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Successful Cheesemaking

Merryl Winstein. Smooth Stone, $124.99 (670p, two vol.) ISBN 978-0-9985959-5-5

Cheese-lovers who want to try their hand at making their own taleggio, queso blanco, Brie, or Jarlsberg would do well to start with cheese-making consultant and educator Winstein’s outstanding two-volume collection of step-by-step recipes for producing some of the world’s classic cheeses at home. Those expecting a quicky recipe for DIY blue cheese or cheddar that comes together in 20 minutes would be best served elsewhere, but serious cheesehounds will find Winstein’s image-heavy, science-based tutelage to be useful. Specifics on aging, salting, ripening, and developing texture go a long way to instill confidence and ensure success for each type of cheese. Though Winstein does offer specific recipes for cheeses like havarti and burrata, she focuses more on broad styles, such as a basic kefalotyri, a classic Greek cheese, or Reblochon, instead of every variety of brie or Gorgonzola on the market. Those who’ve already made ricotta and mozzarella and want to learn more would do well to seek out this impressive work. One of the most in-depth and informative works on the subject, these volumes perfectly blend practicality, science, and creativity. 800 photos. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Tuscany: Simple Meals & Fabulous Feasts from Italy

Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. Hardie Grant, $40 (272p) ISBN 978-1-78488-119-1

The Caldesis, who own two Italian restaurants and a cooking school in the U.K., share inviting, mostly simple, and often little-known recipes that rely on Tuscany’s famed home-grown ingredients and slow-and-steady techniques. The writing is excellent, personal (often sketching a quick portrait of an agriturismo chef or home cook who contributed the recipe), and full of tasty tidbits, such as that a staggering 14 billion cups of espresso are served in Italy annually. Organization is less impressive: pasta dishes like pappardelle with roasted tomatoes and hot pepper and hand-rolled pici served with a pigeon sauce are haphazardly divided between the lunch and dinner chapters, as are second courses like turkey breast rolled around sheep’s cheese and sage, and a beef stew with Chianti and porcini mushrooms. Chapters on breakfast, aperitifs, side dishes, and desserts are more logical. There are several standouts, such as pork tenderloin, which is coated in herbs and roasted; the accompanying vegetables are cooked in parchment. Despite the erratic organization, the package overall satisfies with crisp modern design and clearly written recipes. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Perfect Cake

Editors at America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, $35 (432p) ISBN SBN 978-1-945256-26-4

This cookbook from the staff at America’s Test Kitchen deserves a place on the bookshelf of every cake baker. More than 200 recipes, all written in the confident voice of the Test Kitchen, will inspire home cooks and offer a master class in baking and decorating. Every manner of cake, including microwave mug cakes, cake pops, and ice cream cakes, is included. All-American layer cakes include Wellesley fudge cake, peanut butter and jam cake, and Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake (a blend of lemony cake, coffee whipped cream, and crunchy coffee candy). There are recipes for basic cakes, such as pound cake and a foolproof New York cheesecake, but the Test Kitchen offers up more unusual takes as well, including a saffron-orange Bundt cake and a tahini-banana snack cake. Layer cakes range from the kid-popular, sprinkle-studded confetti cake to a Bananas Foster Cake with rum, caramel and banana filling. Sheet cake flavors get an upgrade with recipes for lemon buttermilk sheet cake, pumpkin, and buttermilk caramel. Recipes for elegant tortes include a pomegranate walnut cake, and a chocolate-espresso dacquoise made with layers of hazelnut and almond meringue. With a recipe for every taste and occasion, bakers could happily cook their way through this book, assured that each recipe will be a delicious success. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Bring It! Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining

Ali Rosen, photos by Noah Fecks. Running Press, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-762-46272-8

