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Cookbook Club at Barrington Public Library

World Vegetarian, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, Vegetarian India, & Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

On November 21, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with three cookbooks and one memoir by Madhur Jaffrey. They included:

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World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes From Around the Globe (1999)

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Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of Childhood (2005)

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At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka (2010)

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Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking (2015)

Madhur Jaffrey is thought by many to be the authority on Indian food. She was born in 1933 in Delhi into a large family, and retells her childhood and the food she ate during the final years of colonial rule in her memoir, Climbing the Mango Trees.

Cooking she learned from her mother, mostly by correspondence while in London studying drama. She’s acted in TV, film, and radio productions in England and won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. In New York City she began writing food articles to help fund her children’s education.

Her first book was published in 1973 and titled, An Introduction to Indian Cooking published by Knopf and edited by Judith Jones (same editor as Julia Child). In 1982 the BBC aired her series, Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery which helped launch her career as the expert on Indian cuisine. Since then she has written over 25 cookbooks, not including three children’s books and her memoir.

Seven of Madhur’s cookbooks have won James Beard Awards and she was named to the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America by the James Beard Foundation. She received a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) from Queen Elizabeth II for her promotion and appreciation of Indian food and culture and her achievements in drama.

Club Rating: 3.9

Club Comments:

“Recipes are well-written but the introductions to them make the book really worthwhile.” M.H. (reviewing World Vegetarian)

“I liked them, but many of the recipes used all the same ingredients (spices). Fun recipes to read!” J.K. (reviewing Vegetarian India)

“Lots of ingredients for some, and many ingredients that most don’t have–challenging. Enjoyed trying a few of the recipes. Nice info and photos.” T.H. (reviewing Vegetarian India)

“Family fare, authentic, simple, and fresh.” S.E. (reviewing the recipes in Climbing the Mango Trees)

9 out of 9 reviewers would recommend Madhur’s cookbooks to a friend. 4 out of 9 reviewers were familiar with her before our Club meeting.

Madhur Jaffrey lives in New York City.

Selected Recipes


World Vegetarian (1999) More than 650 meatless recipes from around the globe. With chapters on legumes, grains, dairy, vegetables, and drinks along with an equipment guide, detailed glossary of unique ingredients and resources for sourcing ingredients. This book won a James Beard Award for International Cooking in 2000.

At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka (2010) Madhur Jaffrey deconstructs classic Indian recipes, reducing the number of steps and helps the home cook understand the importance of each seasoning and spice. With vegetable dishes; meat dishes of lamb, pork, and beef; fish and seafood; and egg and chicken dishes; along with the heart of Indian meals…dals, rice, grains, and chutneys. Includes 32 color photographs and line drawings by the author.

  • Sweet-and-Sour Eggplant p.153 
  • Mushroom and Pea Curry p.161 
  • Bulgar Pilaf with Peas and Tomato p. 221 
  • Cauliflower Cachumbar on page 240 
  • Easy Masala Chai p. 263 

Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking (2015) With more than 200 recipes, Jaffrey brings together the very best of vegetable-centric Indian cuisine and explains how home cooks can easily replicate these dishes at home. Includes lots of full-page color photos. This book was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2016.

  • Roasted Eggplant and Tomato p. 50 
  • Stir-Fried Carrots p. 69 
  • Okra with Onions and Green Chilies p.98 
  • Peas and Potatoes Cooked in a Bihari Style p. 103 
  • Chana Dal with Spinach and Tomatoes p. 127 
  • Berry Pilaf p. 185
  • Sooji Halva p.376

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India (2005) Takes readers along the journey of Madhur’s life growing up in India during the final years of colonial rule, the fifth child in a boisterous family in Delhi. Includes over 30 recipes.

 

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Berry Pilaf

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Mushroom & Pea Curry

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Sooji Halva

 

Sources:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/madhur-jaffrey/1006748/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/chefs/madhur_jaffrey

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/14298/madhur-jaffrey

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madhur_Jaffrey

Flour; Flour, Too; and Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang

On October 24, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with three cookbooks by Joanne Chang. They included:

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Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe (2010)

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Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for The Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets & Savories (2013)

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Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts using Natural Sweeteners and Little-To-No White Sugar (2015)

Joanne Chang had an unlikely road to becoming a pastry chef and restaurant entrepreneur. She graduated with honors from Harvard College with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics and began work after college as a management consultant. Two years into her new career, she decided her heart wasn’t in it.

So she made her way into the kitchen at Boston’s Biba restaurant. It was there that she eyed the pastry chef with envy and discovered that the sweet side of the restaurant was where she would be happiest. She moved on to work as a pastry cook at Bentonwood Bakery in Newton and then to Rialto restaurant in Cambridge.

In 1997 she accepted a position at Payard Patisserie and Bisto in New York City for one year. This training fueled her desire to open her own pastry shop. After a brief stint at Mistral in Boston, she liquidated her savings and with help from family and friends she opened the first Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston’s South End. The menu at Flour features breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts, along with sandwiches, soups, and salads.

Since the first Flour opened in 2000, she has opened additional cafes in Fort Point Channel, Cambridge near MIT and Central Square, Back Bay, and the newest location Harvard Square in 2016. To supply all of her locations, her team prepares many of the breads and sweet treats from their 8,500-square-foot commissary in Allston known as “BK” or “Big Kitchen”.

Flour has been featured in Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Lucky magazine, Inc. magazine, and Boston magazine and has received numerous Best of Boston awards.

