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Eat in My Kitchen: To Cook, to Bake, to Eat, and to Treat
Eat in My Kitchen: To Cook, to Bake, to Eat, and to Treat
by Meike Peters
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.69

5.0 out of 5 stars James Beard Award-winner that belongs in every kitchen!, 30 April 2017
Berlin-based Meike Peters’ lifelong love of food was instilled in her by her mother and grandmothers. Rooted in German comfort food, her style has also embraced French and Italian cuisine as well as her partner’s Maltese and American traditions. Her blog (and cookbook) Eat In My Kitchen has collected hundreds of beautiful, vegetable-forward recipes that highlight seasonal ingredients, using a minimum of preparation to enhance the delicate textures and flavors of the various seasonal fruits and veggies they showcase. “Eat In My Kitchen” was just named the James Beard Foundation’s top General Cooking title of 2017, and rightfully so!

Kicking off with salads, you’ll find a wide range of tempting plates such as the fennel and melon carpaccio with chervil, cucumber, arugula, and orange salad with turmeric and mint, roasted peppers and cherry tomatoes with burrata, lemon and basil, Radicchio, peach, and roasted shallot salad with blue cheese, and red cabbage and pomegranate salad with candied walnuts and rosemary. I made several of these for quick and easy weeknight suppers, and was impressed by both their appearance (beautiful), ease of assembly, and the wide range of flavors and textures coaxed from a minimum of fuss. The melon and fennel carpaccio made a fantastic light dinner alongside a glass of sparkling rose; the contrast between the crunch of the fennel, juicy melon and bright herbal notes from the chervil was a lovely surprise.

Vegetarians will find many outstanding dishes ready-made for them, including the salad chapter as well as many lovely pastas (Maltese lemon and ricotta pasta with basil, cicero e tria, wild mushroom spaghetti with orange butter and crispy sage, pumpkin gnocchi with Roquefort sauce), mains (grilled eggplant, ricotta, chickpea and poached egg tartine, torta al testo with lemon-rosemary lentil burgers and mozzarella di buffala, roasted shallot, caramelized plum, and stilton tartine with rosemary, roasted garlic and tomato focaccia sandwich with rosemary oil), basalmic strawberry, chevre, and pistachio tartine).

Meat, poultry and seafood lovers will be delighted to find treasures such as the Bavarian beer-roasted pork with sweet potatoes and parsnips, Riesling and elderflower chicken with apricots, slow-roasted duck with ginger, honey and orange, Maltese tuna and spinach pie, and swordfish with mint, tomatoes and lemon-caper oil.

Meike also touches on sweet and savory baking, from Gozitan pizza and a beautiful pear and blue cheese tart with rosemary to German-inspired bakes (Frankfurter krantz, cardamom kipferl, Donauwelle, butter Buchtel buns), Mediterranean-inspired recipes (polenta-almond cake with rosewater-vanilla syrup, Maltese bread pudding, lemon ricotta cannoli), and a glorious strawberry-ricotta cheesecake with oat cookie crust.
The beauty of Meike’s recipes is in their simplicity; with few exceptions, most recipes call for a mere handful of ingredients and straightforward prep. “To cook, to bake, to eat, and to treat is my daily feast,” she writes. Ingredients are listed in US as well as metric measurements, a fact which I greatly appreciate as I prefer to cook and bake in metric (weight) rather than US volume measurements as I feel it results in more accurate dishes. She also recommends using organic produce and ingredients whenever possible, preferably homegrown in the case of herbs. As fresh ricotta is difficult to come by here in Japan, I make my own Meyer lemon ricotta using the basic recipe from “One-Hour Cheese.” The resulting dishes are light, refreshing, and capture the essence of breezy summer days.

Homemade preserves will enhance your breakfasts and bakes with love, from elderflower syrup (used in the panna cotta recipe as well as a great enhancement for cocktails), spicy rhubarb chutney, Moroccan preserved lemons, and vegetable broth.

And one of my favorite features is the “Meet in Your Kitchen,” section, which includes recipes from Yossy Arefi (“Sweeter off the Vine” and her blog “Apt. 2B Baking Co.”), television host Cynthia Barcomi, salt producers the Cini Family, Malin Elmlid of The Bread Exchange, Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, and blogger / author Molly Yeh (whose cookbook “Molly on the Range” was one of my Top Cookbooks of 2016).

Because after all, the deepest, truest connections of food and taste are when we share the fruits of our labors with those we love – food as not merely sustenance, but as a springboard for leisurely conversations and taking a moment to slow down and savor in an all-too-hectic world.

