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The Single Guy Cookbook

Avi Shemtov. Page Street, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-62414-115-7

It would be hard to find a better example of a living contradiction than Shemtov, a husband and father of two who runs a glatt kosher Middle Eastern food truck in Boston but fills this cookbook with a smorgasbord of bachelor-friendly dishes that are rarely Middle-Eastern and nearly always treif. The book itself is also a collection of mixed messages. Simplicity does not seem to be a defining factor of what constitutes a single guy’s meal. Instead, there are numerous recipes that contain cheese and/or pork products, such as the bacon and Parmesan roasted veggie medley; over-the-top twists on comfort food, such as chocolate chip and bacon pancakes; and a smattering of nonsensical entrees including the lazy lasagna for one, which takes one of the world’s quintessential leftover foods and reduces it to three noodles broken into a dozen pieces and mixed into a skillet full of cheese, beef and spinach. “Cooking to Impress” is the subtitle of a chapter with a decidedly more forward main title; it turns out to be a flavorful and mature collection of 13 recipes suitable for that special someone. Selections include fish tacos, lamb pilaf, and fresh tuna salad with goat cheese and ginger walnuts. As a final switch-up, a chapter of healthy alternatives says goodbye to beef and hello to turkey in a Healthy Joe sandwich, the almost meat loaf, and turkey meatballs served over spaghetti squash. (July)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Book of Tripe

Stéphane Reynaud. Murdoch, $45 (192p) ISBN 978-1-743-36986-9

The signature image in this intensely photographed and concisely written book on all things offal is that of a raw beef heart, marbled with fat and pierced through by a kitchen knife. French chef Reynaud, and photographer Marie-Pierre Morel, have never been shy when it comes to the spilling of guts. Here, the guts include not just the heart but also thymus glands, kidneys, brains, tongue, intestines, and the occasional udder. Reynaud crafts them into over 75 savory recipes ranging from the tame chicken liver soufflés to the more daring curried pork cheeks, and from the overly specific spinal cord with oyster mushrooms to the euphemistic lamb fries (testicles sautéed in butter and garlic). Each organ or extremity has its own chapter, prefaced with a brief definition and a folksy meditation from the author, which is usually as corny as it is meaty. Reynaud also has the sometimes dark habit of humanizing his ingredients. Of kidneys, he writes, “They make friends with the skewer and join the party on the embers of summer.” Funny illustrations from José Reis de Matos of bipedal pigs wearing eyeglasses and of a sheep polishing a calf’s foot, presumably before it’s made into calf’s foot salad, add to the twisted humor. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game Volume One: Big Game

Steven Rinella. Spiegel & Grau, $25 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9406-3

Rinella (Meat Eater; American Buffalo) continues his winning streak of crafting passionate, informed treatises on outdoor living in this fascinating examination of hunting bear, elk, and moose as well as more commonly hunted species such as whitetail deer. Rinella thoughtfully walks fellow hunters through the process of choosing the proper weapons, selecting the right tools such as binoculars and navigation tools, the art of loading one’s pack, and getting permission from land owners before setting out on a hunt. Once in the field, readers will appreciate Rinella’s fine points on tactics such as stalking and using decoys as well as tips that can only come from a veteran, such as talking to backpackers for information on animal activity and shooting technique in order to ensure a successful hunt. Once they’ve downed an animal, Rinella offers detailed tips accompanied by helpful photos to aid in butchering for consumption or taxidermy. Surprisingly, the book’s weak spot is its final chapter, covering recipes for making the most of one’s bounty. Rinella doesn’t offer too many tips beyond the obvious grilled steaks and jerky, though wild pig hunters will appreciate his simple but flavorful recipe for smoked ham. It’s a minor flaw in a book that’s terrifically informative and is sure to inspire hunters to start poring over maps and readying themselves for their next hunt. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel

