Been reading much lately? For some of us, this is one of life’s greatest pleasures and, if truth be told, it works pretty well as an escape, too. And either one of those goals is common in these challenging times. So here are a few books – no particular order – on the joys of food and cooking. Maybe there’s something that’ll work for you.
Books on Food and Drink Chicago – and elsewhere
The Road to Mexico, by Rick Stein. Celebrity chef Stein, author and TV chef, chronicles 100 step-by-step guides to creating simple yet sophisticated dishes inspired by his travels.
Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast, by Ina Pinkney. In the absence of a mother or grandmother who liked to cook, the author decided to keep track of all the details when she got her recipes for both life and food. She opened her own restaurant, Ina’s, and happily served her customers for 23 years. Now you can get the benefit of her experiences and her recipes in her new book.
Sicilia: The Cooking of Casa Planeta, Elisia Menduni. Beautiful illustrations will have your mouth watering for a taste of these dozens of delectable recipes for everything from sardine pie, to lemon ice, to pasta with anchovies. Pair with one of this winery’s excellent choices, one of its handmade olive oils, and sip as you read the stories of the country’s people and places.
Recipe for a Delicious Life, by Zipora Einav. The author suggests how to discover your own perfect blend of food and music to stimulate your appetite for lasting health, harmony and joy. It offers a free interactive app, a music CD and more.
The books in this collection may make strange bedfellows, but each one is enjoyable, informative and fun in its own way. Did you know you can make pizza crust with cauliflower? Read on for more amazing and interesting tidbits.
Cali’Flour Kitchen by Amy Lacey. You don’t have to be on a keto kick to want to eat fewer carbs. Lots of us have found that cutting carbs is the only way to trim off a few pounds. Amazingly, cauliflower has come into its own as a substitute for refined carbs, and many people have found they actually like it a lot. This book is all about showing you more ways to use the hard white vegetable to make bread-like stuff like pizza crust, but it also has unique recipes for using cauliflower to make soup, Buffalo appetizers and even chips to make your nachos with. We love cauliflower just steamed with a sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan, so this collection of recipes is intriguing enough to make us want to start making cauliflower rice and cauliflower meal to sub for rice, bread and flour and then go from there into unexplored territories. Their subtly flavored recipe for creamy cauliflower soup beckoned (beautiful pictures throughout the book), and we ended up happy we made it. ~$13 on Amazon.
Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets: 128 Ingenious Tips for survive lumpy gravy, wilted lettuce, crumbling cake, and other cooking disasters, by Joey Green. Light-hearted treatment of legitimate solutions for many common mishaps in the kitchen and around the house. Nicely laid out – easy-to-read labels, color used effectively. You may know some of the tried-and-true solutions already (e.g., vinegar to kill odors). You might be surprised at some of them (salt to get rid of athlete’s foot). You may even find you already have some of your own solutions you like better. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the book is fun, simple to read and contains nuggets almost anyone may find useful – or at least entertaining (applesauce for a facial). A fun gift for college students or newlyweds who are new to housekeeping. ~$16 on Amazon.
Yin and Yang Nutrition for Dogs: Maximizing Health with Whole Foods, Not Drugs, by Judy Morgan DVM and Hue Grant (not the movie star). If you have a dog, chances are good that s/he’s a beloved member of your family, and you want only the best for him/her. That may include buying pricey toys and/or specialty dog foods. But you may be surprised to learn what Author Judy Morgan says. She is a certified veterinarian who carries a flag for cooking your own animal’s foods. This book is somewhat of an expose; it says the pet food industry in general is lying about what’s in its food and how those foods are made. She has observed in her practice that dogs and cats are increasingly suffering from inflammatory diseases that can be directly tied to the poor quality of the food they’re consuming. The logic is compelling. The recipes sound delicious – and you know they’re good for your pet because the author is a nutrition-oriented vet. The book is nicely laid out. As of this writing, Amazon claims the book is not available because of a quality problem with the publisher’s file, but it should be again. ~$10 for Kindle version. ~$30 in paperback.
The Food Substitutions Bible, by David Joachim. Don’t have any XO sauce to make that cool Asian recipe? How about agave nectar for that delicious-sounding dessert? This book is full of practical ideas for coming up with things you have around the house that can take the place of both food ingredients and cooking materials and equipment. Don’t have a pastry bag? Try a plastic resealable bag or rolled parchment paper. Don’t have any dry mustard (sound familiar to you, too)? For 1 teaspoon of powdered, substitute 1 tablespoon prepared mustard minus 1 tsp liquid from the recipe. How about this surprise—if you don’t have coriander root (who does?), for 1 tablespoon, substitute 2 tablespoons of thick cilantro stems!
Whether you need a substitute for a key ingredient or utensil, want to vary the flavor or texture of a recipe or even just figure out a healthier version of an old favorite, this book has some great ideas for improvising with confidence. The first edition of this book won the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award. Now Joachim, author, editor and collaborator on more than 30 cookbooks, includes 50 new recipes in this revised edition. Just reading the pages—all information is clearly laid out in neat, easy-to-read boxes—may inspire you to new culinary efforts. Fun to read.
