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Cookbook, Autumn 1980

ISSUE:  Autumn 1980

Everyone who wishes to cook must have at hand a comprehensive French cookbook. The best available for this purpose in English is La Cuisine, which is more modern in taste than Escoffier. The first 160 pages are splendid, and they should be read again and again before trying any of the recipes. All the basics are presented: how to address a dinner invitation, how to cook eggs properly, how to roast a chicken (you will see why American turkeys are dry), how to carve a hare. Then there are 1,500 recipes for every kind of dish you may wish to prepare. These are followed by a sensible section on wines. Throughout nearly 800 photographs, 96 of them presenting in full color finished dishes, and maps of the wine regions assist the reader in an invaluable way. If you master everything in La Cuisine, you have mastered cooking.

The Whole World Cookbook, 101 Productions Editors. Scribner’s $15.95

For young people with exotic tastes and experienced cooks who need a change of pace, this is the book to keep at hand. It contains more than 1,500 recipes selected from the 6,000 previously published by 101 Productions in 35 different cookbooks. We were not surprised to discover that almost all of them are good and some, excellent. The Chicken Breast Veronique, presented here, is the best recipe for this much abused dish that we have seen in years. It is also one of the simplest. The Veal Piccata in its very light sauce, uplifted as is proper with capers, is a delight that can be prepared in five minutes. The classic Chinese recipes for Dim sum— Won Tons, Spring Rolls, and the like—are as flavorful as they are easy to follow. Beside the classic recipes, the cook will be delighted to discover here precious recipes for unusual dishes not found elsewhere. The Syrian Stuffed Apple which combines coconut, almonds, rose water, nutmeg, figs, and cinnamon is an exquisite dish which can be served with pork or fowl or as a dessert. There are two good recipes for our favorite Moroccan dishes, the Pastilla and the basic Couscous. The presentation, as is usual with this publisher, is clear and attractive. It is a complete cookbook including chapters on kitchen basics, snacks, beverages, and preserving. This is one of the best cookbooks recently issued.

The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet, by Pierre Franey. Times Books $10.95

“Most cooks tend to catalogue dishes in two categories—those for the everyday table and those for the special occasions,” writes the author, disapprovingly. He certainly demonstrates, in this book, that “special” dishes, that is, dishes prepared with a gourmet’s flair, can be prepared every evening in a short amount of time. What is more important, they do not require extravagant ingredients. No recipes for pheasant, squab, or pike quenelles here, but there are tasty, agreeable dishes which would be the French usual family fare at its very best. The secret? Perfect sauces and a perfect choice of accompanying vegetables. Mr. Franey serves his excellent Fricassee of Chicken with Tarragon with an unusual turmeric-flavored rice. His Broiled Flounder with Mustard is complemented by delicious zucchini sautéed with fresh herbs. And the gorgeous Lamb Chops on Liver Mousse Toast needs nothing more than simple broiled tomatoes. The book, devoted entirely to main courses, each with its own vegetable course or garnish, offers also more solid fare. There are many and excellent recipes for potatoes, like the Potato Ragoût seasoned with garlic, onion, tomato paste, bacon, and bay leaf. Noodles and spaghetti are often proposed to support a light dish of chicken or veal and are seasoned accordingly. Mr. Franey is the former chef of New York’s Le Pavilion, and a longtime associate of the New York Times food editor, Craig Claiborne. The simplicity of his recipes is the exquisite result of years of hard work. This is far and away the best of cookbooks which stress brief preparation time.

Favorite Recipes of the Great Women Chefs of France, compiled by Madeleine Peter and translated and edited by Nancy Simmons. Holt, Rinehart & Winston $14.95

Women who cook share, quite clearly, certain tastes and certain techniques. In France no woman can attend a professional cooking school nor serve an apprenticeship in a restaurant. As a result, in most cases, what they learn is from their mothers, and what they create is influenced by their own feminine taste. This very interesting book presents classic dishes cooked by women in France for centuries. The best of them may be the Garbure, based on pork, cabbage, and fresh beans, which is a solid meal in itself. It also demands a fresh foie gras. But the original recipes created by these cooks, with veal, fowl, and fish, are the true test of their talent. We find these especially attractive. The Raw Salmon with Herbs, of Mrs. Conticini, the Shrimp Flamed in Bourbon, of Mrs. Ferrand, the Scallops in a Leek Sauce, of Mrs. Massia, the Hot Oysters in Champagne Sauce of Mrs. Menneveau, are outstanding. The book may not include the best recipes of these cooks, because those dishes are their only support in a career developed apart from that of the so-called professional chef. The author notes that few of these recipes were written down, and most had to be recorded by watching. The translation is excellent, and this book will serve, as well, as an adventurous restaurant guide.

