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2009 Must-Have Cookbooks


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  • 2 weeks later...

I just received Mallman's Seven Fires, a book about Argentinian fire cooking and on first glance this looks outstanding! I'll be doing a full review within the week for the Gastronomers Bookshelf, then I'll get a summary up here. I think this is the best produced book I've seen this year.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Vefa's Kitchen (May 2009) by publisher Phaidon is something I've wanted to see-- it aims to be a "Silver Spoon" of Greek cooking.

Just got the copy this week... without cooking any of the challenging recipes yet, I'll give the book 4.5/5 stars.

A few thoughts...

1.) At 704 pages the cookbook is a BRICK, a lot like LaRouse but the typeset is very nice and clean to read. There are color photos and the food in them hasn't been over-stylized. Most recipes are presented as not requiring a long list of exotic ingredients and the explaination of method is concise and clear.

2.) Throughout the book, there is some nice, not-to-fluffy commentary on each of the Greek regions, the eating lifestyles, and how recipes and menus change for each of the Greek seasons. Like the recipes, the writing is nice and succinct.

3.) The book was translated into a US/UK English format which brings me to my one little nit: I generally don't like to read alternative regionalized words written in-line in the text. There are some variations which are fine like Zucchini (courgettes); but, Kabob (kebab) seems a little redundant. I blame the editors/translators for getting a little to happy with suggestions.

4.) The recipes are rustic and minimalistic. I liked the fact that the recipes for Tzatzhiki and Horiatiki Salata which I learned from my time on Crete appear here without extra "Bam!" or flare. This is what attacts me to Greek cooking although I have a fairly deep Classic French cooking background.

All in all, this is a very good buy for those of us who like Mediterranean food.

E2A: I just tried to read your review on the Gastronomer's Bookshelf.. is the link broke? Page doesn't load.

Edited by C_Ruark (log)
"There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." - Bourdain; interviewed on dcist.com
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Vefa's Kitchen (May 2009) by publisher Phaidon is something I've wanted to see-- it aims to be a "Silver Spoon" of Greek cooking. ...

Just got the copy this week...

C. Ruark, thanks for the comments. This new book, and its comparison to Silver Spoon from Italy, indirectly prompts a related question about Greek cookbooks.

In the 2005 thread here about it, Silver Spoon got serious criticism, including from the likes of Mimi Sheraton and Russ Parsons (widely respected veteran food writers, for those of you outside US), for compromises, mediocrity, attempts to be international, etc. etc. It was contrasted with Ada Boni's Talisman, the classic Italian work with something of an iconic national-cookbook status (as Escoffier, Molokhovets, Duch, Mrs Beeton, etc. have in their respective cultures). What these books all share is that they're not recent, just important. They may or may not be "in print" in a current reprint at any moment, but they're always available used, and sometimes in translations.

It leads me to ask anyone reading this, who is very knowledgeable about Greek cooking, if a recognized classic cookbook from Greece exists, as they do in several other countries? It need not be "in print" (to be accessible). (Most of the outstanding cookbooks I've bought over the years were neither new nor "in print.")

Silver Spoon thread

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I think that the question I asked above is answered in the current review of Vefa's Kitchen on Gastronomer's Bookshelf, which displays OK at the time I write this, and was interesting reading. It includes the statement

Vefa’s Kitchen is probably the best large volume Greek cookbook since Nikos Tselementes’ Greek cookbook was released in 1910 (known as the Greek cooking bible). While Vefa’s Kitchen cannot replace the Tselementes, it should still be in the posession of any serious Greek cook.

I'll add, in several years of working with some Greek émigrés in US, few things would bury their habitual political arguments better than recalling traditional dishes they grew up with, which their mothers made in a certain way, unequalled by anyone since. This nostalgia could interest anyone in Greek cooking. (Someday I'll post about Operation Orzo, one of the results.)

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Thanks for the insight and discussion, C_ and Max! Yeah, someone else (a person of Greek descent) reviewed it, I haven't even seen it on Philippine shelves yet, but thanks to you guys I have a pretty good idea of what it would be like. Greek is one of those popular cuisines I've never experienced outside a restaurant situation. I'll look forward to Operation Orzo, Max! (By the way, The Gastronomer's Bookshelf was in the midst of a redesign, hence the downtime, but thanks for noting the review-- it's back up now.)