Congratulations to Meike for winning her James Beard award and congratulations on a fantastic cookbook
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Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother's kitchen
Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother's kitchen
by Joudie Kalla
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and we bonded over a love of good food, 23 Feb. 2017
Over the last 10 years, I’ve taught hundreds of students from the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait. Bedouins and poets, engineers and pilots, all ended up in my classroom, and we bonded over a love of good food, culture, and stories shared over tiny cups of aromatic, cardamom-laced Saudi coffee, dates from royal orchards, and sugar-soaked pastries their wives had lovingly prepared that morning.

I’ve long been drawn to the cuisine of the Mediterranean and Middle East, with its rich bounty of fresh herbs, vegetables, and olive oil paired with tangy yogurt cheeses and garlicky dips. However, until recently, I had zero experience with the cuisine and culture of Palestine until receiving a copy of Joudie Kalla’s exquisite “Palestine on a Plate” (one of my blog’s Top Cookbooks of 2016) and taking a hands-on Palestinian class in Tokyo two weeks ago.

Like many staple dishes common throughout the Middle East, there’s a long, rich history of shared lineage (hummus, falafel, ful, stuffed grape leaves), of not wasting a morsel (recycled bread salads such as fattoush), and making the most of the season’s bounty. Joudie grew up in a Palestinian household; the recipes in the book are methods and ingredients learned from her mother and grandmothers. Although some dishes have been adapted for modern sensibilities (less fat, less fuss, and less time-consuming), all are true to traditional Palestinian cooking.

Beginning with a lovingly photographed guide to “my world of ingredients,” chapters include “Good Morning Starters” (ijeh, ful mudammas, fattet hummus, figs with labneh and honey on toasted bread, gorgeous sumac-y tomatoes, fluffy za’atar buns), hearty pulses and grains (freekeh-stuffed peppers, freekeh salad with marinated chicken and pomegranate dressing, lentil and beetroot salad with parsley and sumac dressing and grilled halloumi, maftoul tabbouleh, falafel, kubbeh), an entire chapter devoted to vibrant vegetarian dishes (tabbouleh-stuffed vine leaves, spinach and cheese parcels, mutabbal three ways, stuffed vegetables), lamb and chicken (makloubeh, kufta bil tahineh, warak inab, shakriyeh, fatayer, za’atar chicken), fish (saffron and lemon cod, mullet, sea bream, sumac and za’atar roasted monkfish, as well as squid, prawns, and shellfish), and a gorgeous dessert chapter that recalled the dishes shared with students: Yaffa orange cheesecake, m’t’abak, namoura, rosewater rice pudding, mandarin orange blossom cake, and very moreish tahini brownies.

As is standard for books I review, I chose several recipes to test and photograph: the lentil and beetroot salad with parsley and sumac dressing with grilled halloumi, za’atar buns (I used fresh yeast), and mandarin orange blossom cake. Finding fresh beetroot and imported halloumi was a bit of a Herculean challenge in Japan, but one that was well worth it.

Recalling Ottolenghi’s vibrant, stunning vegetable dishes, the lentil salad is my new go-to favorite for entertaining or festive dinners; the contrast of colors between the fluorescent beetroot, silky preserved lemons and bright punch from the parsley is visually impressive as well as a delicious contrast of textures and flavors. The sumac dressing (which includes white wine vinegar and lemon juice) and preserved lemons add a bright (but not overpowering) acidity, while the grilled halloumi adds a savory counterpoint. The za’atar buns are based on a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s and produced a moist, fluffy roll that pairs well with hearty soups or spreads. Finally, the mandarin orange cake was an interesting one as the flour is composed entirely of semolina, an ingredient normally used in namoura / revani / basboussa that is baked then bathed with a fragrant orange blossom-laced sugar syrup. Made with olive oil and whole boiled oranges, it keeps wonderfully moist for several days. I opted to bake it in my NordicWare Citrus loaf pans and topped with candied orange slices.

The recipes worked flawlessly as written; I opted to test in metric rather than the US conversions. Most ingredients should be readily available at your local grocery, with the exception of some of the grains (maftoul, freekeh) and seasonings (za’atar, rosewater, orange blossom water). Gorgeous photography by Ria Osbourne beautifully captures the finished dishes, along with scenes of vibrant everyday life in Palestine (markets, kitchens, street scenes, quiet moments at rest). The vegetarian chapter alone is worth the price of admission, plus I loved that many dishes come together quickly. Too often, I find myself purchasing cookbooks that are beautiful to look at but woefully impractical for weeknight cooking; not so with “Palestine on a Plate.” I also appreciated that Joudie includes healthier options for baking instead of deep-frying as I try to keep an eye on my fat intake and generally avoid fried foods.

