Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 14: Let's Get Cooking!

On the fourth day of our 24 Days of Books, we told you about some wonderful new cookbooks -- all by area authors! Today, the 14th day, we're going to tell you about a few more, including one by another local author (how blessed are we with local cookbook authors???) who was inadvertently left out last time.

Roots, rhizomes, tubers, corms.  Lotus root, salsify, malanga, crosne.  Diane Morgan is a Portland writer who truly belonged in our local writers cookbook blog.  (What a major oversight on our part!!)  The introduction alone is a celebration of the world of gnarly underground food.  There are 225 recipes arranged by root, with beautiful colored photographs that will change your mind forever about what grows down there under the dirt. Lotus root is a delicate, flower-shaped root that nestles among snow-peas in a stir-fry.  Crosne is a member of the mint family that can go into curried fritters or get pickled to dress up a martini. There is history, lore, and storage tips, as well as availability. (How else would you find a good source of galangal?)
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Knopf, $35), by Deb Perelman.
Simple recipes in a book full of advice from the creator of the award-winning SmittenKitchen blog, this is a collection of chat and ideas on how to be at home in your kitchen.  Starting with peach and sour cream pancakes and including a recipe for broccoli slaw as well as the author’s favorite summer cocktail, this book has everything for the rookie cook as well as the  gourmand:  tips about how many good knives you really need (one),  what kind of salt the word “salt” means,  whether you need one of those cool, long-handled wooden spoons (you don’t), and  how to lose your fear of pizza.
Jerusalem: A Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, $35), by Yotam Ottolenghi  & Sami Tamimi
 This lavishly illustrated book celebrates the tradition of Middle – Eastern hospitality that goes back centuries:  food as shared humanity.  There are classics, in reverently traditional form, as well as dishes wherein the authors have allowed themselves a little “poetic license."  Roasted sweet potatoes with fresh figs,  swiss chard fritters, and chicken cooked with clementines and arak,  or with sweet spiced freekeh.   Yeasted cakes, kibbeh, ghraybeh,  mutabbaq.  The recipes are a walk through the cultures of Israel,  Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. This is an important book about not only food and food traditions, but also about  the historic diversity that is Jerusalem.

Not just a cookbook,  this is a party book!  Food Network star Ina Garten  arranges recipes (with 150 color photographs) by meal:  cocktails (Sidecars with dried cherries!), starters (Crab streudel! Carmelized bacon!), and onward to lamb dishes,  barbecue, pasta, and  seafood  for lunch and dinner, with side trips into vegetables and desserts. She also includes ten foolproof tips for cooking, twelve foolproof tips for tables settings, and a whole section on foolproof menus, planning and shopping -- all in Garten's friendly and reassuring chatty style.

Bouchon Bakery (Artisan, $50), by Thomas Keller.
This magnificent book is about French baking as an act of creation.  Three world-class chefs come together to offer their answers to what they define as the eternal question:  What is your favorite recipe?  Each recipe tells not only how to make one of their amazing pastries or cookies or breads,  but also why it is included,  its history with the author,  its contribution to the skill of the reader:  the slightly stiffer pate a choux dough for ├ęclairs,  the  secret to the creamy center of a peppermint patty, and why you will want a pastry bag with a Wilton 789 tip for your Dutch Crunch Semi-baguettes.  This fabulous book is a commitment to the good life.

Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America (Norton, $45), by Maricel E Presilla
A compendium of not only what foods are involved in Latin American cuisine,  but why, tracing techniques and ingredients from pre-Columbian times. Long before we  get to any of the 500 recipes in this huge book (900 pages!) we are taken into the Latin American kitchen and shown the tools, crafts,  and  the basic flavorings, with everything from How to Crack Open a Coconut to Peppers:  A Short Glossary.  There is also an undoubtedly helpful section on superstitions and lore.  (Pour the lime juice into the dulce con leche in the shape of a cross, and cold water scares the food, although scared yucca softens faster.)   This encyclopedia covers an entire geographic range,  from Mexico to Brazil to Venezuela,  El Salvador and  the Ecuadorian Andes,  and includes how to roast a pig in your back yard. 

As always, you can find many more great gift ideas in our Holiday Books guide, available in our store. See you soon!

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