Sunday, November 29, 2015


AND NOW FOR the second installment on a few GREAT cookbooks released this year on the topics of GOURMET, HEALTHY and ETHNIC COOKING
"V is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes &Techniques for Home Cooks," ($40, Little, Brown) by Michael Anthony of Grammercy Tavern fame is an updated version of the classic alphabetical vegetable roll-call style book that tells all about each veggie, and includes a few recipes. The recipes in this tome are incredibly imaginative: Carrot Juice Olive Oil Braised Veggies, Cocktail, Daikon Kinpira, Kohlrabi and Walnut Salad, Nettle Custard. The book is packed with gorgeous photography that makes you want to shop and cook fresh. Anthony earned a James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in the U.S. this year.
"At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen" ($40.00, Roost Books) by Amy Chaplin is a great work-horse for those who want to eat healthy and enjoy bold flavors. Note that although the title offers no hint, the recipes in this book are decidely Asian, specifically Korean and Japanese. Recipes range from simple directions on how to make basic elements of a specific cuisine to quite involved instructions that might discourage beginning cooks. Kitchen talents aside, this is an impressive collection of reliable recipes.
"Rosewater & Orange Bloossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes From My Lebanese Kitchen," ($30, Running Press) is filled with the unusual flavors of a somewhat undersung cuisine. Potato salad is dressed with lemon and mint, fried cauliflower is topped with tahini sauce, labneh (yogurt-like) is topped with avocado, orange, pomegranate and honey. There are recipes for fruit leather, mixed quick pickles, preserved watermelon rind and spiced grapes. If you're in the mood for something a lot different, this is it.
"The Complete Guide to Sushi &Sashaimi," ($29.95, Robert Rose) is essentially a how-to manual for those who don't know how to make sushi but want to learn. The book includes details on what to buy, how to lay out a work station, and how to make tight rolls of sushi, no matter what the ingredients might be. The how-to pictures in this book are exhaustive -- and so helpful for beginners who have no clue what the pitfalls of sush-making might be.
"Oyster: A Gastronomic History," ($30, Abrams) is much less of a cookbook than it is an essay about the history of oysters themselves. It's a little studious and technical, but fun for the history buff who loves oysters.
"Dinner Pies: From Shepherd's Pies and Pot Pies to Turnovers, Quiches, Hand Pies and More," ($24.95, Harvard Common Press) by Ken Haedrich is a delicious little volume that unpacks the art of turning just about any food into a pie of some sort. The recipes are simple, yet inspired. Think salmon and spinach pies, kale spanikopita, Italian sausage and spinach polenta pie.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


AS EASY AS it is to go to the internet in search of a recipe, there really is nothing like thumbing through a great book of recipes. Try a recipe or two and you bond with the book. A few recipes later and you for a trusting bond that's sooooo much better than using a recipe from some random source on the internet.
That said, it's time to share details about great titles that have been released in the last several months, including a few for the healthy cook (me), some for the America's Test Kitchen addict (me) and some for those who love to dabble in gourmet and ethnic cooking of every ilk (me again!) Below are details on those from America's Test Kitchen, my hands-down favorite publisher of cookbooks. Check back in a few days for notes on the year's best healthy, gourmet and ethnic cookbooks.
"Cook's Country Eats Local: 150 Regional Recipes You Should Be Making No Matter Where You Live" ($26.95) is like a road-trip across the country -- on your plate. It's not only fun to learn the roots of specific dishes, but a huge bonus to have recipes from everywhere inside a single book. Best pulled pork sandwiches? Muffuleta sandwiches? Babka? Texas Caviar? Sticky rolls? Pizza? It's all here. The one criticism is that California is nearly left out of the mix, save for some "Heavenly Hots" pancakes from Berkeley and sticky rolls from Hollywood. Surely the editors could have worked a little harder to find recipes to represent us. Have they never heard of Alice Waters or The French Laundry?
"The America's Test Kitchen The Complete Vegetarian Cook," ($29.95) is a comprehensive book that is likely the only vegetarian book you'll need in your cookbook library. Recipes are simple, foolproof and maximize flavors of fresh foods. If you're cooking for a meat-lover, this is the book you need, as the recipes are so satisfying that you don't even miss the meat. Some promising recpies include Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Vegetable Paella, Cheesy Millet, Sesame Noodles with Cucumbers and Radishes.
"The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, Volume 2," ($34.95) promises to turn you into the best gluten-free baker ever. The book is packed with baked goods using a range of non-wheat flour mixes -- Rugelach, Pizza, Coconut Cream Pie, Lemon Layer Cake, Whole Grain Bread.
"Cook's Kitchen Hacks: How Clever Cooks Get Things Done," ($19.95) is the book you want if you're the person who looks forward to reading every word on the "Cook's Tips" page of your Cook's Illustrated magazines. The book is basically a compilation of the best -- with some fresh ideas in the mix.
"American's Test Kitchen 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials," ($40) is a bible of sorts for the beginning cook. Recipes are basic -- cornbread, potato salad, enchiladas verdes, paella, chicken noodle soup, perfect fried eggs -- and include all the possible pitfalls to avoid meal fails.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


