L.A.’s Original Farmer’s Market Cookbook by JoAnn Cianciulli (Chronicle Books) is a great little walk through an American Farmer’s Market. In other words, the best of all worlds. I like this book because I like cookbooks which also tell a story and put the food into the context of where it is made or of who makes it. This book not only tells the history of the market, it tells the history of the stalls whose recipes are featured. The history of the market is presented with historical photographs in the introduction to the book, before getting to the food. It is divided into four sections: Breakfast, Sandwiches and Light Bites, Main Meals, and Sweet Things. The book starts out with a doughnut recipe and ends with…recipes for dog biscuits!! I tested the book in the middle– with crepes from the French Crepe Company, and they were wonderful. But if you want something less ‘predictable’ there is Korean, Mexican, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian (American), and American. The photography is not sophisticated, however, it is enough to induce hunger and make you wish you could take a walk at the market. For me, preparing it at home is the next best option, and I look forward to trying more recipes in the book.
If you’ve ever tried to interact with someone who is in the throes of writing a book, you know they are mostly offline for the duration of the project. If you’ve ever tried to interact with someone who is photographing and developing recipes for a cookbook, then you know that they are offline and most likely their hair (and probably something in the kitchen) is on fire for the duration of the project. That was me. I’d heard about how stressful the process was, but I never fully understood it until I started. However, I also had very fun moments along the way and the process was so very rewarding!
Baking Unplugged by Nicole Rees (Wiley). Baking Unplugged is the hands down winner in my spot recipe testing. The recipes are good, easy, and practical. The simple philosophy behind the book is that you can make great desserts without any electrical equipment (except an oven, of course). The preliminary chapters at the beginning review tools, ingredients, methods, and how to read a recipe. The books chapters are then divided into types of baked goods, with no dearth of explanation of technique. The book is clear and concise, easy to understand. I wish I had had this book when I started out baking. This is a book for anyone who wants to get back to basics in the kitchen, someone who has a small kitchen with only a few tools, someone who is lazy and doesn’t feel like plugging in the equipment. It’s a perfect book for beginners– I am a firm believer in the ‘learn in the manual way’ in order to excel in the automated world. I really really like this book. One last important note– there are no photos at all in the book. But please don’t let this discourage you.