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An absolutely necessary ingredient for being a proper foodie, gourmand or epicure is appreciating the formula for creating delicious victuals; in other words, the glorious recipe. The quest is always on to find more; pouring over a new cookbook with its shiny pages and unsplattered text, eagerly reading with expectations that this will be the next great "old-standby" with tattered pages, full of notes, and maybe held together with a rubber band because it has been so useful.
The opportunity has landed in the month of November to explore four new cookbooks and meet their authors at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Each of the books are part of different specific categories of cooking, not overlapping in interest, and presented just in time for signed-copy gift-giving season.
On Saturday, November 10th, Anne Byrn will not only be signing the second of her recipe books on enhanced cake mixes, Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor, but at 11:30, she will be in the children's area demonstrating some of the chocolate treats from her book and offering samples to taste. This book looks great. It's easy to read and understand the recipes, and because the base is a mix, it should be fairly fool-proof. Just a few extra ingredients can make all the difference, such as how lemon curd and white chocolate ganache turn an ordinary white cake mix into "Luscious Lemon White Chocolate Terrine," which has a gorgeous picture to accompany it. Cakes of all types are included (tortes, angel food, chiffon, pound, and cheesecake) but also brownies, biscotti, pies, puddings, and "Loaded German Chocolate Cream Cheese Muffins."
It is a bit difficult to read this cookbook without needing a big glass of milk and that's not even the best part. There are tips galore that are included with each recipe which are extremely helpful and informative. The history of chocolate and its chemical benefits, what's in a cake mix, and how to make candied orange zest are just a few of the asides that led me into this book. There are also tips on decorating, garnish and substitutions. It just goes on and on.
Monday evening, November 12th, Fran McCullough will be here to sign her book which is the third of its series, The Best American Recipes 2001-2002. This book is a great collection of recipes representing the currents trends in American food. There are recipes from everywhere: magazines, newspapers, the Internet, advertisements, and, it just so happens, contests. Ms. McCullough will be judging a "best recipe" contest the night that she is here and it is rumored that the winner will be included in the next Best American Recipes.
The thing to remember about this cookbook is that it's about trends, and we are currently on the downside of a trend not particularly concerned with healthy eating but more with enjoyment and exploration of taste. For example, during the days of fat gram counting, there would scarce have been a recipe anywhere for "Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon" or "Pecan Praline French Toast," but now, give us "Port-And-Black-Currant-Glazed Chicken Thighs" and we are happy. There are interesting stories that accompany each recipe, ideas of what to serve with it, and the source of the recipe which could be Food & Wine on one page and Diningaround.com on the next.
On November 18th we will be visited by Greta Hipp Burkhart, a contributing food columnist for Kentucky Monthly and author of her recent cookbook, Kentucky Always In Season. This is a very sweet cookbook that includes, of course, lots of regional favorites such as "Harvest Sweet Potato Casserole" and "Kentucky Hot Browns" but also recipes that I may have heard of but have not seen a recipe for, such as "Lime Pickles" and "Blackberry Soup." "The Cherry Coke Salad" reminds me of summers as a child and the mint julep recipe, well, it took me all the way back to last summer.
This book feels like Ms. Burkhart is inviting us in to tell us stories, offer us family photos, and then send us home with recipes. There are some great dated photographs that begin each section and are placed throughout and my only regret with this cookbook is that being the nosy person that I am, I would really like to know more about the people, places, or even dates of the photos shown.
The last of our authors is Triset De Fonseka. The book is Easy Vegetarian Cooking with Herbs & Spices and she will be signing on November 25th. She is also the owner of Aralia Restaurant, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Cincinnati. This cookbook is appealing to me because I am always looking for new vegetarian entrée recipes.
I hope that you get a chance to meet the visiting authors and have a brand new cookbook signed. Maybe it will become "the one." The one that no one is allowed to borrow, probably some of the pages are crispy with batter, and you can sit and read it for much longer than your mate ever thought possible.
Anne Byrn Nov 10th 11:30 kids, 1:00 main store; Fran McCullough Nov. 12th at 7:00; Greta Burkhart Nov. 18th at 2:00; and Triset De Foneska Nov. 25th at 2:00.
Please email your culinary heads-ups to Karen at email@example.com.
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