Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

The Gift of Cooking

Cookbooks make wonderful gifts, and in this issue we've assembled a wide range to choose from. Nothing beats browsing in your local bookstore, feeling the pages and ogling the photographs, but we attempt here to give you a taste of some of our favorites. If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it's that so many of us have rediscovered an appreciation for preparing food and sharing it with loved ones.

For me, that's meant tackling two of my greatest fears in the kitchen: baking bread and making risotto. I've added yeast, arborio rice and more to my pantry staples. But it never occurred to me to use miso in a dessert. That's what Nik Sharma does in the addictively readable The Flavor Equation (Chronicle, $35) with Chocolate Miso Bread Pudding. Sharma approaches cooking as a science ("Emotion + Sight + Sound + Aroma + Mouthfeel + Taste = Flavor") and divides the 100 recipes accordingly. (Cream cheese and crème fraîche give Crab Tikka Masala its "rich mouthfeel.") Because Sharma also worked as a food stylist and photographer, the visuals are showstoppers.

If Sharma pushes home cooks to the wild side, Sam Sifton returns them to their comfort zone with See You on Sunday (Random House, $35). Yes, his aim was to gather family and friends around a weekly hearty meal, but how about dropping off a dinner for friends hunkering down at home? Sifton starts with 17 ways to make chicken, from Southern U.S. to Italian to Chinese preparations; then pulled pork and duck. Nothing goes to waste: fat from the duck may be used in chicken prep or scrambled eggs; chicken bones yield rich broth. Rice and bean dishes may be main courses or fabulous side dishes, and roasted vegetables await. I am working myself up to conquer my last fear: pie dough from scratch. Sifton makes it look so easy. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor

The Writer's Life

Marcus Samuelsson & Osayi Endolyn: Black Excellence in Food

For his latest cookbook, The Rise (Voracious/Little, Brown, $38; reviewed below), featuring inspired recipes alongside profiles of Black American culinarians, chef Marcus Samuelsson collaborated with writer Osayi Endolyn. Shelf Awareness spoke with them about their research and writing process, as well as their aims for The Rise as it enters the world during a year defined by a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

(photo: Angie Mosier)

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and currently resides in Harlem, where he runs the restaurant Red Rooster. He has opened restaurants around the world and traveled throughout the United States for his PBS series No Passport Required. His other books include the memoir Yes, Chef and The Red Rooster Cookbook.

When did you first start thinking about writing this book?

Marcus Samuelsson: I've been in the space for 25 years and also evolving as an individual. As I evolved through the 2000s, I started asking myself, here are all these incredible people that I've met along the way. They either cooked with me, their parents owned a mom-and-pop, or they're amazing writers.

The Rise is about presenting Black excellence, one. Then second, take back the authorship of American food where Black excellence and Black chefs have done incredible contributions. For me, it's very important to create content that I feel taps a void.

What was the writing and recipe development process like--and the collaborative nature of it?

Samuelsson: Osayi, Yewande [Komolafe, who collaborated on recipe development] and myself--you're looking at three Black people in the food space. Our journeys are vastly different. Yewande's expertise, specifically in West African cuisine, is far beyond mine. Osayi's know-how in non-chefs, for example, is much better than mine--and obviously coming at it from a journalist's point of view and asking other questions.

There're so many curveballs to it, too. We thought we were done and then... the pandemic, which obviously impacts the Black and brown community very differently. Here we go again with something that impacts us differently. So now it took a whole other turn.

What added impact do you hope The Rise will have going into the world right now?

Samuelsson: I think you have to look at it from short-term and long-term. Short-term awareness: it hopefully leads to new opportunities for not just the people in The Rise but for Black and brown chefs on a local level.

And in the long term, it's about rewriting us back into American history. We know about regional Italian food. We know about regional Southeast Asian food or Japanese food. But we don't know about regional Black food. We know the difference between ramen and soba, but we don't know the difference in terms of how Creole cooking is very different than low country.

One of the distinctive motifs in The Rise is music. In your description of the Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with NOLA East Mayo, you write, "I imagine a brass band, a second line, the Neville Brothers and Lil Wayne. My stomach is nodding along with the music." How did music and food become so connected for you?

Samuelsson: Being Black--especially being in a white country--I had to constantly define my level of normalcy. So, music was that thing. You came to our home, Miriam Makeba was playing, Marvin was on the speakers, Prince constantly in my sister's and my room, A Tribe Called Quest. When I looked at Blackness and excellence, it was through music.

