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Black Axe Mangal

Lee Tiernan. Phaidon, $39.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7931-4

Like the London restaurant for which it is named, chef Tiernan’s cookbook is a loud, messy, fun, and occasionally startling sight to behold. It begins quietly enough, with a look at the “holy trinity” of techniques employed at the eatery: grilling, smoking, and bread-making. Then comes a flash of crazy brilliance amid the brunch recipes: leftover pizza French toast. This sort of upstairs-downstairs collision proves to be a leitmotif. Sometimes it plays out in a simple snack, like sour cream and chive Pringles served with caviar. Other times it manifests in the extreme, as with a basic scoop of mashed potatoes plated alongside braised hare, chocolate, and pig’s blood. Other shockers include two types of savory doughnuts: pig’s cheek and prune, and foie gras and blackberry. The signature flatbread, meanwhile, is dyed jet black with squid ink and topped with an egg yolk and smoked cod’s roe. Photographer Jason Lowe successfully shows off the restaurant’s playful atmosphere and captures Tiernan’s eye for rich colors, as in a shot of oxtail, bone marrow, and anchovy on flatbread, where a top layer of dark green parsley bread crumbs creates a patina over the deep brown hues of the meat and roasted bones. This robust collection is sure to challenge and surprise home cooks and add an item on the to-visit lists of culinary travelers hitting London. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou

Melissa M. Martin. Artisan, $35 (368p) ISBN 978-1-57965-847-2

Born and raised on the Louisiana bayou, restaurateur Martin shares the history, traditions, and customs surrounding Cajun cuisine and offers a tantalizing slew of classic dishes as cooked at her eatery in New Orleans, from which the title of the book is taken. Writing in elegant prose, Martin is less concerned with the still-life plating of entrées than she is with painting the landscape of her upbringing. “Water is our lifeline and our dark shadow,” she writes, reflecting a community dependent upon the fishing trade yet scarred by flooding and hurricanes. It’s no surprise then that the emphasis here is on seafood. Bottom-dwellers inhabit the opening chapters, with shrimp, crab, oysters, and crawfish each getting separate sections, though they also come together in clever ways: ground shrimp acts as the binder in Louisiana lump crab cakes and, conversely, crab-stuffed shrimp are dredged in an egg mixture containing mustard before being breaded in cornmeal and cayenne and fried. Gumbo is thoroughly examined and seven varieties are offered, including Maxine’s shrimp okra gumbo, borrowed from the author’s mother. Redfish and trout star in the fish chapter, then Martin moves to dry land with various salt pork options, okra side dishes, and, for dessert, beignets and blackberry dumplings. A sprinkling of heat and a lot of heart make this a must-have for any Cajun connoisseur. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Soil Science for Gardeners: Working with Nature to Build Soil Health

Robert Pavlis. New Society, $18.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-86571-930-9

Pavlis (Building Natural Ponds), owner of the botanical garden Aspen Grove Gardens, in Ontario, Canada, brings fresh life to a dry topic, digging deeply into the science of soil health in this understated and informative manual. Writing that “growing plants is very easy if you understand the soil below them,” Pavlis instructs on scientific basics (“there is more biodiversity in the top foot of soil than anywhere else on Earth”), weighs in on such garden practices as tilling and mulching, and gives advice on developing a personalized plan (“Don’t do things in the garden because someone told you it is a good idea; do them because you know how they impact plant growth”). Pavlis is skeptical about professional soil testing, while making suggestions for several different DIY tests (including burying a pair of white cotton underpants; if the soil is microbe-rich, the microbes will eat the cotton). Sidebars do quite a bit of myth busting, such as of the oft-touted ratio of “browns to greens” in compost, or that “soil is a living organism” that requires “feeding.” Full of valuable information for both home and professional gardeners, Pavlis’s step-by-step primer breaks down a complex topic in a manner both entertaining and easily understood. (May)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Simply Living Well: A Guide to Creating a Natural, Low-Waste Home