Joanne’s recipe for Sticky Buns was featured on the Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay where her recipe went head-to-head with Chef Flay’s recipe, and Joanne’s recipe won!

Joanne opened the restaurant Myers + Chang with her husband Christopher Myers in the South End of Boston in 2007. It is an indie-diner setting specializing in Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese food. She is an avid runner and has competed in every Boston Marathon from 1991–2006. Joanne also keeps trim by bicycling to-and-from her five Flour locations and commissary kitchen. A Boston Globe article (11/24/15, see Sources below) commented that she is constantly in motion and reported that she and her husband are looking to open a second restaurant together. Joanne is also working on a cookbook for Myers + Chang.

Joanne has received numerous awards, but most recently is the winner of the 2016 James Beard award for Outstanding Baker.

Some members from our Cookbook Club visited the Fort Point Channel location of Flour on Sunday, November 6, 2016. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and tasted many of the sweets we had seen in Joanne’s cookbooks.

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Club Rating: 3.4

Club Comments:

“Good, basic–though some would be easier in a professional kitchen setup. The pain aux raisin was too much for my Kitchen Aide mixer and a mess with the pastry cream, but baked perfectly. More pictures!” T.H.

“Chunky Lola Cookies were great, Milky Way Tart & Double Chocolate Cookies were a disaster. Complicated steps, tricky ingredient lists, and too long baking times.” K.M.

“Have to know a little about baking before using these recipes.” C.C.

“Too many steps, could have been easier.” M.C.

“Other sweeteners, even less sweet is delicious.” A.W. (reviewing Baking with Less Sugar).

“The recipes were great, though I wish the book had more–yum!” J.K.

“Very nice, will open peoples’ eyes to alternatives for making baked goods sweet.” E.T. (reviewing Baking with Less Sugar).

“I thought the recipes were interesting and explained well. I prefer a bit sweeter though.” A.G. (reviewing Baking with Less Sugar).

“Loved every one that I made (and I made several).” K.A.

13 out of 18 club members would recommend these cookbooks to a friend. 9 out of 18 club members were familiar with Joanne Chang and her Flour Bakeries.

Selected Recipes


Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe (2010) Close to 150 recipes for the bakery’s most popular recipes, also includes Joanne’s baking techniques, recommended equipment, glossary of ingredients and Joanne’s Top 12 Baking Tips. Loaded with full-page color photography to make your mouth water.

  • Cranberry-Maple-Pecan Breakfast Cake p. 68 
  • French Lemon-Poppy Pound Cake p.70 
  • Pain Aux Raisins p.76 
  • Homemade Pop-Tarts p. 88
  • Double-Chocolate Cookies p.106 
  • Coconut Macaroons p.122 
  • Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Whipped Cream p.211 

Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for The Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets & Savories (2013) The companion to Flour, Flour, Too contains the most requested savory fare with about 100 recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Includes a cooking vocabulary, a pantry ingredient glossary, a refrigerator ingredient glossary, a cabinet ingredient glossary, and a “in our heads” tip glossary.

Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes For Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar (2015) 60+ recipes from baker and Harvard math-major Joanne Chang for those who love sweets, but need to cut back on white sugar. With chapters on Reducing White Sugar; Just Chocolate; Using Honey; Baking with Maple Syrup & Molasses; and Fruit. The book includes introductory chapters on the why’s and what’s of low/no-sugar and the science behind sweets. Recipes for no/low-sugar Flour favorites are also found here, like the Banana Bread.

  • Fudgy Mascarpone Brownies p.42 
  • White Chocolate-Cherry-Almond Cookies p.47 
  • Chocolate-Orange Truffles p.68 
  • Honey Cashew Morning Buns p.94 
  • Raspberry Honey Frozen Yogurt p.106
  • Pain D’Epices p.113 
  • Honey-Almond Snack Cake p.119 
  • Molasses Gingerbread p.127 
  • Keith’s Super-Snappy Gingersnaps p.132 
  • Old-Fashioned Indian Pudding p.138 
  • French Apple-Almond Crostata p.184 
  • Carrot-Pineapple Cake p.187 

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Sources:
Boston Globe November 24, 2015 – “Joanne Change Won’t Rest Until Everything is Perfect”.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/11/24/joanne-chang-won-rest-until-everything-perfect/83gpTFTylz2lg0j7iys2SM/story.html

Flour Bakery Website
http://flourbakery.com/our-team/

Food Network – Throwdown with Bobby Flay
http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/throwdown-with-bobby-flay/2-series/sticky-buns.html

 

A Platter of Figs; Heart of the Artichoke; & One Good Dish by David Tanis

On September 19, 2016 the library’s Cookbook Club met for dinner with three cookbooks by David Tanis. They included:

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A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes published in 2008 by Artisan (Workman Publishing Co.).

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Heart of the Artichoke And Other Kitchen Journeys published in 2010 by Artisan (Workman Publishing Co.).

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One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal published in 2013 by Artisan (Workman Publishing Co.).

David Tanis was born in Dayton, Ohio into a Jewish family with a housekeeper who didn’t let him in the kitchen. He left for college in California where he had the freedom to get into the kitchen and learn to bake, before heading off to a commune in Washington state. This is where he tasted his first fresh artichoke.

David has connections to two other chefs we’ve cooked from in our monthly meetings–Alice Waters and Deborah Madison.

David worked for Alice at Chez Panisse for about 25 years (until 2011) where he split his work year with co-chef Jean-Pierre Moulle, spending half the year working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and half the year living in Paris where he wrote his first two solo cookbooks. Those cookbooks were born out of the menus from his private supper club, which hosted diners from The Whitney Museum of Art and the composer Stephen Sondheim.

