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The Gardener’s Guide to Succulents: A Handbook of Over 125 Exquisite Varieties of Succulents and Cacti

Misa Matsuyama, trans. from the Japanese. Tuttle, $16.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-8048-5106-0

This richly illustrated and skillfully executed book from horticulturist Matsuyama, her first to be published in English, explores the “vast, mysterious and fascinating” botanical realm of succulents. Explaining how these plants evolved the ability to retain water, Matsuyama observes that “the shapes born from such strength are beautiful and strange” and that succulents are resistant to both drought and cold temperature. In the book’s first section, she examines various categories of succulents—those with plump leaves, with overlapping leaves, with rosettes, and so on—discussing individual plants’ characteristics and growing needs. For example, the rosette variety known as “Party Dress” is “large and beautiful,” as well as “strong and easy to grow but requires quite a bit of space when grouped with other plants.” In the second section, Matsuyama looks at one of the best-known kinds of succulent, cacti, and in the third and final section, highlights ways to combine and arrange various specimens, particularly cacti, in garden or home displays. Adventurous gardeners will find that Matsuyama’s book, with its precise explanations and copious photos, ushers them into a fascinating world. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Good News About Estrogen: The Truth Behind a Powerhouse Hormone

Uzzi Reiss. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-21453-9

Reiss (The Natural Superwoman, coauthor), a gynecologist and founder of the Beverly Hills Anti-Aging Center, proselytizes for a particular form of hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, that uses “bioidentical” estrogen, in this uneven women’s health guide. Looking at HRT’s merits as a menopause treatment, Reiss describes how bioidentical estrogen is produced via a process that makes “specific molecules in plants, such as organic yams and soy... identical in structure” to human hormones. Reiss finds the resultant hormones superior to synthetic alternatives in treating symptoms like mental fogginess, low energy and sex drive, hot flashes, and weight gain. Reiss’s approach encourages self-assessment and involves supplements, a fusion of the Mediterranean and keto diets, organic hygiene products, and an exercise program balanced between strength and cardio. Though he goes into a fair amount of detail on hormone function, his evidence for bioidentical estrogen’s superiority is too weak to convince readers to go through the hassles involved, such as finding a cooperative pharmacy, or overcoming the skepticism of doctors or insurance companies. Nevertheless, readers concerned about menopause may find Reiss’s enthusiastic treatise helpful in making lifestyle changes, or in beginning discussions of HRT with their doctors. Agent: Peter McGuigan, Foundry Literary + Media. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes

Bryant Terry. Ten Speed, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-399-58104-5

With four Afro- and soul-centric vegan cookbooks to his credit, Terry (Afro-Vegan) enriches this 100-plus recipe collection with flavors from the Far East, the South, and the Caribbean. His perspective is casual and family-oriented, and the book feels personal and speaks to a wide swath of cooks. Tofu is sparingly deployed while carrots (barbecued carrots with white beans) and sunchokes (rigatoni with sunchoke-tomato sauce) are thoroughly and creatively exploited. About a quarter of the cookbook’s preparations call for a sub-recipe—a seasoning blend, infusion, or “cream”—all of which can be found in the author’s “Cupboard” chapter. So it’s a good idea to flip back to that final section and take note of the timing involved: smoky-spicy green sauce comes together quickly and can be used right away, while the onion-thyme cream needs an eight-hour head start. Readers will learn why he soaks dried grits overnight (less cooking time, creamier texture) and sprinkles salad greens with lemon juice and salt before any dressing is applied (brighter flavor). And each dish comes with a recommended soundtrack, completing his mission to provide an immersive, joyful experience. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes

