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100 Techniques: Master a Lifetime of Cooking Skills, from Basic to Bucket List

Editors at America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $40 (448p) ISBN 978-1-945256-93-6

The America’s Test Kitchen cooks bring their collective knowledge to bear on this diverse collection of tips and illustrate their points with more than 200 recipes. The first and lengthiest chapter, “Essentials Every Home Cook Should Know” includes helpful tips: flavorings should be applied when and where they are most effective (salt chicken breasts under the skin before baking and sprinkle the salt from a height of 12 inches to achieve even distribution); attention should be paid to textures (lumpy batter, for example, results in fluffier pancakes and muffins). The “Techniques You Didn’t Know You Couldn’t Live Without” chapter is full of ways to simplify kitchen chores: using a blender is the key to foolproof hollandaise and béarnaise sauces; freezing live lobster before putting them in the pot is the best form of sedation, and an instant-read thermometer provides a no-fail way of knowing when items are done cooking. The bucket list chapter includes fun projects, such as concocting homemade cocktail bitters and smoking ribs indoors in an oven preheated to 500 degrees before lowering to 250 after 30 minutes (and using tea leaves instead of wood chips for the smoke). Time-tested wisdom proves to be the most important ingredient in this eclectic and engaging tome. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Duke’s Mayonnaise Cookbook: 75 Recipes Celebrating the Perfect Condiment

Ashley Strickland Freeman. Grand Central, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1734-9

“From breakfast to dessert, Duke’s is my secret ingredient for amazing recipes,” writes recipe developer Freeman in this cheerful debut that celebrates, without feeling gimmicky, Duke’s Mayonnaise—the popular Southern condiment that originated in South Carolina. The recipes include such classics as crab and lobster rolls, deviled eggs, and potato salad, but there are also plenty of surprises as well, among them peppermint fudge brownies, grilled rosemary-dijon pork chops, and miso-mayo-glazed salmon. An avid traveler, Freeman has developed some recipes based on places she’s visited, most notably a pork banh mi with spicy sriracha-mayo, rosemary French fries with aioli (mayo, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic), and Thai turkey lettuce wraps with creamy peanut sauce. The recipes are easy to follow and filled with helpful tips—she adds baking soda to boiling water so hard-boiled eggs are easier to peel, places corn in the center of a Bundt pan to easily cut kernels off the cobs for making hush puppies, and lets potatoes cool completely before cutting them for a salad to prevent mushiness. Whether readers are mayonnaise aficionados or need inspiration to create flavorful foods with this pantry staple, this useful guide will not disappoint. (June)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Sensational Quilts for Scrap Lovers: 11 Easily Pieced Projects; Color & Cutting Strategies

Judy Gauthier. C&T, $27.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-61745-868-2

Gauthier (Rainbow Quilts and Quilts for Scrap Lovers) calls on her expertise as a scrap quilter in this helpful offering. “Playing with my fabric scraps is my all-time favorite sport,” she writes, emphasizing the fun and efficiency of creating new quilts out of used fabric. To Gauthier, a scrap is anything smaller than a fat quarter but must measure at least 3½” × 3½” to be usable. She recommends using three sizes of templates (3½”, 4½”, and 5½” squares) from acrylic templates, explains the science of marrying colors on the color wheel, and includes instructions for handling odd shapes, piecing curves, and dealing with bias edges (treat them like pie crusts, she advises). She recommends the “keystone block,” her personal go-to while scrap quilting, as allowing for the most varied array of layout options. The 11 quilt designs include stylized representations of an aerial view or of precious metals, and the playful “Knit Stitch.” Quilters who peruse this enjoyable compendium will agree with Gauthier that her patterns provide “more scrappiness to love.” (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Copper, Iron, and Clay: A Smith’s Journey

Sara Dahmen. Morrow, $32.50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-294373-6

