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Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009
The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health - The Moosewood Collective [$24.99]

One can run a half-marathon (and a full marathon, if so inclined—I wasn’t) powered largely by the delicious teachings of a Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. I’ve had my Moosewood for over 10 years, now—treasured well beyond that nutty idea I had to run for distances that now, well, that’s what a bike—or car—is for. Sure, healthy eating was part of what steered me toward Moosewood back then, but budget played a large role, too. I was well served by low cost, highly-nutritious and better yet delicious ‘fuel’, if you will, gleaned from the pages of this highly regarded resource.


During my weekend forays into new recipes, I learned more about protein combinations in beans and legumes, and the properties of various leafy greens than I realized—until I found myself regularly spouting off nutritional facts to whomever might be helping me make dinner—many years beyond that silly half marathon. The recipes and the ‘prose’, if you will, are simple and elegant. This offshoot of my old ‘master’ text, New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes, is for the Moosewood initiated, the local and environmentally sustainable-inclined consumer, and/or the novice cook who must make changes to her diet, doctor’s orders.


Sure, with this book you’ll become a maser of the Glycemic Index without even realizing it. That’s part of the appeal of Moosewood books; you absorb scientific knowledge as easily as you digest the delicious meal you’ve made from these simple recipes. Moosewood is not preachy, but it will subtly change your eating habits for the better. With far less effort than it takes to run 13 miles, you’ll attain practical nutritional knowledge—and you well have many simple, favorite recipes in your repertoire—for the rest of your life.


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Monday, Dec 7, 2009
World Cheese Book - Juliet Harbutt [$25.00]

Once you’ve tasted eight-year-old Gouda, turned deep orange with brownish edges, almost crunchy hard it’s so dry, and with that distinct flavor of tangy almond, you’ll never go back to the pale, soft, ‘baby’ Gouda stuff again. Well, you might, but you’ve learned to love old mold, and you’re now ripe for a book like this. If you’re reading this, you probably live in a time and place of relative abundance, wherein the world comes to your grocery store or to that specialty shop just a few miles away. Before you head out the door, credit card in hand, use this book as your guide. Between these pages lay the wisdom from experts in their regions on cheese produced throughout the world. The descriptions will evoke mouth-watering flavors. The suggestions on how to best enjoy a cheese (nibbled with a sip of fruity wine or eaten robustly and washed down with a hearty Belgian ale, spread on a cracker, or best melted in a pot to pour on vegetables) will make you want to make a party of your discoveries. The historical, regional, technological and other practical trivia of cheese production will feed the geeky side. Pity the poor sod who can’t appreciate the bacterium that renders Limburger so (a moment for a deep inhale) absolutely delicious!


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Thursday, Dec 3, 2009
Gourmet Today – Ruth Reichel – Houghton Mifflin [$40.00]

The shelves of Borders, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Chapters and the virtual ones of Amazon are stocked to the gills with cookbooks of every stripe and persuasion. Honestly, it can be quite overwhelming, even for the foodie. The greatest thing about Gourmet Today is the focus on pure fundamentals from drinks and appetizers through to main courses and desserts. This book doesn’t feature gimmicks or high tech wizardry, it focuses on the classics in a modern context. So you can learn to concoct the perfect Gin Rickey before serving up a beautiful Wiener Schnitzel (as I did recently) or crawfish etouffee for dinner and bangers and mash for breakfast. It has many world cuisine classics and it’s perfectly edited to provide the real cook with practical information about what she needs in her repertoire. These are all easily achievable recipes for the home cook with a good sense of flavor and taste. Better yet, buy the book and you can also get a free one-year subscription to the highly regarded Bon Appetit magazine. Now that makes for a good gift that’s quite unlike so many others.


AMAZON


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Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009
The Food of a Younger Land – Mark Kurlansky – Riverhead Books [$27.95]

In this era of factory produced food, mammoth corporate chain restaurants, and the overall reliance on poor quality fast and frozen food, a counter food movement focused on the local, organic and sustainable has been gaining more steam every day. That’s hardly surprising. Many of us seem to realize something vital is missing in our basic culinary lives and much of that boils down to simplicity, tradition and uniqueness. There was actually a time in the recent past when Americans enjoyed locally grown vegetables, filled their tables with meat from animals raised according to ethical traditions, and shopped each day for the fresh items needed for the day’s meals.


Mark Kurlansky , who previously wrote the fabulous food histories Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History, now offers up a portrait of the US “before the national highway system, before the chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation’s food was seasonal, and traditional.” You see, back during the Depression, FDR’s Works Progress Administration employed scores of writers and a number of those writers were sent out into the field to record American cooking and eating habits. The result is a documentary time capsule, capturing this moment of social history right before it was about to change forever in the period of post-war prosperity that saw the birth of mass food production and the TV dinner. Kurlansky brings together many of these writings to paint a portrait of a gloriously un-homogenized America.


AMAZON


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Monday, Nov 30, 2009
Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook - Chronicle Books[$29.95]

This ain’t your grandma’s recipe book. Following the success of the New York Times bestselling Top Chef: The Cookbook, the brainchildren behind Bravo’s hit show for foodies is back with Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook. This Top Chef sequel challenges the home cook to tackle a myriad of fine dining and street dishes from the winning quickfire recipes of the chef’testants over the first five seasons. Not only that, food lovers anywhere can bring the culinary smackdown to home kitchens with guides to classic quickfire challenges including the Mise-en-Place Relay race or the Blind Taste Test. Like any good book on food, the Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook features sidebars on techniques, ingredients, and menu ideas all in the flash-in-the-pan fashion that is Top Chef.  There’s even a short intro to molecular gastronomy if you wanna get really fancy. Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook is the perfect gift for the Top Chef wannabes in your life.


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