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In the stacks: New cookbooks

Posted: February 2, 2012 - 12:07am

New books for the foodies among us! Besides these scrumptious titles, take a look at Momofuku Milk Bar, Vegan Pie in the Sky, and Corked and Forked: four seasons of eats and drinks.

“Make the Bread, Buy the Butter,” by Jennifer Reese.

Contemplating a more hands-on lifestyle? Wondering about raising your own chickens and goats? Want to make your own pancetta, camembert, or sauerkraut but aren’t sure whether it’s worth your time? Reese wrote this for you! She’s a funny writer, a dedicated, non-professional cook, and, at this book’s writing, a laid-off journalist. This is not a diced-out cost analysis, but a realistic assessment of the hassles involved in putting good-tasting food on the table, everything from hot dog buns (make!) to rice pudding (buy!) gets a write-up that includes her family’s reactions, the edibility and ease of homemade versus bought, and, yes, a cost comparison. I liked her tone – she freely admits that what’s a hassle for her might not be for other cooks, and one person’s tastes are not another’s, so don’t hesitate to pick this up.

“Latin Grilling,” by Lourdes Castro.

Latin America has distinctly different cuisines depending on which area you’re in, and Castro’s cookbook is organized by region so you can catch the subtleties of their flavors. Here, each region gets its own menu from appetizer to main dish to dessert (and drinks to accompany the food, of course), so you can eat your way through Argentina, Chile, Cuba, and seven more locales. Though she loves to entertain for friends, Castro hates feeling like she’s running a restaurant, so each menu is prefaced by a streamlined game plan that will keep the cook happily mingling. The photos are mouth-watering and the preface giving grilling tips is very helpful – if you like to barbecue (or even think you’d like to try), pick this up and give your grill some Latin flavor.

“Brewed Awakening,” by Joshua M. Bernstein.

For the beer lovers out there, here’s a best-of-the-best by a former Gourmet writer. In one small but dense package, you get a guide to small-craft breweries and what they produce, an overview of the industry, and an introduction to how beer is made (but if a how-to book is what you need, try The Complete Homebrew Beer Book, by George Hummel). Look here for stories about some of the best names in the business, become acquainted with beers beyond stouts and bitters, and plan a round-the-nation tour of craft beer festivals.

“The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook,” by Emily Ansara Baines.

Planning a party to celebrate the movie opening? Celebrate with recipes inspired by the foods Katniss and her friends, family, and foes eat. Mashed turnips, lamb stew (Katniss’s favorite food in the Capitol), mockingjay crackers, and more are here. Some of the recipes call for ingredients we’re unused to putting on our plates (squirrel, raccoon, and Japanese knotweed, for instance), and substitutes aren’t given (but suppliers often are) but for the most part, recipes call for common foods (turnips, oatmeal, and chocolate). There’s something for everyone here, from breakfasts to lunches to dinners, and lots of desserts. Short introductions serve as ties to the story.

“Preserving Basics,” by Jody Vassallo.

This beautifully photographed book contains instructions for all kinds of preserved things from jams, jellies, and marmalades, to mustards, curds, and chutneys, with a few bread recipes thrown in so you don’t have to eat the goodies with a spoon. Each recipe is accompanied by at least a double-spread photo-layout showing the ingredients you’ll need, they way they’ll be prepared, and how they’ll look at different stages in the process (so you can reassure yourself that you haven’t burned your marmalade). Some of the recipes include written or pictured serving suggestions, but others that seem to need it, don’t (what might squash and cinnamon jam go best with?), so this book does have its inconsistencies, however, overall, if you’re interested in exploring unexpected flavors of preserves, this is definitely a book to check out.

“Gifts from the Kitchen,” by Annie Rigg.

Look here for delectable presents for just about anyone you can think of – even yourself! Gift a friend with some hearty oatmeal crackers with cheese, pickled beets, or homemade pesto. Serve love heart sugar cubes and Raspberry, lemon and almond friands at a baby shower. Make your own fortune cookies with personalized messages for Valentine’s Day. Or steep a custom combo of summer berries in vodka to give as a Christmas gift. Lots more ideas and recipes here, both sweet and savory, from cookies and cakes to sauces and nibbles.

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