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Paula

Kitchen Focus

posted by: May 3, 2012 - 1:11am

My Family TableIn My Family Table, A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking, famed New Orleans chef and restaurateur John Besh shares his philosophy for putting together simple, delicious meals on a regular basis at home. Besh emphasizes the importance of what he calls Kitchen Focus: creating simple, refined dishes using just a handful of the best quality ingredients.  He recommends stocking your pantry in a strategic way in order to be able to bring meals together without a need for last-minute runs to the grocery store. Many of Besh’s suggested pantry items reflect the multicultural way modern cooks approach the kitchen, listing ingredients such as rice noodles, risotto rice, Israeli couscous, stone-ground grits and sambal chili paste. Fresh produce and meats complete the flavorful recipes.

 

Casual home cooks will appreciate Besh’s clear explanations and easy to follow directions for what he terms “master recipes,” easily customizable recipes for things like risottos, frittatas, and fruit crumbles. Narrative passages instruct on practical topics such as one-pot meals, braising meats, cooking fish, and planning ahead in order to pull together quick weekday meals for families. True to his promise, recipes throughout this approachable cookbook are uncomplicated yet interesting and delicious.

 

Designed in an oversized format, My Family Table is rife with inviting photos of ingredients, finished dishes, and Besh and his family, clearly enjoying these home-cooked recipes in their daily lives. This volume has all of the hallmarks of a cookbook you will return to again and again. My Family Table has been nominated for a 2012 James Beard Foundation cookbook award in the general cooking category.


 
 

One Cool Book

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 10:32am

One Cool FriendQuality picture books have the ability to engage both the youngest and oldest of readers with stories and illustrations that work together to capture the imagination. One Cool Friend, by Toni Buzzeo with illustrations by David Small, falls into that elite category of books we return to again and again. Tuxedo-clad Elliot is a “proper young man,” a boy who prefers quiet, solitary pursuits. When his scientist father proposes a trip to the aquarium, Elliot is unsure. He’s quickly enchanted by the penguins, asking his distracted father if he might have one. A misunderstanding leads a confident Elliot to pop the smallest Magellanic bird into his backpack for the journey back to their spacious, well-appointed home. His new friend proves to be a delight, if not a bit of a challenge.

Small works in pen and ink, ink wash, watercolor, and colored pencil, rendering charmingly witty pictures that add a surprising amount of humor and depth to the story. Readers will delight at the details Small works in to give depth to the character of Elliot’s father, details that begin to hint at the surprise that reveals itself as the story progresses. This is a sophisticated, nuanced book that demands multiple readings in order to fully appreciate the interdependence of Buzzeo’s highly original plot and Small’s clever illustrations.

 


 
 

Make the Popcorn, Buy the Potato Chips

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 9:19am

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

More and more home cooks are getting their due, thanks in part to blogging. Writer and mom Jennifer Reese, known for the popular, humor-laced site The Tipsy Baker (tipsybaker.com) shares insights from her kitchen as she works her way through recipes in her vast cookbook collection. The blog led her to pen her own tome, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch --Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods, a guide for those tempted by the cook-it-yourself trends. Published in October, Reese’s book was named a notable cookbook of 2011 by the The New York Times, and with good reason.

 

Those of us who enjoy reading cookbooks can attest not only to the accessible, practical nature of the recipes, but to the page-turning quality of the prose. Reese’s personality shines through as she recounts her honest, insightful attempts at making such family kitchen staples as peanut butter and vanilla extract. Like a best girlfriend, she tells it like it is, advising whether it’s worth your time and energy to make homemade marshmallows (it is!) or if you should spend hours crafting hotdogs (don’t even think about it). Recipes for those items Reese deems worth making are clear, simple and easy to execute.

 

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is the quintessential how-to, why-to, when-to manual for home cooks looking to save money, improve flavor, and avoid artificial ingredients.


 
 

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