David worked at Chez Panisse on-and-off during those 25 years and was able to open Cafe Escalara with Deborah in Santa Fe, New Mexico–two Chez Panisse chefs who share the same passion for seasonal and fresh simple food.

With the success of his cookbooks, (A Platter of Figs was chosen as one of the 50 best cookbooks ever by the Guardian/Observer) he decided to devote more time to writing.

He writes the weekly City Kitchen column for the New York Times.

 

Club Rating: 4.1

Club Comments:

“Recipes utilize seasonal ingredients and fairly simple techniques in nicely balanced menus.” M.H.

“They seemed approachable. I liked the 3-4 course menus. An entertaining narrative! Made me feel inspired to throw a dinner party.” K.M.

“Made six of the recipes in A Platter of Figs, so I guess I liked them!” A.W.

“Loved the simplicity of the recipes.” K.M.

“Simple to make. Very interesting recipes.” B.V.

“Made several recipes, some so simple and some so complicated. Would have liked more photos. Some recipes need more clarification/info. The serving size in each recipe is not easy-to-find. Would help to live in California to be able to have all of the ingredients available.” T.H.

“I liked this book. Have one complaint, some of the recipes did not say how many it feeds.” O.H.

11 out of 14 club members would recommend these cookbooks to a friend. 3 out of 14 club members were familiar with David Tanis before this meeting.

David lives in Manhattan with his partner Randal.

Selected Recipes


A Platter of Figs (2008) Includes 24 seasonal menus meant to be served family style on platters. This book received praise by Alice Waters, Deborah Madison, Michael Pollan and Madhur Jaffrey.

  • Hazelnut Sponge Cake p. 31 
  • Rum Baba with Cardamom p. 67 
  • Vietnamese Cucumbers, p. 78 
  • Deconstructed Salade Nicoise p.100 
  • Lavender Honey Ice Cream p. 103 
  • Corn, Squash, and Beans with Jalapeno Butter p. 111 
  • Almond Biscotti p.189 
  • Roasted Pepper Salad p.193 
  • Octopus Salad with Pickled Onions and Pimenton p. 229 
  • Green Chile Stew on p. 255
  • Italian Spice Cake p.56

Heart of the Artichoke (2010) Over 150 recipes for small, medium, and large cooking (just you, 4 to 6, or a crowd).

  • Tabbouleh, p. 93 
  • Peppery Chicken Wings, p.156 
  • Scalloped Corn p. 161
  • Raviolone with Butternut Squash in Butter and Sage p. 172 

One Good Dish (2013) 100 recipes that focus on David’s approach to comfort food which are all meant to be eaten any time of day without accompaniment (quite the opposite of his other two menu-based books). This book received praise by Yotam Ottolenghi and David Chang.

  • Nicoise Salad on a Roll p. 23 
  • Gorgonzola and Walnut Crostini p. 28 
  • Vietnamese Vegetable Baguette p. 31 
  • Chrysanthemum Greens with Silken Tofu p. 172
  • Golden Coconut Cookies p. 218 
  • Flavored Water for a Heat Wave p. 235 

 

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Sources:
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/14/chef-david-tanis-summer-recipes

Mexican Cookbooks by Rick Bayless

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On August 15 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with Mexican cookbooks by Rick Bayless, the most we’ve ever tasted and rated in one meeting…seven cookbooks. It was also our one year anniversary meeting which we celebrated at the home of one of our members, where we were able try two of Rick’s recipes for imbibing.

They included:

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Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico first published in 1987 and then again in 2007 with Deann Groen Bayless.

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Mexico One Plate At a Time published in 2000 with JeanMarie Brownson and Deann Groen Bayless.

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Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Chef-Dad, Teenage Daughter, Recipes, and Stories published in 2004 with Lanie Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless.

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Mexican Everyday published in 2005 with Deann Groen Bayless.

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Fiesta at Ricks: Fabulous Food For Great Times with Friends published in 2010 with Deann Groen Bayless.

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Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks published in 2012 with Dean Groen Bayless.

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More Mexican Everyday published in 2015 with Deann Groen Bayless.

Rick grew up in Oklahoma City where his parents owned the barbecue restaurant, Hickory House and his uncles owned the Jones Brothers grocery stores. He went on to attend the University of Oklahoma where he studied Mexican cooking and Spanish and Latin American culture and then did his doctoral work in anthropological linguistics at the University of Michigan. His first chef job was as an executive chef at Lopez, a Southwest/Mexican restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio.

From 1978 to 1979, Rick hosted the 26-part PBS TV show, Cooking Mexican before he and his wife Deann moved to Mexico for six years to write their first cookbook, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico published in 1987. Craig Claiborne, writing in The New York Times, said it was “the greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable.” That same year, they opened their first restaurant, Frontera Grill in Chicago. Then in 1991 they opened Topolobampo, a Mexican fine-dining restaurant.

As of this writing, Rick now has nine cookbooks, the two we did not review were: Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen and Salsas That Cook. His cookbooks have received James Beard Award and Julia Child IACP status, along with weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Along with his cookbooks, his restaurants have also won accolades, including a James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2007 for Frontera Grill. Since his first two restaurants he has gone on to include a fast-casual Xoco in 2009, and a quick-service Tortas Frontera at O’Hare International Airport, along with Frontera Fresco at some Macy’s stores and Northwestern University. In 2016 he opened two new restuarnts in Chicago, Lena Brava and Cerveceria Cruz Blanca, a craft brewery and Oaxacan-style taqueria.

