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May 6, 2010 Edition

Hot Sour Salty Sweet, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid


Take a culinary tour through the Mekong Delta region as the river winds down from China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and finally through Vietnam. Through photos, vignettes, and recipes, the husband-wife team presents readers with non-westernized versions of commonly eaten foods from rices and salads to soups and condiments. Following a brief history of the delta and the people who live along it is a clever chapter called “dishes for every occasion” with lists of tapas-style recipes, child-friendly meals, foods for feasts, vegetarian meals, and even breakfasts, helping cooks to find just the right recipe from within the chapters of soups, noodles, meats, desserts, and drinks. Endnotes include mail-order sources, a glossary of ingredients, and of course, an index.

How to Catch Salmon, Sturgeon, Lingcod, Rockfish, and Halibut Along the Pacific Coast, by Wayne Heinz


Hoping to win the derby this month but not sure how to start? Pick up some tips from this slim but very full book from a very detailed fisherman. The two major fishing sections on salmon and bottomfish include information on how line is made (you’ll understand why to buy the more expensive filament next time), how to choose (and when to use) flashers, downriggers, colored jigs, and leads. Learn how to get a halibut in the boat and how to net a salmon. And if your barndoor ‘but breaks your pole, find out where to get it repaired. Figure out your depth finder once and for all, and learn how fish really respond to light. This is almost as good as fishing with an experienced and knowledgeable friend (including the jokes!).

Well Preserved, by Mary Anne Dragan


This delightful book is full of mouth-watering photos and is written for those who have small quantities of produce at a time. Though there are some recipes for how to use what you’ve made, the bulk of the book is creating preserves. There are several rhubarb recipes (take a look at Rhubarb Renaissance if your garden is especially bountiful this year), and plenty of blueberry recipes too. The tastes range from fruit-based sweets (jams, jellies, conserves, sauces, and butters) to vinegar-based relishes, pickles, chutneys, and ketchups. Some recipes make as much as 9 cups, but most make 5 or 6 cups, perfect for a small family to enjoy with a few jars to share. (For more preserves, take a look at The Complete Book of Year-Round Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp.)

Asian Dining Rules, by Steven A. Shaw


Shaw is an enthusiastic and savvy eater of all foods, I suspect, but has chosen to write about several of the most common and yet tricky cuisines for Americans to come to terms with. Whether we are being rushed in Korean restaurants as we struggle to grill our barbecue and ration out our condiments, or left wondering why the food at the other table looks so different from our glow-in-the-dark pork, Shaw has the answer. He covers Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, and what he calls Southeast Asian (mostly Thai and Vietnamese) with flair and knowledge borne of much experience, and even takes a stab at clarifying the confusion that often surrounds names and spellings of dishes. There are plenty of asides, from an epiphany involving red wine and Japanese umami flavors to the many tastes of curry. Not everything here will be new information, but enough is to make this a worthwhile book to read to let you experiment with new cuisines with extra confidence and enjoyment.

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