Joudie’s tribute to her family, her home, and her rich Palestinian heritage is one that deserves a place of honor on your cookbook shelf; not only gorgeous to look at, every dish begs to be made and devoured, and Joudie’s prose will flood your senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of a Palestinian kitchen.
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Asian Slow Cooker, The
Asian Slow Cooker, The
by Kelly Kwok
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make your favorite Asian dishes at home!, 15 Jan. 2017
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This review is from: Asian Slow Cooker, The (Paperback)
Kelly Kwok, founder of "Life Made Sweeter," has unlocked the secret to delicious restaurant-style stir fries, noodles, curries, and desserts just like those you get from your favorite Chinese, Thai, or Korean restaurants, but without the sinkful of dirty dishes and piles of pots and pans! You'll find all your Chinese favorites like Beef and Broccoli, General Tso's Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Lo Mein along with Galbi (Korean-style short ribs), Thai curries, Bahn mi, tom yum, pho, fried rice, noodle dishes, sides and desserts.

Most of these qualify as one-pot dishes (despite the title, not all involve the slow cooker), making prep and cleanup easy. Ingredients are listed in both US and metric equivalents, and most ingredients should be readily available at your grocery store. Each recipe has a gorgeous full-color photo as well. The sauces in particular are standouts, even more so considering that relatively few ingredients are used (so no trips to the Chinese/Oriental supermarket trying to track down hard-to-find sauces and pastes).

As a vegetarian, I loved the Asian-inspired soups like the Thai pumpkin curry soup, miso soup with vegetables and soba noodles, and Chinese hot and sour soup. There is a whole chapter devoted to meatless mains, including a vegetarian mapodofu, Thai red curry vegetables, Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, General Tso's Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, and Thai basil tofu and vegetable rice casserole.

THAI BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY SOUP

YIELD: 4–5 SERVINGS

5 cups (2250 g) butternut squash (or pumpkin), peeled and cubed
1 cup (200 g) sweet potatoes, peeled, roughly cubed
1 medium onion, peeled, diced
1 tbsp (8 g) fresh ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 cups (710 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
1 (13.5-oz [400-ml]) can coconut milk
½–1 tbsp (8–16 g) red curry paste, to taste
½ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Drizzle of coconut milk, for garnish (optional)
Pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)
Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Sliced red chili pepper, for garnish (optional)

Place the squash, sweet potatoes, onion, ginger, garlic and broth in a 4- to 5-quart (3.8- to 4.7-L) slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours, until the squash and sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through.

Remove the lid and stir in the coconut milk, red curry paste, turmeric and lime juice. Allow the soup to cool slightly before puréeing. Using an immersion blender, purée directly in the slow cooker or pour contents into a blender and purée until smooth. Adjust seasonings as needed with salt and pepper.

Serve warm in bowls and garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, cilantro and sliced red chili pepper, if desired.

I love that so many of the ingredients are readily available; nothing is more frustrating than finding a dish that looks great, but not being able to locate specialty ingredients (especially true with some Chinese and Asian cookbooks).

The addition of desserts was a nice touch as I love to use my slow cooker for desserts (I also highly recommend Michele Scicolone's "The Mediterranean Slow Cooker" for its desserts chapter). Here you'll find a mandarin orange cheesecake, Asian pear pudding cake, black sesame brownies, Chinese steamed sponge cake, ginger tea poached pears, Lunar New Year sweet rice cake, mango coconut tapioca pudding, matcha green tea cake, sweet green bean soup, and Thai coconut sticky rice with mango.

Here is Kelly's recipe for Black Sesame Brownies: the ground black sesame seeds lend an almost peanut-butter-like depth.

BLACK SESAME BROWNIES
YIELD: 10 SERVINGS
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp (5 g) black sesame powder or finely ground black sesame seeds
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (58 g) unsalted butter
½ cup (90 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (225 g) sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup (90 g) semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, plus more for topping, if desired

Take a long piece of aluminum foil and fold it lengthwise into a long strip. Press it along the inside perimeter of your slow cooker, creating a ring. This will prevent the edges from burning. Next, line the bottom with a piece of parchment, leaving an overhang on the sides for easier removal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sesame powder, baking powder and salt.

Place the butter and chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high power for 30-second increments, stirring well after each, until completely smooth and melted. Whisk in the sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one by one, then add the vanilla.

Slowly stir in the flour mixture until just combined; do NOT overmix. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the lined slow cooker and smooth out using a rubber spatula. Top with additional chocolate chips if desired.

Cover the slow cooker with a double layer of paper towels then place the lid securely over the towels. This prevents any water from dripping into the cake batter.

Cook on low for 21⁄2 to 3 hours, then remove the cover and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the insert from the slow cooker and allow to cool completely. Lift the parchment paper to remove the brownies and slice into squares.

Kelly has also provided a handy guide to browning, cuts of meat, layering, sizes and brands of slow cookers, and general tips. In addition, a section on the Asian pantry includes a brief overview of staples such as black bean sauce / paste, sambal oelek, coconut milk, doenjang, dried chilis, fish sauce, spices, and other seasonings that you'll need to create the dishes in "The Asian Slow Cooker."

