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Tuesday, 26 May 2015 11:55

quick & easy chicken

Quick Easy Chicken cover Picmonkey

By Linda Gassenheimer

 

2015 American Diabetes Association

ISBN: 978-1-58040-563-8

Soft Cover, 140 pages  $9.95

 

Quick & easy chicken is subtitled “Diabetes-Friendly Recipes Everyone Will Love.”  This reviewer has little familiarity with the nutritional needs of diabetics, but will assume that a book endorsed—and actually published by—the American Diabetes Association will contain recipes appropriate for people dealing with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions.

We do see quite a lot of cookbooks, however, and can judge quick & easy chicken by the same standards we’d apply to any of them. This is not a beautiful, coffee table book with gorgeous photography of the dishes. In fact, other than the cover shot, it contains no photos at all. To succeed it must rely on the recipes and their presentation. In that regard it’s a hit.

If most supermarket chickens are not as flavorful as those that went on American tables a generation or two ago, these days they are reliable and a great source of inexpensive protein. And there’s nothing to stop the shopper from moving up to pricier and possibly tastier versions of this ubiquitous bird. Author Linda Gassenheimer has presented a myriad of ways to treat this most versatile of main course meats. She also has included some lighter soup, salad and sandwich options. No matter how eloquent the prose introducing the recipes or how famous the chef whose name is on the cover, a cookbook is more trouble than it’s worth if it’s not easy to use. Fortunately, this is not a problem with quick & easy chicken.

After a few pages of introduction, Gassenheimer takes the reader to chapters segmented mostly by style of food. If not all the 21 recipes in All American Classics  are the ones your mother might have served you, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy. Some, like Devil’s Chicken with Sautéed Garlic Potatoes, seemed a bit exotic, but we were intrigued by Oven-Fried Chicken with Creamed Corn and Lima Beans. Now that sounds like a solid and satisfying meal of the sort that Mom—or Grandma—used to put on the table. From the Asian/India  recipes, Curry-Kissed Chicken with Rice and Carrots also appealed. On page 72 we saw the Gorgonzola Chicken with Fresh Linguine and Sweet Pimentos—one of the Mediterranean  suggestions. The recipe does not include instructions on how to make fresh linguine, which admittedly is a lot of work. It’s a stretch to think most home cooks have easy access to a store selling fresh pasta, but different boiling times are included for both fresh and dried pasta. Following the directions faithfuly should yield good results. This recipe and all the others are presented with the typical instructions for cooking method following the ingredient list.

What’s unusual, though, are the ancillary instructions. Preparation and timing are critical for any cooking endeavor and highlights listed in the Countdown  give simple, yet invaluable sequencing help. Two other additions are Shopping List  and Staples, detailing what you’re likely to already have on hand (flour, olive oil, etc.) and ingredients specific to the preparation of each recipe. Helpful Hints  follow each recipe. These look like they would be useful for the novice and might even include a few tips that would benefit the experienced cook.

Nearly all the recipes call for using boneless and skinless chicken. Some might wonder if such instructions might mean stinting on flavor, but after all, the title does say “quick & easy.” And avoiding all the fat in the skin probably speaks to the “Diabetes-Friendly” theme. That these recipes are helpful for those with diabetes and pre-diabetes conditions—a significant part of the population—is laudable, but they all look healthful for a general audience, as well. Most of these dishes really sound tasty and likely will inspire the reader to conclude, “I can make that.”

  --reviewed by Dan Clarke

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 17:30

Taste of Beirut

taste of beirut Picmonkey

By Joumana Accad

 

2014 by Health Communications, Inc.

ISBN-13:978-0-7573-1770-5

Soft Cover, 311 pages, $18.95

 

Taste of Beirut by Joumana Accad is much more than a collection of Lebanese recipes, albeit they alone deserve high praise. Anyone interested in food from the Middle East who wants to learn about the do’s and don’ts of cooking and eating, the “Lebanese Larder,” and some of the history and origins of Lebanese food will enjoy the book not only as a fine cookbook, but as a good read. From mezzes (appetizers) to desserts such as baklava, Accad presents easy-to-make recipes using fresh ingredients in a simple format with mouthwatering images. Recipes are organized by category: Breads, Breakfast and Brunch; Sandwiches and Soups; Mezzes: Dips, Finger Foods, Salads and Sides, Main Courses and Desserts.