Dahmen, a cookware coppersmith, explains the enduring benefits of copper, iron, and clay in this illuminating how-to and recipe manual. As Dahmen explains, cast iron, with its ability to retain heat, is the workhorse of the kitchen; copper is resistant to rust and has the ability to heat evenly; and clay pots—“the oldest cooking material known to man, and the simplest”—are attractive and versatile for baking a variety of dishes. Dahmen explains the evolution of various methods used to produce cookware, as well as common types, tips on selecting the right pieces, and proper care of one’s collection. Interviews with chefs and craftspeople add texture to Dahmen’s narrative, giving readers a better understanding of and appreciation for these mundane yet solid objects. Home cooks eager to put their cooking vessels to work will appreciate Dahmen’s inclusion of recipes, among them buttermilk pancakes; stuffed beef tenderloin; her family’s pierogi; coq au vin; and an Amish apple pie. This terrific volume is sure to result in a greater respect for kitchen gear among amateur cooks and professionals alike. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Pastry School: Sweet and Savoury Pies, Tarts and Treats to Bake at Home

Julie Jones. Kyle, $34.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-85783-780-6

Those looking for pastry making inspiration will appreciate this comprehensive and visually stunning debut. British baker Jones begins with a primer on “Pastry Recipes & Methods” for 10 pastry doughs, including hot water, puff, and vegan, and each is documented with step-by-step photos. Once mastered, home bakers can move on to elegant fruit recipes such as mango and coconut cream tartlets; a vegan pastry made with coconut oil; a chamomile panna cotta tart, topped with edible flowers and herbs; and a cherry liquor pie, which is made with cherry brandy and packed with dark sweet cherries. Savory options abound, among them a dinner party–worthy vegetable Wellington (made with cabbage, asparagus, potatoes, and porcini mushrooms); an ideal-for-brunch onion and Gruyère tart; and a comforting “Suitably Kooky Fish Pie” (filled with white fish, scallops, and broad beans). A humble onion and egg tartlet—“a frugal dish” with “inexpensive ingredients”—is a simple, homey inclusion. Top-notch photography by Peter Cassidy showcases recipes in full-page color shots. This outing will inspire and instill confidence in hesitant bakers.(Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Easy Everyday Keto: Healthy Kitchen-Perfected Recipes

Editors at America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-948703-12-3

As with previous titles from America’s Test Kitchen (The Science of Good Cooking), this keto-focused volume is a solid collection of rigorously tested recipes. Here, the ATK team enlists the aid of nutritionist and dietician Alicia Romano to ensure the recipes are healthy and nutritious while still adhering to the keto philosophy that eliminates grains and “in which fats now make up 70 to 75 percent of the daily calories.” The team offers dozens of recipes that address cravings for familiar fare (blueberry muffins made with almond flour; New England seafood chowder; a decadent chocolate mug cake made with heavy cream and almond flour), as well as options for palate-expanding dishes such as kimchi beef meatball soup, and a seared tuna sushi bowl. Included throughout are simple weeknight meals such as pan-roasted roast chicken thighs with cauliflower and tomatoes, and zucchini noodle salad with peanut ginger dressing, and tempting snacks such as bacon-ranch cheese balls and a simple spiced nut mix. The dishes are easy to source and prepare, and nutritional information is included for each recipe, as are menu plans for those new to the program. This information-packed volume rises above the rest of the keto cookbooks. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Taste the Islands: Culinary Adventures in the Caribbean Kitchen

Hugh Sinclair, Cynthia Verna, and Calibe Thompson. Univ. Press of Florida, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8130-6616-5

Sinclair and Verna, hosts of the eponymous PBS cooking show, along with their producer Thompson, share their passion and knowledge of Caribbean cooking in this flavor-packed collection of zesty island favorites. Surprises abound, such as Carni Stoba, a meaty beef stew with potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and papaya; irresistible guava and cream cheese phyllo tartlets from Cuba; and a spicy Cajun shrimp salad, in which shrimp are served atop bell peppers, almonds, orange slices, cranberries and peas, then dressed with a pineapple dressing, creating a mouthwatering array of flavors. Bright citrusy sides such as mango jicama salad and pineapple pepper slaw, as well as Cou-cou, a cornmeal-based dish laced with Cajun seasoning, offer visual and textural variety to any plate. Rum lovers are sure to appreciate the luscious, velvety coconut rum pumpkin soup (which calls for a cup and a half of dark Caribbean rum) as well as an indulgent papaya cocktail—a blend of orange and lemon juice, grenadine, rum, and fresh basil. This terrific recipe collection will easily appeal to fans of Caribbean cuisine as well as those yearning for island life. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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My Pinewood Kitchen: A Southern Culinary Cure

