Books Books Books – in time for the Holidays

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a review of three books she thinks you might want to put on your wish list — either for you or for a holiday gift.

So many books, so little time… Well, that’s not exactly true but I have a passel of books I want to bring to your attention. Brevity is the order of the day.

Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks
by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless
photos by Paul Elledge

Facts: W.W. Norton & Company, 256 pages, $24.95 (or Amazon $16.47)
Photos: Almost every recipe has a photo
Recipes: 109 (bartender’s recipe and pitcher recipe counted as two—33 of those, so 76 without)

Just released is the latest from Rick & Deann Bayless. There are three chapters of beautiful and creative margaritas: classic, seasonal fruit and herb, and, mescal margaritas. After a recipe for the classic margarita, come the inspired ones such as: Tangerine Spice Margarita, Meyer Lemon Margarita, Ultimate Strawberry Margarita. Moving to the decadent we find: Oaxacan Gold Margarita, Tamarind Mezcal followed by Absinthe-Mezcal. Tequila fans will love Vampiro and Mexican El Diablo (I’m getting woozy).

The most versatile chapter is Agua Fresca Cocktails. They begin with the recipe for Agua Fresca, the non-alcoholic part of the cocktail which in itself is delish. And next to that is “Turning the Agua Fresca into Cocktails.” Five recipes to tempt: teetotaler or alcohol participant? For example, a Tangy Cucumber-Mint Cocktail would begin with mint, cucumber, lime juice and sugar for the Agua Fresca, and the addition of ginger, blue agave tequila, ginger liqueur and lime transform it into the cocktail. Everyone’s happy!

So what will you serve along with these cocktails? Choose from the dozen or so guacamole recipes and mix it up with Citrusy Jicama and Watermelon with Toasted Sesame, or Green Chile Pumpkin Seeds with Tequila and Lime. This is a party waiting to happen.

Turkey: More than 100 Recipes with Tales from the Road
by Leanne Kitchen
food photos by Amanda McLauchlan

Facts: Chronicle Books, 272 pages, $35.00 (or Amazon $23.10)
Photos: 174
Recipes: Just over 100

There aren’t many times where I review a cookbook when I haven’t visited the mother country of the cuisine but this is the case. I didn’t know there were seven distinct/diverse regions in Turkey each with its own signature foods ranging from watermelon to tulum (Turkish goat milk cheese ripened in a goatskin casing), and recipes based on rosewater or hazelnuts in other regions.

I am excited about these recipes. As a matter of fact, my BFF and I decided that, for her dinner club on New Year’s Eve, we’d be cooking exclusively from this book.

The book is divided into eight chapters, from Meze (appetizers) to Desserts. Kitchen speaks of the “varied and venerable cuisine” from Ottoman-derived dishes to Anatolian peasant fare and the influence of the eight countries bordering Turkey. Staples of the diet include yogurt, kebabs, börek (a filled flaky pastry), pide (generally bread but usually brings to mind Turkish pizza), and gözleme (a stuffed lavash browned in a pan).

The ingredients in the recipes may not be in your everyday pantry, but they aren’t so exotic that they are impossible to find. I thought she should have included a Sources section but when I looked at the ingredients to support my thought, the most foreign I found was Turkish pepper paste and her footnote directed the reader to a Middle Eastern or Turkish grocery store. Fair enough.

The desserts sound divine: Coffee Custards with Halva Pastries, Rose and Pistachio Sweetmeats, Candied Squash, and Chilled Yogurt Cream with Sweet Tomato Compote among others.

Evidently this book has attracted a lot of attention since it came out on September 5th and Amazon has only a handful left in stock from the first run.

Canal House Cooks Every Day
by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer
photos by Christopher Hirshheimer; Illustrations by Melissa Hamilton

Facts: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 384 pages, $45.00 (or Amazon $29.70)
Photos: over 240
Recipes: 246

Canal House Cooks Every Day is a much larger volume than Canal House Cooking Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita that I reviewed in February of this year. Matter of fact, the word volume isn’t in the title. I figured it was a regurgitation and some combination of recipes from numerous books that had preceded it – some companies do that you know (wink wink). But this book is big and beautiful and fresh. While I’m sure that at least under the heading Canal House Essentials you may recognize a recipe, there was no shuffling the deck and putting recipes in a new order.

There is a whimsical, light-hearted feeling about the book that begins with the foreword: “FOREWORD by Julia Child as dictated from beyond to Amanda Hesser” Julia goes on to say that the partnership of Melissa and Christopher reminds her of her years with Louisette and Simca. That M & C are after no particular cuisine, they cook what suits them and that’s what we all should be doing.

These two women only have to inhale and their creativity is replenished.

The recipes are by season by month. For example:

April: Pappardelle with Peans & Scallions bathed in Cream

May: Breast of Veal Braised with Green Olives & Tomatoes

July: Tomatoes with Tonnato Sauce

October: Pork Stewed in Guajillo Chile Mole

December: Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries

January: Restorative Beef Broth

You know I’m a huge fan of Hirshheimer photography and she doesn’t disappoint. A look at the photo of Kabocha Squash Pie and you want to stick your finger in the whipped cream.



1 reply
  1. Lauren Smith
    Lauren Smith says:

    Thanks for the great ideas for gifts for the holidays. My favorite is the Rick Bayess cookbook. I recognize his name from Top Chef. I will be picking this cookbook up soon. Thanks! My ultimate favorite cookbook is called, “Holly Clegg’s trim&TERRIFIC KITCHEN 101: Secrets to Cooking Confidence” by author Holly Clegg. This book is designed for all ages, but specifically for the 18-25 and anyone with their first kitchen. For the working or busy person who desires to cook but doesn’t have the time to spend in the kitchen. Everything you every wanted and needed to know about setting up a kitchen – Cooking Basics Chapter with dictionary, Pantry-stocking guide, and ingredient substitutions.


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