Julia Watkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-358-20218-9

With the message that it’s not easy to be green, this simple but comprehensive guide from environmental activist and debut author Watkins helps readers eliminate excess plastic, waste, and chemicals from their lives to whatever extent they choose. Emphasizing the importance of setting attainable goals, Watkins cautions that reaching the state of “zero-waste is a process, not an event.” Checklists begin each section, with the kitchen chapter list advising replacing plastic utensils, storage containers, and cooking equipment with wood, glass, and stainless steel. People concerned about the safety of commercially available cleaning products will particularly appreciate the section on making one’s own chemical-free solutions. Watkins often refers to the homemaking methods of an earlier time, as with her “Tips for Line Drying,” where she posits “working methodically with your hands” as a good “way to slow down and be present.” The beauty and wellness section includes recipes for common drugstore staples, including toothpaste made with peppermint essential oil and a hair rinse product made with apple cider vinegar. Whether readers want a smaller carbon footprint or an entirely chemical-free lifestyle, this has all the information needed to get started. Agent: Julia Eagleton, the Gernert Co. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Batch Lady: Shop Once. Cook Once. Eat Well All Week

Suzanne Mulholland. HQ, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-008-37322-1

U.K. food vlogger Mulholland calls on “easy cheats” for a “fuss-free” approach to home cooking in this useful debut. Pulled together with assembly line efficiency, her dishes are reminiscent of cafeteria comfort food with an international twist. Mulholland uses few whole ingredients (save fresh meats and fish) relying instead on frozen chopped vegetables, seasoning packets, and canned items from the grocery. These mostly dinner recipes are organized by key proteins (poultry, meat, fish) and vegetarian meals. Freezable baked dishes abound: There’s Lazy Lasagna (made with frozen carrots, mushrooms, and onions); cottage pie with root vegetables; and a shepherd’s pie with sweet potato mash. Lamb and feta burgers can be tossed onto a salad or molded into meatballs, while fish cakes get a twist with Thai flavors and sweet potatoes. Desserts include no-bake fudge, as well as a sweetened condensed milk–based ice cream. Mulholland includes weekly meal planning suggestions, tips for freezing and defrosting, and shopping lists for four 10-meals-in-an-hour prep sessions. The recipes are far from inventive, yet Mulholland’s batch method and freezing strategies can streamline dinner prep and deliver minimal food waste, economy, and satisfying meals. This volume is best suited for busy home cooks looking to easily feed hungry mouths. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Buck Naked Kitchen: Radiant and Nourishing Recipes to Fuel Your Health Journey

Kirsten Buck. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-1-328-58992-7

In this accessible debut, Buck, creator of the Buck Naked Kitchen blog, shares healthy, tasty meals based on the Whole30 lifestyle. While not all recipes strictly adhere to the Whole30 plan, those that do are called out and include such inventive creations as rutabaga fritters and flavor-packed chimichurri shrimp, as well as portable, prepped meals including Faux Pho Noodle Soup and a Tex-Mex Jar Salad. Can’t-miss dishes—spring vegetable quiche; smashed potatoes with roasted red pepper sauce; deviled egg potato salad; and a butternut squash and wild rice salad—will be welcomed by vegetarians and omnivores alike. Throughout, Buck includes several made-from-scratch recipes (mayonnaise and cauliflower rice, for example), as well as some higher-end recipes (Mini Scotch Eggs calls for quail eggs). Virtually all ingredients are easily sourced (substitutions, in some cases, are provided), and there are recipes for all tastes and skill levels. Readers—Whole30 adherents or not—will find plenty of healthful recipes in this fun and encouraging volume. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Rustic Joyful Food: Generations

Danielle Kartes. Sourcebooks, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-492-69789-3

