Introducing the monthly Cooking The Books column for lovers of words and food! The food desk will shop the bookstores for gems to feed our voracious appetite for the new, novel and inspirational to help us be better foodies and cooks.
The NoMad Cookbook
Authors: Daniel Humm & Will Guidara
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Price: RM370 from Kinokuniya Bookstores
Standing on a nondescript corner on Broadway in New York City, looking up at a 12- or 13-storey building with a bronze Florentine dome, Daniel Humm, with Will Guidara, asked Jeff Tascarella: “What if, right here, we took the idea of the grand New York hotel and built a new one, from scratch? A place where people could come to stay in a beautiful room, to have an amazing meal, to have drinks, to socialise, to rest, to party – a hotel that could define a neighbourhood.”
That was how the NoMad started, now with Tascarella running it. This book is the story of NoMad, specifically, its one Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s a restaurant cookbook plus a little book of illustrated cocktail recipes hidden in a built-in Prohibition-era book safe in the back cover. Really cool.
The cocktail recipes are by NoMad bartender Leo Robitschek who gave up medical school for a life “behind bars”, creating original recipes inspired by the NoMad kitchen and, like the kitchen, making everything fresh and from scratch.
This is chef Humm and Guidara’s third and latest book, out late in 2015. You can’t talk about NoMad without mentioning its elder sibling, the more formal and fine dining three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park (EMP) on Madison Avenue in New York, for NoMad stands for “north of Madison Park”. Oh, there is a folded map – more of an architect’s grand plan – of the area tucked into a paper pocket in the front cover like a library card pocket.
The book is a peek behind the curtain at NoMad – all that you wanted to know and more. It’s about people in love with history and the story of great hotels and great hotel bars.
Regular diners are thrilled the book features the recipe of the restaurant’s rock-your-socks, awesome, whole roasted chicken dish that is stuffed with foie gras, black truffles, and brioche (priced at US$79). In fact, the book has five recipes for whole-roasted chicken; a basic recipe followed by one for each season because, at the NoMad, “the whole roasted chicken has become a very important dish”.
I like the fact that the recipes are quietly revolutionary. Take desserts (recipes by Mark Welker): You will find recipes for cakes but you won’t find them served in slices.
Cakes are broken off like pieces of sponge and served as part of a plated dessert – usually with fruits. Carrot cake lumps plated with carrot puree, carrot tops, pickled raisins, walnut brittle, cream cheese, and pineapple sorbet. Cookies and Cream are croquettes of vanilla ice cream quenelles coated with chocolate cookie crumbs and frozen.
If you think this book is pricey, think again. It’s a hefty tome containing much of a critically acclaimed restaurant’s recipes, in concise and clear steps that you can easily reproduce if you know something about cooking and baking. While the recipes are do-able and accessible, they are not 30-minute affairs and are not for the faint-hearted or irresolute.
Warning: For those who love beautifully crafted books, it can be hard not to take this handsome book home once you pick it up – the pictures are beautiful, with deep, rich, vibrant colours. The food looks clean, sharp and precisely cooked – just the sort you want to eat now, with loads of vegetables in great variety on each plate – and not a lot of flowers. And on dessert plates, lots of fruits. The plating is natural and uncontrived, but perfect. Yes, everything looks perfect and artful.
Another plus point – the measures are given in metric, unusual for a cookbook out of the US of A. Humm, of Swiss origin, says it’s for precision and also that’s how they do it in their kitchens.
My one wish is that they had gone metric with the cocktails as well. Ugh, what’s an ounce? – Julie Wong
My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes For Every Season
Author: Sarah Britton
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Price: RM106.90 from Kinokuniya Bookstores
Sarah Britton’s hugely popular My New Roots blog (500,000 followers every month) has now blossomed into a full-blown cookbook. Dubbed the “queen bee of the health blogs” by the famed Bon Apetit magazine, Britton shows just why she deserves the title in this hugely entertaining book.
But first, let’s get something out of the way: this is a completely vegetarian cookbook. No meat at all, not even a peek! Rest assured, though, even the most avowed of carnivores will find something that appeals to their vegetarian spirit.
Britton’s delicious-looking recipes are prefaced by delightful introductions that are deeply personal and, like her, come across as very genuine. And nearly all the recipes include accompanying pictures (beautifully photographed, by the way), which helps add to the allure.
While I don’t always find myself drawn to vegetarian recipes, there are some real goodies in here. Like the Oyster Mushroom Bisque, Coconut Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich, Tangerine Tahini Sauce and Blood Orange Chocolate Cake, all of which look mouth-watering.
In the same vein, there might be things that don’t naturally appeal to readers, like the White Chocolate Hemp Sauce(!).
The back of the book includes tips on how to replace mass produced flour, rice, sweeteners, and other ingredients with substitutes like buckwheat, barley malt, and black rice, obviously part of Britton’s plan to further educate readers.
The only realistic downside to the book is that some of the ingredients might be harder to track down here, like the maca powder and orange flower water.
Ultimately though, if you’re interested in kicking off 2016 on a healthy note and want to really explore life on the vegetarian side, this is the book for you. – Abirami Durai
Food Of Taiwan
Author: Cathy Erway
Price: RM119.90 from Kinokuniya Bookstores
Been to Taiwan and love the food? This book brings you the recipes. Or if you are planning a holiday there, get first dibs on the food – and scenery, culture, and eating habits – here. And discover Taiwan first through its recipes.
Taiwanese eaters are almost as concerned with texture as they are with taste, says Erway, a Taiwanese- American.
They are attracted to springy and bouncy edible things like tapioca pearls and all kinds of tightly-bound fish and meat cakes, and even have a word to describe it: the single letter “Q”.
To make the cook blush you just have to gush “So Q!” to imply that the dish has excellent texture.
There are such surprising concoctions as a pineapple and bitter melon chicken soup. Or soaking crispy-fried spareribs in wintermelon soup before enjoying them. And the bizarrely named Coffin Cake, a thick slice of Japanese bread cut to flap over like the lid of a coffin. It is made by deep-frying a square of bread and carving a lid so the bread opens like a coffin or book and filling the moat created with a creamy corn, squid and chicken concoction similar to corn chowder. Hmm ... sounds like baby Dracula’s favourite grub.
But let me tell you about this Taiwanese street burger that comprises red-braised pork belly stuffed between a Chinese steamed bun along with chopped pickled mustard greens (kiam chai) and topped with crushed roasted peanuts. The idea is both weird and wonderful!
There is really a lot to discover between the covers of this book. At first unimpressed by the unfetching layout and default typeface, I was loving it by the last page. And I love the honesty of the pictures.
The most encouraging thing about it is that the recipes are really easy and the ingredients needed are readily found in our pantries and markets. What kills some of the joy is that not every recipe comes with a picture of the dish. Cathy, we need that! – JW
Cooking The Books is a monthly column featuring interesting publications about anything and everything food-related. If you’ve come across a good book or want us to review a book, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you find this article insightful?