Joe Yonan. Ten Speed, $30 (240p) ISBN 978-0-399-58148-9

Washington Post food editor Yonan (Eat Your Vegetables) knows legumes and proves it in this enlightening vegetarian collection. He provides thorough information on sourcing (with an enthusiastic shout-out to heirloom bean purveyor Rancho Gordo), cooking (the eternal soaking question: “certainly not a requirement... but can help reduce some of the so-called anti-nutrients”), and eating beans of all varieties, whether canned, fresh, dried, or frozen. The recipes tend to be simple: a chapter on drinks and sweets includes a margarita with aquafaba (canned bean liquid) foam and a white bean and coconut milk smoothie. The most intriguing selections draw on traditions around the globe: Mexican sopes topped with pools of black bean puree; a Georgian bread stuffed with kidney beans; and lima-filled ravioli made with store-bought wonton wrappers. Yonan also pulls from the expertise of others, frequently crediting chefs (Priya Ammu for delicate dosas) and writers (J. Kenji López-Alt for Cuban black beans). Beans aren’t always the star, as with a whole roasted head of cauliflower plopped atop hummus and garnished with roasted chickpeas, and pan-fried black lentils scattered on a salad of red gem lettuce. The result is a solid compendium of recipes for legumes of all kinds. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Quilt Modern Curves & Bold Stripes: 15 Dynamic Projects for All Skill Levels

Heather Black and Daisy Aschehoug. C&T, $25.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-61745-890-3

Quilt pattern designers Black and Aschehoug offer a highly detailed yet approachable guide to making quilt designs that feature circles (exact, half-, and quarter-) banked against lines and stripes. First, they teach how to choose fabrics (they caution against knit), select tools for marking and cutting, and master cutting techniques. The authors allow that arcs and circles can intimidate, but they stress that “curve piecing or sewing on a curve is basically the same as straight stitching—you take it one stitch at a time.” They mix projects with block-based patterns, piecing that is either improvised or complex, and patterns that are either simple or demanding. Black and Aschehoug also play with color in these projects: “Festoons” uses high-contrast strips in colors that include orange, yellow, pink, and “light aqua,” while “Rouched” offers subtler tonal shifts, and “Lys” enlightens blue strips with yellow suns. Many patterns include alternate instructions for printed stripes. Patterns are included in the back, with tips embedded along the way. This well-explained manual will leave quilting enthusiasts feeling more than prepared to take on the appealing projects it contains. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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High Risk: A Doctor’s Notes on Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected

Chavi Eve Karkowsky. Liveright, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63149-501-4

Karkowsky, a physician who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, shares experiences and lessons for fellow medical providers and future parents in this educational, and sometimes harrowing, debut. She covers medical basics for prospective mothers, such as choosing a doctor (she recommends opting for one who displays “pragmatic compassion”) and undergoing prenatal diagnostic testing, discussing why it’s both important and challenging. In Karkowsky’s case, she relates how receiving test results that her—ultimately, perfectly healthy—daughter was at risk of being born with a genetic disorder “stole the joy” out of her pregnancy. She also explains “Medical Language, the official language of Doctor,” and how it allows doctors to “describe but distance” themselves from patients. But it’s the book’s case studies that provide it with drama and suspense. Stories from Karkowsky’s practice include the heartbreaking one of a mother faced with giving birth either via a traumatic cesarean procedure, to a baby which might survive, or vaginally, to a baby which almost certainly wouldn’t. Readers prepared for this book’s harder-hitting passages will find it an illuminating and often riveting report from the front lines of labor and delivery. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Ultimate Veg: Easy and Delicious Meals for Everyone

Jamie Oliver. Flatiron, $36 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-26288-2

Oliver achieves admirable variety with his 22nd book (after 5 Ingredients), a compendium of vegetarian recipes that ticks all the boxes without adding much new to the conversation. Oliver is British, and it shows in vocabulary like sarnie for sandwich (made by stuffing a loaf of rustic bread with mozzarella and grilled vegetables, then slicing it into wedges), while the lack of recipe headnotes will likely leave some readers scratching their heads as to the meaning of some recipes names, such as a Burns Night Stew of barley and root vegetables with buttery dumplings. Oliver easily dips in and out of different cuisines, offering, among other dishes, a cauliflower and chickpea biryani with a bread lid, and a pretty pinwheel-like French-style pithivier pie served with creamy blue cheese sauce. A self-defined “meat lover who will absolutely not compromise on flavor,” Oliver also creates ersatz meat dishes, such as shawarma of roasted mushrooms on a skewer, and black bean burgers topped with slices of mango and avocado. A chapter on “traybakes” is rife with weeknight dinner options: Florentine eggs and stuffed peppers are perfect for making in advance. Oliver Fans will enjoy this solid effort, but it’s unlikely to attract a new following. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Moorish: Vibrant Recipes from the Mediterranean

