Author Topic: Christmas Books  (Read 2063 times)

Loundry

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Christmas Books
« on: December 27, 2009, 03:42:04 PM »
I received a whole bunch of books for Christmas!  Naturally, many of them are food-related:

- Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman.  Ruhlman, writer of the incredibly stupid "use WATER" blog post, is truly a great writer and this book seems pretty good thus far.  I love this kind of book because it really is a "how to cook" kind of book rather than a "what to cook" kind of book.  He presents each ratio and then gives a "what to do with it now that you know what it is" section.  The one drawback is that the "cooking by ratio" method really lends itself to baking more than any other kind of cooking, and the result of most baking is junk food.

- The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions by May Bisu.  Steve has been heavily dog-earing this book since I received it.  The author is a lax Muslim (drinks alcohol, has Kafir friends, etc.) who is from the Middle East but emigrated to the United States.  Hence, she acts as a cultural translator and that appeals to me greatly.  Information like "how to cook rice the Arab way", how to prepare chickpeas (tedious, and the author admits to using canned chick peas for convenience even though they are decidedly inferior, take that Michael Ruhlman!) and how to select the right cut of lamb are fascinating and I can already tell that they will expand the way that we cook.  Using herbs in different ways (one recipe calls for three cups of fresh oregano!  The author remarks that oregano grows wild throughout the Middle East and that finding this much oregano in the US may prove difficult) are also very interesting.

- Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael "use WATER" Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.  This book was written for me.  I love the style.  It is very reminiscent of Cooks Illustrated magazine.  The prose is almost flawless.  The instructions are clear.  And the recipes are interesting and take a positive approach to whole-animal eating.  After reading the recipe for bacon I was immediately clear what went wrong with my own bacon: they state rather plainly that part of bacon's flavor comes from the nitrites, which I did not use, and both Steve and I thought that our bacon didn't "taste right".  They finally answer why it's so hard to cold-smoke at home: the only devices that are fully capable of doing proper, reliable, controlled cold-smoking "cost as much as a car".  I can't wait to get my freezer fixed so I can start plunging into these recipes.  The "duck ham" recipe looks particularly interesting.

- The Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal.  This book was NOT written for me.  I hate the style.  It's quite possibly the most self-indulgent, pompous book I've ever laid my eyes upon.  Every third or fourth page is a full-page, stylized illustration of the author/chef in some whimsical / psychedelic style by some avant-garde artist.  The recipes are extremely advanced and often necessitate the use of the chamber vacuum sealer (a device that costs, at minimum, $2,500).  The ingredients are the most exotic I've ever seen ("oak essence" springs to mind).  Some people will slander it with the misnomer "molecular gastronomy".  I don't know if I'll ever attempt any of these recipes, but it might be fun as a challenge some day.

- The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition: 250 Flavor-Packed Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market by Linda Ziedrich.  This is a wonderful book!  Every recipe is clear and it is blissfully free of any kind of food philosophy.  It has very clear tables about percentages of salt in water which is extremely helpful if a pickle recipe ever calls for a "5% salt solution".  This is the book that Wild Fermentation wishes it could be.  It even has a recipe which calls for the Japanese pickle press that I also received as a gift this Christmas!

- Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by a whole bunch of wierdos.  This book is disappointing and, at times, quite possibly dangerous.  For instance, there is a recipe for preserving artichoke hearts in oil in this book.  Artichoke hearts have enough available water (aW) to provide an environment for botulinim clostridium to grow, and the oil gives them the oxygen-free environment to thrive and produce the botulinim toxin spores.  In other words, this recipe can kill you.  All of the recipes are attributed to other people and there is no word of how they were tested.  It's like someone went to USENET and said to their favorite alt.free-energy.illuminati.bork.bork.bork newsgroup, "Hey!  Send me your recipes!" and this book is the result.  Crazy.

- The Indian Spice Kitchen by Monisha Bharadwaj.  I wanted this book because I'm eager to get more "slime on rice" in our diet.  Instead of grouping spices into some arbitrary groups, this book goes through every commonly-used Indian spice in an alphabetic index while providing background on each along with some recipes.  The page for cumin (my current favorite spice) included a recipe for a cumin beverage that I found very intriguing.  I am impressed by this one.

- Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game by John J. Mettler, DVM.  The author wrote this book in 1986 and, at the time, decried what he perceived as the dying of home butchering and thus saw the need for this book.  I think it's needed even more strongly nowadays, though events like "Primal" indicate that the food-interested public is garnering a growing interest in this topic.  There is no way one can learn to butcher without actually dong it, but this book is an excellent way to start.  And it starts from the beginning ("shoot here") from the cow.  The prose is clear and well-written, and it gives diagrams about where, exactly, certain cuts of meat come from.  That in and of itself is worth the cost of purchase.

- Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen.  I bought this book after I saw the suprising technique for how to make home-made spring wrapper rolls on youtube, as the video was showing the technique described in this very book.  (If you haven't seen the video, do so now, it's worth it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zLr27HKLg4).  So far I haven't plunged too far into this book.

- Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets, certified wierdo.  This book is all about fungi and that in itself is fascinating to me.  I think it's an understatement to say that most humans are grossly ignorant of how much fungi impact their life.  For instance, upwards of 90% of all plants exist in a symbiotic relationship with an underground fungi, without which they would either fail to thrive or even survive.  That said, the author really does think that humans are "destroying the world" and that fungi will "save it".  If you can wade through that kind of mystical / apocolyptic thinking, then this book is highly interesting.

Offline Mike GadgetGeek Stock

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Re: Christmas Books
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2009, 04:00:38 PM »
I received a whole bunch of books for Christmas!  Naturally, many of them are food-related:  

Dern, you must have been VERY good for the whole year..  I like at least 5 of those books, will you be teaching us all a class when you are done reading?

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Offline Foodgeek

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Re: Christmas Books
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2009, 06:16:22 PM »
I'll trade you some really good cheese for the Fat Duck book.
Food is my favorite.

Offline Melomom

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Re: Christmas Books
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2009, 07:01:25 PM »
Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets, certified wierdo.  This book is all about fungi and that in itself is fascinating to me.  I think it's an understatement to say that most humans are grossly ignorant of how much fungi impact their life.  For instance, upwards of 90% of all plants exist in a symbiotic relationship with an underground fungi, without which they would either fail to thrive or even survive.  That said, the author really does think that humans are "destroying the world" and that fungi will "save it".  If you can wade through that kind of mystical / apocolyptic thinking, then this book is highly interesting.


The author may be right.  This article was in the Times last year about fungi cleaning up dioxin contamination:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/us/27bragg.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=mushroom%20cleaning%20toxic%20waste&st=cse

Loundry

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Re: Christmas Books
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2009, 10:47:46 PM »
The author may be right.  This article was in the Times last year about fungi cleaning up dioxin contamination:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/us/27bragg.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=mushroom%20cleaning%20toxic%20waste&st=cse

Annihilation == "destroying the world"

Dioxin contamination != "destroying the world"

 

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