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BOOK REVIEW

Cookbooks for carnivores,
vegetarians, & more

By Doug Mosley
doug_mosley@hotmail.com

I really enjoy cooking on a kamado cooker. I love how with a handful of lump charcoal, I can keep heat in the cooker for the whole day as long as I don’t keep lifting that lid. And isn’t that the true challenge of using a kamado? Knowing that it will hold you to a high standard because you have to plan every detail of your cook to account for not opening that lid. Yes, I’ll admit that I’m as guilty as anyone else, at some point curiosity will get the best of me and I will open it. But even then I learn something, either knowing that I should have trusted my plan or finding out there was a detail I’d overlooked. Kamados are no doubt a fun challenge.

I’ve not previously found many books that are written specifically for cooking on a kamado. I do have about two dozen web sites bookmarked, but I have to admit that I enjoy more leafing through the pages of a book to find ideas. One of those web sites is NibbleMeThis.com, and the publisher of that site, Chris Grove, has released the very book I’ve been seeking, The Kamado Smoker & Grill Cookbook ($24.95, Ulysses Press, 212 pp.).

In addition to running NibbleMeThis.com, Grove is a KCBS certified judge. His expertise in barbecue readily shows through in this book but it is his in-depth knowledge of kamado cookers that makes this book great. Grove carefully counsels readers that this book shouldn’t be taken as a replacement to the manufacturer’s information that is made available through web sites and sometimes literature, but I’ll say the first thought that came to my mind as I flipped through the pages is that this is the owner’s manual that I never saw. The Kamado Smoker & Grill Cookbook is an invaluable resource from page 1. Grove provides exceptional detail in how to care for and maintain a kamado over time, tips on the intracacies of cooking with one and warnings about the pitfalls that can lead to accidents or damage to the kamado itself.

I loved the way Grove set up the book. There are 52 chapters, or really more like short sections that deal with examples of working with various techniques or equipment. For instance, there a section on setting up the kamado to use as a brick oven for pizza (and let’s face it – everybody with a kamado loves to make pizza on it). There’s literally dozens of other techniques covered in the sections, enough to keep you busy for quite some time.

If you already own a kamado but feel like you’re not getting enough out of it, then this is the book for you. If you’re thinking about getting a kamado, then this is the book to buy along with it. Heck, even if you just want to learn about cooking on a kamado, this is the book you need to read.

Trisha Yearwood has now completed the circuit in a multi-media career, having previously accomplished success in music and television and now as an author. Of course her musical talents is what elevated her from her roots in Monticello, Ga., to opening for Garth Brooks to eventually headlining her own shows and seeing her albums reach platinum. She’s also done television well with her Food Network show, “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen”, which earned an Emmy Award. And now she’s tasting success as an author with her acclaimed book, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen: Recipes from My Family to Yours with Gwen Yearwood and Beth Yearwood Bernard ($19.99, Clarkson Potter, 224 pp.).

If you’ve watched Yearwood’s TV show, you already know the key role that family plays in it. The same goes for this book and it seems like nearly every recipe has a family story behind it. She also stays true to her Georgia roots, including her preference for chicken and pork barbecue, and with recipes like Boiled Peanuts, Cheese Straws, her daddy’s Brunswick Stew, Pink Salad and her sister’s Fried Chicken with Milk Gravy. So many times you see a celebrity cookbook with a mind-boggling selection of recipes that would require an advanced culinary background. That’s not the case in Yearwood’s book. The dishes she includes seem likely to legitimately be the ones her family enjoys at home. Through that, she makes an honest connection with her readers and it seems the same for the viewers of her TV show. Kudos to her.

For carnivores like us, grilling vegetables is often a way to fix a side without having to go into the kitchen while you’re finishing up the main course. But let me ask you this: Honestly, have you ever considered grilled vegetables as the featured selection? Yeah, me neither. Until recently that is, when I went to a south Florida eatery where a friend encouraged me to try the grilled vegetarian platter. I came away with a new perspective and have since sought out new menus that don’t revolve around a meat dish. Fortunately for me, there’s a new book out that has been a great resource – Vegetarian Grilling: 60 Recipes for a Meatless Summer by Karen Schulz and Maren Jahnke ($16.95, Skyhorse Publishing, 144 pp.).

If ever there was a book that found me at the exact right moment it was this one. I quickly found it to be full of flavorful recipes that were bold and satisfying. I first sampled selections from the chapters on Skewered (Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Pine Nuts) and Wrapped and Rolled (Barbecue Wrap with Vegetables) and then moved on to the other chapters. One surprise was the Colorful Sun Rolls that were included in a bonus chapter at the end.

Vegetarian Grilling certainly has my recommendation and I hope that encourages you to try a few recipes from this well-done book. You’ll probably discover as I did that you’ll enjoy it as much as you do your non-vegetarian dishes.

