Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, December 6, 2013

Dutton: Sunderworld, Vol. I: The Extraordinary Disappointments of Leopold Berry by Ransom Riggs

From My Shelf

A Bounty for Foodies

Today's issue focuses on cookbooks--a genre that we at the Shelf love more than most things (except chocolate). Consider Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith (Chronicle Books, $35), cofounders of the famous Point Reyes Station artisanal creamery. From their buttery classic grilled cheese sandwich to Lemon-Ginger Crème Fraîche Granita to Tomato Watermelon Panzanella Salad with Feta, you'll be inspired to increase your dairy consumption.
You can also do that with Four-Cheese Mazemen, a fusion dish at Ivan Ramen Plus. In 2007, a middle-aged Jewish guy from Long Island opened a ramen shop in... Tokyo. Crazy. But Ivan Orkin became a celebrity with his handmade noodles--lines around the block, his own brand of instant ramen, a new branch in New York--and he tells his story and shares recipes in Ivan Ramen (Ten Speed Press, $29.99).

Dessert cookbooks are plentiful, as always. Sweet by Valerie Gordon (Artisan, $35) features many chocolate confections, like black pepper truffles, but she has other treats, too, like Champagne Gelée, Peach Melba Jam and Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake. For those who want their sweets just straight-up chocolate, try Seriously Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrich (Artisan, $25.95, trade paper). The expected recipes are both basic and elegant. The unexpected recipes are intriguing: baby greens or chopped eggplant with cocoa nibs, chocolate-olive oil crostini, pasta sauce.

Nigel Slater's Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary (Ten Speed, $40) follows Tender and Ripe as a must-have for food lovers. The May 20 entry features "the endlessly useful eggplant"; September 8 is a rumination on kitchen papers: "I will admit to a slight obsession with paper... simple, useful paper." December 15: "Sucker as I am for the holly and the ivy, there are times when December can get the better of me." A fast, simple soup saves him. Pick any day of the year--Nigel Slater will charm you. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

The Writer's Life

Einat Admony: Recipes and Reminiscence

photo: Katherine Needles

"Revenge is always sweet, but all the more so when it's filled with jelly," writes Einat Admony in Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love (Artisan Books). After a teenage romance went awry, she drowned her sorrows in freshly baked sufganiyot, an Israeli treat similar to a doughnut.

A cookbook with a heaping helping of memoir, Balaboosta is a delectable journey through Admony's life and into her kitchen. Along with sharing nearly 140 recipes reflecting her mixed Israeli heritage (Yemenite and Persian) and a fresh, sophisticated Mediterranean palate, she reminisces about her childhood in Jerusalem cooking at her mother's side, marrying a Frenchman and opening three restaurants in New York City.

Balaboosta is divided by theme, representing different areas of Admony's world, from "The Grown-Up Table: Casual Dinner Party Dishes" to "Fancy-Schmancy: Restaurant-Worthy Dishes." In a section featuring comfort foods, she offers some of her "favorite cheer-me-up dishes" (including heartbreak cure sufganiyot), while in others she serves up recipes for kid-friendly selections, backyard barbecue, slow-cooked fare and quick-and-easy meals. Also included are family favorites like S'Chug (Dad's Hot, Hot, Hot Sauce) and Mom's Chicken with Pomegranate and Walnuts.

A winner of the culinary competition Chopped, Admony is the chef-owner of New York City's popular Balaboosta, Taïm and Bar Bolonat restaurants. She lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Food is clearly an intrinsic part of your life, from hosting friends for home-cooked, multi-course dinners several times a week to your chosen line of work. Did you ever consider a profession other than becoming a chef?

No. Actually, you know, that's not so true. I lived in Germany for five years, and back then I thought I would be in import and export, but that was for a short time. I think I made the right decision because when people ask me today, what you would do if you were not a chef, I always say I would be unemployed because I can't see doing anything else.

Balaboosta means "a perfect housewife" in Yiddish. In the book you write that you come from a long line of balaboostas, a term of respect and endearment. What is being a balaboosta all about?

I think it has changed a lot since my great-grandmother and my grandmother's time. Everybody was a housewife back then but not everybody was a balaboosta. Basically, back then a balaboosta was somebody that took care of the kids really well and could cook and could tend the family and organize everything and band everybody together. These days a balaboosta, I think, is somebody that can juggle everything and can establish a career and take care of the kids; and it's a million times harder because there are a lot of things to try to balance.

Why did you name your restaurant--and subsequently title the book--Balaboosta?

I was questioning myself for six months about what I was going to call the restaurant. I have a friend, she's a chef as well. We did an event together, and I asked her, "What do you think?" And she said, "What do you call a strong woman in Hebrew?"

The first thing that came to my mind was balaboosta. It was like 10 different cooks in that kitchen were screaming and jumping because they thought it was a beautiful and great name, people that never heard that word before. And I thought it was great. It sounds very easy for everybody, and it's something I really, really like.

Balaboosta is part cookbook and part memoir, sort of a journey through your life, everything from creating an impromptu meal for some important generals while you were serving in the Israeli military to how you met your husband two weeks before you married another man. Why did you want to include these personal stories and anecdotes in the book?

Everybody knows almost everything about me. So now it's another few thousand people who know. For me it wasn't like, oh my god, I'm sharing. I'm a very open person. I don't have much that's secret.

Speaking of secrets, did you have any concerns about revealing recipes for some of the dishes you serve at your restaurants, such as Fried Olives with Labne, an appetizer on Balaboosta's menu and one of your signature dishes?

There are no secrets. Really, I never had secrets. My recipe book for the last 10 years was always open to everybody--to my customers, to my cooks. They can take it, they can copy it. I don't believe in secrets in cooking at all. I think recipes are supposed to be shared.

The subtitle of Balaboosta is "Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love." How is food and love intertwined for you?

I didn't like the subtitle at the beginning because it sounds to me a little bit cheesy, "recipes to feed the people you love." But it started growing on me, and I realized it's true. How I express my love to my friends and family is by cooking for them.

Which recipes would you suggest trying first?

I like the pomegranate chicken. The only problem is you need to do confiture with pomegranate, but I give a substitution with molasses and juice that you can get in a store. It's my mom's recipe, and it's really good.

The Fluke Ceviche with Beets and Fennel is amazing. I've made it for many, many demonstrations and people love it. And it's really easy.

For dessert, the Kit Kat. It's really tasty and simple, and it keeps for a long time as well. You can keep it in the freezer and then cut cubes as you need them.

Aside from recipes to add to their repertoire, in what ways do you think the book can inspire readers?

A lot of women love the chapter "Fat Like Me" (healthier options) who feel that they struggle with weight forever, and it's so hard, and they change their diet every two weeks. I think the story is funny and everybody is like, "It's totally me." I've heard that so many times. I write in the book not to go crazy, to have moderation and just to cut certain things but not totally. We don't want to deprive ourselves of what we really love in life.

I think yes, there is a lot of inspiration in the book--and some new techniques. For me, mostly it's to expose people to these kinds of foods that a lot of them don't know.

What advice do you have for home cooks?

That you always try to get creative. Also, what I did in the book, because it was very important for me, was to give substitutions for everything. For the falafel, if you don't like black olives, do something else, like the green falafel (with ground parsley and cilantro) we make in the restaurant. If you don't have rosemary for a dish, use thyme. If you want to use cilantro in something because you love it instead of parsley, it would probably work. So basically what I would say is to get creative and don't be afraid to change things and to try to make it even better, to match it to your own palate. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Book Review

Food & Wine

Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

by Michael Mast, Rick Mast

In his foreword to this assembly of dark, divine chocolate masterpieces, chef Thomas Keller relates his first experience with the founders of Mast Brothers Chocolate, brothers Rick and Michael Mast--back when they carried out every step in the chocolate-making process, from roasting the beans to forming the bars, in their apartment. He admits to wondering initially if the brothers were just two more "hipster hobbyists" before extolling the reasons he was wrong, including their "authenticity and accountability."