Rosen expands her Emmy-nominated Potluck with Ali TV show and website with a debut cookbook designed to deliver casual, group-effort dinner parties that are “practical, fun, and foolproof.” With more than 100 unfussy recipes, Rosen has realistic advice for both hosts and guests seeking a time-saving, uncomplicated approach to the potluck. Recipes for make-ahead, easy-to-transport dishes are divided into six courses: hors d’oeuvres and dips; salads; casseroles, pasta, and tarts; meats and fish; veggies and grains; desserts. Strategies for “How to Bring it” suggest dishes that travel well, can sit out, and lend themselves to reheating or easy assembling. There are tips for proper cooling and storage, as well as how to avoid overcooking or wilted salads upon arrival. Rosen’s Southern roots shine (she’s from Charleston, S.C.) with grits casserole, roasted watermelon pork ribs, and okra in tomato sauce. Pasta, casseroles, quiches, and elegant tarts such as spicy brussels sprouts, and asparagus goat cheese, are showcased, as are vegetarian pleasers such as caramelized acorn squash with parmesan and hazelnuts or veggie-laced grain bowls. With this impressive range of dishes, Rosen shows home cooks how to bring everything to the table for a successful potluck. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Austin Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Paula Forbes. Abrams, $29.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2893-8

Food writer Forbes delivers an innovative if occasionally intimidating collection of recipes from some of the most popular restaurants in Austin, Tex. While Forbes admits that some of the recipes are not “easy enough for beginners” and are not suitable for weeknight cooking, her zeal for Austin’s unique cuisine will motivate readers to recreate some of the featured dishes. The book opens with an intense chapter covering techniques and recipes for Austin’s famed barbecue, which might be daunting for the uninitiated. More inviting, however, are the following chapters that focus on Tex-Mex staples and reinvented classics, such as mole rojo with chicken from El Naranjo, blackened drum fish with shrimp cream sauce from Quality Foods, chorizo potato pizza from Bufalina pizzeria, and Odd Duck’s sweet potato nachos. Other chapters cover fun breakfast foods and classic baked goods, such as potato and sausage breakfast tacos, gingerbread pancakes, pecan pie, and salted brown butter and dark chocolate pecan cookies. The concluding chapter consists of salsas, sauces, and chilis that are intended as garnishes for specified recipes in earlier chapters. Along with the recipes, readers will appreciate Forbes’s humorous essays on cooking techniques and the city’s food culture. This is the go-to guide to Austin eating. Agent: Angela Miller, the Miller Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Whole Smiths Good Food Cookbook: Delicious Real Food Recipes For All Year Long

Michelle Smith. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-1-328-91509-2

In her first cookbook, Whole Smiths blogger Smith eschews adhering to any one diet plan and instead incorporates elements of several—Whole30, paleo, vegan, vegetarian—to give readers plenty of options. Her recipes lean heavily on comfort foods, with appetizers like Mini Hasselback Tots with horseradish dip; Buffalo chicken and sweet potato bites; potato wedges with chorizo and poblano peppers; a classic roast chicken; and roasted root vegetables. But the recipes truly shine in inventive fare, like salmon with shredded squash and dill; dairy-free broccoli with chicken ranch potatoes; a recipe called Cloud Eggs Furikake, which features a baked egg yolk nested atop whipped egg whites. Each recipe is noted for its applicability for vegan, paleo, and Whole30 dieters, should they have questions. Throughout, Smith suggests flavorful recipes for such standbys as sweet potato hash, salmon-avocado salad, and barbecue chicken meatballs, all of which come together in minutes. Health-minded home cooks who aren’t adhering to a strict dietary regimen will find new dishes to incorporate into regular rotation. (June)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Haunted by History: Separating the Facts and Legends of Eight Historic Hotels and Inns in Southern California

