A Cookbook Look
A few new cookbooks have come my way, and although I've yet to test their recipes, they seem worth a look-see, with lots of potential for kitchen playtime.
I've an avid reader of 101cookbooks.com, the lively blog written by San Francisco-based photographer/designer Heidi Swanson, so I was excited to learn of her new cookbook, "Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients Into Your Cooking, " which was released this month. (She also is the author of "Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen.")
What a treat to have a first edition that's paperback! One of my pet peeves about newly released cookbooks is their hardbound stiffness that makes page turning and in-kitchen referral a big pain. Swanson's photos, which are a major ingredient in the book, are so luscious and colorful you'll want to eat the pages.
Like a good pantry, the text is stocked with useful tidbits, particularly as it relates to a more wholesome diet. You'll get the lowdown on flours, oils, sweeteners, legumes and grains, with subjective thoughts on which to try and which to avoid or minimize.
The aforementioned "five ways" to get super natural is also how the book is organized. They are, according to Swanson: building a natural foods pantry, exploring a wide range of grains, cooking by color, knowing your superfoods and using natural sweeteners.
How that translates for someone living far from an urban metropolis (where virtuous recommended ingredients such as agave nectar, goji berries and teff flour are readily available) is a good question. In all fairness, Swanson does provide a list of online sources, some which are new to this kitchen explorer (Hello, Rancho Gordo with your heirloom dried beans!), but I do wonder if this will be enough to resonate with cooks in remote locales.
I am looking forward to trying her "sikil pak," a tomato-based Mayan dip of garlic, habanero chile and toasted pumpkin seeds, as well as her "Espresso banana muffins" and "dairyless chocolate mousse." Stay tuned for those reports.
I met LaurelAnn Morley several years ago when I spent a lot of time in Barbados with her sister, food writer Rosemary Parkinson. The chef/owner of The Cove, a restaurant on the east coast of Barbados, LaurelAnn recently has self-published "Caribbean Recipes: 'Old and New,' " a collection of 400-plus recipes, from her beloved Barbados as well as those from neighboring Caribbean islands.
As someone who has tinkered with the idea of self publishing, I can relate to the amount of work and love that went into realizing a dream. Although sometimes weak in organization (this is where an editor really comes in handy) with a sprinkling of typos, Morley's efforts are nonetheless impressive, as she combines classic homestyle Caribbean cookery, with personal stories and basics on regional ingredients and techniques that should prove useful to Caribbean-virgin cooks.
In her introductory remarks, Morley acknowledges taking all of the photos herself, a decidedly unglamorous and homey touch, which gives the book almost a memoir feel. The real visual bonus comes from the inclusion of several island scene sketches by Morley's late father, Gordon Parkinson, a well-known artist in the Caribbean.
The book is now available in the U.S., through amazon.com or atlasbooks.com, albeit for the steep price of 50 bucks (the downside of self publishing). However, I like to think of Morley's book as a reference point that I'll return to whenever I need to travel to the Caribbean, which -- if you know anything about me -- is often.
Rum cocktail, anyone?
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