30 October 2021

Weekend Cooking: 2 Cookbooks for Your Kitchen Library

I've been fortunate enough to be part of the Voracious Ambassadors program for a couple of years now, which means I receive review copies of many of the cookbooks published by the Voracious imprint of Little, Brown. Their cookbooks are always as informative as they are useful and pretty to look at. Today I talk about two cookbooks that came out this fall.

Cover of Zoe's Ghana Kitchen by Zoe AdjohyohFirst up is Zoe Adjonyoh's Zoe's Ghana Kitchen, which is subtitled "An Introduction to New African Cuisine--from Ghana with Love." I didn't know much about Ghanaian cooking or food flavors, so I was excited to get a chance to learn. One of the big takeaways for me is that most of the dishes include a healthy dose of heat from a variety of chilies. I also spotted quite a few ingredients that were introduced into everyday Ghanaian dishes after contact and trade with Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In addition, many of the indigenous spices are used both in cooking and for medicinal purposes.

Adjonyoh provides a guide to all of the major spices, herbs, grains, fruits, vegetables, and so on used in the recipes in the cookbook, including information about responsible sourcing and a map of regional dishes and flavorings. Because I live in a small town, I would have to buy at least some of the spices and herbs via mail order and wonder if I could find all of the fresh ingredients.

For me, Zoe's Ghana Kitchen is more of a book to read through than cook from, not only because I don't live in an area with a lot of specialty stores but also because a number of the recipes include one to three subrecipes, which always brings out my lazy side. On the other hand, I was drawn to several of the spice mixes (Jollof Dry Spice Mix, for example, to make grilled or broiled chicken) and sauces. I've also marked Pineapple and Ginger chutney to try over the winter. In the beverage and snack chapter, I flagged a mango smoothie and have already made the Spiced Cashews (recipe to follow), which we ate in record time, they were so good. Other recipes are a beef stew, spicy beans (delicious), roasted stuffed sweet potatoes, and a variety of salads.

Photo of a cod dish from Zoe's Ghana Kitchen by Zoe AdjohyohAdjonyoh rounds out her book with personal stories and other features (including a playlist!), information about each recipe, cooking tips, and photographs. All of the recipes are doable in a non-Ghanaian kitchen and would brighten up anyone's menu.

Recommendation: Zoe Adjonyoh's Zoe's Ghana Kitchen is for cooks who want to learn about new flavors and new ingredients and for those of us who want to support the African food revolution. Anyone looking for a starting point for sub-Saharan cooking could start here. If you're feeling less than ambitious, then check this book out from the library to broaden your culinary knowledge. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free cooks will find recipes and ideas for new dishes.


Photo of The Joy of Pizza by Dan RicherIf you've been around for any amount of time, you already know how much I love to make homemade pizza. So when I saw that Voracious had a new pizza cookbook coming out, I knew I had to take a look. The Joy of Pizza by Dan Richer is an all-in-one resource for, as the subtitle says, "Everything You Need to Know" about making pizza.

The book starts out with all kinds of solid information, starting with preparation advice and ending with cutting and eating the baked pie. There are detailed checklists for evaluating your finished pizza and choosing your toppings. You'll also find informative guides to everything associated with the dough (flours, glutens, fermentation, sourdough) and toppings (sauce, oil, cheese, meats). Richer even provides a useful graphic for successfully combining pizza toppings based on each ingredient's characteristics, like heat, crisp, rich, and acid.

At the heart of The Joy of Pizza is the chapter on techniques. For example, Richer explains every step of creating the crust, from making sourdough starter through to shaping of the dough before baking. Then comes tips on how to build a pizza and, of course, bake it. If your pizza didn't come out quite the way you were envisioning, then check out the troubleshooting and evaluation guides (many come with QR codes for more information).

Photo of pizza and wine from The Joy of Pizza by Dan RicherI'm particularly interested in the section about the masonry ovens, because over the years Mr. BFR has considered building us a wood-fired pizza and bread oven. And just in case he's changed his mind, I'm glad to see the section on using a variety of other kinds of high-temperature ovens (electric, gas, wood).