If you don’t know Rick from his cookbooks or his numerous restaurants you may know of him from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef or from his PBS TV series, Mexico One Plate at a Time, which is in its 11th season. In 2012 Rick was nominated for a Daytime Emmy award for Best Culinary Host.

If you can’t get to Chicago to visit one of his restaurants, you can find his line of salsas, cooking sauces and chips at most local grocery stores under the label Frontera.

In addition to his culinary work, Rick gives back to his local community and farmers through a variety of ways, including his Frontera Farmer Foundation. He was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his work.

Rick’s achievements and awards are too numerous to continue to name, but the most interesting is the one given by the Government of Mexico, the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest decoration given to foreigners whose work has benefited Mexico and its people.

Club Rating: 3.1

“Easy to follow, some ingredients difficult and hard to find.” M.C.

“Very interesting for entertaining.” C.P.

“Nice, very, very simple.” K.M.

“Was not very interested, although loved the corn soup.” O.H.

“Too many recipes need to be made and served right away. Liked the information and suggestions. Too much meat for me (vegetarian).” T.H.

10 out of 11 club members would recommend Rick Bayless cookbooks to a friend. 6 out of 11 club members had heard of Rick before, some from his TV cooking show.

Rick lives in historic Bucktown, a neighborhood in Chicago with his wife Dean Groen Bayless. His home is a former tavern that dates back to 1903. You can view photos of his kitchen here.

 

Selected Recipes


Mexican Everyday (2005) with Deann Groen Bayless this cookbook is a collection of 90 recipes for “everyday” food. Many of the recipes were featured on the fourth season of PBS’s “Mexico–One Plate at a Time” cooking show. Special features include a guide to the Mexican pantry with full-color photos and Rick’s secrets to eating and living a healthy life (even if you love to cook and eat). Nominated for a James Beard Award in 2006.

  • Home-Cooked Beans p.82
  • Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos p. 149 

More Mexican Everyday (2015) with Deann Groen Bayless this cookbook is a follow-up to his bestselling Mexican Everyday. In this book he continues his teaching methods of “everyday” Mexican cuisine building tasty meals out of a few ingredients in a short amount of time. Recipes include breakfast, grilling, slow cookers, rice cookers, and dessert.

Fiesta at Rick’s: Fabulous Food For Great Times with Friends (2010) with Deann Groen Bayless this book is actually a companion volume to Mexican Everyday for the not-so-everyday cooking for parties and celebrations. Includes 150 recipes with themes like a guacamole bar cocktail party or a Mexican mole fiesta, you will find advanced preparation tips and day-of gameplans, even a fiesta playlist.

Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico (2007, first published in 1987) with Deann Groen Bayless who traveled to the six distinct regions of Mexico, this cookbook brings back what they found in Mexican towns, kitchens, and markets. The introduction provides some background to Mexican cooking through historical influence, regional tastes, local markets, types of Mexican restaurants and street food.

Mexico One Plate At A Time (2000) with JeanMarie Brownson and Deann Groen Bayless this book is the companion to his PBS series of the same name. By this time, Rick was well known as chef promoting Mexico’s diverse cuisine. The book received a James Beard Award for Best Cookbook of the Year, International Division in 2001. Rick begins each “plate” with an introduction followed by a traditional benchmark, advice, the recipe along with tips for working ahead. He finishes each plate with a Q&A from his testers. The book ends with a Mexican culinary glossary.

Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks (2012)  with Deann Groen Bayless this book has 60 recipes from his restaurant’s most requested offerings. Frontera Grill is located in Chicago.

Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Chef-Dad, Teenage Daughter, Recipes, and Stories (2004) with Lanie Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless this cookbook offers more than 100 international classics, along with some American family favorites. The book gives us a glimpse beyond the Rick we know him as–famous chef, to the Rick his family knows him as–dad. Nominated for a James Beard Award in 2005.

 

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The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook by Linda Beaulieu

On July 18, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook: Big Recipes from the Smallest State by Linda Beaulieu, first published in 2006 by Insiders’ Guide and a revised second edition in 2012.

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Linda was also the library’s guest of our monthly Meet the Author series in July. She shared some insight into her life and her cookbooks.

Linda is a graduate of Northeastern University where she majored in journalism. She grew up in northern Rhode Island where she worked for The Woonsocket Call, a local daily paper. She remembers when The Call was a competitor to The Providence Journal which had launched a Food section in the 1980s. Not wanting to be left out, The Call started a Food section with Linda as the lead writer. She got the gig because she was one of a few women in the newsroom who knew how to cook. She had a collection of family recipes and with her new job as a food writer, she began collecting more recipes around Rhode Island.

Linda has been published in numerous local and national publications and is a winner of the  James Beard Award for magazine writing. In 2009 and 2010 the Rhode Island Press Association awarded her for Best Food Writing.

After writing for The Call Linda left to work for Johnson and Wales in the Public Relations office promoting the College of Culinary Arts for 10 years. While there, she produced the “Cooking with Class” television show.

Linda worked as a restaurant consultant before retiring to devote her time to writing cookbooks. She is the author of:

Divine Providence: An Insider’s Guide to the City’s Best Restaurants
The Grapevine Guide to Rhode Island’s Best Restaurants
The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook, now in its 2nd edition
The TV Maitre d’ Cookbook, based on the local television show
The Providence and Rhode Island Chef’s Table
Seafood Lover’s New England

Her newest book – The New England Orchard Cookbook – will be published in the fall of 2016.