Verdict: If you love Asian cuisine but think you don't have the time to create it at home, think again! "The Asian Slow Cooker" will have you throwing out your takeout menus in favor of easy homemade versions with far fewer additives, plus there is enough variety and range of Asian cuisines (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean) to keep you happily cooking for months to come. Happy (slow) cooking!

(Thank you to YC Media for permission to reprint recipes and photos from The Asian Slow Cooker!)


Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe
Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe
by Ana Sortun
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful cookbook but in need of proofreading / edits, 23 Oct. 2016
Several years ago, a fellow cookbook collector gifted me a copy of Ana Sortun's excellent Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, and I fell instantly and madly in love. Sortun is the executive chef behind Oleana and Sofra. Classically trained at La Varenne, she decided to incorporate Mediterranean spices and the mezze mentality after studying in Turkey. Sofra Cafe and Bakery opened in 2008 and serves mezze and baked goods from Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece, all of which are amply represented in "Soframiz."

I've long admired Turkish cuisine and have collected numerous books on the subject (including recent releases Istanbul Cult Recipes, Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine, and Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking), so when I heard that Ana and Maura Kilpatrick were coming out with a Sofra cookbook, I was ecstatic. I've had the galley for several months, and have made numerous recipes from the book, including the spicy tomato bulgur salad, stuffed simit, Persian carrot and black eyed pea salad, and tahini shortbread cookies.

The recipes include breakfast, meze, flatbreads, savory pies, cookies and confections, specialty pastries, cakes and desserts, and beverages. If you've never experienced a Turkish (or Israeli) breakfast, you're in for a treat; traditional breakfast spreads include many small bowls and plates of olives, tahini, stuffed flatbreads, egg dishes, vegetables and cheeses taking up the entire table. Breakfast at Sofra includes such staples as Shakshuka (baked eggs with spicy tomato sauce), rolled omelet with za'atar and labne, flower pogaca rolls, date orange brioche tart, pistachio toaster pastries with rosewater glaze, and morning buns iwth orange blossom glaze.

The meze really shine and make for inspired snacking or afternoon pick-me-ups, from the whipped cheese spreads and hummus to hearty and healthy bean-based salads (Persian carrot and black-eyed peas, Egyptian-style pea salad with walnuts, barley and chickpea salad, yellow split peas with za'atar spiced almonds). I made several for this review and all were definite repeats.

My true passion is baking, so the breads and baked goods were the real test. My first disappointment was that measurements are only given in volume, not weight; as a serious home baker, I much prefer the precision of weighing my flours, particularly as I live in an extremely humid climate (which affects the weight of flour). I also had some issues with several of the bread recipes I tried; the stuffed simit featured on the cover calls for 1 cup water to 2 1/4 cups of flour, and what initially greeted me was almost like pancake batter. I continued to add flour by the tablespoon, as well as a little olive oil, and eventually had a very soft (but workable) dough that was wonderfully moist. The Turkish method of brushing with pekmez (grape molasses) lends a sweet finish to the savory filling of feta and za'atar spiced almonds and the toasted sesame seed topping. The bread is delicious on its own or as an accompaniment to the salads in the book.

Fans of Middle Eastern pastries will be in heaven; from pistachio bird's nests (a recipe I have not encountered in my many other Turkish books) to Persian love cake, kunefe, umm Ali with caramelized apples, chocolate hazelnut baklava, brown butter pecan pie with espresso dates, date espresso ma'amoul, and milky walnut-fig baklava, this is a baker's paradise.

I encountered an issue with the tahini shortbread cookies, which calls for 2 tsp salt; I cross-checked the recipe on the internet, and the online version I found also called for 2 tsp. salt. My baker's instinct told me to start with much less; I went with 1/2 tsp salt, which is what most of the other cookie and shortbread recipes in "Soframiz" called for, and I'm certainly glad I didn't use the full amount as they would have been too salty for my taste. Also, I followed the recipe to the letter, and ended up with more like 3 or 4 dozen cookies. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds but you are only instructed to use 1/4 cup. The resulting cookies were absolutely delicious and would be fantastic as part of a cheese tray as the sesame lends a savory edge.

Gorgeous matte photography and clear, large font make this a pleasure to read and cook from (I prefer matte pages as it means no glare in my cookbook holder). I loved the recipes I tried, but found in several instances that there are small errors, so be sure to read through the entire recipe in advance and make note if an ingredient is mentioned that is not in the list, or an amount seems off.