Comforting Food, by Judith Olney. Atheneum $12.95

The dining table, in every civilization, has been the center of social life. Thus the idea of assembling recipes for those deep, “warm” dishes which give a blessed feeling of comfort to the friends—or the family—sitting around the cook is an excellent one. More important here is the author’s flawless taste and her remarkable creativity. The chapter on vegetables is a masterpiece. Try the mushrooms cooked as snails, or the Fricassee of Mushrooms; taste the Vegetable Clafouti; or the Potato “Quiche”; enjoy the Flan of Artichokes and the Gratin of Cardoons. You will find it hard to go back to baked potatoes and boiled greens. Most of Mrs. Olney’s recipes are simple and call for ingredients available at chain food stores. Some are traditional, like her Mother’s Navy Bean Soup and most of her stews, whether they are fish, fowl, or meat. Many are influenced by her knowledge of European cuisines. Her Calves Liver Flan with Tomato Cream, for example, is the clever adaptation of the magnificent Gâteau de Foies Blonds cooked in French Burgundy. All are relatively economical. The author even offers very good advice on how to use leftovers, along with three recipes used here as examples. It is clear that Mrs. Olney loves to cook. We are fortunate that she manages so well to impart her sense of creativity to her readers.

The Culinary Olympics Cookbook, by Ferdinand E. Metz and the U. S. Culinary Team. CBI $21.50

When the United States sends a team to the International Culinary Olympics, where do the eleven chefs come from? Nearly all from Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, or German-speaking Switzerland. Obviously, they will offer more Sacher Torte or Pennsylvania Dutch duckling than Boston beans. The results are less American than “International,” as it is found in well-groomed hotels around the world. True to this tradition, the dishes presented here are absolutely superb to look at, and the patient hostess will have a great time trying to decorate her buffet with lovely birds cut from an apple, palm trees carved from carrots and green peppers, or more modest leeks chrysanthemums. She will also find that the presentation of the recipes is extremely useful, for they are given first in professional quantities (for 20 or more portions), then in family quantities (for six). The salads, cold dishes, and sandwiches are most appealing. For the everyday dishes, such as Pork Fillet in Sour Cream or the Roast Goose Strasbourg Style, the cook will be well advised to lighten the proportions of the sauces or stuffing ingredients and to forget most of the time the ever present chunks of pineapple, especially when mixed with sauerkraut.

With an Eastern Flavour, by Zarinah Anwar. Barron’s $8.95

Most of the recipes given here are very good. The problem is to discover what they are before you cook. Almost all the dishes are given with their original names. This means one has to read the whole list of the ingredients of the Opor Sotong, for instance, to find that this dish is made with cuttlefish, or presumably squid. Were the book arranged country by country and course by course, it would be excellent. As it is, it is too confusing for most cooks to penetrate. The color illustrations of each recipe are attractive, but they don’t do the job of a proper index. This is too bad, for all the dishes we tried, especially the North Indian curries, were delicious.

Cooking from the Caucasus, by Sonia Uvezian. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $3.95 paper

If you have tried everything, this is different. It presents an interesting and truly original regional cuisine. Azerbaidzhan, Armenia, and Georgia have, each of them, an exceptionally rich cultural heritage. The taste of the cooking has been influenced by the many conquerors who have passed through. Apricot and quince, black walnut and peppers, pomegranate and saffron are some of the attractive ingredients of this highly spiced cuisine. The recipes for stuffed vegetables are particularly valuable. There are many preparations for lamb. Lamb Soup with Coriander and Saffron is a good dish for a beginning. The variations of Rice Pilaf are superb and worth the price of the book to any cook who seeks new flavors.

The Paprikas Weiss Hungarian Cookbook, by Edward Weiss with Ruth Buchan. Morrow $12.95

Paprika devotees should be aware that this is available. It is limited in scope and in taste, but within these limits it is all right. Paprika, sour cream, dill, caraway, and the like dominate the taste of these recipes, as one might expect. It is sponsored by a food processing company, but, even so, it is a real book. One third of it is devoted to pastries. They do not contain paprika.

