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Cookbooks: New England

Cookbooks: New England
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In our world, Jasper White is the king of New England. We may be a bit deferential, but this is the chef who made anadama bread, clam chowder, and johnnycakes cool again after years of embarrassing teases that New England food was no good. His latest, The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food (W. W. Norton & Company), breaks down oceanside cooking from Maine to the Caribbean into 11 easy-to-digest chapters. There are plenty of recipes, most of them seafood, but Jasper also offers instructions on gutting, scaling, and filleting fish; an illustrated guide to a variety of fish and shellfish; and good advice on preparing potentially challenging shellfish such as lobster and crab.
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“We have deep roots in this warm soil of Italy, which brought forth a goodly tithe of what is best in our own lives, in our arts and aspirations,” wrote British author Norman Douglas in Old Calabria, and these are the words cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins uses to begin Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking (William Morrow). Nancy’s fifth cookbook focuses on the cuisine, culture, and history of Italy’s Mezzogiorno region (Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Campgana, and Puglia). While Nancy, who divides her life between the Maine coast and Italy, offers mouthwatering recipes, it’s her keen eye as a social historian that makes this book not just good eating but a fascinating and enlightening read. Most recipes include a short list of ingredients, with an emphasis on freshness and seasonality, simply prepared. Tomatoes, olive oil, lemons, and fresh herbs are the key players; Nancy puts them to good use, with clear instructions for delectable dishes such as lemon-and-garlic chicken from the Sorrento peninsula, Neapolitan pot roast, and Sicilian-style stuffed eggplant. Brava.
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New Hampshire resident and PBS television show host Mary Ann Esposito cooked up book number 10 this year with Ciao Italia Slow and Easy (St. Martin’s Press). Watching her on TV, we trust Mary Ann’s careful and friendly instructions, and her “nonna-esque” delivery translates well in this collection of hearty braises, stews, and casseroles. She also offers us a culinary tour, with recipes from up and down the coasts, mountains, and plains of Italy. Most of her recipes are one-pot wonders, such as an impressive tiella di cozze (mussel casserole), comforting conchiglioni ripieni (ragu-stuffed shells), and her Mediterranean take on chicken potpie.
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The folks at Boston’s Oldways Preservation Trust, perhaps the most influential and forward-thinking nutrition resources, have been circling the globe for decades doing their part to help us all eat a little better — not just food that tastes good, but foods and foodways that are good for us and the environment. The fruit of their labor is The Oldways Table: Essays & Recipes from the Culinary Think Tank by K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott (Ten Speed Press). Recipes have been gathered from Oldways’ far-reaching network of friends — from Greece and Turkey to Costa Rico and Mexico — including New Englanders Sam Hayward, Marian Morash, and Molly Stevens.
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Known for its comfy inn, award-winning cheddar cheese, stunning landscape, and sustainably raised ingredients from its 1,400 acres, Shelburne Farms now has a cookbook to add to its list of accolades: Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont by Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli (Viking Studio). The book’s 100-plus recipes are based on nine Vermont-grown ingredients — including dairy, maple syrup, apples, and pork — and the accompanying stories are those of the hard-working farmers, foragers, and artisans who bring these products to market.
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Updated Monday, October 15th, 2007

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