leftovers. Create one foundation dish, in decent quantity, when you have the time — perhaps on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and then repurpose it to make other delicious dishes throughout the week. For example, if you make a roast chicken one night, you can then make chicken tortilla soup, creamy chicken pesto pasta, or chicken and dumplings on other nights. A flank steak can morph into spicy beef wontons or Vietnamese noodle salad. Spicy black beans can become black bean burgers or crunchy black bean tacos. Cooking this way saves time and money and allows busy people to eat well every night. I found the index helpful with its notation of vegetarian and thirty-minute meals.
The title of this book caught my attention. The true food connoisseur on your list will enjoy “Ugly Food: Overlooked & Undercooked,” by Richard Horsey and Tim Wharton (2017, C. Hurst & Company, $34.95). “Ugly” foods like pig trotters, ox cheeks, garfish and celeriac rarely find their ways into our kitchens. Yet many of these overlooked delicacies are sustainable (or reduce waste), affordable, easy to prepare, healthful and downright delicious. Why is it, then, that these ingredients have such a bad reputation? The authors seek to stamp out this prejudice and convince home cooks that these ingredients are deserving of a place on the plate. I appreciated the social histories of ingredients that help to explain why they are neglected in today’s kitchens. It is a complex set of considerations that influence our food preferences, but much of our bias against ugly food has to do with familiarity, or lack thereof. This book would especially come in handy for those who travel internationally. The authors hope their appetizing recipes drawn from all parts of the world will tempt the reader to put these once ignored foods on the table.
In “Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen: Delicious, Nourishing Food for Lifelong Health and Well-Being,” by Brittany Wood Nickerson (2017, Storey Publishing, $24.95), the health-conscious cooks on your list enter Brittany’s kitchen to learn how to effectively and deliciously incorporate the health-boosting power of classic culinary herbs into their diets. With in-depth profiles of favorite herbs such as dill, sage, basil and mint, Nickerson offers insights into the healing properties of each herb and then shares 110 original recipes for scrumptious snacks, entrees, drinks and desserts that are specially designed to meet the body’s needs.
Her delicious recipes highlight effective herb-food combinations: dill helps the body digest cheddar crackers; the antibacterial properties in sage, rosemary, and thyme boost the nourishment of chicken soup; and poached peaches with tarragon serve as a scrumptious after-dinner digestive aid. Since ancient times, people around the globe have understood that food is our most powerful medicine. Nickerson makes this time-tested wisdom available to today’s health-conscious home cooks. (For the recipe for hazelnut cornmeal cake with rosemary honey visit http://bit.ly/2nlCGS7.)
For the baker on your gift list, “Rainbow Bakes: 40 Show-Stopping Sweet Treats” by Mima Sinclair (2017, Kyle Books, $14.95) will be a welcome addition to their cookbook shelf. Sinclair has pulled out all the stops in creating a collection of delicious cakes, cupcakes, cookies, small treats and desserts that will brighten anyone’s day. They will “taste” the rainbow with this celebration of color and creativity. Their dessert table showcasing treats such as rainbow crepe cake with white chocolate ganache, rainbow yule log, marshmallow funfetti blondies and multi-colored meringues and the ultimate rainbow layer cake will be the talk of the town.
For those on your list who are cookbook and recipe collectors, a gift certificate of $30 to Eat Your Books (www.eatyourbooks.com) will help them easily find the recipes in their own cookbooks, magazines and blogs they follow for an entire year. Eat Your Books has captured information on more than 1.5 million (so far) so they can easily search for recipes from their collection by recipe name, ingredients, occasion, food type, ethnicity, book title or author. To purchase, visit www.eatyourbooks.com/gift.
Send us your requests: Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me. Contact Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.
“Chefs of Our Kitchen” Reception and Dinner: Dec. 6, 6 p.m., Gateway Community College, 20 Church St. (parking validated for the Temple Street Garage; bring ticket), 203-285-2617, $70. Gateway Community College Foundation welcomes Chef John Barricelli, owner of SoNo Baking Co. Bakery & Cafe in Norwalk. Enjoy a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception and dinner while watching the chef demonstrate three recipes from his book, The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook: The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Occasion. Guests will receive a copy of the book to be signed at the reception. The recipes demonstrated will be prepared and then served by Gateway Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students. Tickets at http://bit.ly/2j24HH9.
Bourbons — Food — Cigars and Fire, Dec. 7, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Guilford Mooring, 505 Whitfield St., Guilford,203-458-2921, www.guilfordmooring.com; $75 per person, not including tax and tip. A donation of $5 from each ticket sale will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation. Reservations are required. Held in conjunction with Litchfield Distillery and the Owl Shop, the four-course dinner will be paired with bourbons and cocktails from the distillery. Each bourbon has been paired with a cigar from New Haven’s Owl Shop. Food courses include: Slow Cooked Ribs, Lightly Blackened Shrimp, Dry Rub Smoked Brisket and Maple Walnut Gelato. Tickets at: http://bit.ly/2hu7Dhc.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner — “Give … Til it Hurts!” Dec. 8, doors at 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, http://bit.ly/2cyB02Y; $55 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on as you dig into a three-course dinner.
Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: Dec. 21, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $65 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Preparation of a four-course meal is demonstrated. Each course is shown, step by step, and then served. Learn how to make some of Consiglio’s trademark dishes: Christmas soup, polenta with wild mushroom truffle cream, bacon wrapped chicken rollatini, Italian trifle with Marsala drizzle