Heidi Swanson. Ten Speed, $29 (320p) ISBN 978-1-6077-4549-5

Swanson (Super Natural Cooking) offers a unique but uneven collection of vegetarian recipes inspired by Northern California, where she resides, and the diverse locales she’s visited, including Morocco, Japan, and Italy. All recipes, she states, are rooted in place, incorporating the culture of the cuisine as well as common local ingredients and techniques. She starts with San Francisco and Northern California, showcasing lackluster offerings such as cucumber salad, yellow wax beans, and shredded tofu stir-fry. Fortunately, the majority of her overseas offerings are much more appetizing. Morocco’s saffron tagine, yellow couscous, and roasted winter squash exude a variety of rich flavors. Her chapter on Japan is superb, especially nori granola, turmeric miso soup, sake-glazed mushrooms, and watermelon radish soup. Surprisingly, Italy disappoints, with radicchio salad, brown butter tortelli, and biscottini—safe but unremarkable choices. France fares only slightly better with olives with grapefruit juice, wine-washed arugula, three types of tartines, and lettuce hearts with melted brown butter. India provides Swanson with an opportunity to shine once again with saag paneer, aloo bhaji, rasam, and makhaniya lassi. She concludes with a hodgepodge chapter on accompaniments, including brown rice, fresh ginger juice, whey, and labneh. Diverse but unbalanced, this collection vacillates from the unusual to the mundane, offering cooks occasional culinary gems amidst the humdrum. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Heartlandia: Heritage Recipes from the Country Cat

Adam and Jackie Sappington, with Ashley Gartland. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-544-36377-9

Missouri heritage cooking meets the clean flavors of the Pacific Northwest in this improbably delicious mash-up. The Sappingtons, chef owners of the Country Cat in Portland, Ore., open their collection with a classic perfected—buttermilk biscuits—and then the homestyle hits keep coming: challah French toast with Maker’s Mark custard and clabber cream, the restaurant’s signature skillet-fried chicken, rhubarb cobbler with ruby caramel. Woven into each chapter are plenty of charming anecdotes from Adam Sappington’s Midwest childhood, with respect for the culinary wisdom of past generations in his ode to “glorified Gramma cuisine.” Hints of a more refined Portland palate make their way in too, with dishes such as the chanterelle, green bean, and freekeh salad with huckleberry vinaigrette, and crispy fried oysters with smoky bacon and green apple ragout. However, the recipes that shine the brightest are the ones written from the heart: a passionate homage to ranch dressing, a remembrance of the Friday night fish fry, and a potted cheese dip simply known as “Judy.” With generosity and a warm sense of humor, the Sappingtons invite everyone to pull up a chair at their family table—and with recipes like theirs, readers will be more than happy to dig in. Agent: Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life

Ruth Reichl, photos by Mikel Vang. Random, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6998-9

When the doors closed at Gourmet magazine in 2009, editor-in-chief Reichl comes to terms with her professional upheaval by plunging herself into her greatest pleasure—cooking. Reichl gets reacquainted with her kitchen and the joy of cooking for herself and others. The year of healing and rediscovery journaled in this cookbook reveals the simple pleasures that the former New York Times restaurant critic and James Beard Award–winner recaptures when she steps back into her home kitchen, where it all started. Her recipes, introduced by haiku-like images of smells, tastes, sounds, and cityscape, read like kitchen conversations and have an inviting, informal cook-along-with-Ruth tone. The recipes are arranged by season and include comforting dishes such as roasted tomato soup, corn pudding, fried chicken, grilled cheese with leeks, and hamburgers on potato buns. There’s plenty of international fare: pastas, lemony hummus, Yanghuo-style dumplings, spicy Korean shrimp, and vegetable rice sticks. The dishes are clearly fun and uplifting for Reichl, and the unexpected shift from culinary guru to happy home cook chases her blues away. Reichl reminds readers that getting lost in a recipe can be excellent therapy. Agent: Kathy Robbins, Robbins Office. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Long Way From Paris

E.C. Murray. Plicata (plicatapress.com), $16 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-0-9903102-1-1