My goal one day is that when you look up Black food, you can define it the way you can define music. When you look at American music, the way it's divided between gospel, R&B, rock and roll, hip-hop, etc., those are promises to a sound, but it's almost like a pantry of flavors. We're not there yet with how we define our food. I hope one day.

Who or what is inspiring how you're cooking right now?

Samuelsson: I'm inspired by us. When I speak to Mashama [Bailey], she's got a book coming up. When I speak to Kwame [Onwuachi], he's cooking more than ever. If I call Eduardo [Jordan] right now, he's cooking. Patricia [Gonzalez], 18 years old, she's in my kitchen cooking. Covid is here, but it hasn't stopped us. Yes, we have this horrible, horrible, horrible thing, but I think that so much energy has been also given to us through the movement of Black Lives Matter. I'm inspired by the movement of us telling our stories.


(Lucy Schaffer Photography)

The winner of a 2018 James Beard Award, Osayi Endolyn is a writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and many more publications. Living in Brooklyn, N.Y., she is currently working on multiple collaborative books as well as a solo one, coming from Amistad in 2022.

What excited you or intrigued you when you heard about the project?

Osayi Endolyn: I was really excited about the ability to explore in cookbook form a collection of experiences that conveyed the range and diversity of Blackness and food in this country. I think it's always been over-truncated. To put all these stories together, at the very least, asks a reader to consider what they think of when they try to define Blackness--and it's indefinable in its expansiveness. This seemed like an incredible opportunity to continue to help shape a conversation that many people had been contributing to for a long time but to do it in a way that someone like only Marcus can.

How did the people you spoke to feel about being interviewed--about having parts of their stories represented and their voices amplified?

Endolyn: The conversations were wide-ranging. Sometimes I found people were almost a little mystified at how interested I was in what they ate growing up, and what foods landed on their dinner table, and the food stories that they recalled. I had to really push in some of those conversations to ask people to not dismiss whatever it was their family practices were or whatever that food was. I saw that even for people at this level in their careers, there was still a way that we were sometimes minimizing ourselves--minimizing our stories.

I came on board in this project in late 2017. I think from where we started with these early conversations to where we are now, it does feel very powerful because I don't know that the political value of this book was as demonstrably there for people at the outset as it is now.

We're seeing finally some beginning of what looks like a reckoning in food media, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I wonder how hopeful you are about how real that change is.

Endolyn: It's really hard to say because we've always been very good at making exceptions out of people. I grew up most of my life throughout California. I was often the only Black person in rooms or spaces, and so to me it's not that exciting to have just one of us, or a couple of us. Yes, I celebrate individual wins--my own and others. I celebrate collective opportunities. I really work behind the scenes very hard to ensure that folks know what their options are in terms of who they bring on board for different projects and what they can ask for and what they can push back against--and it's still very hard. It's still very hard.

There is real personal and structural interrogation that needs to happen. I would say that I think the opportunities are available for people to create the change they say they want to see and that I'm not yet convinced. I hope to be a part of this ongoing shift, but the gradual, exceptional nature of it is dissatisfying even with all the successes. The parity is still far from being present. --Sylvia Al-Mateen, freelance reviewer and editor

Book Candy

Great Reads

Rediscover: Cooked

Michael Pollan's Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2013) began as an attempt to improve his skills in the kitchen, such as how to make barbecue pork, bread and cheese. His research evolved into an exploration of cooking as a quintessential human endeavor, one that strengthens social bonds and even aided the evolution of culture. The book is divided into four elements--fire, water, air and earth--and explores how people channel these elements into the cooking process. Bread, for example, is the result of combining air and water. Pollan's journey takes him to a master barbecuer who reveals the secrets of slow-roasting a pork shoulder, a chef with the key to braised beef bolognese sauce, and a behind-the-scenes look at sauerkraut. Among other insights, Pollan concludes that people should stop watching so many cooking shows and do more cooking themselves.