A simple dish such as Dandelion Greens, (called a “salad” in the Middle East) using dandelion greens sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juicer and topped with toasted pine nuts is a sweet and delicious appetizer and is enjoyed with wedges of Arabic bread. Accad’s version of Muhammara, or Red Pepper and Walnut Dip, is a show-stopper, calling for roasted red peppers, garlic, walnut, cumin and pomeg4ranate molasses. It also is served with Arabic bread.

Throughout the book recipes are preceded by notes regarding the origin of the dish, variations on ingredients, how foods are used as home remedies and the diversity of ingredients as they pertain to Lebanon’s geography and climates.

From traditional dishes to innovative new creations, Taste of Beirut is a wonderful celebration of people, culture and cuisine!

--reviewed by Leslie Bisharat

Sunday, 08 June 2014 23:38

The Paleo Slow Cooker

The Paleo Slow Cooker cover image Picmonkey

by Arsy Vartarian

 

Race Point Publishing, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1937994075

Hard Cover, 255 pages $27

 

Meat The Flintstones

One of the newer diets, or should I say diet philosophies, is known as the Paleo Diet. The genesis of this particular chapter in the wide world of diets is posited on the theory that if we ate like our (very ancient) ancestors we would be a lot healthier. Adherents surmise that the decline of human health traces its roots to the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago with the consequence that mankind then eschewed his original hunter/gatherer dietetics to his inadvertent demise.

The benefits of a paleo diet are said to include weight loss, reduction of systemic inflammation that causes a variety of maladies and diseases, mood stabilization and increased energy. This is accomplished by elimination of whole grains, legumes, and dairy from the diet and utilizing fresh vegetables, herbs and protein, especially from fat and red meat. Some of the basic tenets of this approach to diet seem counter-intuitive and at odds with what medical science tells us today, such as the elimination of whole grains and encouraging the consumption of red meat and its attendant saturated fats. Others are merely contradictory; dairy is eliminated but go ahead with butter and eggs.

Like all diet regimens, the paleo diet purports to have the backing of some kind of science, automatically providing the imprimatur of scientific credibility. Whether or not one accepts the science, it is now 10,000 years later and the real questions are: does the food taste good and will it improve your health? Since this is a cookbook we will concern ourselves to the former question.

Obviously beef brisket and chicken aren’t exactly the same thing as the pterodactyl burgers and bronto ribs one might envision from 10,000 years ago. Yet again, this isn’t bugs and tree bark either. I’m pretty sure our ancient ancestors didn’t have slow cookers or even electric outlets in their cave dwellings but let’s not quibble, they had fire and knew how to adjust the flames. All of which thusly brings us to the chow.

I tried several of the recipes in the book, particularly the beef and chicken recipes which are big favorites in our one-story, ranch-style cave. The beef brisket in espresso bean barbecue sauce was exquisite with deeply rich beef flavors accented by the unusual barbecue sauce companion. The chili Colorado was also quite good and the chicken adobo was ridiculously easy as well as good. I loved the slow cooker stuffing recipe and plan to serve it at Thanksgiving dinner this year. For dessert, the baked apples were terrific.

Author Arsy Bartanian is of Middle Eastern descent and provides recipes from that area of the world as well as a variety of other ethnic sources such as Asian, Mexican, and curries. This offers a nice variety of foods and styles.

Some of the ingredients called for such as ghee, tamari, avocado oil, etc. are likely to be unfamiliar and difficult to find. In that regard the book does require something of a commitment. All these items are available but it will require an exploration of the ethnic stores in your area which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself.

The Paleo Slow Cooker is organized in the standard divisions: appetizers, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, vegetables and right down the line in individual chapters. The introduction and forward give a thumbnail sketch of the Paleo Diet and the basic ground rules of the diet.

Whether or not you plan to adopt the paleo philosophy, remain assured the recipes in the book are simple, and yield tender, succulent dishes, as any slow cooker dish should. The recipes are almost all very appealing, usually quite simple to prepare. If you are a slow cooker type, without doubt you will enjoy adding this book to your cookbook shelf.