Overall "Soframiz" is one of my top cookbook picks for 2016 (I'll be releasing my 2016 cookbook roundup in the next month or two), and one that fans of Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine will certainly want to add to their collections.
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Istanbul Cult Recipes
Istanbul Cult Recipes
by Pomme Larmoyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " which I can't recommend highly enough, 22 Oct. 2016
This review is from: Istanbul Cult Recipes (Hardcover)
My first introduction to "Cult Recipes" was last year's "Tokyo Cult Recipes," which I can't recommend highly enough. The "Cult Recipes" books are a virtual stroll around some of the world's great cities (Venice, New York, Tokyo, Istanbul), with detailed maps, itineraries, and supporting recipes to match. The included photographs capture the vibrant people and places, as well as mise en place and various markets and ingredients.

Turkish cuisine is probably my favorite and I have numerous Turkish books in my collection, so I was eager to see how this would stack up.

From the gorgeous gold-embossed cover to the unique black-and-white cartoons, "Istanbul Cult Recipes" is a fantastic love song to the city. True to Turkish cuisine, the bulk of the recipes are for meze, including a vibrant beetroot couscous, chopped salad with walnuts, and purslane salad, kebabs, pilavs, and veg-friendly mains (lentil kofte, hot salads, black-eyed peas with tomato, sarma, etc.). The street food chapter introduced me to some new favorites (I had no idea that giant baked potatoes were popular outside the US), while the "Sweet Things" chapter doesn't disappoint with kadayif, kunefe, muhallebi, kurabiye, lokma, Turkish delight and baklava. I loved the pumpkin dessert and baked quince ideas. The illustrated pastries and condiments, grains and pulses, and dried herbs and spices charts were also tremendously helpful. Recipes are listed in metric / US volume / US weight measurements, which I greatly appreciated (more and more UK titles are doing this thankfully!).

The recipes themselves are simple and straightforward, and most don't require extensive prep or cooking time, making it easy to prepare several dishes to be served together, as is the tradition in Turkey.

A fantastic collection to your cookbook library and one of my top cookbooks of 2016!


The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-In-The-Wall Gems of a Modern City
The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-In-The-Wall Gems of a Modern City
by Aleksandra Crapanzano
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The London Cookbook" collects 100 recipes from the city's best restaurants (Ottolenghi, 22 Oct. 2016
"The London Cookbook" collects 100 recipes from the city's best restaurants (Ottolenghi, Nopi, Cinnamon Kitchen, Ginger & White, Quo Vadis, Duck and Waffle, etc.), showcasing a wide range of flavors, produce, international influences, and modern tastes. From grilled leek, chevre, browned butter and smoked almonds to tapas-inspired fritters, the inspired appetizers whet the palate for the many delightful courses to come, including a stellar pasta chapter featuring chestnut straccetti (perfect timing as chestnuts are in season here!) and hearty risottos (I loved the wine and spiced pumpkin variation) to mains including tandoori chicken and curries, Japanese braised pork belly to classic desserts such as tarte normande with Calvados, you're sure to find a dish that appeals to you. A far cry from the dated image of overboiled, mushy vegetables and bland mains, "The London Cookbook" is a vibrant, approachable guide to London's diverse culinary scene.

(I received this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion)
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Gennaro's Italian Bakery
Gennaro's Italian Bakery
by Gennaro Contaldo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring the flavors of Italy home!, 12 Oct. 2016
Some of my earliest food memories revolve around the smell and taste of the fresh yeast bread my Polish grandmother would bake in her small apartment kitchen in Michigan…for me, there is no more comforting aroma than that of freshly-baked bread. In a sort of alchemy, humble ingredients are transformed into an expression of baking talent and love. I’ve lived in five countries and visited several others, and sampling local breads and baked goods is one of the first things I set out to do.

My large baking collection features numerous books on breads and baking, including several editions of the seminal “The Italian Baker” by Carol Field, my staple “Artisan Bread in 5,” Crumb: A Baking Book, Honey & Co The Baking Book, and the new Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking--Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka, and I’m pleased to report that “Gennaro’s Italian Bakery” now holds a spot of honor as well.

Gennaro Contaldo, Italian chef and restauranteur who mentored Jamie Oliver, grew up surrounded by a family of bakers, from spending hours in his uncle’s bakery to waking up to his mother’s home baking. As a baker at The Neal Street Restaurant, he was responsible for making the bread, focaccia, torte salate, pastry and seasonal bakes. As he mentioned in the foreword, bread and baked goods mean tradition, and you’ll find various bakes from across Italy and in honor of various seasons and holidays.

Beginning with basic bread dough and grissini, you’ll find recipes for panini, stuffed breads, focaccia (garlic and rosemary, cheese, peppers, potato, red onion and pancetta), pizze (Bianca, marinara, 4-cheese, greens, individual pizzas), stuffed pies (spinach, guanciale, courgette and ricotta), sweet breads (plaited sweetbread, aniseed and currant ring cake, pandoro, brioche, colomba), crostate (tarts: ricotta and Nutella, dried apricot, strawberry and peach, creamy limoncello tart with grated chocolate, pumpkin), biscotti, cantucci, and torte (pear and chocolate, polenta and almond cake, yogurt and orange ring cake, marbled espresso loaf cake). Many of the recipes are influenced by Tuscany (including autumnal favorite castagnaccio), and you’ll note that some recipes do not include salt as is traditional – so you may choose to add at your own discretion. Ingredients are listed in metric as well as US volume and weight measurements, a thoughtful touch that makes it much easier for US bakers. And many recipes feature gorgeous matte photographs of the final bakes.