Craig Owens. Sad Hill, $50 (410p) ISBN 978-0-9976881-0-8

Photographer Owens distinguishes fact from fiction in this stimulating, heavily illustrated account of the supposed hauntings of eight historic Southern California hotels. Pulling together historical photographs and original documents as well as firsthand accounts, the author attempts to verify the ghost stories associated with each inn, dissecting their origins (often in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) and recreating the ghostly encounters in glamorously staged vignette photos. Owens’s research reveals that each hotel survived financial hardships and frequently changed owners, yet in many cases the reported sightings continued. There have been numerous sightings over the years of a young woman in Victorian-era clothing roaming the Hotel Del Coronado, believed by some to be the ghost of Kate Morgan, a hotel guest who killed herself in 1892. Owens suggests that the ghosts said to be in the Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles may be connected to a series of bizarre deaths that occurred there between 1913 and 1922. Owens’s gorgeous photo stagings recreate the romantic and heady days of each lodging while adding dashes of visual humor, subtle sensuality, and haunting atmosphere. Lavishly illustrated and handsomely produced, the book’s entertaining and informative narrative dwells on the documented facts while dispelling most of the colorful myths. Photos. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Talking About Death Won’t Kill You: The Essential Guide to End-of-Life Conversations

Kathy Kortes-Miller. ECW (Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-77041-406-8

Kortes-Miller, a professor of social work at Lakehead University in Ontario, makes a strong case for why people need to talk about how they want to die and under what conditions they want to be kept alive. “Our fear and societal avoidance of dying... have caused us to relinquish control and ownership of our dying. We lack the language and courage to have these important conversations with those we love,” she writes. This useful handbook offers a road map. Her suggestions include involving children in discussions about the death of a loved one and advice on ways to create a compassionate workplace when a colleague or employee is dying or has died, such as encouraging the person who is ill to set guidelines about what personal information they feel comfortable sharing. A pragmatic chapter discusses how to address end-of-life options with health care providers. The book also offers insight on such difficult questions as when and how to talk with someone who is dying and when and how to share information about death, particularly on social media. This challenging book asks readers to face their fears of dying, and it will help those who do be more prepared for their own deaths and to ease the grief of loved ones. Agent: Jesse Finkelstein, Transatlantic Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disap-pearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future

Andrew Yang. Hachette, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-41424-1

This eye-opening if depressing analysis from Yang, founder of the nonprofit Venture for America, proves far more effective at outlining an impending employment crisis in America than in offering practical solutions. Ascribing the crisis to increasing automation driven by artificial intelligence, Yang provides a sober rebuttal to more optimistic thinkers, such as Thomas Friedman, who believe that Americans can be transformed into lifelong learners, and thus keep pace with changes in the workplace that would eliminate millions of current jobs, including white-collar ones, such as attorneys specializing in document review, and even medical positions (computers have proven to be quite adept at reading and diagnosing radiology scans). Yang predicts, all too plausibly, that growing unemployment can lead to violent protests. But his efforts at offering hope fall short, since ambitious measures like providing a universal basic income for every American stand little chance in an ultrapolarized political environment. Utopian ideas like this undercut the seriousness with which his warnings about a dystopian near-future, with even greater income inequality, deserve to be received. Agent: Byrd Leavell, Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife

Lucy Cooke. Basic, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-465-09464-6

Zoologist and documentarian Cooke (A Little Book of Sloth) reveals hidden truths and little-known facts about a “menagerie of the misunderstood” in this peculiar and intriguing volume. She sheds significant light on beavers, for instance, whose unique physical attributes help them to thrive. Their “ever-growing, self-sharpening teeth, eyelids that act as swimming goggles, [and] ears and nostrils that shut automatically underwater” allow them to gnaw wood below the surface without drowning. Cooke, founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, pays particular attention to sloths, “one of natural selection’s quirkiest creations, and fabulously successful to boot.” Often and historically maligned for their lack of speed, sloths have nonetheless survived “in one shape or another for around sixty-four million years” and have outlived both the saber-toothed tiger and the woolly mammoth. Other sections deal with hyenas, frogs, storks, and hippopotamuses. Especially enlightening chapters on pandas (who eat exclusively bamboo) and penguins (whose “stiff feet, so ill at ease on land, act as a rudder underwater”) round out the narrative. Readers keen on animals and natural history in general should find Cooke’s discussion fascinating and educational. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/16/2018 | Details & Permalink

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