 

--Reviewed by Michael Eady 

Monday, 27 January 2014 14:38

Fast & Simple Gluten Free

 

Fast  Simple Gluten-Free cover image Picmonkeyby Gretchen F. Brown, R.D.

 

Fair Winds Press, October 2012

ISBN: 9780159233-524-4

Softcover, 175 pages $21.99

 

Without a reviewer who has intimate and technical knowledge of gluten, a protein found in many grains, nor of the various gluten-sensitivity issues, including celiac disease, Taste California Travel will stipulate that author Gretchen Brown is knowledgeable on this topic. The first chapter of Fast & Simple Gluten-Free gives a fairly simple explanation of the issue and, as a Registered Dietician, Brown certainly has credibility.

We might have assumed that her cookbook would provide ingredient substitutions that would redefine standard recipes to avoid the dreaded gluten. Indeed, there are recipes where traditional sources of gluten—mostly wheat flour—would be dropped. The modifications in these cases look reasonable and not likely to change the taste of more traditional preparations too much. These alone might be enough to recommend it to someone interested in cooking to accommodate family members or guests who might have a problem with gluten.

But there is really so much more to this book. Good photos caught our eye, as well as intriguing recipes that didn't seem to have any relation to gluten—either its presence or its absence. These just sounded healthy and seemed like they'd taste good. Deviled Eggs with Horseradish, Bacon and Cheddar was such an offering in the Simple Starters and Sips section. The Grilled Ribeye with Orange Balsamic Glaze in Fast & Filling Full Plate Meals also looked tasty, as did the Roasted Salmon & Asparagus with Lemon-Caper-Dill Aioli. A winner from the Super Quick Sides section might be Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries & Walnuts.

Substantial space is devoted to preparation of breads and baked desserts and we imagine this would be quite helpful to those looking to avoid gluten. We can imagine those opting for a gluten-free diet could be daunted by the prospects of complicated preparations for that need. However, there is a badge on the book's cover reading “30 minutes or less to fresh and classic favorites,” which tends to support the "Fast & Simple" in the title. Maybe eating well while avoiding gluten is not so difficult.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

Viva la Cucnia Italiana Picmonkey

Viva la Cucina Italiana, Long live the Italian Cooking!

by Joe Famularo

 

CreateSpace 2012

ISBN 978-1470170431

399 pages, soft cover, $22.95

Food appeals to most, if not all, of the senses. Eye appeal counts and reading through Viva la Cucina Italiana, there's a little regret that no pictures accompany any of the recipes. It would be nice to know how tantalizing the dishes would appear on the plate. However, many cookbooks that include absolutely gorgeous photography are better additions to the coffee table than the kitchen.

Author Joe Famularo has presented a volume that is much like Italian cooking itself—simple and satisfying. It's presented in straight forward style from antipasti through desserts. Each dish is defined in English, with its Italian name just below in italic type. Famularo, who was brought up in an Italian-American family in New York, later traveled extensively in Italy. Perhaps this background gives him a sense of how to include just enough—but not too much—of the provenance of each recipe for his American audience.

Numbered steps in the method of each preparation follow the list of ingredients. Directions tend toward the spare and seem clearer for their brevity. A reviewer who spends much of his time editing copy might cavil at some apparent typos, but these are minor in a cookbook that does such an outstanding job of exposing the cooking from many regions of Italy.

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 18:15

Cooking with the California Cajun

Cooking with the California Cajun

By Lanny Kilchrist

 

Morris Press Cookbooks, 2006125 pages, $19.95

 Cookinng with the California Cajun

Lanny Kilchrist has lived in California for quite a few years, but he’s still Cajun.

A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Kilchrist graduated from The University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette). He settled in Sacramento after being exposed to the area while teaching at nearby Mather Air Force Base. The man knows food in the many definitions exhibited in his adopted state. He’s also a talented home winemaker.

His book is subtitled “A Collection of Recipes by Lanny Kilchrist,” and while there are recipes attributable to him, there are also many from relatives and friends. His book is really an homage to his Cajun heritage. References to his parents, Frank and Rubie Kilchrist, and grandparents, Eunice and Edger Kilchrist and Dalton and Gladys Guidroz are here, as well as recipes from their kitchens. Included in the Lagniappe section is a salute to “The Ladies That Help Make A House A Home.” Kilchrist calls these African American women “the very backbone of our families” and calls their culinary expertise “unquestionable!” He says his respect for these women and the family and friends he grew up around inspired him to publish the recipes, lest they be lost over time. A portion of each sale is donated to people of Louisiana still suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The author did graduate study in art at Cal State University, Sacramento and that experience led to his founding a business dealing with glass temperature monitors. His wife Sally, also a native of Lafayette and a graduate of Louisiana State, teaches junior high school in Sacramento and is the source of some of the recipes.

The word Cajun has been subjected to many more lengthy and scholarly explanations, but briefly explained, the term refers to people who emigrated from France to eastern Canada (Acadia) and eventually pushed southward to settle in Louisiana. Along the way these Acadians became known as Cajuns as language evolved or corrupted.

The recipes in California Cajun are put forward in straight forward and easy-to-understand English. Kilchrist is never far from his southern Louisiana roots, though, and can segue to reminiscences in dialect when the mood strikes. Included one page before a Wine Tasting Glossary is a list of malaprops compiled by Betty Vigorito. These include (First: as spoken by at least one Cajun and Second: standard English in parentheses):

Hears Hard (Hard of Hearing)

Dementia Republic (Dominican Republic)

Decliner (Recliner)

Allergy on the River (Algae)

Very Close Veins (Varicose Veins)

Creative users of the English language, Cajuns are also creative in their preparation of food. Their Louisiana pantry included cultivated crops, but also the bounty of the diverse wild plants and animals available to people living in rural areas. Couple those conditions with the food consciousness of their French ancestors and you have the elements for an innovative and very tasty cuisine.

A few of the 150 recipes are typical of an era when not every ingredient was freshly sourced. Lanny’s Asparagus Casserole, for instance, includes canned asparagus, crushed Ritz crackers and a can of mushroom soup. However this might sound to trendy Californians, the Cajun transplant insists the dish is not only simple to prepare, but that it really does taste good. Though other recipes are more sophisticated, the techniques are fairly simple and most of the components are available in parts of the country outside Louisiana. A roux, for instance, requires only two ingredients; flour and oil, but being a cornerstone of Cajun cooking, merits preparation instructions and commentary taking all of page 105.

Among the recipes that caught the reviewer’s eye were these two:

Duck Gumbo

3 lbs duck, (3 to 4 large ducks like Mallard or 5 small ducks like Teal or Woodduck)2 stalks celery, rough chopped1 bay leaf2 tsp. Saltwater

Place ducks and rest of ingredients in a large pot and cover ducks with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tender. Remove ducks and set aside to cool. Discard liquid. When ducks have cooled remove skin and debone.

Gumbo

¾ to 1 cup roux1 lg. onion, chopped1 lg. green bell pepper, chopped3 lg. cloves of garlic, minced1 lb. smoked pork link sausage6 cups chicken broth or water2 tsp. salt1 tsp. ground black pepper1 tsp. Cajun seasoning½ tsp. cayenne pepper1 tsp. garlic powder green onion, chopped

Make roux according to recipe in This and That section. When roux reaches desired color, add chopped vegetables and cook until they start to wilt. Add broth or water and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Add seasonings and simmer for 20 minutes. Add duck meat and sliced sausage. Cook on low heat for 40 to 50 minutes. Adjust seasonings according to taste.

Recipe Note: Serve over rice and garnish with chopped green onions. Some areas of Southern Louisiana serve potato salad with this gumbo.

--Ellin Busch--Sally Kilchrist

Gus’ Oyster Stew

2 green bell peppers, grated2 onions, grated2 cups water

Grate bell pepper and onions and place in pot with the water and boil until wilted. Remove and drain, save water.

Oyster Stew

5 qts. half and half1 gal. milk1 T. garlic powder1 tsp. black pepper1 T. salt11/2 gal. oysters1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet1 tsp. cornstarch, dissolved in water that was used to wilt onions and bell peppergreen onion tops and parsley, chopped for garnish

Bring half and half and milk to simmer; be careful not to boil. Add vegetables and seasonings and cook for 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and Kitchen Bouquet and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Add drained oysters and cook until they curl. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Remove from heat and serve with green onion tops and parsley.