Hacks are all the rage, whether it be game hacks, tech hacks, car hacks or one of the many lists of life hacks, there seems to always be some list circulating of ingenious new hacks. If you’re not already in the know on hacks, don’t get the term confused with computer hackers. Hacks in this reference are simply clever solutions or uses. Google life hacks and prepare to be amazed at all the brilliant ideas there are using everyday items and a bit of ingenuity. As an aside, don’t be terribly disappointed when you discover that most of these hacks don’t actually work.

With hacks being such a popular cultural concept, it was only a matter of time before somebody brought these online tips to old media, meaning a book. Amazing Food Hacks: 75 Incredibly Easy Tips, Tricks & Recipes to Amp Up Flavor, by Peggy Wang ($19.99, Clarkson Potter, 66 pp.) is that book, ironically authored by a founding editor of Buzzfeed.com, one of the web’s top sources for viral content. Amazing Food Hacks is a collection of 75 stroke-of-genius ideas, some you’ll love, some you’ll try and some you’ll be like “meh”. My favorites are the pizza delivery trick and waffle biscuits, but I’m surely going to be trying the crunchy French toast soon. Books like this are always fun and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of “I gotta’ try that” ideas in these pages as well.

Josh Williams are a pair of former college roommates who were hit with a lightning bolt of brilliance when they developed their Mason shaker, which is a cocktail shaker made out of a Mason jar. The two biggest surprises about this are 1) How come no one had stumbled across this great idea previously?, and 2) How did a pair of guys in Brooklyn come up with us and not some good ol’ southern boys where Mason jars are very commonly dinnerware?

If you haven’t discovered the Mason shaker yet, then I highly recommend you go check them out (there’s a video feature from CNN online that tells their story). And while you’re at it, you should also take a look at Prum and Williams’ new book, Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails ($25, Clarkson Potter, 168 pp.). It’s way more than a companion book to the Mason shaker, but it does make sense to have one if you have (or are going to have) the other.

The authors capitalized on the renewed interest in cocktails when they developed the Mason shaker and in this book they’ve followed the movement to cocktail recipes using top quality and fresh seasonal ingredients in the home bar. They take a novel look at some old standards, reinvent them with a liberal dose of creativity and then present them on the pages in a deconstructed manner that makes the recipe easy to follow. It makes for a book that’s fun to use as you try your hand at home mixology.

In this case, however, it was perhaps for the better because it may have taken that long for Chopped’s mind-stumping style to develop the audience that makes a book of the same model meaningful. Just like on the show, the book presents situations of limited ingredients and then leads you through the possibilities. The chapters break down by those potentials: Pasta Night, Chicken Gone Wild, Eggs After Breakfast, Flash in the Pan, Completely Fun Way To Cook With Vegetables, All Things Ground Beyond Beef, Bid Salad: Hearty and Fresh, Fishing for Compliments, Great Grains, and Short and Sweet: Easy Desserts.

If you’re a fan of “Chopped”, then you will love this book. Think of it as game night for the cooks in your house and you’re assured pages and pages of fun.

I love the opportunity to bring to you an off-the-wall book every now and then and the one I want to tell you about this month is really cool. It’s great that readers of the NBN are incredibly creative when it comes to food and drink, so that affords me a wide leeway in the sort of books that I know will be within the boundaries of interest. That’s why I’m going to tell you about a book on crockpot cooking that features recipes from all sort of countries and cuisines across the globe.

Slow Cooker Wanderlust: 101 Adventurous and Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes from Around the World by Sally Viviani ($13.95, Visual Magic Publications, 186 pp.) is an excellent book that takes a fresh approach to a category that many might say is overdone. That’s what makes this book extra special – Viviani took an idea that was different from the rest and then she really delivered with the finished product. There are over 100 recipes that are divided by six of the seven continents (unfortunately there is no entry for Antarctica).

While the slow cooker is meant to be a tool of convenience for cooks, Viviani offers up recipes that will still be enough of a challenge to be enjoyable both to prepare and then later enjoy. Among the selections from Europe are Greek Moussaka and Lancashire Hot Pot; from Asia there is Chinese Char Sui Roast Pork and Korean Beef Ribs; from Africa there is Chicken Marrakesh and African Oxtail Stew; from South America and the Caribbean there is Brazilian Feijoada and Trinidadian Spiced Ribs; from North and Central America there is Jambalaya and Mexican Chicken Mole; and from Australia and Oceana is Island Kalua Pork and Devilled Sausages. Many of those are likely familiar to you and many would probably be the first time you’ve seen them. While there are no pictures in this book, Viviani does do a nice job of laying out each recipe in an easy-to-follow format.
If you’re looking for something to stimulate your creativity, this book will serve that need well. It’s a fun book that is well written and surely will be kept handy for your next burst of inspiration.

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