Certainly the recipes in Mast Brothers Chocolate are the real thing, from the intense almost-fudge, almost-brownie experience of the flourless chocolate cake to the smooth simplicity of their homemade chocolate syrup. A few savory recipes take their place among the desserts, as does a chocolate Black Velvet cocktail, skillfully photographed so that the glass appears to emit its own seductive light. Be your favorite chocolate lover's hero with this elegant treat. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A chocoholic's dream of a cookbook from two leaders of the American handcrafted chocolate movement.

Little, Brown, $40, hardcover, 9780316234849

Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden

by Todd Porter, Diane Cu

Professional food stylists and photographers Todd Porter and Diane Cu open their kitchen cupboards, gardens and hearts to readers in the beautifully illustrated Bountiful. Intertwining their love of fresh food, preferably straight from the garden, with Cu's Vietnamese background and Porter's childhood memories of life on a cattle ranch, they create new twists on familiar dishes such as cream of tomato soup or mussels steamed with herbs and white wine. They blend unusual ingredients to craft elegant takes on old standbys such as blackberry Cabernet crisp, roasted pluots with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar or roasted-pumpkin ice cream. The results are delicious and delightfully different. From tomatillo salsa to habanero chicken tacos, from lemon and cream spaghetti to tangerine crème brûlée, Bountiful will awaken the taste buds, nurture a sense of community and fill diners with a satisfying sense of comfort. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: From soups to desserts, a wealth of innovative recipes from the creators of the blog

Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $35, hardcover, 9781617690488

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.

by Liz Crain, John Gorham

John Gorham, chef and owner of Portland, Ore.'s popular Toro Bravo, has created a cookbook/memoir to share details of his life, cooking philosophies and recipes. The first section of Toro Bravo documents his childhood, how he came to be a chef and how he started his Spanish-inspired restaurant. His story is sometimes shocking (and rather profane), but it's also funny and fascinating. Then Gorham delves into the recipes, including spring onions with salbitxada (a Catalan sauce), spicy octopus and prawn stew and a bacon manchego burger. Each recipe has an accompanying vignette about why it's on the Toro Bravo menu--or where Gorham first learned to cook it.

Big bold fonts and bright photographs match Gorham's in-your-face style. Anyone wishing to cook some delicious Spanish food, or who enjoys food memoirists like Anthony Bourdain, will enjoy Toro Bravo. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: The chef of Portland's Toro Bravo shares his life story--and his recipes.

McSweeney's, $35, hardcover, 9781938073571

Scheherazade's Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World

by Muna Salloum, Leila Salloum Elias, Habeeb Salloum

Cookbook author Habeeb Salloum and his daughters, historians Muna Salloum and Leila Salloum Elias, serve up a tasty combination of medieval history and cooking in Scheherazade's Feasts. From the 7th through the 13th centuries, the Muslim world stretched from the borders of China to the Iberian Peninsula. It was a period of creativity and innovation in science, philosophy--and the culinary arts, as Muslim cooks used ingredients and techniques from across the empire to create a cuisine worthy of a caliph.

The Salloums present 100 recipes from medieval Arabic cookbooks, place them in historical context, then adapt them for the modern cook. Some are ancestors of dishes available at any modern Middle Eastern restaurant; others combine familiar ingredients in unexpected ways--for example, chicken with pomegranate juice and pumpkin.

Scheherazade's Feast is a perfect holiday gift for adventurous cooks or hungry history buffs. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A cuisine from an opulent past, adapted for the modern kitchen.

University of Pennsylvania Press, $34.95, hardcover, 9780812244779

River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes

by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, illus. by Mariko Jesse

Fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbooks may be surprised to find no meat in River Cottage Veg. Fearnley-Whittingstall still enjoys eating ethically raised meat and sustainable fish but because vegetables are better for our bodies--and less harmful to the planet--he admits "I'm trying to change your life here" by making them the mainstay of any meal.

