cover image THE BIG BOOK OF SOUPS & STEWS: 262 Recipes for Serious Comfort Food

THE BIG BOOK OF SOUPS & STEWS: 262 Recipes for Serious Comfort Food

Maryana Vollstedt, Chronicle Books, . . Chronicle, $19.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-3056-0

With its bold graphics, attractive cover and clear, concise recipes, Vollstedt's latest has all the signs of an interesting work. Unfortunately, unlike James Peterson's excellent primer Splendid Soups, this book gives only cursory treatment to the principals of soup- and stew-making. Moreover, the facile introductory notes rarely describe the finished dish, let alone mention technique. Vollstedt (The Big Book of Casseroles) tells readers that Bean and Beer Soup with Ham is perfect for "game watching on TV," and a broccoli, mushroom and peanut butter soup is just the thing for the "peanut butter fan." In another instance, Vollstedt assumes that her readers will not know how to pronounce "ratatouille" (the Union Street Ratatouille recipe offers a phonetic spelling), yet takes it for granted that they will know how her recipe, which calls for slow-roasting the vegetables to a gelatinous heap, differs from the classic version. Perhaps it sounds like a quibble, but the book contains many such omissions. Then there is the matter of the recipes themselves. While some of them will no doubt appeal to people with large families and their children—what child wouldn't adore Spaghetti Soup?—more sophisticated readers may long for, well, more sophisticated dishes. (Jan.)