For this review, I made three recipes, including the grape and rosemary buns, tricolor braided loaf, and the aniseed and currant cake.

The grape and rosemary buns did not include salt in the recipe, and I would definitely add about ½ tsp next time as the sweetness of the grapes could use the balance from a pinch of salt. Also, the shaping instructions were rather vague (“form the dough into little basket shapes”) and I must have rolled mine too tightly as I could not get my dough spirals to resemble the photo, but they were delicious nonetheless and froze beautifully.

The second recipe I tried was the treccia colorata, with three different flavors (saffron walnut, rum raisin, chocolate and orange). This was extremely time-consuming (start to finish, it was a four-hour project) and messy, and I felt like I may have overworked the dough trying to knead in the cocoa powder after the first rise – next time, I would add in the flavoring during the initial mixing / kneading by dividing the dough before the first rise. The final loaf was a touch dry, but made fantastic toast and looked gorgeous on the table.

The final recipe (and my personal favorite of the three) was the aniseed and currant ring cake. I was happily surprised to find both currants and Sambuca widely available here in Japan, and set out to make the cake (I used a 10-cup NordicWare Bundt pan). This was the easiest recipe of the three, and very easy to assemble (it only requires a brief knead). The final texture was delightfully soft, fragrant, and makes fantastic toast.

My next challenge will be the chestnut squares as chestnuts are in season here in Japan; in fact, one of my former students gifted me with some gorgeous chestnuts from his tree, so I look forward to baking with them.

Overall, “Gennaro’s Italian Bakery” is a delightful addition to your baking library that fans of Italian breads and pastries will definitely want to own! (Note: I reviewed the UK edition, but Interlink is also releasing an adapted version for US home bakers in the near future).
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A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals
A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals
by Anna Jones (Fo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £23.02

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many of my favorite veg-friendly authors are from the UK (Rose Elliot, 27 Sept. 2016
I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, and now pescetarian for over a decade, but “A Modern Way to Cook” was my first introduction to the charismatic Anna Jones. Many of my favorite veg-friendly authors are from the UK (Rose Elliot, Meera Sodha, Madhur Jaffrey, Prashad, Ottolenghi, Mildred’s, Happy Pear in Ireland), and now Anna has joined the list.

In “A Modern Way To Cook” (followup to “A Modern Way To Eat”), Anna presents recipes in order of prep time, from 15 Minutes (spiced pea and paneer flatbreads, avocado, tahini and olive smash flatbreads, at-your-desk salads, green pea and coconut soup), “Ready in 20” (seeded halloumi and harissa bowl, smoky beans and sweet potato hash browns, crispy cauliflower rice with sticky spiced cashews, stir fries), 30 minutes (Persian pea and herb bakes with beet labneh, pan-roasted lime, feta and chile greens burrito, smoky corn chowder with maple-toasted coconut, baked potato variations), to lengthier, more involved recipes suitable for lazy weekends or special events. You’ll also find ideas for breakfasts (smoothies, pancakes, morning bowls, French toast), desserts, and pantry staples.

Many of the “recipes” are simply suggestions on how to customize simple dishes (add-ins for quick warm fruit, quick fruit ice cream, baked potato toppers, etc.).

This definitely falls into the “clean eating” camp, with many gluten-free recipes (including cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, and alternative sweeteners. As a reviewer who primarily bakes in metric, I also appreciate that the North American release has preserved the original metric measurements; I’ve been burned once too often by shoddy conversions to US measurements and the original metric measurements being removed (one prime example is the MIldred’s cookbook; the original UK printing had both metric and US measurements, but when the US version was released, the liquids in several recipes had mysteriously changed in quantity in the US version!). It also feels a bit “trendy” (numerous all-in-one bowls, Paleo hacks, etc.), and some of the ingredients may be difficult to locate.

Overall. this an approachable cookbook with a lot of great staples that I will be making frequently (saffron apricots, salted almond butter chocolate bars, honey and orange ricotta baked figs, pistachio and raspberry brownies, honey and white miso eggplant, etc.).

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.