The first edition of The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook has photos of local Rhode Island chefs and restaurants, and sidebars with information about the state’s unique food culture, tips on how to cook a lobster, or history about local restaurants. One of the big changes with the second edition, is the addition of color. The first book is entirely in black and white and the addition of the color photos and color sidebars makes the second edition of the book much more attractive.

Each recipe has a brief introduction to how it came to be. Most are from local Rhode Island restaurants that have been in the family for years. Others come from Linda’s collection of family recipes or ones she’s found over her years working as a food writer.

The book’s contents are organized into Breakfast; Lunch; Dinner; Desserts & Beverages. It really is a book that markets the state’s natural beauty and access to the ocean, along with its’ family connection to food. Below Cookbook Club reviewers note that they would give it as a gift to a non-Rhode Islander, but for a native,  it came across as a little too much like a travel guide. I think this is true, it’s less of a cookbook and more like a food tour of the smallest state in the Union.

While writing the first edition, Linda corresponded with former Providence mayor, Buddy Cianci while he was serving four years in federal prison for a racketeering conspiracy. He contributed a recipe for his marinara sauce. He also bottles the sauce and sells it to local Rhode Island stores.

Travel and Leisure has rated Providence in the top list of America’s Best City for Food several years in a row. It’s no surprise to us, and this cookbook and others by Linda help to share that knowledge with the world.

 

Club Rating: 2.9 out of 5 stars

Club Comments:

“Recipes varied in terms of sophistication and quality of directions. Interesting discussion of RI restaurants and food traditions.” -M.H.

“Nostalgic and perhaps caricatures of what a tourist might think of RI food. Regional variations were a nice touch. Many of the recipes seemed off. A fun read overall with some new recipes I want to try.” -K.M.

“I liked the stories behind each of the recipes, but did not get to make many of them. I tried to make one for this evening, and I wonder if it is quite flavorful enough?” -H.M.

“Appropriate for the State and its ethnic foundations. Liked the divisional chapters and sidebars.” -A.W.

“As a Rhode Islander the recipes were nothing special.” – C.P.

11 out of 15 would recommend the cookbook to a friend. Some said they would give it to a non-Rhode Island friend. Another said they thought it would be a good gift for its RI food history. 4 out of 15 club members had heard of Linda before. One club member remarked that she’d seen Linda written up many times in local papers.

Linda lives in Lincoln, Rhode Island with her husband Brian and their cocker spaniel, Beau. They like to spend their summers at their beach home in Narragansett, where they have a much-used outdoor kitchen.

 

Selected Recipes


 

  • quiche with chorizo, spinach, and cheddar p. 5 (1st ed) does not appear in 2nd ed
  • italian wedding soup p. 31 (1st ed) p. 38 (2nd ed)
  • kidney bean salad p. 41 (1st ed) p.51 (2nd ed)
  • RI Grinder Sauce p. 52 (1st ed) p. 63 (2nd ed)
  • smoked bluefish pate p. 56 (1st ed)
  • italian sausage and white beans (does not appear in 1st ed) p. 66 (2nd ed)
  • mussel-stuffed mushrooms p. 71 (1st ed) p.88 (2nd ed)
  • gougeres p. 73 (1st ed) p. 90 (2nd ed)
  • for adults only mac and cheese p. 86 (1st ed) p. 104 (2nd ed)
  • french meat pie p. 107 (1st ed) p. 124 (2nd ed)
  • grilled vegetables with balsamic dressing p. 178 (1st ed) p. 197 (2nd ed)
  • RI indian meal corn bread p. 179 (1st edition) p. 203 (2nd ed)
  • RI pizza strips p. 195 (1st ed) p. 223 (2nd ed)
  • rhubarb upside down cake p. 207 (1st ed) p.235 (2nd ed)
  • prudence island blueberry cake p. 238 (2nd ed)
  • wright’s farm hermits p. 225 (1st ed) p. 258 (2nd ed)
  • pizzelles p. 229 (1st ed) p. 263 (2nd ed)

 

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Italian Wedding Soup

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The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

On June 20, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook published in 1999 by Clarkson Potter.

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Ina Garten is most well-known as a cookbook author and for her shows on the Food Network. She started off working in the White House Office of Budget and Management and decided her life could be a bit more interesting and fun, which came about in her purchase of a specialty food store in the Hamptons.

That store was Barefoot Contessa, “a 3,000-square foot specialty store with twelve cooks and bakers who made salads, dinners, breads, and desserts for people to take home” (p.19 The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook). She had sales staff that helped customers choose from her array of cheeses, smoked fish, caviar, pates, and olive oils.

In the introduction to The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina describes food at her store as the feeling of being taken care of by Mom, so she sees food as a real form of nuturing.  After 18 years of great success, she sold the store in 1996 to two employees who continued until closing it in 2003.

Ina then focused her time on writing cookbooks and starring in her own cooking show on The Food Network called Barefoot Contessa and a second show, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Ina is the author of nine cookbooks, with the tenth coming out later this year titled, Cooking for Jeffrey.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook is a colorful arrangement of red, white, blue, green, orange, and yellow colors beginning with the cover photo of a Provencal Potato Salad. She’ll have you eating your way through the rainbow with her chapters on Appetizers; Soups; Salads; Dinner; Vegetables; Desserts; Breakfast; Assembling Party Food and helpful chapters on sourcing ingredients and kitchen terms.

Martha Stewart wrote her forward and describes Ina as “bright-eyed and apple-cheeked” and believes Ina’s way with food would become an important part of our way with food. And for all the Ina fans out there, she certainly is right.

