cover image With the Grain

With the Grain

Raymond Sokolov. Alfred A. Knopf, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42561-8

This excellent survey of grains brims with information and recipes. Sokolov's (The Saucier's Apprentice) lively tone and wry sense of humor make up for the sometimes disorienting organization. Because the chapters are arranged by course (side dish, main dish, etc.), recipes using different types of the same grain are jumbled together: Polenta Canapes with Black Olive Paste and Sage comes after Corn Chowder, not near Polenta with Fennel and Tomato-Cheese Sauce; an index is included. The offerings here range from the familiar (Kasha Varnishkes; Oatmeal and Fig Cookies) to the upscale and multicultural (Gratin of Chanterelles; Venice's famous Risi e Bisi ``in a Chinese mood''). Sokolov's authoritative voice does service to its subject in an excellent introduction and in recipe headers containing gems about such unfamiliar grain delicacies as the Corn Pakora of northern India and Bannocks, a barley bread from northern Europe. In addition to the chapters on the expected big-name grains such as rice and wheat, there is one on ""Minor Grains"" with suggestions for using lesser-knowns, for example amaranth and quinoa. (Feb.)