To achieve this goal, River Cottage Veg highlights recipes intended to be fulfilling main courses--more than 60 of which are totally vegan--tempting readers with tarts, lasagnas, chilis and tartins like a sweet potato and peanut gratin. Each "hearty" salad includes a starch, protein and seasonal vegetable: potato, tomato and boiled egg, for example, or a "herby, peanutty, noodly" offering. Fearnley-Whittingstall also includes lighter fare, and his list of portable "veg on the go" dishes will be a welcome resource for any healthy chef, along with the pantry list and extensive index. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: A "pioneering champion of sustainable food" celebrates vegetables in ways sure to delight omnivores as well.

Ten Speed Press, $35, hardcover, 9781607744726

Pie Love: Inventive Recipes for Sweet and Savory Pies, Galettes, Pastry Cremes, Tarts, and Turnovers

by Warren Brown

Pie Love has recipes to cover a variety of occasions or moods--fragrant apple turnovers, rich chocolate cream pie and savory shepherd's pie are only a few of the easy (and fun) recipes Warren Brown includes. If you're looking for that elusive perfect crust, this book is for you; there are 19 pie crust recipes, with suggested fillings for ideal pairings. (If that isn't enough, there's also five tart crusts to choose from.)

Brown (cookbook author and founder of Washington, D.C.'s CakeLove bakeries) starts out by explaining how a pie crust works and how the ingredients combine together to create the flaky crust we all love. There's no need to fear with his step-by-step instructions and tips for making and improving the dough. Just pair the crust with one of his delicious fillings and you have a delightful treat for any occasion. --Kalee Youngquist, intern at Shelf Awareness

Discover: A wide variety of pies to suit any mood, with seemingly endless combinations of crust and filling.

Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $24.95, hardcover, 9781584798958

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

by Sami Tamimi, Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi follow up their 2012 cookbook, Jerusalem, with Ottolenghi, a compilation of the most popular recipes from their four London restaurants. Ottolenghi and Tamimi's respective Jewish and Palestinian backgrounds clearly form the backbone of their cooking and baking, and their style has been infused with British elements that make for enticing dishes.

Luscious photographs document recipes ranging from cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yogurt and zucchini-wrapped lamb kebabs to a sweet-and-spicy beef and pork pie to peach and raspberry teacakes. The descriptions accompanying each recipe are mouthwatering; the many photographs of Ottolenghi employees and customers bring the food they're making and eating to irresistible life.

Recipes include both weights and measurements and are detailed in methodology. Ottolenghi would make a perfect gift for gourmands and Mediterranean-aficionados alike. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Sumptuous Mediterranean recipes from the authors of Jerusalem, perfect for novices or experienced cooks.

Ten Speed Press, $35, hardcover, 9781607744184

One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts

by Yvonne Ruperti

Home bakers are encouraged to tackle normally complex recipes via shortcuts. For kitchens without mixers and food processors, Yvonne Ruperti's One Bowl Baking shows how general prep work can be accomplished by using a single bowl or, in some instances, combining ingredients right in the baking pan.

Ruperti's recipes feature breakfast muffins and scones, "Kitchen Sink" cookies that use odd amounts of anything at hand (e.g., chocolate, coconut and nuts), piña colada and peanut butter and jelly bars and "Sweet Story Cupcakes," a treat handed down from Ruperti's great-grandmother that showcases chopped cherries, walnuts and almond extract. The snack-cake recipe for Mega-Crumb Cake challenges Entenmann's; "Chocolate Monkey Banana Cupcakes with Malted Milk Ganache" taste just like a milk shake. Other chapters include recipes for quick breads, pound cakes, cheesecakes and tarts. Photographs that ooze delicious sweetness accompany clear, concise recipes that range from the easy to the sublime. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A collection of more than 100 dessert recipes simplified to remove hassles and fuss.