Club Rating: 4.2

Club Comments:

“Everything was delicious if not dietetic! Judicious modifications help cut calories though.” -M.H.

“Too much fat! Liked the photos. Recipes good for entertaining, but could see how these recipes were new and creative in 1999. Seem too simple for experienced cooks.” -T.H.

“Liked the recipes very much. I enjoyed the simplicity of many of them, with easy-to-find ingredients.” -H.M.

“Very interesting. Fabulous recipes.” -M.G.

“I didn’t find the recipes very inspiring, although I know she is a highly praised author.” -A.C.

“Great, well written. Too much butter and fat!” -J.K.

12 out of 14 club members had heard of Ina Garten before, and some were familiar with her show on the Food Network. 11 out of 14 club members would recommend the cookbook to a friend, while 2 weren’t sure. One club member thought it would be a great book for someone just starting out entertaining and another member would recommend it as a precursor to Ina’s other cookbooks.

Ina lives in East Hampton, New York with her husband Jeffrey.

Selected Recipes


The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

On May 16, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom From an Obsessive Home Cook published in 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf.

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Deb Perelman is food blogger who never planned to write a cookbook, until she became a mother. “I needed to have a record of what I do that I could pass down to him,” she is quoted as saying in The New York Times (Dec. 12, 2012). She goes on to say that the ephemera of the digital medium bothered her and a cookbook could remedy that.

Deb, a former art therapist shares a story similar to other food bloggers. They had an idea and started a blog, which then turned into something else, and in time they were able to quit their day job and focus solely on writing and recipe testing. For Deb, her blog was to tell stories about her life in New York, and she called it Smitten.

And similar to food blog memoirist Mollie Wizenberg, Deb met her future husband Alex Perelman through the blog; he was the fourth person to comment. The blog soon changed to a recipe focus and nine years later she published The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

The book debuted at No. 2 on The New York Time’s bestseller list and stayed in the top 5 for months. Deb, who never trained as a chef or even worked in a restaurant shared the top spots in The New York Time’s bestseller list with star chefs like Ina Garten and Thomas Keller.

What makes Smitten Kitchen so special is a combination of solid, great tasting recipes with the directions told like Deb is standing right next to you in the kitchen. She’s also a perfectionist, or as she describes herself, “obsessive”.

She shares this in the introduction, “It’s not enough for me to go to a restaurant and have a chicken dish that was mostly good but possibly in need of more acid. I have to go home and read about chicken for an hour. I have to figure out where I am most likely to find the best chicken that afternoon and then I have to buy that chicken and go home and weigh all the ingredients and make note of what size the potatoes were and exactly how far into the cooking time I turned them and the texture of the salt and the brand of vermouth and tweak it and make it again and again until the chicken is just as I had hoped it would be on the day I first ordered it.” This obsessive quality is what makes Deb’s recipes stand apart from just another food blog.  Her recipe writing is very specific and as someone who’s cooked countless meals from her cookbook and blog, she has never let me down.

In fact, she often gets me in the mood to cook. If I’m struggling to find inspiration for weeknight dinners or work lunches or even if I wasn’t planning on baking, seeing a Smitten Kitchen Facebook post in my feed or browsing the recipe index on her site or leafing through her cookbook changes all of my indecision in an instant. This is something Deb hopes will happen to her readers. She is not shy is saying, “even if you weren’t planning to cook tonight, at least one single thing in these pages looks so tempting that not cooking is no longer an option. So, welcome. I hope you’re hungry,” (introduction, xii).

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is organized into chapters on:

  • Breakfast
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches, Tarts, and Pizza
  • The Main Dish: Vegetarian
  • The Main Dish: Seafood, Poultry, and Meat
  • Sweets
    • Cookies
    • Pies and Tarts
    • Cakes
    • Puddings and Candy
  • Party Snacks and Drinks

Every recipe has an introduction that might start off like this, “I have spent a good part of the last few years believing that the world would be a better place if we could all stop pretending that kale tastes good,” (p. 67 in the intro to Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans).

There are sidebars with cooking notes and do ahead suggestions. A lovely introduction and concluding chapter on how to build your own Smitten Kitchen all share her wit and wisdom. In the acknowledgments she gives a nod to a former Cookbook Club reviewed author, David Lebovitz, “for that time you lugged a kilo of cocoa across the ocean for me.”

Club Rating: 4.5

Club Comments:

“Not an easy everyday cookbook–eclectic and a few steps, but I made several things and was impressed with the reliability of the recipes and I liked the tone and humor in her writing. Pictures were also very good and helpful.” -T.H.

“Really enjoyed this one. I loved the sound of these recipes as I read them and really loved the taste of the ones I made.” -H.M.

“Very good. Good info and directions. Easy read. Interesting.” -L.O.

“Dependably good.” -D.H.

“Practical, easy-to-make, liked the commentary.”

“Enjoyed the recipes, would make a lot of them.” -C.P.

“Very approachable and interesting; heavy on the fat and carbs overall though.” – A.C.

“Clear and easy to read. Loved the pictures.” -B.V.

14 out of 17 club members had never heard of Deb Perelman before. 2 club members follow her blog and 1 club member owned the cookbook but had never cooked from it and was happy to have this opportunity to give the book a chance. 16 out of 17 club members would recommend the cookbook to a friend and many said they will buy a copy for themselves.

Deb lives in New York City with her husband and young son.

Selected Recipes


 

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Plenty & Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

On April 18, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi and Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi.