CARBS ARE A luxury for those who watch their weight -- or blood sugar. For that reason, when it's time for a carb-heavy meal, it should be not just good, but TERRIFIC. To that end, two really great options landed on my desk in the last few weeks.
First was a stash of incredibly beautiful, top-notch pasta samples imported from Panaia, Italy. It's called Rustichella d'Abruzzo. The three extra-long, gorgeous colored spaghetti samples sport primarily Italian descriptions, but they're stamped with a few English words, thank you! Their flavors, which come from squid ink, chili peppers and spinach, are definitely understated, but the colors are awesome and the texture of the pasta is amazing. Find these at the Pasta Shop in Oakland and Berkely or at 
THE OTHER suggestion is an invitation to "slow down, roll up your sleeves" and make your own ravioli (eeeeeeek!) with an incredibly gorgeous and ingenious handmade wood rolling pin of sorts. The Fonde Ravioli Rolling Pin from Repast Supply Co. is unlike any other -- it is made specifically to roll over two layers of pasta dough with filling in the middle. The idea is to smash the layers together and create uniform ravioli (unlike the UFOs that have been served at my table.) Love this. Even if it doesn't get used often, it's the perfect foodie gift as it's useful and a gorgeous decorative item. The 17-inch model is $99; a 12-inch pin is $79. Find the pins at Williams-Sonoma or online at If you want to see this really cool tool in action, check out this video:

Monday, November 23, 2015


I AM A PURIST when it comes to whipped cream. I want the real stuff. But I am also fully aware that it's not good for me -- and a whole lot of other people who will come to my Thanksgiving table. I might offer up some of the real thing this year, but I am also going to bring to my pie spread a bowl of TruWhip, a new whipped topping that's just so much better for you.

It's made with natural ingredients had delivers just 25 to 30 calories per 2 tablespoons, depending on the version you choose. It has a bit of fat from palm kernel oil but gets it's texture from tapioca. If you're not opposed to whipped toppings -- or if it's a standard at your pie table -- opt for this one. It's MUCH healthier than most similar products as it contains no transfats and no artificial ingredients. For more info, check out their site: truwhip


WHO KNEW YOU could actually make bitters yourself? If you did, then you're way ahead of me. A new book by Mark Bitterman, "Field Guide to Bitters And Amari," ($19.99, Andrews McMeel) is a gorgeous, leather-like handbook that shares recipes for bitters -- and how to use them.
The text talks about the origin and usefulness of bitters in the diet, the role bitters play in cocktails, and also shares recipes for using bitters and amari. It's really a must-have book for anyone who loves bar sports. Find it on Amazon.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


FANS OF HUMMUS who love pureed chickpeas any which way will have fun checking out the new line of hummus-everything from Hummusphere Foods. The company, suffice it to say, has gone rogue on hummus, infusing it with smoke and even turning it into salad dressing.
The applewood-smoked hummus flavors definitely have attitude. They deliver a crazy smoke-punch that's interesting -- if a little too smoky for my taste. Flavors include a super-spicy Jalapeno Black Bean, a slightly spicy Fire Roasted Red Pepper, a slightly strange Thai Coconut Curry and a classic, of course.
Even more adventurous are the company's new hummus salad dressings. The flavors are unique and punchy -- and low in fat. Find all of Hummusphere's new offerings at select Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Safeway.