Mee McCormick. HCI, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-757-32352-2

McCormick (My Kitchen Cure) presents an informative cookbook of 120 do-your-body-good recipes with a Southern twist, inspired by fare served at her Tennessee biodynamic farm restaurant. McCormick offers a thorough introduction to the science of gut health, praising the power of probiotics, superfoods, and diet diversity. Re-fashioned classic Southern fare featured in her restaurant menu includes flexible gluten-free recipes designed to deliver “gut happiness” and manage digestive disorders (leaky gut, celiac disease, food sensitivities) without sacrificing flavor. The author’s farm-to-table approach leans heavily on vegetarian dishes, but meat lovers will find recipes for short ribs, fried chicken, and “Mee-ified” organic grass-fed burgers tweaked with hijiki seaweed, tamari, and grated sweet potato. There are black-eyed pea croquettes; quick pickled okra, which can top customizable Buddha Bowls; carrot ginger soup, which features nondairy coconut cream; and roasted Carrot Wieners Pinewood-Style, marinated in vegetable broth, cider and rice vinegars, liquid smoke, and half a dozen spices. Desserts showcase gluten-free cobblers, vegan brownies, and apple hand pies, while charts explain gluten-free flours, preparation for beans and grains, and sugar substitutes, and there’s even a section on the sea vegetables (dulse, kombu, nori). McCormick’s upbeat approach and food-as-medicine philosophy make for an accessible intro to healthy comfort food. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Sicily Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from a Mediterranean Island

Cettina Vicenzino. DK, $30 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4654-9110-7

Sicilian-born, German-raised writer Vicenzino beautifully captures Sicily’s traditions and quirks with stunning images and insightful text in her U.S. debut. Biographical sketches of Sicilians tie the recipes together: for example, Elvira, who owns a bed-and-breakfast in Agrigento, explains how her mother makes jarred tomato puree and from that the intense extract known as strattù which in turn appears in a pasta recipe from the mayor of Palermo. A few items—such as almonds used in cinnamon-scented meatballs and a blancmange pudding—are treated to contextual histories. Recipes are specific and include suggestions for the type of olive oil and the preferred eggplant variety for the island’s signature pasta alla norma. Unsurprisingly for the cuisine of an island “embraced by three seas,” main courses rely heavily on seafood, and the sea seeps into other areas as well, such as a side dish of potatoes cooked in seawater. Dessert options include a cassata torte and a strawberry granita. The author notes that “a cookbook is not supposed to be a substitute for a country and its flavors” and instead is meant to “evoke a cooking culture” and inspire readers to learn more. This volume easily succeeds as an inspiring introduction to the flavors of Sicily. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Spirits of Latin America: A Celebration of Culture & Cocktails

Ivy Mix. Ten Speed, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-39958-287-5

Mix, owner of Brooklyn’s Leyenda bar, shares her in-depth knowledge of Latin American liquors in this invigorating debut. The book is organized into three sections, each based on a spirit’s source of sugar. The first chapter is devoted to agave, the vital ingredient of tequila and mezcal. Mix presents an extensive look at the cultural history of the plant as it relates to Mexico, and delves into the many facets of producing agave-based spirits. In addition to a traditional margarita recipe there is a Mai Tai variation, named Mia Tia, made with mezcal, as well as the complicated but fun Perennial Millennial with rhubarb syrup and cardamom tincture. The second section is dedicated to sugarcane and its path from Africa to the Caribbean. Rum cocktails share space with cachaça, “the fourth most-consumed distilled beverage in the world.” The concluding chapter focuses on the humble grape as it is put to use in Peruvian pisco and the Bolivian liquor called singani, which is shaken with chile liqueur, black currant jam, lemon juice, and a bit of maple syrup. Mix’s blend of bright flavors and unique insight results in a stirring first book. (May)

Reviewed on 03/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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