Ben Tish. Bloomsbury, $36 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4729-5807-5

London chef Tish uses Moorish influence as a launchpad for this exuberant, if culturally freewheeling, debut. The Moors—Muslims who colonized areas of Spain and Italy for centuries—firmly stamped their mark on southern European cuisine, and here Tish presents solid if sometimes curious takes on Moorish cooking. A chapter titled “Fresh” includes a watermelon salad with blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and Moscatel vinegar as well as a fried squid that’s coated with chickpea batter and served with orange aoili, and includes sardines al saor—a Venetian Jewish dish—because “it is such a lovely plate of food that I can’t bring myself to exclude it.” No matter—the food is inventive, often brilliantly so: fish cured in bergamot juice is topped with spicy Calabrian sausage, and venison skewers are coated with quince glaze. He pairs rice and black beans (known in Spain as Christians and Moors) with tender simmered octopus, and a puff pastry chicken pie—a signature dish at Tish’s Alhambra Palace restaurant—is cooked on a charcoal grill. Desserts are standouts: cassata is colored forest green with Iranian pistachios, and cookies are made with lard (to weed out hidden Jews and Muslims during the Spanish Inquisition) and toasted flour. Home cooks will delight in Tish’s alluring, Moorish-inspired recipes. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family

Daniel Paterna. PowerHouse, $39.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-57687-915-3

In this exciting photo-heavy cookbook, graphic designer Paterna celebrates the culinary heritage of the Italian-Americans of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He shares dozens of beautiful family photos and anecdotes (beneath photos of his maternal grandparents’ passports, he writes: “My grandfather promised he would bring her back to America as his bride”) that span three generations. Paterna’s mother, Anne, typed out dozens of the family’s recipes on index cards and carefully converted “pinches” and “approximate timings” into real measures. Some of her recipe cards that have made their way into this book include baccala with caramelized bell peppers, lasagna, and squid stuffed with pine nuts and raisins. Paterna points out on which holidays these dishes are traditionally prepared, such as fried pizza for Good Friday, roasted lamb with asparagus for Easter Sunday, and struffoli (“a crusty, honey-soaked, Neopolitan dessert”) for Christmas Day. Paterna takes readers on a tour of Brooklyn’s many Italian specialty shops and shares stories of the business owners (Fredo at Queen Ann Ravioli “still repairs his 1912... pasta machine himself”). This distinctive blend of memoir and cookbook is nostalgia catnip for Italian-Americans. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Sour: The Magical Element That Will Transform Your Cooking

Mark Diacono. Hardie Grant, $35 (288p) ISBN 978-1-78713-226-9

In this clever outing, British author Diacono (A Year at Otter Farm) posits that as “our wild affair with sugar” wanes, our love of sourness grows, then offers lip-puckering suggestions. Diacono devotes a sizeable chunk to narrative instructions for making yogurt, vinegar, and sourdough bread. One catchall chapter, titled “Small Things,” features focaccia topped with gooseberries and sage as well as classic hollandaise sauce and pickled quince; the remaining four cover main courses; sides, salads, and soups; desserts; and beverages. Diacono employs a chatty yet authoritative throughoutvoice as he suggests an artful meshing of flavors: a salad of halloumi cheese, mango, and arugula with spicy tamarind dressing is, for instance, “a fine tumble” of textures. Desserts include buttermilk pudding with roasted rhubarb and sour lemon-drop candies. Rounding out this collection are bracing vinegar-based cocktails called shrubs (one with lime, ginger, cider vinegar) and a drink that originated at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Country Club called a pickleback (a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice), which the author admits is a “total non-recipe; more of a suggestion, like ‘Wear a hat when it’s sunny.’ ” This quirky collection of solid recipes will entice home cooks. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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