October is one of my favorite months of the year - summer's heat and haze slowly gives way to cool, crisp nights and the fiery beauty of fall foliage. It also heralds the arrival of many outstanding new cookbook releases from major publishers in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. True to my stated goal of bringing you the latest and greatest in cookbook reviews, here are some of my favorite releases from this year's Cookbooktober offerings:
La Dolce Vita - Silvia Colloca (Oct 3, Australia)
Australian-based Italian cookbook author, TV show host, and soprano Silvia Colloca delights with her third cookbook La Dolce Vita, which delivers on its promise of healthy Italian dishes (including grain-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian / vegan options). I was initially skeptical that there were no advance photos or recipes (the book cost about $50 USD including shipping), but I breathed a sigh of relief to find that there were many recipes that appealed to me. Granted, I had been hoping for a few more vegetarian-friendly mains, but you'll find plenty of delicious options that will appeal to the whole family (there's even a chapter devoted to kid-friendly dishes!).
Molly on the Range: : Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm (Oct 4)
I first learned of blogger and classical musician Molly Yeh and her fantastic blog My Name is Yeh through her scallion pancake challah on a Jewish food Facebook feed. Having lived in Taiwan for six months last year (and tasted Chef Joanne Chang's scallion pancake during a Flour Too workshop), I'm crazy about anything resembling a scallion pancake. As an experienced challah and yeast bread baker, I rose to the challenge and loved the melding of flavors and traditions. Molly's unique Chinese-Jewish background leads to some inspired fusion, and the recipes in "Molly on the Range"
Charming illustrations make this tremendously fun to read as well as cook from. Molly's prose at times summons childhood nostalgia (the recipe for hot dogs and cheese being one such childhood creation) to grown-up delights (walnut-crusted brie mac and cheese) while the recipes incorporate a delicious blend of international influence (hummus, pita, Israeli salad, kale kachapuri) and Jewish comfort foods (matzoh brei, blintzes, challah, mandel bread, etc.).
Istanbul Cult Recipes (06 Oct)
From the gorgeous gold-embossed cover to the unique black-and-white cartoons, "Istanbul Cult Recipes" is a fantastic love song to the city. True to Turkish cuisine, the bulk of the recipes are for meze, including a vibrant beetroot couscous, chopped salad with walnuts, and purslane salad, kebabs, pilavs, and veg-friendly mains (lentil kofte, hot salads, black-eyed peas with tomato, sarma, etc.). The street food chapter introduced me to some new favorites (I had no idea that giant baked potatoes were popular outside the US), while the "Sweet Things" chapter doesn't disappoint with kadayif, kunefe, muhallebi, kurabiye, lokma, Turkish delight and baklava. I loved the pumpkin dessert and baked quince ideas. The illustrated pastries and condiments, grains and pulses, and dried herbs and spices charts were also tremendously helpful. Recipes are listed in metric / US volume / US weight measurements, which I greatly appreciated (more and more UK titles are doing this thankfully!). The recipes themselves are simple and straightforward, and most don't require extensive prep or cooking time, making it easy to prepare several dishes to be served together, as is the tradition in Turkey.
Traditional Jewish Baking: Retro Recipes Your Grandma Would Make… If She Had a Mixer (11 Oct)
Israeli cookbook author and TV host Carine Goren's first major translation from Hebrew features her signature retro style and delicious, reliable baked goods that pay tribute to delicious cakes, cookies, and desserts like bubbie used to make. From gorgeously marbled lekachs to elaborate puddings, layered kataifi, elegant swan cream puffs and more, each recipe has been updated and tested for today's modern kitchens without losing the spirit and love of the originals. Recipes come with helpful "Grandma Knows Best" sidebars with the wisdom of our elders (such as soaking poppyseeds in boiling water or milk before adding to batter; this keeps them from absorbing too much liquid and resulting in a dry cake). My Polish grandmother was an amazing baker who often "baked by feel" and rarely wrote down recipes for her Old-World-Style desserts, and I'd been looking forward to this release for the last six months hoping it captured the feel of her baking. Yes, it was definitely worth the wait and I'll be giving away a copy in the near future; stay tuned!
Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe (11 Oct)
Chef Ana Sortun and Executive Pastry Chef Maureen Kilpatrick collect some of Sofra Cafe's most beloved breakfast bakes, hot and cold meze, dip and spreads, stuffed flatbreads, and a tempting array of desserts in "Soframiz." (see my full review here). For my review, I tested several of the breads, desserts, and meze. If you're a fan of Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, you'll definitely want to add "Soframiz" to your collection.
Persepolis: Vegetarian Recipes from Peckham, Persia and Beyond (13 Oct)
Sally Butcher's previous books Veggiestan, Snackistan, and Salamagundi are absolute staples in my vegetarian household, so I was over the moon when my friend Marlena Spieler mentioned that Sally had a new book out. Sally's husband is Persian and she runs a Persian / Middle Eastern grocery / deli, and Persepolis includes many of her favorite dishes inspired by Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Interlink is releasing a North American version as well. Gorgeous plated dishes will inspire you to try some of the unusual dishes within.
Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking--Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka (25 Oct)
Uri Scheft, the powerhouse behind Breads Bakery in NYC, demystifies Breads' famous babka, challah, and Jewish pastries and desserts in "Breads." You'll find both Ashkenazi and Sephardic favorites such as burekas (cheese, egg, potato, spinach), stuffed breads, shakshuka, Middle Eastern dips and spreads, and elegant pastries and cookies. True to its promise of Israeli-style baking, you'll find krembos, Yemenite z'chug, firey relishes, and that binding force, hummus. Fans of Breads and those in search of perfect babka or challah need look no further - the rum raisin challah is calling my name!
The Zen Kitchen: Easy Japanese Recipes for Home Cooks (Oct 25)
Australian-based chef, TV host and cookbook author Adam Liaw is one of my favorites for Asian cuisine, and his latest cookbook "The Zen Kitchen" doesn't disappoint. Here he demystifies homestyle Japanese dishes like Salt-grilled Salmon, Teriyaki Pork and Mushroom Rolls, Sukiyaki, Sashimi Salad, and Green Tea Roll Cake for the average Western home cook with delicious results.