In 2016, Cooked was adapted into a four-episode documentary series on Netflix, each episode dedicated to one of cooking's elements. Cooked is available in paperback ($18) or as part of the Pollan on Food Boxed Set ($53), which also includes The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, all available from Penguin Press. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review

Food & Wine

The French Laundry, Per Se

by Thomas Keller

Preparing the gorgeously intricate dishes in celebrated chef Thomas Keller's new cookbook, The French Laundry, Per Se, requires time and a certain amount of curiosity. Offering up French American recipes from Keller's iconic Napa Valley outpost, The French Laundry, and its New York City cousin, per se, Keller's latest cookbook details refined courses that might be a challenge for amateur cooks to get right--but they are likely worth the effort. The classics like French onion soup are here, alongside enticing canapés, appetizers, main courses and desserts, with plenty of vegetarian options. Elegant photos, striking in their simplicity, accompany many recipes, while others come with names and descriptions that border on poetic, like "frost-kissed garden cauliflower." Complete with essays by Keller and others, this is as much cookbook as meditation on the art of fine dining today. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer

Artisan Books, $75, hardcover, 400p., 9781579658496

The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food

by Marcus Samuelsson

In The Rise, chef Marcus Samuelsson writes with Osayi Endolyn about the multifaceted landscape of Black American cooking, and crafts recipes with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook in honor of the individuals defining this cuisine. Cassava as an ingredient features prominently--in dumplings accompanying a prawn and catfish stew and as the flour used in Sweet Wild Berry Pie. Samuelsson also instructs on the making of staples like ayib, an Ethiopian cheese he combines with sweet potato to fill brown butter-sautéed ravioli, while asking why it is that this cheese that is texturally similar to ricotta lacks the same popularity in the U.S.

Rejecting stereotypical representations of Black cooking, Samuelsson presents under-recognized ingredients and dishes that draw influence from the U.S. South and the African diaspora. --Sylvia Al-Mateen, freelance reviewer and editor

Voracious/Little, Brown, $38, hardcover, 336p., 9780316480680

Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook

by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage

Creating vegetable-based dishes with distinct "flavor bombs" is the focus of Ottolenghi Flavor, an inspiring collection of 100 recipes presented by James Beard Award-winning chef and author Yotam Ottolenghi.

Writing in a conversational style accompanied by personal reminiscences, Ottolenghi teaches chefs of all abilities how to master the processes of charring, browning, aging and infusing to develop robust flavors in vegetables. Ottolenghi explains how to pair vegetables with ingredients that enhance sweetness, fat, acidity and heat. Dishes range from easy to slightly complex, and include everything from starters (Fried Onion Rings with Buttermilk and Turmeric) to desserts (Tangerine and Ancho Chile Flan). Vibrant photographs accompany nearly every recipe, most of which are vegan or easily adaptable, making Ottolenghi Flavor an exciting, versatile cookbook for all palates. --Melissa Firman, writer and blogger at

Ten Speed Press, $35, hardcover, 320p., 9780399581755

Wild Kitchen: Nature-Loving Chefs at Home

by Claire Bingham

While Wild Kitchen does include some recipes, to call it a cookbook would be to sell it short. Here, journalist Claire Bingham takes readers into the homes, kitchens, gardens and lives of 20 "nature-loving" chefs to "gain insight into [their] style of cooking and, by proxy, their lifestyles too."

Bingham groups them into five categories: cooking and eating in the countryside; kitchen gardeners; farm-to-table meals; "The Experimentalists"; and local produce features. One is as likely to find a new dish here (Grape Focaccia, anyone?) as tips and ideas for home chefs who want to organize their kitchens better, plant and grow their kitchen gardens, shop better at local farmers' markets or forage for wild foods (with kids, even!). Packed with full-color photography and insight into how to incorporate nature and sustainability into everyday life, Wild Kitchen is a celebration and an invitation; it doesn't take a culinary arts degree to bring these concepts home. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Thames & Hudson, $34.95, hardcover, 224p., 9780500023013

This Will Make It Taste Good

by Vivian Howard

This Will Make It Taste Good by Vivian Howard (Deep Run Roots) is a "next-level meal prep" cookbook. Rather than instructions on pre-cooking chicken breasts that might later dry out or veggies that can get soggy, Howard offers tried-and-true flavor intensifiers. Once prepped, they can be added to a variety of quickly made meals, resulting in fresh, delicious food all week long.

Her secret ingredients include a bright green dressing that can flavor anything from eggs to quesadillas; pickled citrus for fish or in a pie; and spiced pecans to perk up avocado toast or chicken salad.