Vegetarian Tagines & Cous Cous: 60 delicious recipes for Moroccan one-pot cooking
Vegetarian Tagines & Cous Cous: 60 delicious recipes for Moroccan one-pot cooking
by Ghillie Basan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.03

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vegetarian taste of Morocco that's sure to delight!!, 23 Sept. 2016
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Ghillie Basan, author of several cookbooks on Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine including Classic Turkish Cooking and Tagines & Couscous: Delicious Recipes for Moroccan One-pot Cooking, offers up a vegetarian (mostly vegan) Moroccan feast in "Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous." Although at first glance this would appear to be a slim volume (65 recipes total), "Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous" is a wonderful all-in-one source for Moroccan pantry staples, light mezze and appetizers, creative ways to make the most of seasonal vegetables and produce, and wonderful couscous and fruit salads that are welcome any time of year. The ingredients and instructions are clearly laid out, and most ingredients should be readily available at your local supermarket. Most of the recipes can be easily made vegan by swapping out agave for honey, using olive oil in place of butter, or by omitting the cheese and eggs (there are relatively few recipes that call for either).

Beginning with essential recipes such as preserved lemons, smen, harissa, chermoula, and ras el hanout, the book offers a diverse selection of light appetizers including cracked green olives and cardamom and harissa, crudités with red chilli dukkah dip, filo fingers stuffed with feta, olives, and preserved lemon, smoked aubergine and yogurt dip with harissa, and strained yogurt and cucumber dip with rose petals. There are also several flavor-infused soups like creamy pumpkin soup with ginger and chilli honey and chilled almond and garlic soup.

The included tagines (both light and hearty) offer a wide range of preparations of vegetables and legumes including the wonderful tagine of artichokes, broad beans, apricots and almonds, onion, olive, and egg tagine with zahtar, and tagine of spicy roasted pumpkin wedges with lime. There are also a number of fruit tagines including the tagine of roasted pear with figs, walnuts and cardamom, stuffed prune tagine with walnuts and rosewater, and pumpkin, apple, and sultana tagine with chermoula, that are a wonderful way to braise fruit to a soft, creamy consistency. I enjoyed the stuffed prune tagine with its spiced wine reduction over Greek yogurt in the mornings!

The cooking instructions for the several couscous dishes yield a light, fluffy couscous unlike the "typical" American boxed couscous. True Moroccan couscous is made fresh and is slowly steamed and fluffed until light and airy. The couscous recipes here are a compromise between the two methods, yielding light, fluffy couscous without the long time steaming, fluffing, adding liquid and repeating. Ghillie has you first soak the couscous in warm water, then fluff the grains with a fork to separate, rub oil into the grains using your fingers, then aerate before baking to heat through. I attempted the couscous with dried fruit and nuts and it turned out every bit as beautiful (and delicious) as the cover photo! You'll also find the traditional couscous with seven vegetables as well as a saffron couscous with roasted coconut and pistachios, couscous with hot apricot chutney and halloumi (the recipe for the homemade chutney is worth the cost of the book alone!), and harissa couscous with pine nuts and fried eggs.

One important word of caution is that your type of tagine and stovetop may result in many of these being prepared in a dish other than a tagine as many of the tagines are cooked on the stovetop versus oven; I have a ceramic stovetop and two clay tagines and was advised not to use clay/terra cotta tagines even with a heat diffuser, so for the many stovetop preparations I used my 4.5-quart Staub Dutch oven instead. If you have a Staub or Le Creuset cast iron tagine, then you should be fine using them directly on a ceramic stovetop.

One of my favorite parts (and a wonderful way to close out a meal) is the gorgeous fruit salads; I made the orange and date salad with chillies and preserved lemon and grapefruit and pomegranate salad with rosewater (see photo); these quickly became favorites and I make them at least every other week now. They are easy to put together and the flavors work wonderfully together, not to mention the striking presentation (I like to fan out the orange segments into a star shape). The contrast between sweet and tart (the preserved lemons), or fruity and floral, serves to balance out spicier dishes or as an anytime treat. Several basic jams and pickle recipes are also included (tomato jam with cinnamon and roasted sesame seeds, lemon, coriander and mint jam, pickled pears with saffron and cinnamon, date relish, and pickled red chillies and purple turnips).

The book's graphic layout and photography by Steve Painter is also stunning, featuring vibrant piles of spices, silks, and gorgeous tilework interspersed throughout. There are full-page, full-color photos for nearly every finished dish.

I find myself turning to "Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous" frequently for the many creative, delicious takes on traditional Moroccan stews; there is plenty of variety to keep you experimenting happily for many weeks or months to come!
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An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair
An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair
by Faith E. Gorsky
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A great entry into the world of homestyle Middle Eastern cooking that is perfect for any level of home cook, 23 Sept. 2016
When Faith Gorsky married her husband in the Middle East, she was introduced to a cultural and culinary world that would forever change how she experienced food and cooking. After her wedding, Faith spent six months in the Middle East and had the opportunity to learn traditional Middle Eastern dishes from her Syrian mother-in-law. During these cooking lessons, she faced language barriers and the lack of standardized measurements ("a small coffee cup of rice" or "some milk"), but eventually mastered several basic recipes and techniques and started cooking for the extended family.

