It’s big (6 volumes, 2,438 pages, ~43 lbs, ~4 lbs of ink), it’s comprehensive, it has absolutely stunning photography, it has recipes for the home cook (with a few new pieces of equipment), and I OWN IT. No, I haven’t read Modernist Cuisine from cover to cover yet, but I have looked at the pictures. I mean amazing photographs. I mean works of art. This set of books takes food photography to the next level using techniques that include cut-away images where pots, a wok, a pressure cooker and even a Weber grill are cut in half so that you can see a cross section of the food while it’s cooking. Not to mention the advanced printing technique and high quality paper that provides incredible quality and depth to each shot, making it hard to tear your eyes from the page.
Photography aside, at its core, Modernist Cuisine is a cookbook, and a detailed one at that. From preparation techniques to the how and why of different cooking methods and of course, recipes, these books are meant to be used and not solely looked at. It may debunk some commonly held beliefs (a steak will cook faster and not have to rest as long if you flip it every 15 seconds instead of just once), but it has the science to prove it.
The authors, Dr. Nathan Mhyrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, with a team of over 20 chefs, have created an unparalleled resource that will make us think about food in new ways for years to come. Of course there are chefs already using these “modernist” techniques, but Modernist Cuisine makes them accessible to the home cook and helps everyone understand fundamental food science.
Is a set of baking and pastry books next? We can only sit down with a cup of coffee, crack open volume one and keep our fingers crossed (to make your best cup of Joe see vol 4, chapter 18).
Do you know:
- The difference between Red Snapper, Lane Snapper and Yellowtail Snapper?
- How to prep Passion Fruit?
- How to make Peach Melba?
The Illustrated Cook’s Book of Ingredients provides info on most of the foods you’ve heard of, and with 2,500 ingredients, there are probably at least 1,000 that you haven’t. Each ingredient has a picture, background info and how to buy, store, eat and pair with other food. It’s the perfect go-to book for new foods, new techniques and new ideas.
Have you ever wanted to make a recipe but you were missing one of the ingredients? With the new book Substituting Ingredients by Becky Sue Epstein, your meal can move forward without a hitch. This book provides substitutions for herbs, types of fish, meat and beans, eggs, vegetables and fruit, just to name a few. There are also helpful “equivalency” tips throughout the book, such as how many limes you will need for two tablespoons of juice (answer: 1).
The back of the book has measurement equivalents (i.e. 1/4 cup = 4 Tablespoons), household cleaning formulas, and remedies for cooking disasters. The disaster section is a must-see part of the book for anyone who is cooking for someone else and all of a sudden realizes the stove is on too high, or there’s too much salt in the soup.
Soon your friends will be calling you for substitution emergencies before their next party!
If you’re still working on your New Years resolution to slim down, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re eating. Literally. In his book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink writes about studies he’s performed about food choices including eating stale popcorn and eating extra food because you bought it in bulk.
A few of his tip to cut calories include:
- Use smaller plates.
- At restaurants think about eating slower, splitting an appetizer and having the bread basket make an early exit.
- Give up an extra cookie or soda each day. 10 extra calories per day can lead to a pound of weight gain in a year.
- One healthy change today can lead to unpredictable healthy choices in the future.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on”. A few lifestyle changes can bring new meaning to the term mindless eating!