The Field Guide to Bitters & Amari, by Mark Bitterman. This book addresses the mysterious substances known as bitters. The book contains photos of some of the 500 different bitters it lists, along with flavor profiles and tasting notes for each—it’s a genuine field guide (p 137). You’ll learn that bitters come in categories: aromatic, citrus, fruit, spice, spicy, herbal-floral, and nut. In addition to the extensive information on bitters, the book also talks about 50 different amari, the popular after-dinner digestif drinks considered the kindred spirits of bitters because they’re based on roots and herbs, and gives instructions on how to build a well-balanced cocktail with an amaro (p 87).
Plus the book contains dozens of recipes for sophisticated drinks and cool food items like Bittered Fried Chicken and Fried Olive-stuffed Olives with Bitter Lemon Olive Oil-Parsley dipping sauce. How about a Bittersweet Chocolate Torte that uses black walnut bitters in the cake and spiced bitters in the glaze? Aren’t you just ready to run out and buy a dozen bottles of bitters right now? The author clearly knows whereof he speaks—he actually runs a store called The Meadow that sells the largest selection of bitters in the world at all three of its locations. He even gives instructions in the book on how to make bitters and amari at home.
The book comes with a heavy, rich-looking, leather-like cover with orange/gold debossed printing and would make a wonderful gift for any food and/or drink aficionado looking for some excitement.
The Spice & Herb Bible, by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill. What is the difference between a spice and an herb? How did people use spices in 1700 BCE? How about a recipe for Chocolate and Wattleseed Truffle (p. 674) to crown your dinner party? Think about making Indian Butter Chicken (p. 156)—with a homemade 11-spice blend and chicken breasts marinated in a yogurt curry accented with tomato paste, brown sugar, almonds, tomato chutney, grated onion, garlic and more spices. Num.
This revised edition is a heavy, massive paperback book with glossy photos and lots of white space, boxed information, easy-to-read lists, and good ideas for how to buy and store, along with creative uses and recipes for everything from allspice to zedoary (white turmeric). Be aware that all recipe ingredients are given in milliliters and grams rather than ounces—an opportunity to polish up your knowledge of converting to and from the metric system. This book is great for a wannabe chef or someone who just wants to spread her wings and try new things in the kitchen.
The Cook’s Essential Kitchen Dictionary, by Jacques L. Rolland. Sure, we can look up anything we want online. And that’s great, but there’s really no substitute for a book when you want to explore something at your leisure. Here you’ll find food history, anecdotes, and information about origins and cultures along with 5000 definitions for familiar and not-so-familiar food and ingredient terms like distillation empanada, jicama, kohlrabi leavening, nam pia, orgeat, ratatouille sake, zabaglione and more. Use this for practical assistance when making a recipe with strange ingredients, or just read it for the joy of learning more about the amazing things people eat and season their food with.
The author of this book is a Frenchman with a degree in culinary arts and hotel management and also a certified sommelier (a very tough exam to pass). In this book (he also wrote The Food Encyclopedia) he shares his extensive knowledge of current realities of the world’s culinary landscape and intersperses it with his experiences teaching classes in etiquette, service and wine.
The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, by Amy Riolo, chef, television personality, cuisine and culture expert, is an Italian American of Calabrian descent. The focus here is on the health benefits—living longer and better—of the delicious dishes that characterize the Mediterranean diet—said to lower your chance of developing heart disease by nearly 50%. Author Riolo talks about what you should eat and why, as well as when you should eat it.
You’ll find, for example, a thorough explanation of how and why vegetables are part of the foundation of Mediterranean eating (often the basis for entire meals) just before recipes for asparagus soup, spaghetti squash “pasta,” and a Moroccon Vegetable Tajine. Read a write-up on the nutritional benefits of fish and seafood, just before recipes like Greek-style Roasted Fish and Vegetables, and a boxed tip explaining that marinating seafood, meat or chicken before grilling it doesn’t just taste great. It also “reduces the harmful cancer-causing substances” that open-flame cooking can produce.
Cookies & Beer: Bake, Pair, Enjoy, by Jonathan Bender. Yes, you read it right: Cookies and beer. While this may seem like heresy, the more you read about it, the more sense it makes. Both things have important ingredients in common: grains, spices and fruits. The book points out how the perfect beer can bring out unexpected flavors in a cookie, and how the right cookie can awaken flavors hardly noticed before in a beer.
The cookie recipes are fascinating—some of them even include beer as an ingredient as in, for example, Rye IPA Apricot Crumble Bars, which are made up of an apricot-beer-lemon-maple-sugar compote, a rye-flour-sugar-butter shortbread, and a caraway-black walnut crumble. Isn’t your mouth watering just thinking about that? The chef’s notes say: “Rye beers (IPA or otherwise) will amplify the rye and caraway seeds in the bar cookie and tease out a bit of sweetness from the apricot filling.”
You can tell this guy’s a food writer. This book is fun to read and dream about—even if you never make any of the recipes.