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cookbook reviews + kitchen favs: for the men & tarts

by Grace Bonney

This week we have a double feature for In the Kitchen With, so we are also doubling the fun here. For product picks, we have Penny De Los Santos‘ kitchen favorites as well as Aran Goyoaga‘s favorites. For cookbook picks, we have two groups the first will be for the men to go along with Chef Nick Mueller’s great Southern recipe, and the second part will be savory baking for Aran’s savory tart and soup. There are some great books in here, including a fantastic gluten free resource for savory and sweet baking using almond flour! –Kristina


CLICK HERE for the cookbook reviews and both sets of kitchen product favs after the jump!

First up: Kitchen favorites from this week and last week’s “In the Kitchen With” cooks!

[Images above, Aran’s kitchen favorites. From left to right: old boards and crates, ceramics from gleena, vintage flatware and utensils. Aran also loves silicon mats and pans, and a great chef’s knife]

[Penny de los Santos’ picks, from left to right: microplane fine grater, kitchenaid immersion blender, henkel brand chef’s knife, a molcajete (similar to shown) passed down from my grandmother to my mother then to me, anewly bought orange kuhn rikon paring knife]

For the Men: When I’m putting together the ITKW column, the most frequent answer I get from men is “I don’t cook!” This week’s titles are by men- to for all the men who don’t cook but would like to, who don’t cook but whose loved ones would like for them to, or who do cook and want more inspiration…

Jamie’s America (Michael Joseph): Since American food gets a lot of negative press, I was curious to see how it would be treated by popular British Chef Jamie Oliver. I must say that in true Jamie Oliver style –including fantastic photography by David Loftus— the book does a fantastic treatment of US cuisine, tying it to the cultural origins of the dishes when possible. The book is divided into geographic regions, starting with New York, going to Louisiana, Arizona, Los Angeles, Georgia, and the “Wild West” (Wyoming and Montana). My favourite section is of course New York, because the collection of recipes is like living a week on take-out in New York– good take out. Seem like an oxymoron? Try it and let me know what you think! You can find out more about the accompanying TV program by visiting Jamie’s site for clips and episode guides.

The Ultimate Student Cookbook by Fiona Beckett, Signe Johansen, Guy Millon, James Ramsden (Absolute Press) We saw Tiffany Goodall’s Student Cookbook earlier this month. Fiona Beckett’s version is a bit more advanced, has more diverse recipes from basic dishes to more complex, yet still caters to those with minimal kitchen skills, with a focus on small budgets. This book teaches you how to cook with no pre-cooked ingredients. The three student chefs who co-authored the book (two of whom are male!) share their insights and provide advice on making budget-conscious substitutions. It is the result of a thriving online student community. Guy’s story about the importance of kitchen safety has made an indelible impression on me. It’s a perfect starter cookbook.

My Kitchen by James Martin (Collins). Divided into seasons, this beautifully photographed book provides simple recipes. You can jump in and start cooking from your current season without worrying about not finding certain ingredients. The recipes cover all courses evenly, favoring red meat (beef and fennel koftas, potted salt beef with gherkins, rack of lamb with vegetable broth) dishes. There are plenty of easy dishes (pumpkin soup with chestnut cream, leek and potato soup, pancakes with pistachio gremolata) as well. Martin’s focus is on ingredients, not calories, so this book falls into my Sunday lunch category, when I tend to prepare a heavier meal.

relaxed cooking with curtis stone by Curtis Stone (Clarkson Potter Publishers). This is a well-rounded seafood-fruit-vegetable dominant book, and in this way perhaps could be seen as a complement to Martin’s book, one you’d use during the week for lighter fare. It is exactly as the title says—relaxed cooking. The recipes are very easy to make, with no special techniques or ingredients required: Watermelon with mint and lime, pan-fried calamari with roasted asparagus salad, crispy vegetable fritters, and Greek doughnuts are only a few of the recipes which exemplify Stone’s relaxed cooking. Unfortunately the glossy pages detract considerably from Quentin Bacon‘s great photography and make the book heavy and hard to deal with. Otherwise, it truly is a gem!

Need more Southern recipes? Try A Gracious Plenty by John T. Edge or The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.

[Quick note from Grace: my favorite southern cookbook of all time is Frank Stitt’s Southern Table– it’s seriously worth checking out!}

For the bakers: To accompany Aran’s savory recipes this week, I’ve put together a few titles which may help those of you curious to try more tarts. There’s even a book with gluten free recipes!

Pastry: Savory and Sweet by Michel Roux (published by John Wiley & Sons). Many consider this to be one of the end all be all books on pastry. It covers everything with a baked crust: tarts, pasties, brioche, pizza, and beyond. Its small size ensures easy handling, and the notes in the beginning which explain a bit about how the ingredients have been measured are indispensable. Weights provided are imperial and metric– I’d opt for the metric, given that that’s Roux’s “native language”. Photographs illustrate procedure as well as consistency of the dough along the way. After trying some of these recipes (classic pie dough for empanadas, pate brisee for croutades of seasonal vegetables, pate sucree for lemon tart), you’ll be ready to throw a party or open your own shop.

