Cookbook and Gadget Recommendations 2009

Here are my notes from the program airing on CBC Radio's BC Almanac today:

Books -  large crop of cookbooks for this year

Fresh with anna olson Our favourite stars from Canada’s Food Network have books out this holiday season, including The Best of Chef at Home, by gentle giant Michael Smith.
Anna Olson – Fresh – Seasonally Inspired Recipes
Ricardo – Meals for Every Occasion  and
Laura Calder French Taste – Elegant Everyday Eating

If you have someone on your list who is a fan of some of Vancouver’s top restaurants, you can always choose from three new books, ‘C Food’ from C Restaurant, and a pair from the two Top Table Restaurant Group stalwarts Araxi and Blue Water.  Last year Top Table put out a cookbook from West, one of my favourites is Vij’s, and the one that Rob Feenie did a few years ago when he was still at Lumiere stands the test of time.

Really neat new idea I saw at Barbara-jo’s Books to Cooks yesterday.  A series of three little books, each one called Cook the Hood, one each featuring the restaurants, food businesses and food security agencies from the neighbourhoods of Commercial Drive, Kitsilano and the West End.  There are little profiles of the businesses and restaurants and some of their favourite recipes, so for example from La Grotta Del Formaggio you get a great recipe for Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni.  Proceeds from the sales of each book go to the local food security agencies.  Just $12 each.

Gourmet_TODAY-Ruth_ReichlIf you’re looking for a good overall cookbook to give as a gift that will stay in the family for years, or even act as a doorstop, there are a few I recommend:

Mark Bittman:  How to Cook Everything, or The Best Recipes in the World
Delia Smith’s Delia’s Complete How To Cook
And for anyone who regrets the demise of Gourmet Magazine, there is a huge new cookbook out from the editors of Gourmet called Gourmet Today, Over 1000 Recipes for How We Cook Today.   You know these recipes are going to cook because they all have been extensively tested over the years in the Gourmet Test Kitchen…may it rest in peace!
Anything by Julia Child is hot this year, owing to the popularity of the movie Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep doing an amazing job portraying Julia.  The movie is now out on DVD, but so are a lot of Julia’s old TV cooking shows and I really recommend the autobiography Julia wrote with her nephew’s help called My Life in France.  This book details one of the most amazing parts of her life when she lived in France for the first time and her struggles to help write and publish that magnificent tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It’s a an amazing, amusing read.

Ethical gourmet If you are looking to lead a more sustainable food life in 2010, you will find more books on this subject than ever before.  Your textbook is Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, in which he tells us to Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants, and a cookbook or plan for eating to carry out Pollan’s philosophy as well as that from some of his contemporaries is Mark Bittman’s Food Matters.  You might also want to try Clean Food, by Terry Walters, more than 200 recipes that give you ‘A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source’.  As soon as I opened this one I discovered several bean recipes I wanted to make, and if you ask my wife she will tell you that in general I am not a fan of bean-based recipes!  But who could ignore White Bean Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula, or Cucumber, Mango and Chickpea Salad.  There is also the Ethical Gourmet, pictured here, by Jay Weinstein.

Bread Books:  Two of the most popular this year are Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart, and My Bread by Jim Lahey, ‘No Work No Knead Method’.  You bake his breads in a pot.  Preferably cast iron or enamelled steel.  Those are for the person who has a few hours on their hands every week.  I used to bake bread every week when I lived in Prince Rupert and once you do the initial labour of mixing the ingredients together the rest is easy.
One more book for Wine Lovers:  Tony Aspler’s Cellar Book.  This is a great guide not only to how to construct a wine cellar, everything from a simple box to elaborate environmentally controlled renovations that cost thousands, but also how to go about stocking it.  Only problem for me is that wines don’t stick around long enough to be ‘cellared’.

Links to Top Cookbook Lists of 2009

Serious Eats

The Independent

Holiday Books – The New York Times

NY Times – 25 More Cookbooks


NPR: Best Cookbooks of 2009

Oveglove5Gadgets:   All of these are available at the listed prices at Ming Wo Cookware at 23 East Pender Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown with the exception of the Ove-Glove and the T-Fal ActiFry.

Kiwee   2 in 1 Kiwi tool                               Chef’n
Use the serrated edge to slice the kiwi open,
And insert the scooping edge to remove your kiwi flesh.
Secure rubber grip, no invasive cutting edge.   Dishwashersafe

Cuisinart Electric Spice & nut Grinder                              
Designed to grind dry spices, nuts and seeds.
From flax seeds, spelt, cloves and dried herbs
Grind to a fine consistency in a matter of seconds. Simply lock bowl into place and place lid on and press down to begin grinding. Stainless base and bowl
Spec $44.99

Tomato Saver                              Fox Run
No more Saran Wrap, protects tomato from other containers in fridge.
Simple to use, just screw top on and keep tomato safe.
Looks like a tomato too

Muffin Baking Cups                                  Cupcake Creations
No Muffin Pans required
Eco friendly, foodsafe,  heavy duty Paper baking cups
Just simply place the baking cups onto  a cookie sheet
And fill ½ full of your favorite recipe.
Oven, microwave and freezer safe
Available in muffin, jumbo muffin and muffin top sizes
Made in Sweden
$4.98 – $5.98 pkg  

Cupcake on the Go
Individual Cupcake Keepers
Simply twist the top off and place your iced cupcake
In it for safe transporting.
Great for lunchpacks and snacks.
$3.98 Each