Recipe Note: This will feed several people. If desired, the recipe can be reduced proportionally for smaller quantity.

--Gustavia McZeal

Cooking with the California Cajun, 125 pages, is printed in hard cover/loose leaf format and priced at $19.95. Published by Morris Press Cookbooks, it is available from L K Enterprises ($23.75 including tax and shipping), 5643 Camellia Avenue, Sacramento, Ca 95819, (916) 451-0211.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 17:44

Passover Cookery

Passover Cookeryby Joan Kekst

Five Star Publications

ISBN 978-1877749445

www.fivestarpublications.com

softcover, 168 pages, $24.95

 passover-cookery

Joan Kekst has many years of experience teaching and lecturing on Kosher and Jewish holiday meals. She has a B.A. from Notre Dame College in Home Economics Education and a M.A. in Judaic Culture from Cleveland College of Jewish Studies. She has also has also attended the New York Cooking School and LaVarenne Paris. She works as a Cleveland food columnist and has free-lanced for national Jewish publications. With a sound academic grounding and over twenty years of experience, Joan is especially qualified to deliver a book intended to equip the reader -- whether neophyte or maven to prepare a memorable Passover for the family.

Passover Cookery contains recipes for first courses, soups, kugels, vegetables and salads, main courses and desserts. Detailed and easy to follow guides for setting the Seder table begin the book. The ritual course of the meal and the food cues for each stage are explained. The book is well laid out with easy to read text which is garnished throughout with color photographs and rich graphics. Much appreciated is that each recipe is on one page. I propped the book in the kitchen book holder and did not have to stop and turn back and forth between pages and risk leaving a sample of the ingredients on the pages.

The author includes tips on how to make the holiday specific to your family and shares traditions from her own. While Ms. Kekst gives an overview of the dietary laws and Biblical injunctions that pertain to making a meal that is "Kosher for Passover", the scope of her book extends beyond what at first blush appears to be a rather narrow focus. My family and others can enjoy any of the recipes throughout the year. In fact, several are destined to become " Old Favorites." Moreover, the audience is not limited to homes that keep kosher or even Jewish homes. Gentile readers will find much to reward them in this book as well.

The only thing missing from Ms. Kekst's plate is a more thorough discussion of wine. While the author mentions the place of wine in Passover, there is no discussion of food and wine pairings. The thought of a kosher wine usually conjures up the image of an overly sweet wine with little to recommend it. That may be historically accurate but great strides have been made in recent years. There is no reason why the grape varieties, science and skills of great wine makers found in the general viticultural world cannot be addressed to crafting fine kosher wines. Kosher wines are made in many parts of the world and here in California, we are lucky to have several wineries producing a wide variety of fine kosher wines. There is Gan Eden (www.ganeden.com), Baron Herzog, Hagafen (www.hagafen.com) and Weinstock, for example. So, I encourage the reader to explore kosher wines for Passover as well as those other times wine and food can be enjoyed together.

The central motif of Passover is the Seder. Rich with ritual and teaching aids, e.g. the Seder plate, the meal serves as an annual tutorial for Jews to think about our escape from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land and the meaning of freedom for all of the peoples of the earth. Far more than a collection of delicious recipes Passover Cookery is a heuristic for the Passover season leading the reader not only through cooking the meals but also making the home Kosher for Passover. Our modern lives are very busy ones and this season and its demands can loom as an overwhelming task. Joan Kerst provides highly effective methods for enlisting the help of family members and articulates a model example of Critical Path Management with her "Six Week Countdown to Passover". These two items alone are worth more than the price of the book and will lead many from the slavery of holiday preparation to promised land of holiday enjoyment.

