Blue Water Café, C Food, The Main, Vancouver Cooks-2 and more

I adore my classic cookbooks. It’s wonderful having Elizabeth (David) and Julia in the kitchen and The Joy of Cooking on my shelf.  I’ve no quibble, though with the hip (mostly) young chefs, whose cookbooks made it on to my desk this year—nearly all of them Canadian, and mainly BC chefs who are singing the praises of local, seasonal, but above all, fresh.

I’ve prepped dishes from the following books.  The recipes are approachable; directions impeccable. (Having had the pleasure of enjoying the authors’ fare first-hand—I can vouch for their talents) Most, however, cater to a modicum of culinary savvy, and presume you know your way around a stove. Books waver between $30-$50. Keep your eyes open though, for bookstore and/or on-line offers.

BLUE WATER CAFE, by Frank Pabst, WEST, by Walter Geraghty and ARAXI, by James Walt

This hardcover trio from Jack Everensal’s Top Table group of celebrated chefs belongs, fittingly enough, on top of anyone’s coffee table. We love the fishy explanations in Blue Water Café and Pabst’s skill with seafood, transferred to the page, Walter Geraghty’s elegant approach in West. James Walt’s coddles you through Araxi’s recipes with reassuring words and straightforward technique. Keen cooks will take these right off the coffee table and into the kitchen.

C FOOD by Rob Clark and Harry Kambolis (C Restaurant)

What came first the camera or the cook? In this case, the camera. Photographer Hamid Attie’s brilliant eye became Rob Clark’s springboard for C FOOD. Though the food looks almost surreal against glossy black pages, Clark walks the cook through simple steps toward stunning results. (The roasted B.C sablefish with wildflower honey glaze atop sautéed Swiss chard is a case in point) Purchasing ready-made stocks, jellies or flatbreads will give the neophyte or in-a-hurry cook a leg up on some of the recipes. C Food also honours Kambolis’ and Clark’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly seafood. C Food is culinary art at its best.

The Main by Anthony Sedlak and French Taste by Laura Calder

These cookbooks hail from two of Food Network Canada’s many luminaries. (See also Rebecca Baugniet’s reviews of Fresh by Anna Olson and Michael Smith’s The Best of Chef at Home.)

The Main, as on the show, showcases a meal centered around a single item. (Sedlak’s section on ingredients is a terrific bonus). This delightful compendium boasts recipes that are modern, innovative yet down-home approachable. (Vancouverites eagerly await the overdue launch of the oh-so handsome Corner Suite Bistro Deluxe where Sedlak is anxious to turn his skills, boundless energy and attention to French-at-the-heart fare. City Hall has held the whole thing up for several months).

Laura Calder masters the art of elegant everyday eating in French Taste mirroring the recipes from the third season for her show, French Food at Home. She masters, for instance, Beef Bourguignon in a fraction of Julia Child’s time (and space) with equally rich results, and turns tourtiere from meat pie into a stuffed pastry “log” for easy slicing. Many recipes occupy a mere half a page, but cut the mustard—and the fat. Highly recommended for the home chef who wants to polish their French without a lot of fuss and muss.

The Pan Chancho Cookbook—compiled by Zoe Yanovsky.

Sadly, Kingston Ontario lost its much-loved Pan Chancho Bakery owners Zal Yanovsky and Rose Richardson to illness before the book was finished. Daughter Zoe, staff and friends banded together to get this terrific 230 page tome out there. The books is stuffed with recipes for bread, sumptuous desserts, main dishes, soups, salads and their dressings.

Pan Chancho’s mouth watering rustic recipes (Tuscan pork tenderloin and marinated Mediterranean tuna salad on olive/rosemary sourdough leap to mind) will get you cooking tout de suite. Published in Kingston by Bookmakers Press.

A Local Table – The Choices Market Cookbook by Desiree Nelson & Antonio Cerullo (Choices’ dietician and chef)

This practical book from Ladner’s own Choices Market(s) gathers good flavour and good health under one umbrella. Recipes, arranged according to seasonal crops, feature local producers, include nutritional facts, and are yummy to boot. For instance Jerk Chicken and Potato Salad weighs in under 400 calories and 8 fat grams. The Special Diets index tackls the challenges of those with gluten and nut allergies or folks concerned with salt intake. Vegetarians and Vegans learn how supplement meat and dairy. Coil bound for handy reading.

Alfalfabet  A to Z – The Wonderful Words from Agriculture by Carol Watterson

Whimsically illustrated, this slim volume will get kids clamouring to visit a farm or pot a few seeds. Gg for Gaggle of Giggling Geese educates kids about the birds while Nn (for nibbling nectar) tells them about bees. By the time you reach Zoom zoom zucchinis (Zz) your little one may dreaming of popping pea pods (Pp). Published by the British Columbia in the Classroom Foundation with links to other school programs and teaching resources.

Vancouver Cooks 2 compiled by the Chef’s Table Society Of British Columbia

This just in: My copy of Vancouver Cooks 2. A classy, updated release of Vancouver Cooks, launched five years ago mirrors perfectly Vancouver’s food scene. I can just see veterans John Bishop oven braising a festive venison ragout preceded by Fanny Bay Oyster soup and Tojo’s inspired Japanese touch with sablefish.

And I’m heading to the farmer’s market for spinach and swiss chard to make the minestrone verde from Cibo Trattoria’s Neil Taylor (EnRoute’s #1 pick for New Restaurant 2009).

The book’s unsung hero is Joan Cross, Vancouver 2’s recipe editor. She’s done a cracker-jack job of testing and tackling the daunting task of adapting seventy chefs’ dishes for the home cook.

A perfect gift for your the out-of-town guest whose best memories of travel are through its cuisine.

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