This Will Make It Taste Good is full of lavish photos featuring the 10 base recipes for the seasoning boosters, and then numerous riffs using each one. Practiced meal preppers and beginning cooks alike are sure to rejoice at this novel spin on meal preparation. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Voracious, $35, hardcover, 352p., 9780316381123

The Tahini Table

by Amy Zitelman with Andrew Schloss, Jillian Guyette, photographer

When picturing Mom's chicken, mac 'n' cheese, carrot cake and sorbet, one likely doesn't think of tahini. Amy Zitelman and Andrew Schloss, however, have filled a cookbook with 100 easy recipes illustrating how the two thoughts can coexist in delectable tastebud bliss. Tahini is roasted and pressed sesame seeds, and is far more than a key ingredient in hummus or a drizzle topping for falafel and shawarma. Tahini can replace egg, cheese, butter and oil in cooking recipes and serves as a much healthier alternative--the ancient superfood is rich in vitamins A, E, magnesium, iron, omega-6 fatty acids, proteins and calcium. Paleo food fans may rejoice in the knowledge that even in the 13th century, tahini was considered a staple food ingredient. Standouts include Cold Spicy Sesame Noodles, Cinnamon Babka French Toast and the Giant Chocolate Jumbles. This is a mind-opening and mouth-opening-wide experience. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Agate Surrey, $29, hardcover, 248p., 9781572842892

Evolving Vegan: Deliciously Diverse Recipes from North America's Best Plant-Based Eateries--for Anyone Who Loves Food

by Mena Massoud

After traveling around the United States and Canada in search of the countries' best vegan dishes, actor Mena Massoud (Aladdin) has cooked up the delectable Evolving Vegan: Deliciously Diverse Recipes from North America's Best Plant-Based Eateries--for Anyone Who Loves Food. In chirpy headnotes, Massoud introduces 80-odd recipes, from naturally vegan staples (Tofu Skewers, Koshare) to thoroughly veganized offerings (the beef-less Szechuan Beef, the cheese-less Cast-Iron Mac 'n' Cheese, the cream-less Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich). Massoud's book includes mouthwatering color photos, sidebar salutes to vegan-restaurant-rich cities and restaurateur profiles ("Chef Doron Petersan is in da houuussee!"). Evolving Vegan is beautifully designed and, with its demystifying, nondoctrinaire approach to veganism ("You don't need to become a militant vegan to make a difference"), beautifully conceived. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Tiller Press, $29.99, hardcover, 192p., 9781982144562

Rustic Joyful Food: Generations

by Danielle Kartes, Jeff Hobson & Michael Kartes, photographers

Recipe developer Danielle Kartes (Rustic Joyful Food: My Heart's Table) credits her mother for teaching her how to cook and feed people. Butter, gravy and apple pie were family staples for Kartes who, as a child, believed that "homemade wasn't trendy... it was just life." That philosophy is the cornerstone of a deliciously photographed collection of 125 recipes that showcases some of the memorable, simple comfort foods Kartes grew up with and still feeds her family: Beer-Battered Fish and Chips, Mom's Swiss Steak and the more complex Wine-and-Tomato-Braised Short Ribs over Parmesan Cauliflower Mash. A wide range of recipes--savory soups and stews, breakfast ideas, veggies and sides, snacks, drinks and "emotional support" sweets, including an irresistible mug cake and her grandmother's Applesauce Bundt Cake--will nourish palates and lift spirits. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Sourcebooks, $29.99, hardcover, 272p., 9781492697893

Big Love Cooking: 75 Recipes for Satisfying, Shareable Comfort Food

by Joey Campanaro with Theresa Gambacorta, Con Poulos, photographer

Joey Campanaro, the owner and chef of Greenwich Village's Little Owl restaurant, tosses much love into the 75 accessible Italian recipes collected in Big Love Cooking--affection for his family, the South Philadelphia area of his childhood, his customers and neighbors, New York City and food. He honors the kinds of dishes prepared by his mother and grandmother, to whom he dedicates the book, enhanced by beautiful photographs of dishes and family gatherings.

The well-organized recipes are simple for home cooks to follow--and generous enough to feed large families--yet sophisticated enough to be served at Little Owl. Each recipe includes practical tidbits on substitutions (commercial marinara sauce on Mom-Mom Pizza) or building flavor profiles (Sangria-Marinated Skirt Steak). Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Citrus and Mint is "the fanciest unfancy dessert," and fennel seed adds dimension to Little Owl Gravy Meatball Sliders, which writer Calvin Trillin says in the foreword are his addiction. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

Chronicle Books, $29.95, hardcover, 272p., 9781452178639

Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Book

by Ina Garten

With Modern Comfort Food, Ina Garten's 12th cookbook, readers will discover comforting recipes that nourish the body and satisfy the soul.

