Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park

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National Cookie Day: Cookbook Recs

sweet-cookie-zabar-1Today is National Cookie Day, and we’re prepared with a few yummy cookbook recommendations.

1. Voracious by Cara Nicoletti: A cookbook for book lovers. There are a lot of different recipes here, but today we’re focusing on the brown butter chocolate chip cookies inspired by the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

2. One Sweet Cookie by Tracey Zabar: With titles like Todd’s favorite triple chocolate and walnut cookies, coconut-nutella-almond macaroons, and ginger citrus cookies, you know every recipe in here is a winner. The author has collected these recipes from a variety of experienced bakers.

3. Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich: Don’t you love it when the title of a book tells you exactly what’s inside? This huge cookie compendium is separated into sections based on the dessert’s texture: crispy, crunchy, chunky, chewy, gooey, flaky, and melt-in-your-mouth. No matter what kind of cookie you’re craving, this cookbook will help narrow your search. And it has plenty of helpful baking tips besides.

Bonus: The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by Lindsay Landis: Skip the oven and enjoy egg-free cookie batter in its raw state with these clever recipes. This librarian recommends immediately turning to the section entitled Indulgent Breakfasts for cookie dough pancakes, french toast, and waffles.

Bon appétit!

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Ăn: to Eat, by Helene An and Jacqueline An

an eatThis lovely Vietnamese-French fusion cookbook is also a family history of sorts, with 100 recipes that range from medium difficulty to hard. Rest assured that these meals are worth making, however; Helene An is an award-winning chef who lives in California and caters the most exclusive Hollywood events. Her main restaurant, Crustacean, is a high-end dining destination in Beverly Hills.

Jacqueline An sets out to chronicle her family’s history and her mother’s recipes, the two of which are so entwined that they’re almost the same thing. You’ll read about Helene and her husband’s harrowing escape from Saigon and their tentative first steps into the American restaurant business. It’s amazing to think that this world-renowned Vietnamese-fusion chef started out with a tiny Italian deli and slowly revitalized it by adding healthier food options. The new food coupled with Helene’s famous hospitality and masterful French cooking techniques quickly gained popularity, and a family business was born.

The book also contains an intriguing history of Vietnam and goes in-depth into the country’s culinary traditions. This alone made the book a worthwhile read for me. There’s a section on selecting and using certain kitchen tools like woks and rice cookers, as well as a section on basic techniques and the favors, uses, and health benefits of select herbs and spices.

I found the recipes to be a bit out of my microwave dinner skill set, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to try my hand at them some day. I did find at least one recipe to which the instructions were a bit unclear, but most of them seemed straight-forward enough. I especially liked the section on libations.

I don’t think I would buy this book, but it’s still a wonderful read and a great source for inspiration if you’re interested in fusion cooking.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Ăn: to Eat.

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Voracious by Cara Nicoletti

voracious nicolettiI can’t imagine a better title for this book. On Cara Nicoletti’s blog, Yummy Books, the butcher and former pastry chef writes: “There is nothing as engrossing as the eating of a truly great meal and nothing that nourishes my spirit quite like the reading of a good book.” Voracious proves that good food and good books have more in common than you might think.

In Voracious, you’ll find a smorgasbord of recipes inspired by Nicoletti’s favorite books, from the innocent brown butter chocolate chip cookies inspired by If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to the fiendish fava bean and chicken liver mousse inspired by The Silence of the Lambs. The recipes are creative and undoubtedly delicious, but it’s the literary commentary that makes Voracious a great read instead of just a cookbook. Nicoletti makes the chapters personal by poignantly describing how her chosen books not only inspired recipes but also how they impacted her life. I can’t remember ever reading a cookbook cover to cover like this, which makes Voracious something special.

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Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

Delancey_coverWho doesn’t love pizza?!  I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t like pizza in some form or fashion, and that includes the people I have met in Uganda and Guatemala. (Some of the best pizza I have eaten was in those two countries!) We all may have varying opinions as to what constitutes the perfect pizza, but we all love it.

This book is about an artiste, his search for the perfect pizza, and his dream of sharing it with the world. Molly Wizenberg tells the story of her husband, Brandon, and his passion to start a pizza restaurant in Seattle and how it changed their lives. Before I read this book I knew that starting a restaurant is a difficult and risky venture, but I did not know all that goes into developing even a seemingly simple thing like pizza dough.  In an unpretentious, engaging style, Molly shares the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and hopes and fears of their restaurant-opening journey. She also shares some fabulous recipes, some of which have been used at Delancey.

I really enjoyed this book and I think that you will, too.  Now I am looking forward to visiting Seattle again (I grew up there), and trying what sounds like an awesome pizza.  When I finally do make the trip, maybe I will even get to meet Molly and Brandon.  Since Seattle is over 3,000 miles away, it might take me a while to get back there.  In the meantime, I certainly have a new appreciation for all those whose drive and devotion enrich people’s lives, even through something as familiar as a piece of pizza.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Delancey.