Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cookbooks for Gift Giving: Part One

With hundreds of new cookbooks coming out every day at this time of year we're here to help with recommendations for those on your list.
One of the major themes to emerge this year is the strength of the writing and Canadian writing, (five of the books below are Canadian authored). In other words the narrative that weaves its way through a cookbook. Yes, recipes and photos are a big part of cookbooks, but if you don't "feel" a cookbook or hear the "voice" then it's just another book of recipes. Think Marcella Hazan, Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David, Julia Child to name a few.

Taste of Persia is the latest culinary travelogue from Toronto based Naomi Duguid. (Burma: River of Flavours) An absolute genius at immersing herself in remote communities whether gathering stories from grandmothers told around pots of simmering stews, or taxi drivers taking her to relatives for the best meal in the village. In the first 40 pages of the book I found myself drawn in to the engaging culinary anecdotes and history and couldn't put it down. Recipes are perhaps the most accessible of all her books. We have become more in tune with spices and herbs from far flung places to the point turmeric, cardamom and nigella seeds no longer seem exotic, well in Toronto anyway!

Taste & Technique by Naomi Pomeroy. One has to love a chef who taught herself to cook from classic cookbooks by Alice Waters, Gray Kunz and Madeleine Kamman. (Aside: I remember dining with Madeleine Kamman circa 1986, at Freddy Lo Cicero's Panache and next day Kamman saying she'd like to go back as the butter was perfect!) Pomeroy manages to weave in technique without you even noticing. The sign of a good teacher. And don't be put off by lots of descriptive words, how else are you going to learn? Beginner and more talented  alike will enjoy and become confident in the kitchen talents.

The Baker in Me by Daphna Rabinovitch. This is like being enveloped in a big warm embrace. When I first met Daphna she was working at the wonderful David Wood Food Shop on Yonge Street. Some of you will know how long ago that was! This is the book she was destined to write. It has the narrative and voice that takes you into the world of butter, sugar and flour, and beyond. Yes, you've seen many of these recipes before, and many you haven't, but that's not the point. Baking is personal and full of warmth and Daphna wraps you up in a big hug. Between these pages 13 scone recipes await you.

Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmsted The non-fiction book of the season when it comes to food safety. Fake olive oil, wood by-products passing as Parmesan cheese, honey that's not really honey. What you see is not what you get. Very readable and easily understandable Olmsted will leave you slack jawed as to the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes in North America, Europe and around the world. Arm yourself with knowledge. Our planet will thank you. Our craftsmen will thank you.

Ottawa Cooks Edited by Anne DesBrisay Part of a series of city themed cookbooks (Edmonton Cooks was also published this fall) I'm not always a fan of compilation books especially from chefs, but this one hits the mark. Ottawa has seen a full on renaissance on restaurant scene these last five years. Yes, Stephen Beckta will always have a major influence but the young guns are really bursting out. Do yourselves a favour, buy the book then plan a trip to our capitol for the dining experience, you wont be disappointed.

Oh She Glows Everyday by Angela Liddon After massive international success with The Oh She Glows Cookbook published in 2014, it stands to reason a second book wasn't going to be too far behind. The first book focused on a vegan theme but in Oh She Glows Everyday the theme makes a not too subtle change to plant based recipes. Is vegan still too intimidating for people? Either way it's a moot point as Liddon dishes more ideas for healthy eating than most of us could dream up in a lifetime.

Dinner Made Simple by the Editors of Real Simple Magazine  We've always been big fans of the series of books from this magazine. As the name suggests simple is their mantra. Taking 35 of the most readily available ingredients and giving each one its own chapter. Two recipes per page each accompanied by full colour photo; the layout couldn't be any more relaxing. For the beginner or accomplished cook this is one to inspire you to get dinner on the table without too much challenge.

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