 

--Reviewer Robert Guildner Ph.D. is the President of Wolff Solutions, an Information Technology consulting firm in Sacramento, California. He may be contacted at 916.448.1598 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 17:28

Life’s a Fish and Then You Fry

Life’s a Fish and Then You Fryby Randy Bayliss

 

Alaska Northwest Books, Second Edition

(First Edition self-published 1999 as Fear and Poaching: Eating Southeast Alaska)

ISBN 978-0882405537208 pages, 100 recipes, 60 illustrations $16.95

 life-is-a-fish

For your consideration: a cookbook by a man who consults on hazardous waste cleanups in the state whose seafood he recommends for use in most recipes.

Bayliss begins the first section of the book by discussing the health benefits of eating seafood. He follows through by encouraging the reader to eat seafood and provides quite a few good recipes. The book has more than 200 recipes for all manners of dishes featuring wild pacific salmon, halibut, crab, mussels, and squid. The recipes are simple and straightforward. Most follow the rubric: when you have excellent ingredients let them shine in the dish. He includes dishes that are from Mexican, Asian, Native Alaskan, Scandinavian, French, Italian and other cuisines.

Although the author emphasizes the health benefits of seafood and olive oil, he suggests storing garlic cloves in olive oil. Bayliss writes, "Since most olive oil recipes also call for garlic, store peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. The oil picks up the flavor of garlic and garlic cloves store well, ready for other uses." He also advises readers not to refrigerate olive oil. These appear to be very odd practices to include in a book which so emphasizes health.

Why does it seem odd? In 1989 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged consumers to discard garlic-in-oil and similar products. Firms were told to stop making any such mixes which require refrigeration for safety. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/NEW00120.html

Health Canada has written, " Garlic in oil is a popular home prepared food item which can present a health risk, if stored incorrectly. Improper storage of food products is a frequent cause of food poisoning in Canada. These illnesses can range from relatively mild discomfort such as cramps or upset stomach, to life threatening. One of the most serious risks is that of botulism. Non-preserved garlic in oil (that is, containing no preservatives) is a food that is known to present such an extreme risk and must therefore be handled properly… Non-preserved garlic in oil products are mixtures of vegetable oil and whole, chopped or minced garlic. For safety these products must be continuously refrigerated, from the time of preparation, and should be used within one week." http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/mh-dm/iyh-avs/e_garlic_in_oil.htm The Calaveras County California Extension Service has a wealth of information about garlic handling and storage at http://cecalaveras.ucdavis.edu/garlic.htm

Bayliss’s suggestion of storing garlic in olive oil astounded me. This book is hard to figure on food safety issues. The author makes his garlic suggestion and a similar one about storing basil leaves in olive oil. On the other hand, he tells us how important it is to avoid harvesting mussels in tidal areas affected by red tide algae. Does he really think that more people will be getting their mussels at the shore than at the market? Why include this warning?

On another strange issue, he is at pains to let us know "don’t eat bait quality herring." Thanks, Bayliss, but I do not do any shopping for my table at the bait shop. Oh, and did I mention the kelp foraging advice complete with illustrations to help us recognize good Alaskan kelp on the beach?

All in all, this book is strange. Perhaps, I am just not "in on" the idea or joke that is essential to understanding it. Sare these oddities the one part Hunter S. Thompson in the book as the cover notes suggest? May be the book is just intended for Alaskans. I’m from Chicago and live in California. Thanks be to God.

 

--Reviewer Mike Petersen is an attorney employed at the state capitol who travels whenever he can to try new foods and wines in California and Europe. He especially enjoys cooking and eating Italian, Spanish, French, German and other dishes that he has sampled with the locals here and abroad. Mike is a founder and chair of Mr. P’s Wine Club, a no-load wine club whose members love trying new wines and foods. He also searches for Chicago-style, kosher hot dogs wherever he may be.

Cooking With Cajun Women: Recipes & Remembrances From South Louisiana Kitchens

by Nicole Denée

 

Fontenot Hippocrene Books, October, 2002

ISBN 978-0781809320

Hard cover, 330 pages. $24.95

 cooking-with-cajun-women

Cooking with Cajun Women is a wonderful book. I am extremely proud of my Cajun background; our food is becoming recognized around the country in a very positive light, as it should be. This cookbook gives a short history of our plight and background which is so necessary to the reader’s understanding of the evolution of our kitchen.

