11 September 2021

Weekend Cooking: 4 New Books for Food Lovers and Cooks

As many of you know, September is a big month for new book releases. That means I was blessed with a number of new cookbooks and food-related books to read and review. Here are four that crossed my desk. I haven't cooked out of any of them yet, but I wanted to put these titles on your radar. Thanks to the publishers for the review copies; my thoughts are entirely my own. All books come out this month.

Thoughts on Bourdain by Laurie WooleverBourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography by Laurie Woolever (Ecco): Woolever met Bourdain in about 2002 and eventually became his personal assistant, working closely with him for the last years of his life. After Bourdain's death, she wanted to preserve his memory, so she interviewed almost 100 people who knew him personally: family members, childhood friends, adult friends, and work colleagues of various sorts (from restaurants, publishing, and television). The book is arranged in rough chronological order and consists of short recollections from these individuals. Together their stories paint a fuller picture of who Anthony Bourdain was as a person. I've read only the first few chapters, but I find it fascinating.

Thoughts on Amber & Rye by Zuza ZakAmber & Rye: A Baltic Food Journey: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania by Zuza Zak (Interlink Books): The author of this cookbook was born in Poland but has lived in the UK since she was eight years old. Wanting to know more about her heritage, Zak traveled with her partner and young daughter to discover the culinary treasures of the Baltic region. The cookbook is divided by meal, as expected, but also includes a chapter on fermented and preserved foods. You’ll find beautiful photographs throughout and several features that serve as a travelogue. Each recipe is introduced with a personal story or a note about its history. Many of the recipes call for fish or meats, but vegetarians and vegans will find a number of suitable and well-marked recipes. Zak notes that she is able to find the ingredients in large supermarkets and Polish markets near her UK home, but many of us will have trouble finding all of them. To be honest, I was more interested in reading this book than I was inspired to cook from it. Note, however, that I did mark a poppy seed fudge recipe and a couple of the cocktails. I learned a lot about the region and its food and history. Zak also has a website.

Thoughts on Life Is What You Bake It by Vallery LomasLife Is What You Bake It: Recipes, Stories, and Inspiration to Bake Your Way to the Top by Vallery Lomas (Clarkson Potter). Have you hear of Lomas? Hers is an interesting story. As the first line of the book says, she left her “job as an attorney to become a baker.” It paid off, since Lomas not only created a successful food blog but won the fourth season of The Great American Baking Show. The cookbook starts out with Lomas’s story, including details about her experience on The Great American Baking Show. From there, we get into the recipes for delicious sweet bakes of all kinds--breakfast treats, pies, cakes, French specialties, and bread and biscuits. Things I love: The photographs of the finished dishes, the many tips and tricks and hints for becoming a better baker, how clear and easy the instructions are, and the personal stories throughout. What I didn’t like: Um . . . no cons here! This is a book I’ll bake from often. Highly recommended.

Thoughts on Flavors of the Sun by Christine Sahadi WhelanFlavors of the Sun by Christine Sahadi Whelan (Chronicle): I was attracted to this cookbook because of the subtitle: “The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients.” First, if you don’t know, Sahadi’s is a Brooklyn food emporium, which has been in business over 100 years. You can find all kinds of specialty food items in the store and in the catalog. One of the purposes of this cookbook is to provide recipes and tips for using the spices and ingredients you may have bought to make a single dish. Whelan wants to help you find ways to incorporate these ingredients into “your everyday repertoire.” Each chapter beings with a description of a handful of ingredients that share a common feature (bright, spiced, sweet, etc.) and then provides recipes for using them. Some of the recipes are distinctly Middle Eastern (Beef and Lentil Bowl with Tahini Dressing) and others are all-American (Harissa Mac & Cheese), and all look fantastic. Besides recipes for using ingredients like pomegranate molasses, za’atar, and berbere, you’ll find charts titled “Ten More Ways to Use [ingredient],” which give you quick tips and ideas, like using ras el hanout as a dry rub for lamb. The recipes themselves look incredibly appealing, and I have a ton marked to try. I also need to explore the menus provided at the end of the cookbook, which offer suggestions for holidays, picnics, tea, and game days. Highly recommended. And if you don’t have one of the ingredients, you can always order it from Sahadi’s!

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Vicki 9/11/21, 7:46 AM  

They all sound good, especially the Bourdain book.

Nancy Andres at Colors 4 Health 9/11/21, 7:55 AM  

Thanks so much Beth for your cookbook book reviews. Piqued my interest. Warm regards, Nancy Andres @ Colors 4 Health.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 9/11/21, 10:12 AM  

I will definitely add Life is What You Bake It to my wish list. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

Tina 9/11/21, 10:32 AM  

The Bourdain book would be of interest to me, also the Flavors of the Sun cookbook.
When I first saw the title Amber and Rye I am mediately thought about bourbon, LOL

shelleyrae @ book'd out 9/11/21, 10:34 AM  

Flavours of the Sun sounds interesting as I’m interested in making more use of herbs and spices. Thanks for sharing
Have a great week in the kitchen!

Jackie McGuinness 9/11/21, 12:22 PM  

Darn, the Bourdain book isn't at our library yet.
I did place a hold on Life is Bake.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 9/12/21, 4:06 PM  

Some really interesting reads this week . I like biographies so I would enjoy the cookbooks that reveal info about the cook's life.

Marg 9/12/21, 10:15 PM  

They all sound good, but of course the baking book is the one that caught my interest!

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