The recipe chapter contains useful graphics (flow charts, formulas, and so on) plus delicious ideas for all kinds of pizzas, from simple tomato and basil to the more unusual (corn pizza, hazelnut pizza) to a variety of common combos (mushrooms, pepperoni, bianca). At the end of The Joy of Pizza are lists of resources: where to buy ingredients, equipment, and ovens and QR codes that take you to a library of instructional videos and PDFs.

Recommendation: The Joy of Pizza by Dan Richer is perfect for anyone who wants to truly understand every step of making a high-quality pizza at home. Though the recipes look fantastic, the draw for this cookbook is that it's an encyclopedia of techniques, equipment, basics, and ingredients. If you're a pizza lover, you'll want to take a look at this cookbook.

Spiced Cashews
Photo of spiced cashews from Zoe's Ghana Kitchen by Zoe AdjonyohFrom Zoe's Ghana Kitchen
  • 400g (14oz) raw or roasted cashew nuts
  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375F.

Mix all the ingredients except the salt together in a bowl, then spread out on a baking tray and roast for 12-15 minutes until the nuts are crisp and lightly browned, giving the tray a shake halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Leave to cool, then store in an airtight container. Use within a month. [BFR's comment: they won't last that long!]

Note: The scans and recipe are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. Note too that any loss of image quality is entirely my fault.

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


Mae Travels 10/30/21, 8:26 AM  

The publication of many books on sub-Saharan African cuisine is really great — this looks like a good example. I haven’t decided which ones to read — maybe I have to go to the library. I’m especially intrigued by a few books that were originally written for an African audience by African authors. Of course I can only read the ones that are in English or French. I’m reluctant to cook foods that I’ve never tasted, which is a problem in this area.

If someone gives you a pizza book, I guess you make pizza. I can’t at this point imagine paying money for a pizza book! The internet is loaded with pizza.

Best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Tina 10/30/21, 8:32 AM  

I agree with your thoughts on the Ghana cookbook, it’s hard to find certain ingredients in the area I live as well. The cashew recipe looks good though.

Pizza! That sounds like a great book! I love just read it through cookbooks but this would give so many ideas for a new twist. Now I want pizza 🍕

rhapsodyinbooks 10/30/21, 8:38 AM  

The pizza book sounds great with all that extra info it includes!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 10/30/21, 10:46 AM  

Zoe's Kitchen sounds fascinating to me as I know nothing about that type of cooking. Although I'm vegan, It sounds like an interesting read even if I don't find a lot of vegan friendly dishes.

Jackie McGuinness 10/30/21, 12:30 PM  

I flipped over to the library and found Zoe's book with a waitlist so added it to my wish list! I love reading about other country foods. I'm watching an old (2010) Ramsay series, Best Restaurant, and it is making me want to make a project of trying different culture restaurants over the winter. Moroccan would be top of my list to start.
Pizza, loved it until we had to go gluten free. Just can't find a good homemade crust. Our favourite go to restaurant has not opened for lunch since the pandemic and we don't tend to go out in the evenings.

Vicki 10/31/21, 5:22 PM  

I LOVE cashews and pizza. I've had an electric pizza oven for years and love it.

Laurie C 10/31/21, 10:05 PM  

Thank you for these great reviews! Like Jackie, we used to make homemade pizza all the time, but once we went gluten-free, we stopped making it. I think even so, I'm not willing to put that much time into making pizza, evaluating the finished product, and honing my technique! Zoe's Ghana Kitchen sounds intriguing to me.

Marg 11/1/21, 5:35 AM  

I would be interesting in taking a look at the Ghanian book from a curiosity perspective. I don't imagine I would cook much out of it though.

Nancy Andres at Colors 4 Health 11/2/21, 9:51 AM  

Love the recipe for spiced cashews. Will pin your post to my healthy snacking board. Have a beautiful week. Warm regards, Nancy Andres at Colors 4 Health.

Claudia 11/6/21, 6:43 PM  

Zoe's Ghana Kitchen sounds like one I'd enjoy. I love trying new recipes and ingredients (when I can get them), so will try the library.

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