There's another kind of title that you feel will be important- Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking (Chronicle, October; unlike Greek food, I know Chinese home cooking very well, but who wants to bet there still won't be advanced/master techniques in this book? Time will tell.)

More important-sounding books

American print of Ripailles (now called "French Feasts") by Stephane Reynaud

Silver Spoon Book of Pasta, again from Phaidon

The New Larousse Gastronomique

Paperback of Essential Cuisines of Mexico (Kennedy)

I Love Macarons (Chronicle, October/November) is written by a Japanese pastry chef. Still a fad in the States, but I've a feeling they're already catching the tail end of it? Yes/no?

Another book from an eGulleter: David Leite's The New Portuguese Table.

Something for Ferran Adria followers: Food for Thought. Thought for Food. I don't think there's any recipes in it, but plenty of food pron, (and of course insight into his creative process)

If anyone is seeking anything more specific, just ask! :)

Edited by jumanggy (log)

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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<>There's another kind of title that you feel will be important- Mastering-the-Art-of-Chinese-Cooking/(Chronicle, October;<>

Thanks for mentioning this. Considering the author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, this is a must have. I have already pre-ordered it.

Regards,

Hank

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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  • 2 months later...

These aren't necessarily must-have books, but ones that I'll be checking out to see if worth buying.

French Feasts: 229 Traditional Recipes for Family Meals and Gatherings by Stephane Reynaud.

In France, where eating is a national pastime, the long, leisurely Sunday lunch is a feast for the senses. It is this quality that acclaimed chef and author Stéphane Reynaud captures so perfectly in his paean to traditional French cooking. Rustic and approachable, humorous and convivial, French Feasts features 299 recipes for beloved dishes like patés, gratins, savory tarts, and braised meats that are the essence of French weekend fare.

From classic stews like navarin and boeuf bourguignon, to foie gras prepared six different ways, to crème brulée and gâteau Basque, the recipes come from all over France and even some former colonies (couscous is a national favorite). The book also includes beautiful, earthy photographs, whimsical illustrations, profiles of local producers, and fact-filled sidebars—a guide to cognac and Armagnac, how to make the perfect croissant, and much more—that evoke the considerable pleasures of the French table.

DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style

Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch (chef owner of No. 9 Park in Boston, among other eateries).

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Paula's book is out now and arrived yesterday. It covers cooking in all kinds of clay pots and has some great recipes.

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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  • 2 weeks later...
...from the author the popular Chez Pim food blog Pim Techamuanvivit.

And even longer, popular eG contributor!

Pim hasn't been an eG contributor for a few years now. Still, a published book is exciting.

I'm looking forward to Jim Lahey's no-knead book. All variations on the same thing--no knead bread!

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Hey Rona, we have a review of Pim's book here, but it's not really positive. I hope there's enough material in the review for you to draw your own conclusion :)

Reynaud's French Feasts has been published under the name "Ripailles" (been out for a while), so there may be plenty of opinions on it already.

There's a deluge of new books this month and a few more till the end of the year. Lamington and I should have a feature coming soon on our website that lists what interests us most out of them :)

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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Hey Rona, we have a review of Pim's book here, but it's not really positive. I hope there's enough material in the review for you to draw your own conclusion :)

I've read similar reviews. It isn't a book I'm itching to buy (or even read), but still, it must be exciting to have a book published.

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Jim Lahey's "My Bread" arrived in the mail last week. Looks very interesting and inviting. It is a rather thin volume, only 220 pages, about 100 pages are bread recipes, the rest is discussion of various techniques and recipes for sandwiches and fixings. Love the photography in the book, makes me want to bake. This is one of the few books I would have paid full price for if I had to. Can't wait to start using it. Skipper

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Jim Lahey's "My Bread" arrived in the mail last week. Looks very interesting and inviting. It is a rather thin volume, only 220 pages, about 100 pages are bread recipes, the rest is discussion of various techniques and recipes for sandwiches and fixings. Love the photography in the book, makes me want to bake. This is one of the few books I would have paid full price for if I had to. Can't wait to start using it. Skipper

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I've ordered 'Confections of a Closet Master Baker" by Gesine Bullock Prado and should be getting it any moment now. Her "Golden Eggs" are almost literally to die for.

I've also recently gotten Ad Hoc and John Besh's book, and am going to start cooking from both this weekend.

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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Currently awaiting delivery of:

Ad Hoc at Home

The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

Pasta Sfoglia

Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy

I Must be nuts! :smile:

Hank

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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