The Complete Book of Japanese Cooking, by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz with Mitsuko Endo. Evans $5.95 paper

The Japanese do not cook. They write a poem with food. The symbolism and the appearance of the dishes, with the rites attached to the cooking and the serving, are thus more important than the actual taste of the food. We do applaud, with great admiration, amateurs who are enraptured by this highly esoteric approach to food. As far as we are concerned, we have to confess, sheepishly, that we miss the point. But one thing is for sure: this is the best book available in this country devoted to Japanese cooking. It is not expensive, clearly presented, and absolutely authentic. The only thing we miss are colored pictures—for if Japanese dishes have never filled our hearts, they always have delighted our eyes.

Chinese Diet Cookbook, by Charmaine Solomon. McGraw-Hill $9.95

Slimming down the Chinese way may be one of the best ideas of the year. The everyday Chinese fare is, to begin with, a healthy one, since it relies on fresh, unprocessed food. Meat is seldom served whole but rather in cutup small quantities mixed with a variety of vegetables. And, of course, the brief cooking time required by such methods as stir-frying ensures that fresh produce keeps in most of its nutritional qualities. But the author has perfected this fare by cutting as much carbohydrates from her recipes as she could without destroying their delicious flavor. We tried the pungent Steamed Fish, Szechwan Style, a dish which contains no more than 10 grams (about 1/3 of an ounce) of carbohydrates. We loved the Velvet Fish with Oyster Sauce and the Minced Pork in Lettuce Rolls. Besides presenting 140 recipes for light fare, the author also offers a table of the carbohydrate content of each ingredient and, more important, excellent tips on how to cook “lean,” even when stir-frying or deep frying. Mrs. Solomon is the author of the remarkable Complete Asian Cookbook. Her taste and professionalism are as good as ever.

Minceur Italienne: Slimming Gourmet Menus and Recipes, by Beverly Cox. Vanguard $8.95 paper

This would seem to Americans a contradiction in terms. Can one eat real Italian dishes and still stay slim or even lose weight? You can if you follow these recipes, artfully arranged by meals from different regions so they are varied for nearly any taste or occasion. Salads, green leafy vegetables, and lean cheeses and lean meat predominate. Because this lightness is so pleasant, those of us not on a diet can enjoy the book as well by simply increasing the proportions of meat and other protein fats. We tried this and, even then, the dishes retained their lightness. We loved the Lasagna Piemontese and thought that the Stuffed Peaches Ligurian Style would be a splendid dessert after any brunch or supper. Still, all in all, it is a professional commercial job of work, rather like Acupuncture Without Needles.

The Vegetarian Feast, by Martha Rose Shulman. Harper & Row $12.95

Vegetarianism, we believe, is masochism in the kitchen. But since the only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance, we decided to have a look. After all, a book like this one could be extremely helpful to the cook always in need of a flavorful side dish. Indeed, we found here an interesting Fig and Mint salad, tasty Garbanzo Bean or Lentil salads, and very attractive soups like the Curry-flavored Lentil one or the simple, delicious, Garlic Broth. We also tried the Black Beans Enchiladas which had a deep, rich flavor. But on the whole the recipes are spoiled by the fact that the author, otherwise a very professional person, is dedicated to organic food. She recommends “freshly drawn” tap water. She uses too much sunflower seeds, organic peanut butter, ground soybeans, alfalfa, and other bird food. And worse, as if she were still hungry after all, she piles up ingredients for dishes which could be quite decent if left alone. Anyone who wishes to survive on tofu will find better recipes in Asiatic cuisine cookbooks.

Helen Dollaghan’s Best: Main Dishes, by Helen Dollaghan. McGraw-Hill with San Francisco Book Company $12.95

This collection will delight cooks who are tired of discovering that half of the recipes offered in most cookbooks are for breads, biscuits, cakes, and other starches. It is also a good sampling of what Americans like to eat, since the author, who is the food editor of the widely read Denver Post, has chosen recipes which have most pleased her readers year after year. Here are favorite roasts and pot roasts, often marinated in very flavorful mixtures which tenderize the meat and provide delicious sauces, as in the Citrus-Sauced Roast. Here is an excellent brisket, cooked a day ahead so that the tough cut will soften in its cooking liquid overnight. We found the Sauce Poivre Vert a delicious, quickly made accompaniment to many meat or fish dishes. The chapter on lamb, which includes the obvious Moussaka, Shanks Italiano, and Kabob, also offers a delicious Fresh Vegetable-Lamb Stew, and out-ofthe-way prune or apricot sauces. An excellent source of new ideas for the family cook.