Faith started her blog "An Edible Mosaic" in 2009 as a place to encourage experimentation in the kitchen and to share the wealth of information she had learned about Middle Eastern cuisine, making what were traditionally orally-transmitted recipes into attainable recipes that American home cooks could attempt. "An Edible Mosaic," like her blog of the same name, is a collection of these homestyle Middle Eastern (particularly Syrian) dishes. One important note is that "An Edible Mosaic" (the cookbook) focuses solely on Middle Eastern cuisine, while "An Edible Mosaic" the blog includes a range of international influences. If you're looking for some of Faith's other recipes, you won't find them here. Also, many of these recipes are new to the cookbook and have not been previously featured on the blog.

Because the book is written from a Syrian perspective, the names of some dishes may be different from the ones you are used to seeing in Middle Eastern cookbooks or restaurants (shakshouka is listed as "juzmuz," basbousa = "harissa," etc.). A handy list of Middle Eastern grocery stores (and websites) will allow you to stock up on supplies like apricot leather, cardamom pods, dried limes, mastic, and flower waters that may be difficult to find locally.

Gorgeous color photos illustrate every page, starting with basic cooking tools and ingredients (the photos of making perfect rice and how to hollow out veggies were particularly helpful), and draw you into the stories behind each recipe. Each chapter features distinctive borders printed with colorful Middle Eastern tiles. I loved the staging of the photos as each photo includes a uniquely Middle Eastern touch, from gold-embroidered runners to dainty fenajeen (demitasse cups).

The book is a miracle of compactness, managing to fit nine lavishly illustrated chapters into only 144 pages. A basic section on cooking tips and techniques introduces sidebars on basic cooking tips as well as putting together maza platters and coffee the Middle Eastern way. Basic cooking tools are also explored, including some that are likely less familiar to American audiences (ma'amoul molds, della, hafara). There's a buyer's guide to Middle Eastern ingredients and several basic recipes (clotted cream, taratoor, basic savory pie dough, scented sugar syrup, basic spice mixes) before launching into breads and pies, which includes Middle Eastern flatbreads, sesame seed breads, spiced meat flat pies, and spinach turnovers. The salads chapter gave me many quick and tasty new additions to my maza, including chickpea salad with lemony mint salad dressing, colorful cabbage salad with lemony mint salad dressing, beet salad with tahini dressing (I love beets and tahini in all shapes and forms, and had never thought to combine the two before!), and standards like Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh, and fattoush.

Vegetarians will find much to enjoy in the salads chapter and the vegetable and rice side dishes, including the herbed potato salad, fried cauliflower with sesame parley sauce, saffron rice with golden raisins and pine nuts, and the many appetizers (zucchini fritters, juzmuz (shakshouka), herbed omelets, spiced cheese balls, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves. Protein can be found in the form of foul mudammas, hummus, tissiyeh, and falafel. I particularly enjoyed the lentil and bulgur pilaf with caramelized onions.

Meat-based classics like kibbeh (including a recipe for raw kibbeh), shwarma, kabsa, and sheesh taouk are also represented, as is seafood. One of my favorite discoveries was the shrimp in aromatic tomato sauce, which was spiced with cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and paprika, which complemented its suggested accompaniment of saffron rice with golden raisins and pine nuts.

I found the desserts chapter a particular delight, as I've long appreciated the Middle Eastern desserts that my students from the Gulf would bring to go along with Saudi coffee. There's a very helpful illustrated guide to ma'amoul (date-filled cookies traditionally shaped with a wooden mold; one of my Iraqi students introduced me to these), and several variations on puddings (the gorgeous layered apricot and milk pudding makes a stunning finale to any meal). I have a basbousa/harissa recipe from Australia that I normally use that calls for copious amounts of melted butter and yogurt, but Faith's version made with milk was every bit as moist (and no doubt healthier). I also followed her direction to put the harissa under the broiler to brown the top; that's the one step I was never able to get right in the past, and it came out looking every bit as gorgeous as the cookbook photo (see photo).

As Faith says in the introduction, her goal for "An Edible Mosaic" was to introduce home cooks to traditional Middle Eastern recipes that are delicious and attainable as well as to teach a bit of Middle Eastern culture along with the cuisine as the two are so closely intertwined. Even if you already have other Middle Eastern cookbooks, you'll be sure to find new and memorable recipes here (most of my Mediterranean / Middle Eastern cookbooks focus on Lebanon, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, so some of the Syrian dishes were new to me). Overall, "An Edible Mosaic" is a great entry into the world of homestyle Middle Eastern cooking that is perfect for any level of home cook!
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