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The Complete Book of Ferns

Mobee Weinstein. Cool Springs, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7603-6394-2

Weinstein, foreman of gardeners at the New York Botanical Garden, debuts with a lovely and multifaceted exploration of ferns. Covering “crafting” with ferns and how to grow them indoors and outdoors, the book also awakens an understanding of their extraordinary longevity and history. “Ferns are a prime example of finding a winning formula and sticking with it,” Weinstein observes of these evolutionary champions, noting the discovery of fossils from approximately 180 million years ago identical to the modern “interrupted fern” (Claytosmunda claytoniana) native to North American woodlands. Among potentially germane facts for gardeners, Weinstein explains that ferns are seedless, and so do not bear flowers, but possess a robust vascular system. That said, her botanical explanations may become tedious to the hobbyist. But those who press on will be rewarded with the book’s ending, which showcases ferns in a variety of decorating possibilities—including the steps to achieve them—for those who want a tabletop display but have little interest in evolution or botany. Weinstein’s homage to the fern is as useful as it is educational, and amply makes the case for a group of plants once as familiar to the T. rex, she observes, as it is to today’s hiker. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Rustic French Cooking Made Easy: Authentic, Regional Flavors from Provence, Brittany, Alsace and Beyond

Audrey Le Goff. Page Street, $25 (176p) ISBN 978-1-62414-863-7

Pardon Your French food blogger Le Goff presents regional French fare in this excellent debut collection. Recipes include Macaronade setoise, a hearty combination of stuffed beef rolls and pasta in tomato sauce from Sete, a seaside Mediterranean town; Areilles d’Anes, a rich and creamy spinach lasagne from the French Alps; Cotriade Bretonne, a vegetable-and-white-fish soup from Brittany; and bonnettes, small honey cakes filled with marmalade from Dijon. The majority of dishes—such as galettes-saucisses, buckwheat crepes stuffed with grilled pork sausages and caramelized onions (“the ultimate street food in Brittany”); Basque braised chicken with peppers; and Bisteau, a bacon, onion, and potato pie—come together fairly easily and are well within the abilities of even novice home cooks. Other recipes require more work, but are well worth the time and effort: the Kouign-Amann, a classic cake that is technically a bread dough, is folded over and over again with sugar and butter, a process known as “lamination,” while Le Pastis Gascon is an apple pie in which the apples are marinated in Armagnac, lemon, and orange zest, then layered with phyllo sheets and sugar. This is a superb collection of lesser-known regional French dishes. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Afternoon Tea at the Cutter & Squidge Bakery: Delicious Recipes for Dream Cakes, Biskies, Savouries & More

Annabel Lui and Emily Lui. Ryland Peters & Small, $19.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-78879-158-8

In this mouthwatering array of recipes, the Lui sisters highlight creations from their London bakery and tea house Cutter & Squidge. They offer more than 60 recipes utilizing only natural colors and flavorings with vegan and gluten-free options suitable for all skill levels, derived from both their Asian heritage and from British and French classics. Organizing their recipes by tea-themed parties, the sisters share recipes for basics including sponges, chocolate cake, buttercreams, custards, jams, as well as some savory dishes. Flavorsome cheese clouds, salted caramel brownies, and a luscious blueberry and lemon cheesecake dream cake are highlights from their Signature Afternoon Tea menu. Rose zucchini tartlets (Fantasy Afternoon Tea) and their raspberry ripple layer cake (Classic British Afternoon Tea) are exquisite. They also include recipes for raspberry ripple layer cake (Classic British), rose zucchini tartlets (Fantasy Afternoon), and vegan curry puffs and mini vegetable spring rolls (The Orient) along with suggested pairings for Mother’s Day and kid favorites. For those who enjoy afternoon entertaining, this glorious collection will not disappoint. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Caticorn Crafts: 25 Purr-fectly Enchanted Projects

Crystal Allen. Skyhorse, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-5107-5100-2

