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Aug 9, 2005 10:52 AM

New Cookbooks?

  • c

In the past year I have been given or bought some of the newer cookbooks. Bouchon (my library was never going to get a copy and the copies in the stores were plastic wrapped so I went to Amazon for it) is okay. I have not cooked anything out of it yet, it has been too hot. Bourdain's Les Halles, I like it and have used it before it got too hot it is fun to read too. Nigella's Forever Summer worth it for the watermelon salad and there are some other yummy things in there too, I got it at Half Price Books and it is worth every penny. I also got Indian Home Cooking there, I'd seen discussion on CH about it and got it out of my library and made a couple of things and when I saw it at HP Books I bought it. I am really disappointed in it. Week before last I had some lamb shanks and decided to use his recipe for lamb curry with coriander, garam masala and coconut and his eggplant raita-Chilled Smoky Eggplant with Yogurt and Cilantro and to go along with it his stir fried green beans with cumin. It was all totally blah. I was really disappointed. We nearly got up from the table and went out to eat. Frank Stitt's Southern Table has been super, I have had only one dish from it that was less than stellar, it was the Chicken in Watercress Sauce. It was not bad, just uninteresting. I got Tyler Florence's Eat This Book out of the library this weekend and there are some interesting things in it I will try and then decide whether that goes on my aquisitions list. I read Liz Smith's Dishing last week and it was a fun gossipy read. I was not bowled over by her recipes but I was interested to see that she had encountered watermelon salad in a similar reciped to Nigella's in the Bahamas where she said it was pretty traditional.

Anyone else have any new cookbooks you are crazy about or luke warm or disappointed in?

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  1. That's sad about the failed lamb shanks. Bittman's How To Cook Everything has a dynamite lamb variation along the lines of what you made, with coconut milk and cilantro. It's especially good if you can grill it.

    My new-to-me cookbook this summer is Vatch's South East Asian Cookbook by Vatcharin Bhumichitr, and it's inspiring me even in NYC's wretched heat and humidity. I haven't even opened the other couple of books I picked up, 'cause it's so damn hot.

    1. Candy, Mario Batali's new book "Molto Italiano" is the best Italian cookbook I have found. It's also a humorous and fun read cover to cover. The "Pat Conroy Cookbook" is a combination of recipes and a food and travel memoir by Conroy. (Author of "Prince of Tides" and "Beach Music".) A very eclectic book. Arthur Schwartz's massive "New York City Food" traces the contributions immigrants have made to food in America from a New York perspective. Great, great book if you want to know how America's food truly evolved.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Leper

        I've been through the Conroy book a few times and it was a good read. I will have to have a look at the Batali book when the weather is cooler, it is just so beastly hot right now.

      2. I have a slew of cookbooks out from my library right now including 3 that you mention: Bouchon, Southern Table, and Indian Home Cooking. I only knew about Stitt's book b/c you mentioned it once, and I must say, it is fabulous to read and look at!! It's right up there w/ Bouchon in terms of great photos, detailed but doable recipes, and inspiring narrative. Even though I haven't made anything from it, Stitt's book should win awards IMO...

        Indian Home Cooking so obviously paled in comparison. I got the feeling that it was thrown together quickly w/ not too much thought for editing or organization. I didn't feel very inspired by the gestalt of it. On a superficial level, the lack of photos of finished dishes w/ amateurish photos of peppercorns, spices, and common veggies started to really piss me off.

        I don't buy many cookbooks these days unless I am in love w/ them (like Zuni) or come across a deal I can't refuse (like Donna Hay). I am interested in taking a look at Mario's new book, as well as Paul Bertolli's. Two books that have lingered w/ me after reviewing them at the bookstore are Crave by Ludovic Lefevre of Bastide in LA and All About Braising by Molly Stevens. Couldn't be more different in focus and approach but I think they'd broaden my horizons.

        As a general comment, I find that there are many decent to good books on European and Mexican cuisine; however, I don't feel that way w/ various Asian cuisines. I know they must be out there, but maybe my library just doesn't carry them or I'm overlooking them. I don't want just great recipes but something that will have the whole package including great photos and inspiring and insightful words. I didn't like Hot Sour Salty Sweet or the Williams-Sonoma book on SE Asian cuisine. Any recs?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Carb Lover

          I have a lot of asian cook books, I used to be able to get them at cost so when something new and interesting came along I used to not think much about buying. I have jettisoned the Barbara Tropp books, she seemed to make every dish far more complicated than it needed to be. A book that I do like quite a bit but is short on pictures is Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cooking. It is a very interesting read. I like how she will take a dish and explore the way different asian cultures make it, the differences and nuances. If your library has it it is worth a look.