Running Press, $22, paperback, 9780762448951

The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery

by Sarah Mitchell, Rick Rodgers, Karen Mitchell

Who wouldn't want the ability to make the kinds of breads, pastries, muffins and cookies you'd get from a favorite bakery at home? In Napa Valley, Calif., a mother-and-daughter-owned business has provided tourists and locals alike with fresh, fragrant baked goods for years. Now, in The Model Bakery Cookbook, Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hanson share their recipes for traditional favorites such as croissants, English muffins and pecan pie, plus banana-walnut muffins with a perfect balance of dense crumb and moist flavor--all of them accompanied by mouth-watering photos that will leave readers unable to resist re-creating these goodies.

While some recipes, such as their ciabatta dough or the popular "Chocolate Rad Cookies," require use of a stand mixer, most can be made with a handheld electric mixer or by hand. Accessible and beautiful, this collection of instructions on producing go-to bakery delights in the home kitchen will please any aspiring baker. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Recipes for delicious breads, pastries and more from Napa Valley's famous Model Bakery.

Chronicle Books, $35, hardcover, 9781452113838

The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings

by Nathan Williams, editor

From the kitchens and gardens of the writers, photographers, artists, family and friends who produce the quarterly magazine Kinfolk, Nathan Williams has gathered together an eclectic, elegant and global collection of recipes. The Kinfolk Table combines artistic photography with essays, presenting 88 unpretentious, delicious dishes and inviting diners to linger long after the meal is consumed to discuss all manner of matters, large and small.

Sweet potato biscuits, plum and cilantro salad with fresh goat cheese, and mushroom, tomato and white bean stew are just a few of the dishes featured from Brooklyn, N.Y., Portland, Ore., Copenhagen, Denmark, England and beyond. Each recipe carries with it a special meaning, moment or memory, conveyed via the thoughtful comments of the contributing essayists. Creating joie de vivre by sharing food with friends, either spontaneously or through a well-structured meal, is at the heart of The Kinfolk Table. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Heartwarming prose and soul-filling food from the editor of Kinfolk magazine.

Artisan, $35, hardcover, 9781579655327

Indian Cooking Unfolded: A Master Class in Indian Cooking, with 100 Easy Recipes Using 10 Ingredients or Less

by Raghavan Iyer

When Raghavan Iyer moved to Minnesota from Mumbai, he realized that if he wanted to enjoy his favorite dishes from home, he'd have to learn to make them himself. Faced with a dearth of traditional Indian ingredients, he learned to re-create the complex, layered flavors of Indian cooking with what he could find on local grocery shelves. Indian Cooking Unfolded is a collection of this knowledge.

Iyer starts with the basics: rice, ghee, paneer and two spice blends. These fundamentals appear in nearly all of the 100 recipes that follow, from minty potato cakes to start, a main course of the "ultimate chicken curry" and creamy rice pudding for dessert. The chapters begin with the simplest recipes and then progress to more complicated dishes, but even the most complex are easy to follow. With fewer than 10 ingredients in every dish, Iyer's "master class" makes Indian cooking not only appealing, but approachable. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Some 100 classic Indian dishes made simple, using ingredients found in the average grocery store.

Workman, $19.95, paperback, 9780761165217

Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes

by Jane Coxwell

Food is delicious, fun, nourishing and celebratory--and, in Jane Loxwell's experience, it's "the string that ties experiences together," something that one should enjoy, share and make the most of. Fresh Happy Tasty reflects this belief, with 100 simple and vibrant recipes that will hold equal appeal for novices and advanced home cooks. Her grapefruit, beet and orange salad, Vietnamese-inspired rice noodle, avocado and beef salad, and luxurious lobster quinoa are particular treats.

Loxwell's mouth-watering recipes were developed while she served as the personal chef on fashion magnate Diane von Furstenberg's yacht, and she provides a wonderful pictorial travelogue of her culinary adventures--reinforcing her belief that food is both a personal and sensual experience that demands exploration and experimentation in order to be appreciated fully. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A collection of simple, accessible and customizable recipes from Diane von Furstenberg's personal chef.