Allen, creative director of the crafting website Hello Creative Family, serves up “meowgical” DIY projects in her charming (and pun-filled) debut. In the introduction, Allen explains that her website’s purpose is to inspire parents to get creative with simple crafts and recipes, and traces the book’s recurring motif of “caticorns” back to her childhood unicorn fixation (“The 10-year-old girl in me is freaking out that I grew up to write a craft book about caticorns... with sparkles”). The crafts include a rainbow letterboard sign crafted from Popsicle sticks, “purr-ty” painted rocks embellished with fanciful “caticorns” and rainbows, a Shrinky Dink charm bracelet, candy-covered popcorn with sprinkles, an upcycled soda bottle transformed into a cute planter, fragrant and sparkly bath bombs, and the Caticorn Paper Lantern. Parents of young children will appreciate Allen’s inventive projects, empowering tone, and simple instructions, as well as the book’s true-to-size design templates and full-page color photos. Her sweet, simple guide offers rainbows, glitter, and cheer for all who read it. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails

Joe and Daniel Schofield. Kyle, $19.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-85783-732-5

The Schofield brothers, who live in Manchester, England, and have bartended in spots as far flung as Singapore and Sydney, put their expertise to use in this solid cocktail guide. The 100 recipes are presented alphabetically, beginning with the Adonis, a sherry and vermouth drink from the 1880s, and ending with the Zombie, with its four different kinds of rum, made famous by Hollywood’s Don the Beachcomber. The sheer breadth of the cocktail universe is evidenced by the differences in drinks placed side by side, most notably the Pink Fin and the Pink Lady: the former traces its roots to a remedy for seasickness used by the 19th-century Royal Navy, while latter is named for a 1911 Broadway musical. Each recipe is prefaced by a brief history of the concoction and instructions that include proper glassware and garnishes, whether to ice or not to ice, and whether combining the ingredients should be done in a quick shake or with a long stir. The brothers, in addition to offering their own signature drinks, provide a handful of guest recipes from their bartender friends. A brotherly love of mixology shines through in this easy to follow guide to classic and modern-classic cocktails. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Pasta Grannies: The Secrets of Italy’s Best Home Cooks

Vicky Bennison. Hardie Grant, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-78488-288-4

In this ambitious cookbook, Bennison (The Taste of a Place) compiles dozens of recipes featured on her YouTube channel, Pasta Grannies, in the hopes of “saving traditions and sharing skills” of Italian grandmothers who have been making homemade pasta for most of their lives. Hailing from different Italian regions, the featured grandmas share a variety of pasta shapes in an array of sauces: Letizia from Sicily prepares tagliatelle with fava bean puree; Cesaria from Sardinia makes lorighittas (“double-hooped, twisted strands of spaghetti-shaped pasta”) with tomato-chicken sauce; Cornelia from Liguria makes pansotti; and Rosetta from Liguria makes trofie (corkscrew-shaped pasta) with basic sauce. The book is filled with fascinating anecdotes (“Rosa, it turned out, married the local priest”), and Bennison includes tips for many of the recipes (for shaping the pasta dough for raschiatelli with red peppers, she writes, “Maria rolls them with both hands at the same time for speed”). Other recipes include 93-year-old Giuseppina’s pici with garlic in a tomato sauce that should simmer for two hours, and Ada’s taglioli and bean soup. The recipes are easy to follow and include callouts to the YouTube channel for a visual guide. Bennison’s inviting cookbook of homey recipes celebrates pasta-making traditions. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Dinner at the Club: 100 Years of Stories and Recipes from South Philly’s Palizzi Social Club

Joey Baldino and Adam Erace. Running Press, $35 (222p) ISBN 978-0-7624-9386-9

Chef Baldino and Erace (coauthor of Laurel) open the doors to Philadelphia’s members-only Palizzi Social Club, with nearly 70 hearty Italian recipes, 13 cocktails, and numerous options for a Feast of the Seven Fishes. The club, founded in 1918 as a gathering place for male immigrants from the Abruzzo region, served a cuisine inspired by family traditions and the blue-collar joie de vivre of its neighborhood. Tomato and cinnamon-braised tripe is a mainstay not because it is often ordered, but because it represents the “community’s past.” One popular dish is macaroni and crab gravy—intended to bring to mind summer vacations in South Jersey, the dish’s tomato sauce is packed with blue crab, anchovy, and clam juice, balanced by white wine and brandy. Conversely, tagliatelle with lemon and bottarga employs a simple sauce of lemon juice and spices, but the noodles are golden thanks to a 20-yolk pasta dough recipe (it results in a pound and half of pasta, and the leftover egg whites can be used for a dessert, hazelnut torrone). The cocktail list includes the Bozzelli, a daiquiri-like quaff with habanero tincture, and Cocchi Americano, an aperitif wine with a history back to 1891. Old-world flavors and heartfelt presentation make for a delicious mix in this rare look inside a South Philly institution. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing: Explore 30 Timeless Garments with History, Styling and Tips for Ready-to-Wear Results

Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr. . C&T, $29.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-61745-872-9

Sewing blogger Gunn and pattern designer Starr, coauthors of The Tunic Bible, deliver enduring fashion in this clever guide to the DIY creation of tried and true staples of a woman’s wardrobe—think pencil skirts and shift and sheath dresses. Each item is presented with quirky illustrations, historical facts, and helpful styling tips aimed at beginner and intermediate home sewers alike. For instance, the authors explain that “making a muslin... eliminates potential technical issues and provides an opportunity to perfect your fit.” Regarding fabric choice, “when sewing a trapeze dress, consider lightweight and sheer fabrics such as chiffon, crepe, lightweight linen, silks, jersey and stable knits.” While perhaps obvious to design students, such advice is invaluable to home sewers. Likewise, Gunn and Starr suggest fabric combinations with the flair of seasoned garmentos: “Metallic linens add shimmer to casual dressing,” and “Chiffon and satin provide a lovely contrast, and work well as tie closures when combined with textiles such as velvet fur.” Including some nods to the sustainability of creating one’s own garments that will appeal to eco-conscious sewers, this primer should prove truly inspiring for any crafters interested in creating classic women’s apparel. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Nothing Fancy

Alison Roman. Clarkson Potter, $32.50 (320p) ISBN 978-0-451-49701-7

Roman is an Instagram star who writes for the New York Times and Bon Appétit, and in this cheeky, entertaining primer, her tone sometimes verges on the frantic: she's fond of writing in all caps, making ironic pronouncements ("I'm just going to live my truth"), and incorporating internet lingo ("Thank you for coming to my TED Talk"). There are clever turns of phrase (escarole is a "gateway chicory"; seasoning chicken in advance is "a casual brine"), but sometimes the prose loops the loop so many times that it becomes tautological, as when she declares that martinis shouldn't be considered "extremely and exclusively fancy." (Why? Because she 'says so.) The language in the instructions themselves is not exactly Escoffier-worthy: "Knock yourself out with your decorative prowess" when scoring eggplant for roast, and spread yogurt on leg of lamb "as if you were applying a mud mask." On the practical side, each recipe includes instructions for preparing ahead, and mostly simple desserts include a double-crust "galette" with sour cherries and tahini, and a turmeric-tinted loaf cake. Aimed at millennials, the recipes here are fun and enticing. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Gennaro's Pasta Perfecto!: The Essential Collection of Fresh and Dried Pasta Dishes

Gennaro Contaldo. Interlink, $30 (176p) ISBN 978-1-62371-926-5

"There is no limit to the joys of pasta," writes chef Contaldo (Panetteria) in this excellent cookbook. He sorts the 100 recipes into four main pasta types that include classics and inventive variations: dried (linguine with clams; whole wheat tagliatelle with anchovies and walnuts), fresh (orecchiette with tomatoes and lemon burrata; fusilli with rabbit and orange), filled (broccoli and sausage parcels in tomato sauce; seabream ravioli with capers, lemon, and cherry tomato sauce), and baked (rigatoni with meatballs; butternut squash lasagne). Whether he shares an anecdote ("My sisters would patiently make each meatball"), celebrates Italy's regional cooking ("Sicilian cooking is all about simple 'cuicina povera' "), or offers ingredient substitutions ("If you can't get this shape, then use conchiglie or penne"), the introductions written for each recipe are equally fun to read. In conjunction with these recipes are plenty of pasta fundamentals, such as basic sauces, matching shapes to sauces (rigatoni can be used in baked dishes and ragùs, while farfalle is best with pesto), and info on the equipment needed for it all. This delightful cookbook will educate and inspire. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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