Comfort Foods

yummypotatoesWhat a great thing for the fall, a potato cookbook. -ae

Last week I went through a box of recipes I had clipped from the San Francisco Chronicle. I found recipes dating back to the late 90's! I wish I was as good at organizing as I am at hoarding. Reviewing all those clippings, I can safely say I had saved more recipes written by Marlena Spieler than from anyone else. Spieler has been a writer for the Chronicle for ages and has written tons of cookbooks to boot. 

So imagine my pleasure at receiving a review copy of Marlena Spieler's latest book, called Yummy Potatoes 65 Downright Delicious Recipes. And on the same day I posted one of my yummy potato recipes! Potatoes on the brain. I cannot tell you how delectable most of her recipes look! There are Breakfast Potatoes, Tapas, Meze and Antipasti, Soups, Salads, Mashes, Baked, Fried, Sides and a category called "Potatoes for Dinner!" I swear the exclamation point is hers, not mine, but it might as well be mine.

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grilledcheeseplease.jpgApril is National Grilled Cheese Month so highly appropriate for Laura Werlin’s newest book “Grilled Cheese, Please!” Werlin has quite the cheese expert pedigree having written four previous books on the subject which have won James Beard, IACP and the World Gourmand Awards.

Who doesn’t like grilled cheese? It has to be one of the most comforting of all comfort foods. A basic grilled sandwich, like those from many of our childhoods, is comforting enough but up the ante the way Werlin has and it’s food nirvana.

“Grilled Cheese, Please!” has fifty different grilled cheese recipes and covers eight chapters: Just Cheese, Meat and Cheese, Anything Goes, Veggies and Cheese, Global Grilled Cheese, Grilled Cheese on the Go, Regional American Grilled Cheese, and Old Favorites and Modern Sides.

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nigellabites.jpgHow do I love Nigella? Let me count the ways. Sometimes she’s bigger, and some times she’s smaller, but she’s always incredibly beautiful. She is incredible intelligent and well-educated, and has had some incredibly hard knocks (including the death of her first husband) and survived with consummate grace.

She is a mother over 40 who oozes sex appeal, admits to cooking pasta for herself to eat in bed while watching television, and deep fries candy bars in batter. Most important, in an age of molecular gastronomy and foodie preciousness, she cooks food that is simple, sensuous and exactly what you were yearning for but couldn’t name until you saw the recipe.

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It’s back to school and that means bag lunches. Or maybe like me, you don’t have school age kids, but still want to start packing lunch to take to work. It’s easy to get in a rut, but these three cookbooks offer many ways to jazz up your lunchbox.

bahnmiThe Banh Mi Handbook is the latest book from Andrea Nguyen. In the past she has written about Vietnamese food, dumplings and tofu, perhaps convincing you to make your own. But I had to wonder, when I can get a terrific banh mi sandwich for just a couple bucks, would I want to make my own? The answer is YES because Nguyen goes well beyond what you might find at a Vietnamese sandwich shop.

What I absolutely love the most about this book in addition to the versatility is the focus on ease and simplicity. There are lots of shortcuts and no shame if you choose to buy bread or mayonnaise or doctor some liverwurst to make a tasty pate. The book offers the basics and traditional recipes for fixings like carrot and daikon pickles, headcheese terrine and Chinese barbecue pork but also offers tons of non-traditional options too to keep things interesting. Go vegetarian with coconut curry tofu or an edamame pate. I know I’ll be making the warm sardine and tomato sauce sandwich and the oven fried chicken katsu. These are sandwiches that will make your mouth water!

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mrsundaychickenI just got an advanced copy of my friend, Lorraine Wallace’s newest cookbook, Mr. Sunday's Saturday Night Chicken, and I haven’t had this much fun with a chicken since Dionne Lucus taught me how to rip the bones out of one while leaving it’s flesh undisturbed. (Yeah, I’m dangerous!)

I got this advance copy because I shot the cover photograph, and while I also contributed a recipe, I had no idea what a friendly, loving and delicious cookbook she had created.

Besides the happy photos of family and friends, tips and a market guide to terminology, she has given us “keys” – ways to consider chicken: boneless/skinless, quick, supermarket rotisserie chickens (for pulled chicken recipes), company, potluck, stovetop, one pot and grilled recipes. She even has chicken recipes for chicken vegetarian dishes (huh? They have been designed so that one can eliminate the chicken in favor of vegetables instead…).

The recipes all appear to be utterly user friendly. And, I know for a fact, they are all recipes that she has prepared in her own kitchen for her husband, Mr. Sunday himself, Chris Wallace. (He LOVED my chicken in orange juice) I guess that tells us something else; they must be calorie conscious as he looks darn good on TV.

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