Morrow, $35, hardcover, 9780062125408

Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking from the French Riviera

by Hillary Davis

Kitchen counter or coffee table? The conundrum of where to display Cuisine Niçoise, Hilary Davis's lavish oversized homage to the recipes and traditions of France's Nice region, is a delightful one.

Simple, frugal, healthy and fresh are the hallmarks of dining in this Mediterranean region. Davis, a food and travel journalist, moved to Nice 13 years ago and immersed herself in foraging, gardening and learning the local cuisine. She found just one regional cookbook, from 1972, so she created her own collection combining traditional and contemporary recipes. She sprinkles anecdotes and bits of local lore throughout.

American cooks can easily replicate these recipes; while a cook in New York might not be able to pick a "fat, juicy Menton lemon" from a nearby tree, Davis's directions allow for available substitutions. And Steven Rothfeld's photographs bring the sun-drenched goodness of the dishes and the locale to brilliant life. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A sumptuous cookbook/travelogue offers easy recipes and an armchair journey to the south of France.

Gibbs Smith, $40, hardcover, 9781423632948

A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms

by Philippe Emanuelli, trans. by Martha Holmberg

A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms is a stunningly beautiful cookbook feast for the eyes. Philippe Emanuelli's recipes take a Eurocentric approach to using a variety of fungi in dishes both basic and complex. The recipes, which assume a basic familiarity with cooking techniques, are organized by way of mushroom type, beginning with wild varieties like the crenellated morel, the wispy yet delicious Fairy Ring and the venerated porcini (or King Bolete), to name a few.

Each recipe is paired with a delicious photograph of the results, seemingly close enough to touch. The typeset design of the book is as impressive as the images and the meals, creating a solid book that will be equally at home on a coffee table as in a well-appointed kitchen. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A Brussels chef presents a variety of mushroom dishes, along with stunningly beautiful photography.

Chronicle Books, $32.50, paperback, 9781452114453

Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More

by Andrew Schloss

"Cooking is a balance between time and temperature," Andrew Schloss writers in Cooking Slow. "Raise the heat and everything speeds up. Lower the heat, however, and the turmoil subsides." With this promise of peace in the kitchen--a siren song to any harried cook--Schloss (Art of the Slow Cooker) pulls the reader into his exploration of six slow-cooking techniques, from roasting and braising to steaming and even grilling. Along the way, he provides helpful temperature charts, cooking tips and lists of kitchen equipment, including (but absolutely not limited to!) the faithful slow cooker.

From standard slow-cooked dishes (Thanksgiving turkey, pot roast, soups and stews) to more unusual gourmet delights (duck ragú with cherries, baby octopus), Schloss explores the layered flavors and time-saving possibilities of slow cooking. Lavishly illustrated with mouthwatering photos, Cooking Slow brims with the promise of delicious meals and the time to savor them. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A lavishly illustrated exploration of six slow cooking techniques, filled with mouthwatering recipes and helpful cooking tips.

Chronicle Books, $35, hardcover, 9781452104690

The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, 2nd Edition: Recipes for the Best Pan in Your Kitchen

by Sharon Kramis, Julie Kramis Hearne

In a world of copper-bottom pans and All-Clad sets that cost hundreds of dollars, the cast-iron skillet can be easy to overlook. But Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne want to remind the world this tried-and-true kitchen tool is actually "one of the most important pans in your kitchen."

The 100 recipes in The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook (an update of the original 2004 edition) range from traditional favorites, such as zucchini-onion frittatas and seared beef tenderloin, to more surprising uses of the skillet, like pecan sticky bread and Best Baked Beans. Kramis and Hearne explore the ways in which cast iron can result in a better browning on a piece of meat, more flavor in vegetables and improved texture in baked goods. Their enthusiasm, coupled with full-color photographs of the results of their easy-to-follow recipes, makes it clear why this age-old kitchen tool hasn't yet gone out of style. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: An updated edition of a 2004 cookbook has new photography, more vegetable recipes and expanded tips on caring for and maintaining "the best pan in your kitchen."