Kartes follows up My Heart’s Table with nostalgic fare straight from her family recipe box. Representing dishes from three generations, these 125 easy-to-assemble dishes (organized by Supper, Soups and Stews, Vegetables and Sides, Snacks, Breakfast, Drinks, Sweets) call for everyday supermarket ingredients. Easy-to-tackle supper recipes feature such kid-friendly classics as stuffed shells, shepherd’s pie, and stovetop mac ’n’ cheese, while coconut milk–poached curried halibut, and wine-braised olive chicken are perfect for entertaining. In the chapter on soups and stews, Karte offers a wide variety including a hamburger soup of her childhood; a rich bouillabaisse fish stew; and Thai green curry soup. Vegetable sides are heavy on potatoes such as Mom’s Scalloped Potatoes, and also include Grandmother Thora’s Steakhouse Crispy Onions Rings. Breakfast lovers will enjoy ricotta or pumpkin pancakes as well as a dish of baked chiles rellenos. Impressive made-from-scratch sweet treats abound in 30 dessert recipes, such as old-fashioned rice pudding and a strawberry galette with crème fraïche. There are few surprises, but readers will delight in Kartes’s solid, home-cooked comfort food. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Fire + Wine: 75 Smoke-Infused Recipes from the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings

Mary Cressler and Sean Martin. Sasquatch, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63217-277-8

In this thoughtful cookbook, IACP Award–winning food and wine bloggers Cressler and Martin make a strong argument that wine rightfully deserves a spot at the BBQ table. Stating that wine’s versatility makes it an ideal complement to grilled or smoked food, Cressler and Martin argue that their smoked whole chicken can be accompanied by a full-bodied Chardonnay; the smokehouse burgers presented here would work well with a California zinfandel; and a pinot noir or Rhone blend would go with grilled lamb steaks with salsa verde. Sparkling wines prove to be one of the most adaptable of all and are paired with, among other dishes, smoked bone marrow, crab cakes, and grilled asparagus with spicy pickled peppers. As for the wines themselves, the authors are occasionally label- or region-specific in their recommendations, but usually offer varietal-based suggestions that are easily sourced. Even those who choose to pass on the wine will find a lot to like: smoked salmon crostini with capers; wine-braised smoked beef short ribs; and smoked poblano mac and cheese. Cressler and Martin’s recipes will be enjoyed by home cooks and grill enthusiasts of all skill levels and tastes. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss

Rose Levy Beranbaum. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-328-50662-7

“The sweet that I love most to eat is frozen, not baked... and that is why I have written this book,” writes Beranbaum (The Cake Bible) in this thoroughly satisfying volume. In addition to basic ice cream flavors, she provides recipes for unique ones such as dark brown sugar with black pepper, royal velvet lavender, and even Thai corn. Her instructions are detailed and easy to follow, and she incorporates plenty of indispensable tips and tricks: for instance, she explains the importance of glucose in ice cream recipes (to diminish ice crystals) and provides a simple hack for it: microwaving corn syrup. In other instances, when flavor ingredients are higher in moisture content, such as peach or mango, she recommends adding cornstarch to minimize crystallization. The final chapter contains recipes for add-ins and toppings, such as candied orange peel, chocolate cold snap topping (she recommends using coconut oil to create the hard shell coating), and fudgy chocolate sandwich cookies (she likes to pair them with cherry vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut ice cream). Serious ice cream makers will want to add this to the shelf. (May)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Grow Your Soil!: Harness the Power of the Soil Wide Web to Create Your Best Garden Ever

Diane Miessler. Storey, $16.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-63586-207-2

Miessler, a gardener and permaculture designer, provides fellow horticulturalists with a guide to the mostly hidden but essential world of soil in her valuable book. She begins with a general breakdown of soil’s components: 45% minerals, 20%–30% air, 20%–30% water, and 5%–10% organic matter. Then, using a house metaphor, the book explores in detail the last of these “building blocks”—organic matter. All healthy soil, she writes, needs a good “roof,” that is, mulch and cover crop. The house’s “walls” comprise the microbes, fungi, protozoa, and other organisms that live in the soil. “In your quest for good soil,” Miessler notes, “the most important thing you can do is always this: add organic matter.” Completing the house metaphor, the book culminates in a section called “Feed the Inhabitants,” highlighting ways to nourish plants through soil rich in sugars (through photosynthesis) and minerals (via manure and other sources of nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plants). Miessler’s exploration goes to a level of organic chemistry that may not suit casual dabblers, but the richness of knowledge in her erudite work will excite any serious backyard or commercial organic gardener. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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