Plenty was published in 2010 by Chronicle Books and Plenty More was published in 2014 by Ten Speed Press.

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Yotam Ottolenghi is British but was born in Jerusalem with a German mother and an Italian father. This upbringing most likely set the stage for how Yotam approaches his recipes, which have an international flair.

He holds a master’s degree in comparative literature and studied at Le Cordon Bleu for six months before working as a pastry chef in London where he met Sami Tamimi. Yotam and Sami grew up on opposite sides of  Jerusalem, Sami in the Arab East and Yotam in the Jewish West. The pair (along with Noam Bar) opened the first Ottolenghi deli in Notting Hill in 2002. They now have four locations throughout London and Nopi, a more formal restaurant which opened in 2011.

Yotam has published five cookbooks, two which are co-authored by Sami. Their first book was Ottolenghi: The Cookbook in 2008, the sequel is Plenty, written by Yotam and published in 2010, winner of a Galaxy National Book Award.

The pair then published Jerusalem in 2012 and if you hadn’t heard of them after Plenty, you couldn’t miss them after Jerusalem. The cookbook is a New York Times bestseller and won the 2013 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard Foundation Book Award in the International category. It brought the Middle Eastern cooking craze to a whole new level. Julie Moskin of The New York Times writes in the column Recipe Lab in 2013, “American food lovers are not only cooking from Jerusalem; many of them are cooking their way through it, as cooks did with Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the 1960s and The Silver Palate Cookbook in the 1980s.”

Plenty More was published in 2014 (NYT bestseller and Library Journal Book of the Year) and Nopi (nominated for a 2016 James Beard Foundation Book Award in the Cooking From a Professional Point of View category) was published in 2015, both written by Yotam.

In 2006 he was approached by the Guardian to write a vegetarian column for their Weekend magazine. His book Plenty is a compendium of his recipes featured in the Guardian along with some new recipes.

In Plenty More, Yotam confesses that his big fear in writing recipes for vegetarians was that he would run out of ideas. This fear soon became unrealized and he found that the possibilities, ingredients and techniques were endless. He no longer worried about being pigeonholed as a vegetarian chef and embraced things like, “chunky green olives in olive oil; a heady marinade of soy sauce and chile; crushed chickpeas with green peas; smoky paprika in a potent dip; quinoa, bulgur, and buckwheat wedded in a citrus dressing; tahini and halvah ice cream; savory puddings; fennel braised in verjuice; Vietnamese salads and Lebanese dips; thick yogurt over smoky eggplant pulp…” from page vi of the Introduction to Plenty More.

The organization of Plenty is similar to how Alice Waters and other vegetable friendly chefs have used the vegetable families to structure their chapters with names like Roots; Funny Onions; Mushrooms; Zucchini and Other Squashes, etc. Plenty More employs a chapter organization using past-tense action verbs that cooks know well, like Tossed; Steamed; Blanched; Simmered; Braised; Grilled; Roasted; Fried; Mashed; Cracked; Baked; and Sweetened. Both books are filled with mouth-watering full-page photography by Jonathan Lovekin, who also photographed for Jerusalem.

In addition to Yotam’s bestselling cookbooks and his restaurants, he’s also got an online pantry where you can buy the specialty products his books promote. Can’t find black garlic? What about lemon salt? If you can’t find them locally (or on Amazon) then Yotam’s online pantry has got you covered.

Club Rating: 3.5

Club Comments:

“Delicious! The recipes come off as a bit intimidating, but aren’t too difficult to tackle and are great tasting.” -H.M.

“Most recipes contained at least one unusual ingredient not readily available.” -M.C.

“Loved, loved, loved the recipe varieties!” – K.M.

“Very innovative!” -M.G.

“I liked the book and plan on making more. Loved the pictures.” – O.H.

“Some of the recipes are quite complicated.” -B.C.

“The recipes used ingredients in interesting combinations. Technique can be challenging.” -M.H.

7 out of 16 club members had heard of Yotam Ottolenghi before, most from his cookbook Jerusalem. 12 out of 16 club members would recommend the book to a friend. 2 out of the 16 said they would only recommend the book to a friend if they were an experienced vegetarian cook with a lot of time on their hands, and money for fancy ingredients.

Yotam lives in London with his partner Karl Allen and their two sons.

Selected Recipes


 

beet, yogurt and preserved lemon relish p. 19 (Plenty)
surprise tatin p. 22 (Plenty)
sweet potato cakes p. 32 (Plenty)
sweet winter slaw p. 102 (Plenty)
eggplant with buttermilk sauce p. 110 (Plenty)
quinoa and grilled sourdough salad p. 128 (Plenty)
asparagus vichyssoise p. 184 (Plenty)
mee goreng p. 185 (Plenty)
freekeh pilaf p.241 (Plenty)

parsley, lemon, and cannellini bean salad p. 22 (Plenty More)
lentils, radicchio, and walnuts with manuka honey p.126 (Plenty More)
squash with chile yogurt and cilantro sauce p. 181 (Plenty More)
eggplant cheesecake p.242 (Plenty More)
cauliflower cake p.246 (Plenty More)
membrillo and stilton quiche p. 249 (Plenty More)
ricotta and rosemary bread pudding p. 275 (Plenty More)
baked orzo with mozzarella and oregano p. 276 (Plenty More)
black currant friands p. 286 (Plenty More)
walnut and halvah cake p. 315 (Plenty More)
halvah ice cream with chocolate sauce and roasted peanuts p.316 (Plenty More)

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Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce (from the cover of Plenty).