Mrs. Rowe’s little book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan (Ten Speed Press). Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and Bakery have co-authored this book to share the recipes which help them sell over 100 pies a day in their restaurants. I’ve never eaten at Mrs. Rowe’s, but am a bit biased when it comes to Southern pies…I think Southerners do it better. There is a recipe for every Southern pie you can think of — pecan, apple, peach, coconut cream, banana cream, cherry, blueberry, Key Lime, pumpkin, sweet potato, shoofly… I could cut mix and eat icebox/frozen pie chapter out of the book though. If you crave pies, need good crust recipes, you’ll be interested in Mrs. Rowe’s little book.

I am learning so much by reading the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam (Celestial Arts). I find myself yet again with a bit of difficulty finding some of the ingredients in Italy (I brought agave nectar and xanthan gum back from London two weeks ago, but still need to find grapeseed oil and affordable coconut oil!). Amsterdam’s book provides savory and sweet recipes for celiacs and those who are gluten-intolerant, with the added bonus that she also uses all natural ingredients with an eye toward controlling glycemic levels, so diabetics may also indulge. The recipes include notes on sweetness factor and there are interesting introductory notes comparing almond flour’s nutritional qualities to other flour types. Thanks to Annabelle Breakey’s photography, I can’t wait to try the carrot cake, chocolate cake, and savory pie crust. If you have used this book and have any tips, please share!

Last but not least is Savory Baking by Mary Cech (Chronicle Books). I love the idea of taking anything savory and putting it into a ‘crisp, crumbly, or flaky pastry’. Onion, fennel, and orange upside down shortcake? Winter squash, brown butter, and sage souffles? Walnut rugelach with parmesan? White cheddar-zucchini pancakes? If any of these sound amazing to you, this is a book to check out! It is divided into pastry type (quick breads, flaky pastries, puff pastries, rustic dishes, etc.) and there is even a chapter on sides– chutneys, spreads, sauces. Chronicle Books is always thorough in its treatment of everything you need to know (ingredients, equipment, technique) to make their books work perfectly, and this book is no exception. In fact, I owe my baking enthusiasm in large part to many successful first attempts made with their books!

Suggested For You


  • The Jamie Oliver ‘American Roadtrip’ TV show is fantastic… it has just aired on UK television and has made me want to come and sample the huge variety of US cuisine so badly… mmm, slow cooked southern pork!!!

  • Jamie Oliver consistently puts out the most beautiful (and useful) cookbooks. His cookbook based on his travels in Italy is my FAV, I often find myself just flipping through the pages, ogling the beautiful landscapes and sumptuous food. He makes me WANT to cook, and that is a good thing.

  • @emily you should!! Start in NY!!

    Jamie runs a class act and has done the right thing by getting David Loftus to do all his photography everywhere!! The NY chapter is amazing! I tried to resist getting the book, but broke down when I was in London a few weeks ago.

    But the other books are great too, though!!

  • @Emily, you’ve got some amazing food in the UK too. Somehow nothing tastes as good as the clotted cream there!

    I too love Jamie Oliver but for some reason never use his cookbook at home. I feel like he’s pounding fish and throwing stuff around so much (while making it look fun and easy) that I’d NEVER do it with such effortlessness. Anyone have that hurdle?

  • @Lydia not at all! In fact, the recipes are not just good from a food point of view but from a technical point of view. They are incredibly easy, even the first time around.

    You’ll never know if you don’t try!

  • I have three of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks and use them all the time. I do choose the less intense recipes. Several have become regular dishes in our house. Try his first one, “The Naked Chef” for more simple recipes. Jamie’s Italy is also fantastic. Can’t wait to pick up Jamie’s America and add it to my collection!

  • I’m a Jamie Oliver fan, can always find a great recipe when needed in his books or on his website – HOWEVER, now I’ve seen the very cute James Martin above am buying his book!

  • The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook is a definite hit. The savory pie crust was delicious and the Thai Fish Cakes will be appearing on the menu often. This is gluten free with flavor and nutrition, not the anemic, starchy fakes we celiacs are used to.

  • You don’t know how stoked I am to see The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook here! Thank you Design Sponge for the extra help with gluten-free awareness!
    I was a skeptic and thought that the blanched almond flour would be heavy, but in some miraculous way it is not. Even people that aren’t on special diets really enjoy the items I’ve made from this book. I’m addicted to the olive and rosemary bread. It is mostly almond butter! Just get over the extra task of buying your blanched almond flour online. The recipes have to be made with the special blanched flour to work. I finally invested in some and it is totally worth it. So many gluten-free books are just full of refined rice flours, etc. This one is truly different. Low carb too.

    Here is a photo of the chocolate chip scones (with recipe), another favorite of mine in the book, but I made them double chocolate:


  • Oh boy! A gluten free cookbook that doesn’t rely soley on white rice flour (blech!).

    As adventurous as I am in the kitchen with GF creations, its also nice to have a tried and true standby when you don’t want to place scientist.


  • I bought the Almond Flour Cookbook on this recommendation, and it is truly terrible. Everything turns out overly gooey, and it just doesn’t quite rise like it should. The pancakes were beyond gross, just blobs that managed to be both burned and raw at the same time. I’m selling my copy back.