Murray’s debut memoir updates the American-abroad story with amusing and philosophical reflections on a winter spent herding goats in the south of France. The concerns of a young, city-bred, privileged American dabbling as a goatherd are not subsistence, like the “back to nature” family with whom she lives, but rather self-improvement: getting over an ex, adjusting to significant weight loss, and learning to “believe in myself”. Though her lack of facility with the French language leaves many of her interactions with the locals as opaque to the reader as they were to Murray then, her sweetly energetic prose, blending poetic description with American slang (“Spain? Yahoo!”), brings to vivid, eye-popping life the rural landscape, the cold weather and the animals with whom she spends her days. As she learns how to milk a goat, darn a sock, ride a horse, and midwife farm animal babies, Murray grows in confidence and maturity, eventually coming to terms with painful relationships, her own past, and the loss that shadows both human and animal life. Rich with history, Murray’s literary and philosophical reflections give the memoir substance, and the journey of achieving peace with oneself is relatable even for those who don’t know where their goat cheese comes from. Photos. (Booklife)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Dare to Be Your Own Boss: Follow Your Passion, Create a Niche

Maya Sullivan. Synergy (synergy-books.com), $22.99 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-0-9907-5420-6

Many people dream about starting their own businesses and working for themselves, but few are confident enough to forgo a steady paycheck and leap into the unknown. Sullivan, a self-admitted serial career reinventor, seeks to increase the odds of success in this in-depth informative guide. The key, she states, is to discover what excites your passion and then match it with a venture. The book consists of three sections, namely “Becoming Your Own Boss,” “12 Areas of Opportunity,” and “Moving Forward.” Sullivan begins with the basics, identifying six benefits and six drawbacks of being the boss, with expanded income potential and enhanced well-being on the upside, and financial uncertainty and no subsidized benefits on the downside. She also explores options for financing that range from traditional investors to crowdfunding. Sullivan goes on to list “14 Keys to Ignite Your Passion and Enthusiasm.” Part Two focuses on categories of industries to explore, such as business-to-business, and goods and services. The last section is perhaps the most crucial, exploring the all-important concept of viability, followed by a lengthy list of resources for new business owners. While Sullivan doesn’t claim to have a roadmap to success, she does arm readers with knowledge that will be handy in getting there. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Art of Memoir

Mary Karr. Harper, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-222306-7

Karr (The Liars’ Club), the author of three lauded memoirs, teaches a selective memoir writing graduate class at Syracuse University, and offers her wisdom in this instructive guide to the genre. Not only does Karr write exquisitely herself (and without pretense, often with raw authenticity—“One can’t mount a stripper pole wearing a metal diving suit”), she clearly adores memoirs; the appendix of nearly 200 suggested (“required”) memoirs is a delightful and useful bonus. The text is a must-read for memoirists, but will also appeal to memoir lovers and all who are curious about how books evolve. For writers in particular, Karr covers such essential topics as the quest for truth (probing its elusive nature), finding one’s own “true” voice or “you-ness,” (“Most memoirs fail because of voice,” she asserts), the crucial process of revision, evoking the five senses, and how to deal with family and others who play major parts in the memoir (she sends her polished manuscripts out in advance for inspection and lets friends pick their own pseudonyms). As if auditing her class, readers learn from her commentary on the memoirs of Vladimir Nabokov, Michael Herr, Frank McCourt, Hilary Mantel, and others. Karr lends her characteristic trueness and “you-ness” to the subject of writing memoirs, wisely (and quite often humorously) guiding readers in their understanding and experience of the art. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

Gillian Tett. Simon & Schuster, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4473-9

In the age of Twitter, smartphones, and 4G, many people think we’re more connected than ever, but Tett (Fool’s Gold), the U.S. managing editor for the Financial Times, says that’s not necessarily so. In fact, she asserts, that popular narrative has lulled us into a false sense of security, when in fact our lives have become increasingly fragmented. Her main focus is on the downside of allowing an organization to divide into silos—operational groups with too little contact and planning between them. Told through a series of silo-driven disasters, such as a segmented government bureaucracy leading to structural fires in buildings in the Bronx, “unmarriageable” bachelors in 1950s France, the downfall of Sony, failing Swiss banks, and a U.K. housing crisis, the book demonstrates the need to identify, name, and work towards integration of these silos. As to the question of how individuals can escape from silos, Tett has multiple answers: change careers; work toward cross-work within your own organization; be willing to change and learn from mistakes. Innovation and profits, she writes, depend on being willing to do something—otherwise, you miss both risk and opportunity. A complex topic and lively writing make this an enjoyable call to action for better integration within organizations. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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