Sasquatch Books, $19.95, paperback, 9781570619052

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden

by Sandy Gluck, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge, photos by Paulette Tavormina

Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell bought a 60-acre farm house in upstate New York in 2007. Since then, "the fabulous Beekman boys" (as they're known on their Cooking Channel show) have been compiling recipes. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook is divided into seasons, with delectable treats like peach and berry cobbler, cinnamon bun bundt cake and sweet green tomato hand pies; at the end of each season, there is a page to write down your own family recipes.

The beautiful photography showcases the recipes and the seasonal ingredients that feature in the desserts, and displays the farm in each season. The recipes have clear and detailed instructions that make them easy to follow, with plenty of room for notes--so that readers can remember which desserts they liked and what modifications they made. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook is made to be passed down and enjoyed for generations. --Kalee Youngquist, intern at Shelf Awareness

Discover: A reality TV couple's second cookbook is filled with stunning photography and delicious recipes.

Rodale, $32.50, hardcover, 9781609615734

Bacon Nation: 125 Irresistible Recipes

by Peter Kaminsky, Marie Rama

From starters like bacon cheese straws and crispy polenta bites, to full meals like velvety chicken with rosemary bacon biscuit topping and fettuccine with bacon and kale, Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama's Bacon Nation fairly brims with bacon-flavored goodness on every page. There are drool-worthy sections on soup, salads, sandwiches and desserts (French toast bread pudding with bacon and cinnamon, anyone?), making this a definitive guide for cooks looking to incorporate the joy of bacon into every meal.

Bacon Nation also serves up a strong introduction, covering bacon selection and cooking techniques, including the oft-rumored oven baking method and the much-maligned microwave approach. Kaminsky and Rama explain each recipe with care and loving attention, making sure the dishes can be easily produced by pretty much anyone. There's enough bacon fun here to make any home cook, experienced or newbie, into a full-fledged expert. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Mmmm, bacon. For every course (including dessert)!

Workman, $14.95, paperback, 9780761165828

The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

by Michael Zusman, Nick Zukin

In The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home, Nick Zukin and Michael Zusman show how the persecution and diaspora of the Jews resulted in a cuisine that reflected influences as diverse as Romania, Poland, Hungary, Germany and France. "As is true of almost every facet of our many American hyphenated cultures," they write, "pure and authentic this food is surely not."

In this spirit, Zukin and Zusman's cookbook is a homage to "a new breed of Jewish deli--one that looks back to the deli's roots but is sensitive to modern dining preferences... to salvage a great, but floundering, culinary culture." Although traditional favorites like schmaltz, blintzes and knishes are featured, there are plenty of modern updates--including a borscht for every season--and even the contemporary recipes have cultural and historical context. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: An exploration of the world's oldest "fusion cuisine" intended to help it find a new place in our homes.

Andrews McMeel, $27.99, hardcover, 9781449420079

An American Family Cooks: From a Chocolate Cake You Will Never Forget to a Thanksgiving Everyone Can Master

by Judith Choate, illus. by Stephen Kolyer

In An American Family Cooks, professional chef Judith Choate and her adult sons, Michael and Christopher, share memories, cooking styles and philosophies that embody the idea that food and family are intrinsically linked, as recipes become traditions passed on to future generations.

This comprehensive collection spans from the rustic to the elegant. "Drinks and Nibbles" progress into everyday recipes, modernized, for chicken pot pie and pepper steak (or waffles for dinner). Fish, pasta, pizza, breads and impromptu soups and sandwiches fill the mix, along with sweets like the Choate's signature devil's food cake, fudge and cookies. Wine-pairing suggestions are also included, along with recipes for stocks, stews, canning and preserving. Heartwarming stories, family photos and illustrations abound, culminating in menus and recipes to celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas--or a classic French feast.

Straightforward instructions encourage home cooks to mix and match recipes to create their own family memories. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A wide-ranging, eclectic cookbook from a cooking family with a shared history and passion for food.

Welcome Books, $45, hardcover, 9781599621241

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