The Easiest Cookbook, by Carol Guilford. Lippincott $10.95

This book, which is perfect for beginners, is based on simplicity. It is true that for many dishes the best preparation is the simplest. Here the Five Minute Scallops are properly cooked for only one minute. They need nothing more than parsley, lemon wedges, and pepper. It is a delicious dish. Roast Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon and Soy Sauce is another excellent dish. The only other ingredient not included in the title of the recipe is honey. The secret is that the dish is marinated for hours but cooked briefly to retain all its flavors. Two chilies are presented, both of them quite decent, as is the Black Bean Soup. The book contains a wide range of easy recipes for American and international dishes. Perfect for the newly wed.

Souffles, Mousses, Jellies, and Creams, by Robert Ackart. Atheneum $11.95

The author’s ideas are better than his recipes. The book is a gold mine of splendid possibilities for those who can adapt a recipe and, when needed, perfect it. For example, we wonder why two powdered bouillon cubes, with their chemical taste, are added to an otherwise excellent scallop soufflé. A tablespoon of strong veal stock is what is really needed. Why add six ounces of tomato paste in a Tomato Soufflé? Use fresh fruit and serve a decent dish. Mr. Ackart cooks his tripe in aspic for only an hour and a half without adding the basic pig’s trotter or veal knuckle. If he would follow the classic recipe, the tripe would be tender and no gelatin would be required. Many other dishes, like the Kumquat Mousse, and the Eggs in Aspic, are perfect. These preparations are excellent for winter and invaluable for summer. A suggestive book for the inventive cook.

The New Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others, by Ann Rogers. Scribner’s $8.95

Do not expect classic or expert recipes here. They were conceived by a poet in California with more attention to style and humor than real cooking. Some recipes are simple, others complex. Perhaps the most useful are the Tin Can Specials and those for variety meats. Most interesting is the fact that the book is written by someone devoid of pretense but determined to have fun with food on a low budget. This sense of spirit and freedom is a good deal more valuable than the recipes. Read it and try your own.

The Husband’s Cookbook, by Mike McGrady. Lippincott $9.95

My wife gave me this with a smile. “Just follow the directions.” I took a quick look. Everything was there: ingredients, instructions, and helpful comments. Still, to hedge things, I selected a very simple dish, Beef Stroganoff. She was amused, but I was not. In the end, the dish was very decent; its flavor something akin to the real thing. But the presentation of these recipes is confused and confusing, especially with the timing and coordination of various cooking tasks. You can learn to put some meals on the table with this book, but it won’t teach you to cook.

Vermont Country Cooking, by Aristene Pixley. Dover $1.75 paper

First published in 1941 and now reprinted under another title, this is an honest little book of simple fare. There is nothing complicated or refined here; on the other hand, there is not a thing botched up by one food theory or another. It depends a bit upon a time when fresh foods tasted better than they do today, but it will still work as decent fare for decent people.

Winners! Recipes that Won the Contests and How You Can Be a Winner Too!, by Karen Green. Morrow $12.95

This will tell you pretty much all you need to know to enter cooking contests in this country. All the contests with their rules are given along with tips from previous winners, jurors, and other authorities. Many recipes which were winners in the past are also presented. Most of these, sponsored by processed food manufacturers, are dreary. The best are those which won in open contests for the best recipe or those invented for fresh food associations, like the Sun River Crayfish Olympics. There are a few exceptions, but real cooks will find little of interest here. This is a book about how to win, not one about how to cook.

The Year-Round Turkey Cookbook, by Barbara Gibbons. McGraw-Hill $6.95 paper

More than 300 recipes and not one for the dish we all seek: a different, excellent turkey hash.

Farm Journal’s Great Dishes from the Oven, by Rita Holmberg and the editors of Farm Journal. Simon & Schuster $6.95

The idea of cooking two or three dishes in the oven at the same time has merit. But this recipe collection is a classic example of everything that has gone wrong with cooking and nutrition in America over the last half century. The idea is to stuff the family or friends with massive doses of carbohydrates which are easy to prepare and bake. Add to these as much in the way of processed foods from boxes and cans as the dish will tolerate. It is sad to see that books like this are still being published. Fresh food, quickly and easily prepared, can be much more satisfying, more nourishing, and less expensive.

