Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’

Three Magazines, Seven Cooks

November 16, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Rustic Parsley & Orzo Soup (E.W.), Creamy Chocolate Pudding (C.I.), Lebanese-Style Green Beans (Saveur)

Surprising pleasures of the table revealed by preparation of foolproof recipes, but which are disguised, at first read, by a thematic focus on health and nutrition.

A behind-the-scenes look at recipe development, also known as “The Making of . . . ,” approach, that delves into the whys and hows of how food works.

Vicarious travel, through stories both personal and cultural, to home kitchens, food carts, markets, and restaurants close to home and far flung, and vicarious enjoyment of the foods produced therein, with accompanying recipes as an added benefit.

These descriptions are how I think of the three magazines that DCCC just finished reading, cooking from, and comparing: Eating Well, Cook’s Illustrated, and Saveur. Each is so different, revealing the very different ways in which food can be approached and experienced. Whereas the staff at a magazine decides a theme in order to carve out a niche in the market, most of us probably approach food in all of these ways, and more, simultaneously.

Doing a magazine comparison, particularly of magazines as different as these, stimulates a great deal of self-food-assessment, if you’re prone to (more…)

A Global Grilling Primer

October 06, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Sizzling Recipes from Around the World
By Jay Solomon
The Crossing Press
116 pp. $10.95

Cookbooks with an international recipe collection are not as popular as they once were. Today Americans are ever more educated about global tastes and seem ready to delve into books devoted to a single foreign cuisine, and to go the extra mile to get authentic ingredients.

Yet unlike when Global Grilling was published, nearly two decades ago, going that “extra mile” is likely to be just that—driving one additional mile to your local Asian or Hispanic market. Reflecting the difference between then and now, some recipes in the book give the choice between more or less authentic ingredients, such as fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce, making them incredibly flexible templates, (more…)

Soup, Bread & Salad: Good Eating Year-round On Offer From a Generous Author

July 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

A Country Inn Cookbook
By Crescent Dragonwagon
Workman Publishing
406 pp. (out of print)

I don’t know Crescent Dragonwagon personally, but after reading her Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread cookbook from start to finish, and making several successful recipes from it, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know something of her—enough to bet that generosity is one of her best-loved traits. In our author-reader/cook-to-cook relationship, I feel doted on. All of my questions about technique have been anticipated, my curiosity about an ingredient or genesis of a recipe satisfied, my experience of the foods enriched by Crescent Dragonwagon’s high-quality prose and selection of quotes from poets, cooks, and artists, and, most importantly, the recipes deliver on her promises.

At the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club potluck, we (more…)

Delving into Mexican Cooking

May 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados
By Diana Kennedy
Clarkson Potter
496 pp. $30.00

Except for me, Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club members have put Mexican cooking behind them and have moved on to cooking soups, salads, and breads from our current cookbook. Everyone in the club loved The Art of Mexican Cooking, as you’ll read below in my review, but sentimental attachment is not the reason I haven’t yet let go. It’s the review—the task for each cookbook that I always save for last for reasons of objective synthesis (I need to wait until I hear what each member thought of the book), but also because review writing stirs a youthful condition I thought I’d long beaten into submission: procrastination. Perhaps that’s because when in school book reviews were one of many writing assignments that were generally dreaded, and because the activities of cooking, eating, and drinking Margaritas with club members are free of school days association. (If anyone has any book review writing tips to help me oust those “school assignment” feelings, please bring them on.)

In the meantime, while I work on casting out procrastination once and for all, here is my review of the third Dowdy Corners’ cookbook, starting with the food, the reason why we cook:

The Food

One of our members was initially lukewarm about the club’s choice of a Mexican cookbook; prior to cooking from The Art of Mexican Cooking, her only reference for Mexican cooking was Americanized food served in average Mexican restaurants, and she was not impressed. Now she is completely hooked.


The Simple Pleasures of Greek Cooking

February 23, 2011
By Holly Jennings

More than 300 Classic and Modern Dishes from the Mainland and Islands of Greece
By Diane Kochilas
St. Martin’s Press
354 pp. $21.95

After preparing some lesser-known Greek dishes from the DCCC pick The Food and Wine of Greece, like Faki (Hearty Lentil Soup), Soutzoukakia Smyrneika (Meatball Sausages, Smyrna Style) and Sfoungato (Baked Omelet), my boyfriend, half-joking, half-not, said, “Greek food doesn’t taste like Greek food.” And he’s right, if you base your understanding of what Greek food is on the handful of iconic dishes and associative ingredients that have become familiar to Americans: Greek salad, Greek omelet, gyro, souvlaki, spanakopitta, stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki (the creamy yogurt and cucumber dip), rice pudding, baklava, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, olive oil, and oregano. (more…)

Demystifying Indian Cuisine

December 30, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People
By Shubhra Ramineni
Tuttle Publishing
160 pp. $27.95

Like most useful things, the Indian cookbook Entice with Spice was born out of a personal need. Having grown tired of eating take-out and frozen dinners after a long day of work at the office, author Shubhra Ramineni resolved to develop simplified recipes that would allow her to cook delicious homemade Indian meals as quickly and as effortlessly as possible—all without sacrificing flavor. The result is a comprehensive collection of one hundred easy-to-make recipes from both the north and south of India. (Most recipes can be made within a half-hour or less; Chicken Biryani and Chicken Tikka Masala are exceptions, requiring about one hour from start to finish.)

In Entice with Spice, you will find a wide range of recipes, including everything from condiments, like yogurt and chutneys, to appetizers, main dishes and sides, breads and rice, and desserts and beverages. (more…)