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Halvah Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce and Roasted Peanuts (amazing!!).

 

Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

 

On March 21, 2016 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s cookbook, Lidia’s Italy in America. The book was published in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf and co-authored by Lidia’s daughter Tanya.

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Lidia was born in Pula, Istria, a peninsula that in 1947 when she was born belonged to Italy, and then became part of Yugoslavia in a communist takeover, and is now a part of Croatia. Her family arrived in the United States in 1958 leaving behind their refugee status to live in North Bergen, New Jersey and later Queens, New York.

Queens is where she opened her first restaurant in 1971 and a second restaurant not long after, with her husband Felice. In 1981 she opened her third restaurant in Manhattan and as of 2016 she runs four New York City restaurants – Felidia, Becco, Esca, and Del Posto, along with Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City with her daughter Tanya. She co-owns Eataly, a retail-restaurant complex with locations in New York City, Chicago, and Sao Paolo, Brazil with her son Joe, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti. Lidia describes her business on page 189 by saying, “Americans are ever more knowledgeable and appreciative of traditional Italian food and products, and at Eataly we deliver just that: the authenticity of Italian products, Italian cooked meals, and the Italian lifestyle.” Her daughter Tanya helped her develop a line of pasta and sauces, and her son Joe helped her develop Bastianich wines.

She is the author of over a dozen cookbooks, including a children’s picture book series called, Nonna Tell Me a Story. Her most recent cookbook is, Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine published in 2015.

Lidia is probably best known as a television personality on PBS where she’s cooked with her mother Erminia in Lidia’s Family Table. Since 1998 other series include, Lidia’s Italian Table, Lidia’s Italy, Lidia’s Italy in America, and Lidia’s Kitchen. Many of her cookbooks have been born out of her TV series. She is the host of the PBS special, Lidia Celebrates America. She ends each episode of her shows with an invitation to join her for a family meal, “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” or “Everyone to the table to eat!”

The book pays a visit to the cities in America where Italian Americans are thriving. We get to learn how Italian Americans are making their mark on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and Little Italy in NYC; in the sardine industry in San Diego; their wines in Sonoma County; on the streets of Philadelphia, New Orleans, the Outer NY Boroughs, Pittsburgh, North and South Jersey, San Francisco, Baltimore, Providence, Gloucester in Massachusetts, Boston, Kansas City; and in the farms of southern California.

Lidia actually travels to all of these places, and gives a loving portrait of the Italian Americans in each locale. We learn about the families growing artichokes and broccoli rabe, paired with photos of the family with Lidia out in the fields. Or a spotlight on the Cookbook Club’s local city, Providence where Lidia highlights Caffe Dolce Vita, Antonelli Poultry, Constantino’s Venda Ravioli, and Luigi Carchia who serenades her in Piazza De Pasquale. This story is paired with a photo of her daughter Tanya enjoying a cappuccino and Italian pastry on Federal Hill.

The cookbook is organized traditionally with chapters on:

  • Antipasti
  • Zuppe
  • Sandwiches and Pizza
  • Salads
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Desserts

Within the chapters she highlights places mentioned above and excites the senses with her passion and knowledge of Italian American cooking. Each recipe has an introduction that goes something like this for Stuffed Artichokes on page 164, “Italians love their artichokes in a thousand ways, and stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs is a favorite…It was often an appetizer on the menu of Italian American restaurants in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, and most likely the first way many Americans tasted artichokes Italian-style…”

At the end of the book, Lidia includes a listing of some of the iconic Italian Clubs and Organizations in the United States and a directory of the episodes from season 1 and 2 of her PBS series Lidia’s Italy in America.

Club Rating: 4.3

Club Comments:

“I enjoy Lidia’s cooking. It reminds me of growing up and the food served.” -C.P.

“I enjoyed them even more than I thought that I would. They were (mostly) on the richer side, but very tasty. The family really liked the dishes as well.” -H.M.

“Simple for the most part; versions of things a little different than usual, e.g. zeppoles were fried with mascarpone/ricotta filling. Have made several of the recipes and they are reliable. I liked the stories, but the book seems to jump around. The recipes following the stories aren’t necessarily connected to the story. Enjoyed reading it.” -T.H.

“Enjoyed her down-to-Earth approach.” -M.G.

“Very nice and easy to follow! This cookbook was a journey across America seeking the best in Italian cooking. Lots of anecdotes and background information.” -E.T.

“A great travelogue of food.” – L.O.

 

13 out of 16 club members had heard of Lidia before, many from watching her show on PBS. One remarked that she didn’t realize the extent of Lidia’s empire until reading the book (all of the restaurants and the wine). 15 out of 16 club members would recommend the book to a friend.

“I am the product of two of the greatest cultures in the world, Italy and America” Lidia proudly proclaims on page 251.

Lidia lives in New York and Tanya lives with her husband Corrado and their children in New York.

Selected Recipes


 

stuffed mushrooms p.24
asparagus fritters p.26
garlic bread, three ways (garlic, cheese, tomato) p.30
tomato and bread salad p.94
artichoke and chickpea salad p.95
capellini with vegetables p. 126
orecchiette with broccoli rabe p.127
baked stuffed shells p. 148
lasagna p.152
gnocchi with gorgonzola and peas p.155
braised fennel with sausage p.175
chicken parmigiana p.237
italian american meatloaf p. 264
ricotta cookies p.288
st. joseph’s fig cookies p. 292
orange cookies p.297
zeppole p.299
butter rum cake p.308
tiramisu p.313
italian rum cake p. 314

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