          I think the Indian Home Cooking will end up in my donation pile for the Red Cross book sale. Thank goodness I got a bargain on in. I will copy out the lanb keema recipe first. That was tasty.

          1. re: Candy

            I agree about Barbara Tropp's recipes, may she rest in peace. I bought one of her books years ago after I attended a class she gave in Pasadena. The recipes used so many ingredients that they seemed to cancel each other out and the result was far less flavorful than I'd expected it to be. And, on that note, I recently discovered that P.F. Chang's web site states that although they don't give out their recipes, they suggest using the recipes from Barbara Tropp's books because she helped develop their recipes. Enough said.

          2. re: Carb Lover

            "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" by Mai Pham has excellent and easy recipes, a nice narrative thread of her visit to the mother country, and enough pictures to get you going. The steamed ginger fish is stellar and sooooo easy. The grilled shrimp makes a great appetizer when you're serving the fish to a party...and the Hanoi shrimp cakes are out of this world!

            Vatch's South East Asian Cookbook by Vatcharin Bhumichitr
            I already mentioned it as my summer read, but particularly if you're looking for SE Asian inspiration . . . great photos and writing about each country, and it's in large softcover, so it's not $$$. The recipes cut to the chase.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Your library has a copy of David Thompson's Thai Food which is what you are looking for. Great pics, interesting dishes, good history: makes you want to cook/eat. They also have Fuchsia Dunlop's superb Land of Plenty on Sichuan cooking.

              1. re: Nathan P.

                Thanks to you and others for the recs. It sure is nice to have another hound who shares the same public library system. I'll wait til I return a few books before getting those two; I have more than I can keep track of right now! Thanks again.

            2. I have two new Japanese cookbooks in my library. Both are from Kodansha.

              Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers by Machiko Chiba with wine pairings by J.K. Whehelan. Although the recipes are a bit disappointing, not traditional enough for my tastes, the discussion on wine pairings is brilliant. Mr. Whehelan covers a spectrum of wines - many I would never have considered to pair with Japanese food. A must for anyone curious about both wine and Japanese food.

              The other, The Enlightened Kitchen, by Mari Fujii is a cookbook based on Japanese vegetarian temple food, shojin ryori. Some of the recipes are a hit, others a disappointment. But, the hits include a lot of basic sauces that you find in Japanese restaurants but you never know how they were made.

              I am waiting for Elizabeth Andoh`s book to come out. I see it is at but not available yet. Below is a link to the Amazon post.


              1. Funny you should mention 'Bouchon' because I've had it for several months, and just sat down to look at it the other day. Frankly, it didn't "inspire" me to go dashing to the store in search of ingredients to start cooking. Maybe I'm too lazy these days because of the heat, but it just seemed overwhelming, sort of like his 'French Laundry' cookbook---though, like it, beautifully photographed. I actually had two new books to peruse, and the one that DID make me want to start cooking was 'Geronimo' by the folks who have the restaurant in Santa Fe. Perhaps it's because we LOVE their restaurant and took a cooking class from the chef (whereas we've always chosen Bistro Jeanty over Bouchon!--but love French bistro cooking), but I thought the recipes looked much more interesting and the photographs were equally tempting.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ms. Ghost

                  I took Blouchon down from the shelf tonight and though it is beastly hot, the cicadas are singing and I found myself getting interested, planning ahead on what I might want to play with in a couple of months. I'm begining to see some color change on some shrubs and trees. Cooler to cold weather will be on us before we know it even though right now it seems like it will never come.

                  1. re: Ms. Ghost

                    French Laundry inspired me to think carefully about food. It was awfully inspiring to see the intense focus Keller applies to everything he does...I would find sustaining this level of attention exhausting, but I'm very glad SOMEONE is doing it, which is pretty much what Tony Bourdain said when he was in town and someone asked him. I think the Bouchon book would have the same effect.

                    Bourdain's book, though, and the two Bayless books I've gotten recently, all made me want to get into the kitchen and cook THAT right now..."THAT" being anything from Cochinita Pibil to Cassoulet.