In the midst of a global pandemic and with winter approaching, Garten provides readers with gratifying and accessible recipes to share with family and friends. Reconstructed classics like Chicken Pot Pie Soup, Cheddar & Chutney Grilled Cheese and Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa put a new spin on old favorites. Vegetables aren't often associated with comfort food, but Brussels Sprouts Pizza Carbonara and Broccoli & Kale Salad put healthy greens front and center. Modern ingredients, like Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce, give Ultimate Bloody Marys an extra kick. Fresh ingredients and new twists on classic cuisine make this the perfect cookbook for challenging times. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Clarkson Potter, $35, hardcover, 256p., 9780804187060

Milk, Spice & Curry Leaves: Hill Country Recipes from the Heart of Sri Lanka

by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama

"There is an art to Sri Lankan cooking," writes Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama in her artful Milk, Spice & Curry Leaves: Hill Country Recipes from the Heart of Sri Lanka. In this ode to the food of her parents and forebears, Samarakoon-Amunugama shares tips, techniques and recipes showcasing Sri Lankan cuisine's rich variety and history.

The result is a lush trove of thoughtful, economical advice for adapting it to North American pantries. Vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will find much to enjoy in this collection. Whether cooking for a crowd or a few, celebrate familiar fall flavors during this unusual holiday season, and find delicious solace in the winter squash, the crab curries, the elegant, topping-laden Fancy Yellow Rice and the simply divine Coconut Roti. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Touchwood, $30, hardcover, 9781771513296

I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors from My Kitchen and Around the World

by Asha Gomez, Martha Hall Foose

I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors from My Kitchen and Around the World by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose is inspired by the exploratory culinary journeys Kerala-born Gomez takes with her teenage son. Both share a passion for vividly colored produce and spices known for their healthful vitality, showcased in recipes such as a tasty clove-infused tomato soup, turmeric lemon chicken and cardamom mango cake.

Now living in Atlanta, Gomez (My Two Souths) presents international dishes like Persian-inspired jade salad, moussaka and Singapore noodles, along with recipes capturing elements of Southern cooking, including a shepherd's pie made with venison during deer season in Georgia.

Guiding home cooks from drinks to dessert, Gomez's gorgeously photographed recipes offer charming reflections on raising--and feeding--teenagers. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Running Press, $32.50, hardcover, 224p., 9780762495580

Modern Cast Iron: The Complete Guide to Selecting, Seasoning, Cooking, and More

by Ashley L. Jones

Blogger and teacher Ashley L. Jones introduces home cooks to traditional Southern cast-iron cooking in Modern Cast Iron: The Complete Guide to Selecting, Seasoning, Cooking, and More. Jones serves up many time-tested family recipes, including beef stew and several variations on cornbread, a Southern classic, to soak it up with. She visits the Lodge manufacturing plant to talk about the process of making cast iron, then follows up with a helpful guide to seasoning pans and restoring old, neglected cookware. The recipes within are simple, but since one of the main obstacles for home cooks is how to adapt their recipes for cast-iron cookware, this is where Modern Cast Iron proves its worth. A useful primer for a cook just starting out with cast iron. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Red Lightning Books, $22, hardcover, 232p., 9781684351022


Author Buzz

The Rom-Commers

by Katherine Center

Dear Reader,

Famous screenwriter Charlie Yates wrote a romantic comedy screenplay--and it’s terrible. Aspiring writer Emma Wheeler just got hired to fix it. But Charlie doesn't want anyone rewriting his work--least of all a "failed nobody," and Emma can't support a guy who doesn't even like rom-coms, adding another bad one to the pantheon. So what choice does Emma have but to stand up for herself, and rom-coms, and love in general--and, in the process, to show her nemesis-slash-writing-hero exactly how to fall stupidly, crazily, perfectly in love?

Email with the subject line "The Rom-Commers sweepstakes" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Katherine Center

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
June 11, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Blue Moon
(A Smoke and Mirrors Novella)

by Skye Warren

Dear Reader,

When I started writing Ringmaster Emerson Durand in the Smoke and Mirrors series, I knew he would get his own story. Insouciant. Charming. And he's actually the villain of that book. So can he be redeemed? It's the question I'm always working to answer in my books.

If he's going to deserve his own happily ever after, it's going to be a journey. A scorching hot journey!

That's what BLUE MOON illuminates. A dangerous ringmaster claims his rebellious acrobat for a sensual show you cannot miss.

Skye Warren

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Blue Moon (A Smoke and Mirrors Novella) by Skye Warren

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
March 12, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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