Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann take a similar approach in Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes From an Organic Farm (Random House, $45)—except this duo's book includes short ribs. A Lumií¨re alumnus, Crump focuses on his forays into the fields that feed Ancaster Old Mill, the Ontario restaurant where he is executive chef.
Crump and his pastry chef, Schormann, aim to encourage people to cook with ingredients that ripen in their own region. They urge readers to see what's at the market and then turn to the book for how to cook it. Consequently, Earth to Table also lays out recipes by season: in the spring, gnudi (dumplings) with ramps, morels, and fiddleheads, for example, and in the fall, white truffle risotto with cauliflower. The emphasis is on slow food, and there are no promises of fast and easy. Those not up to the task will enjoy poring over stories and photos of the pair and their suppliers, and profiles of other chefs who cook farm-to-table, including Thomas Keller.
Conversely, time is of the essence in Quick From Scratch Italian Cookbook (Food & Wine, $29.95). Part of Food & Wine magazine's cookbook series, this is one to pull out on a weeknight. Each recipe tantalizes with a full-page photo, and boy does the food look good. Ingredients are straightforward, as are instructions for dishes like polenta with meat sauce, or linguine with tuna, walnuts, lemon, and herbs. Plus, each recipe comes with a wine pairing; those Italians know how to live, even on weeknights. But these dishes are also gorgeous enough for company: witness lamb chops with garlic and olive oil, or roast chicken with butternut squash.
With contributions from 70 local chefs, Vancouver Cooks 2 (Douglas & McIntyre, $40) is full of recipes that are designed to impress. The second Vancouver Cooks book from the Chefs' Table Society of B.C. features contributions from pioneers like John Bishop and a new generation of talent, including Melissa Craig from Whistler's Bearfoot Bistro. Most of these recipes are definitely not for weeknight cooking; rather, they're for leisurely days when you want to re-create the tastes of Boneta or DB Bistro Moderne at home rather than eating out. Offerings include barbecued Peking duck soup with homemade won tons from Rob Feenie; renkon gyoza from Hapa Izakaya's Masaaki Tsujimoto; and stuffed boneless Cornish game hen with escargot ragout from Pino Posteraro.
She may not be a celebrity chef, but Gesine Bullock-Prado is the sister of a celebrity. That's both a blessing and a curse, as we learn in Confections of a Closet Master Baker (Broadway, $29.95). After doing the Hollywood thing for years as the head of Sandra Bullock's production company, Bullock-Prado got sick of the stars and decided she'd rather work with butter. Her memoir relates how she moved to Vermont to open a patisserie specializing in her now-famous macaroons. (“Sandy” once name-dropped the cookies to InStyle magazine and worked cash on the store's opening day.)
Bullock-Prado has a unique story, and she punctuates each chapter with a recipe from her shop like Devil's Cream Pie or Maple Pecan Sticky Buns. But in addition to the weak writing, the problem is that the book concentrates on life after her career shift rather than before. We get copious amounts of detail on her daily routine running the bakery. (Wake up at 3:30 a.m., feed the dogs, make coffee, et cetera.) But we'd rather learn more about why she made the career change. Let's face it: the Hollywood connection is why we're reading.
Confections qualifies as a guilty pleasure—even if it's not so much for the author's mother's plum cake recipe but because Sandra Bullock loves it too. As Bullock-Prado writes, baking makes people happy. So does a good dose of gossip.