Cuisipro Decorating Pen
Decorating Pen that quickly and easily dresses up desserts and
beverages with professional results. Option for fine or thick line
Simply pull up the plunger top to fill with sauces like chocolate,
Berry, honey or icing. Simply write like a pen and gently squeeze the pliable silicone body
to decorate. Great fun for everyone, even a child can use it
Spec  $9.49

Kitchen Basics Silicone Oven Mitts   Asstd colors
Heat resistant 220’C / 425’F Lined with polyester fibre
Spec $12.99 EACH

Ove Glove I also like the line of mitts called ‘The Ove Glove’, available at Canadian Tire and Home Hardware.  These are fully fingered gloves you slide on that are made of space age materials Nomex and Kevlar to protect you up to almost 500 degrees F and they also have silicon grip strips on the outside so nothing should slip out of your grasp. A little more expensive at $19.99 each

OXO Good Grips  “TOP” Containers
Secure seal keeps food and leftovers fresh and prevents liquids from leaking even during transports.
Unique lid seals with one motion just lift the white frame to open
Airtight, watertight, leakproof  seals
Freezer,microwave, dishwasher, foodsafe
Top containers stack efficiently to keep refrigerator and shelves organized.         BPA free

$3.98 – $12.98

Rouge O 2  Electronic  Wine Breather
Unexpected guests, forgot to decant the wine, or simply need another bottle of wine.  The Rouge O2 Is the perfect solution.
Aerate your wine in 60 seconds.  Reduces Breathing time from
1 hour to under 60 seconds in a controlled process.
Bubbling air passes thru the wine releasing its full bouquet and flavor.
Runs on 2 triple A batteries which can be used on over 230 bottles
It has an automatic mechanism to ensure correct breathing time
Approved by the Wine Industry.  Simple to use.
Spec $29.99

The Perfect Cube  Ice Tray
No more broken shards of ice, cubes pop out perfectly
In a Perfect square shape, Food grade silicone, dishwashersafe
S/2 for $21.98

Ice Orb                                 Fusionbrand
Make it / chill it / serve it / store it.
Serves as a cooler for dips, ice cream, salad, chills wine, champagne
and other beverages.         Makes 21 cubes of ice, stores 51 in total

Messermeister Peelers  Asstd Straight, Serrated, Julienne Edges
Bright colors, one for each edge, Green, Red, Orange
Spec $7.99

Cuisipro Stainless Cookware
Tri ply bonding : S/S interior, magnetic stainless exterior bonded to pure aluminum centre core
Suitable for all cooking surfaces, including induction
Ovensafe up to 260’C / 500’F
Quick read measure inside of pots.
Elongated hollow handles stay cool to the touch during stovetop  use. Ease of handling when pans are full.
Starting at $69.99 for Try me pieces

Breville Variable Temperature Kettle
1.8 L Stainless Kettle with a “HOLD TEMP” function.
Take the guesswork out of making tea and coffee
Different teas require different infusion temperatures to bring out their optimum  flavor and aroma. Pre-set temperatures with audible alerts
ensures the finest tasting tea with minimum effort.
5 preset brewing temperatures
Spec $119.99

Actifry_main T-Fal ActiFry

This is for die-hard French Fry lovers whose doctors have told them they have to cut down on the grease. This is a hot air cooker that rotates your fries in a non-stick drum.  You can cook a whole kilo of fries with only 1 tablespoon of oil.

Pros: much lighter in fat ‘fried’ foods that are still crispy, can use to ‘stir-fry’ other kinds of foods like chicken wings or drumsticks, or even stews.

Cons: Relatively noisy if you don’t have other sounds going on in the kitchen.  It’s slow.  1 kilo of fries takes about half an hour to cook.

Food Gifts:

When it comes to food gifts…you should have already made them!  I made all kinds of jams, jellies and preserves this summer, so I can just go into my pantry and come up with an amazing array of goodies to add to a gift basket.

But, if you don’t have that kind of stuff on hand, you might want to try your local craft fair or winter farmers market.  Or the Holiday Market that is on this Saturday, Dec. 12th, in Vancouver at the Croatian Cultural Centre on Commercial Drive.

Chocolate is always a safe bet, but please buy good quality chocolate. 

When making up a gift basket, go with the looks more than the quantity.  Don’t use a basket!  Use a funky looking colander, an old pot you can dress up, anything that will look a little more unusual.  Cheese boards or Charcuterie Boards are hot this year, try finding those from a local artisan, and then for gifts which are meant to be opened and/or consumed the day you deliver them, load them up with nice meats, cheeses and the accompaniments like dried fruits and nuts, grapes, compotes and mustards.

I will be talking about more gadgets on Friday at 8:20am on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition with Rick Cluff.

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2 Responses to Cookbook and Gadget Recommendations 2009

  1. Hi Don: Congratulations on the fabulous cookbook and gadget list. Here on Gabriola our kiwi’s are ready for picking and processing, so I am anxious to get my hands on the kiwi gadget. Like you we tend to make our gifts…this year, thanks to a bumper crop (in the back yard, front yard, all over the place, we made Blackberry Port…and you may recall this was the year for tutti fruiti which was a hit, if I do say so myself. Thanks for all of the work you do on this blog; it is appreciated. Tell Ramona, I am spending New Years day, making my signature lasagna, and will think of her (an you) as I do it. Cheers, Ardyth on Gabriola

  2. Hello All

    I really like the concept of Cook the Hood,and I would like to see it exported all over the world. The possibilities are endless – just imagine “for dummies” series, but for foodies.

    OK, on a more serious note now, health and healthy eating is something close to my heart,but boy do I love french fries! I’m never allowed to eat them because of their deep fried nature, but the T-Fal Actifry fixes this issue.

    Guess what is top of my wish list!



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