I am also a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL). The author of this cookbook is one of many people associated with ULL who is working hard to promote and preserve our heritage. Food is always the window to a group of people, in this case hot and spicy food!

The Cajun people are descendents of French immigrants originally from the northwestern part of France. They left their home country due to political and religious pressures. They are European in all senses of the word and French as much as French can be. The recipes that are in this cookbook accurately show this French/European thinking. You will find that certain dishes are given different interpretations. For example, recipes for etouffe or gumbo are similar, but different for each individual who prepares them. This to me is one of the exciting and interesting things about our Cajun kitchen.

I especially enjoy the quotes that accompany the recipes. They give an insight to the person and show the color of our way of life. The tight knit family unit is still alive and well in South Louisiana. I will never forget our family’s mandatory Sunday dinner at grandma’s house on the farm. I was not especially receptive to this mandatory family get together, but I can tell you now that I would give anything to sit at that wonderful oak table and enjoy the magnificent meal that this old and wonderful woman could put together. Grandpa was no slouch in the kitchen, either. In fact, he could prepare Cajun food as well as his wife and he was very responsible for teaching me to cook.

Cooking with Cajun Women tends to let the reader feel that the women were more responsible for the meals than the men. Well, this not entirely correct. The Cajun men that I grew up with certainly could cook and did quite well. Cajun men are more into cooking today than ever before and certainly share the duties in the kitchen and are proud of their fixins!

The depiction of the Cajun has often suffered in accuracy, but this cookbook does a great job of helping folks understand and appreciate what we have in South Louisiana. You will enjoy this book. These words were common to hear while around our Cajun tables, “manger, manger, manger”(eat, eat, eat).

 

--Reviewer Lanny Kilchrist has resided in Sacramento, California, since he was assigned to teaching duties at Mather AFB at the conclusion of an Air Force career which included 210 combat missions in a B-52. After completing a master’s degree in glass art at California State University Sacramento, he founded L K Enterprises, a company which manufactures computerized temperature controllers for glass.

Lanny recommends readers visit the Cajun land of Louisiana to experience the wonderful food and hospitality firsthand, but cautions that a trip in the spring or fall will avoid also experiencing the summer’s very hot, sticky, and humid climate.

The Dancing Gourmet, Recipes to Keep You on Your Toes!by Linda Hymes photography by Derek Gaffney

 

Lindergaff Books

ISBN 0971978204www.dancinggourmet.com

157 pages $26.

the dancing-gourmet 

There are a few good cookbooks that provide most of what any aspiring home chef would need to know.

And you could get by on just a basic red wine and a basic white for your table. But wouldn’t life be so much more boring if we didn’t celebrate diversity? With all the cookbooks already in print, does the world need more? Yes, I think so.

Linda Hymes spent a good part of her adult life as a professional ballerina. That’s a world that I know less than nothing about. Yet I found fascinating the background and anecdotes that preface many of her recipes in “The Dancing Gourmet.” Obviously, dancers travel in their work and Hymes was exposed to different cultures. Her exposure to many cuisines gives her inspiration and her education at Le Cordon Bleu in London gives her a credibility that perhaps no other former ballerinas—and few world travelers of any profession—have.

The premise inherent in the title at first seemed a stretch to me and I was poised to dismiss “The Dancing Gourmet” as frivolous and probably targeting way too narrow an audience. That would have been shortsighted. This is not a “diet” cookbook, but the recipes seem both healthy and substantial. They make sense and the photography of many of these dishes (done by husband Derek Gaffney) encourages me to try the recipes.

Pizza Marguerita with capers and red onion is a classic recipe, yet seldom published. Its inclusion is worthwhile on that basis alone, but Hymes’ recollection of encountering pizza-making when performing a Balanchine ballet in Spoleto gives understanding of the dish beyond the usual “ingredients and method.” Insights such as the preface to sea bass wrapped in pancetta, “In ballet, often less is more. Too much effort and the whole picture looks forced, overdone. . . . A dancer must remember equally what not to do. The same is true with fish—keep it simple and don’t overcook it and you’ll never go wrong. . . . ” probably is fair analysis of ballet. It certainly is apt commentary on cooking fish.

“The Dancing Gourmet” is a little offbeat, but it’s worthwhile.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

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