The Complete Fish Cookbook, by Dan and Inez Morris. Stoeger $5.95 paper

The authors have the best intentions. They seek here to tell all that need be known about the preparation and cooking of fish and shellfish in 400 pages. The first part of the book, devoted to buying and preparing fish, works well. They tell us, for example, even how to clean squid and softshelled crab. The rest of the text, devoted to recipes, however, falls short. It is arranged by cooking techniques which compel the reader to range here and there for recipes for the fish he has decided to cook. Worst, the recipes are limited to a small number of fish, ignoring the range of the introduction, and most, if not all, of the preparations are in the Midwestern taste.

John Clancy’s Fish Cookery, by John Clancy with Beatrice Sauders. Holt $5.95 paper

This is a rudimentary performance at best. It might be said to be useful for a total beginner, but the truth of the matter is that the 33 recipes for fish, and mostly shellfish, and the 15 for sauces here can be found in any other complete cookbook. Mimi Sheraton says she likes it.

What to do with . . . an egg, What to do with . . . fruit, What to with . . . a potato, by Francoise Blanchet and Rinke Doornekamp. Barren’s $2.95 each

These are the best cookbooks for children we have seen in years. A great virtue is apparent at the outset. No precise timing for cooking is provided: intelligent supervision is assumed. Each recipe is directed toward encouraging the two basic qualities of a cook—imagination and personal taste. The illustrations lead the child to wish to try to cook for fun. He is instructed to decorate the dish to his taste and to vary ingredients accordingly. Our preschool child couldn’t wait until he had an egg in a toast which looked like a sailboat. The perfect gift for children from five up. Here is the chance for little ones to launch a voyage from the sandbar of candy and hotdogs to the vast domain of healthy creative cooking.

Lenôtre’s Ice Creams and Candies, by Gaston Lenôtre. Barren’s $18.95

Let’s be frank. We cannot say that if you follow these recipes you will produce the exquisite masterpieces presented here. But you will have the flavor and the idea. This patissier is a genius in the world of highly professional cooks. The easiest preparations offered are those for ice creams, sherbets, and their variations. Some have the simplicity of grand art like the Moulded Apricot and Raspberry Sherbert, and the Perigord Crown Dessert, which combines the flavors of chestnut and pear. This is a long way from peach ice cream. The Petits Fours and the candies are more challenging. As in the author’s previous volume, the difficulty of the dish is indicated by one to three chefs hats, but one should be aware that a single hat may require a two-hat ingredient prepared ahead of time. Still, one should try the Frozen Chocolate and Orange Dessert or the gossamerlike Tulip pastries. Along the way there are valuable tips. You will learn, for instance, that champagne or port sherbets should be served at once because the flavor of the alcohol will quickly vanish. The recipes are clearly presented, with generous typography. If you work hard, for a long time, you may be able to offer his Frozen Cognac and Apricot Dessert or Lenotre’s Special Caramel Ice Cream. They are well worth the effort.

Whistler’s Mother’s Cook Book, by Margaret MacDonald. Putnam $7.95

She did exist, in spite of the portrait. This little book is a literate and handsome presentation of a mother who followed her family and later her famous son to cook and keep house. The recipes are, of course, those a late 19th-century American woman had to have at hand: biscuits, gingerbreads, puddings, blancmange, and the like. The dishes call for rose water, isinglass, quinces, and molasses. The printed text follows the remarkable spelling of an unusual lady. A translation is provided. Whistler called the collection, “My Bible.” The typography is Victorian and the result charming for anybody interested in the history of cooking. A handsome, dainty Christmas present for a lady.

Where to Eat in America, edited by William Rice and Burton Wolf. Random House $7.95 paper

The new edition of this much needed reference book differs less from the previous one than we had hoped. The editors have added a few gimmicks—places to go with children—but no serious effort has been made to review the restaurants recommended. We can only hope that people who use this book, and they must use it for it is all we have, will write to the editors. And then, we hope the editors will take their opinions into account and give us a book we can rely upon. Where is la Grenouille in New York and The Gumbo Shop in New Orleans? There are better Thai restaurants than Bangkok Cuisine in New York and the Thai Room in Washington, both of which have slipped badly since the first listing. A bit more effort all around is needed. If it doesn’t come soon, this will be as defunct as the New Orleans Underground Gourmet.


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