Monday, January 13, 2014

Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors

by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise
 Workman     2013
409 pages     Cookbook

Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors is a beautiful cookbook, as interesting to read as it is to cook from. The authors are chefs and long-time cookbook and cooking collaborators, but the book is much more than an interesting cookbook. It is also the story of how American cooking got its start and how it has evolved to its current eclectic state.

They say: "Although we both grew up with largely conventional cooking, like most Americans we had on our platters a smattering of diverse legacies and comestibles. As individuals we encompass the sort of generic hodgepodge that characterizes most Americans. . .In Bold, we bring the elements of all our and the country's culinary legacies to our cooking as we delight in sharing our part in America's changing food consciousness."

I particularly like the looks of the appetizer recipes, primarily because they are a combination of things that I wouldn't expect would be put together--such as beets, chickpeas, and almonds in a dip served with pita or edamame bruschetta. (I'm not sure that ten years ago I even knew what edamame was.) 

Graphically, the book is beautiful. There are no pictures of finished dishes, which some cooks like to have, but the pictures are scarcely missed because the design makes the book as appealing as the recipes.

The most interesting parts of the book are the origins of how certain foods came to be part of our palates. As an example, buried deep in the book is an entire page focused on celery in Kalamazoo. At one time it was the celery capital of the United States. Not so much anymore. There are a couple of farmers who have celery at the farmer's market, and I always buy it from them, just to keep the heritage going.

I tried two recipes and marked many more to try. I made the oven beef stew with kalamata olives and payloads of garlic. The recipe combined everything my husband really likes--beef, olives, and garlic. I served it over mashed potatoes and it was really delicious. The olives gave it a unique flavor. The other recipe we tried and enjoyed was crowded chowder with cod, shrimp, and corn. I don't make many chowders, but we really liked this one and the cod was delicious cooked in small pieces.

At Christmas time, my sister and I had a conversation with our grandchildren about the foods we never tried until we were adults, because we grew up in the Midwest, where there was very little food influence from cultures other than German, English, and Scandinavian. For instance, I never had a taco until I was about 21. And we could both remember the first time we tasted pizza. The kids were amazed. I also remember traveling to Greece and eating feta cheese for the first time on a  Greek salad. When I tried to find feta cheese in Kalamazoo to duplicate the recipe, I couldn't find it anywhere. Now feta cheese is ubiquitous. In the book Bold, all those elements of world cuisine are combined to make new, truly American tastes. 

One reviewer says: "Thanks to its combination of storytelling and well-written recipes, Bold will appeal both to people who read cookbooks as if they were novels and to adventurous cooks. They layer flavors in unexpected ways without succumbing to preciousness." Bold would be a great gift book for your favorite cook.

A cookbook blog review:

No comments: