New cookbook roundup: Grab a glass and dream!

07/30/2014 12:00 AM

07/29/2014 5:02 PM

It’s time for another cookbook roundup, and since it’s summer, I’ve kept the selections short, sweet and to the point.

Knife Skills: An Illustrated Kitchen Guide to Using the Right Knife the Right Way, by Bill Collins, Storey Basics: Books for Self-Reliance, $9.95, 106 pages. Pretty straightforward pocket-size book detailing the knives every cook should have in the home.

Stressing the need to not go overboard with fancy gadgets, Collins lays out the idea that the home cook really needs only two knives: a good chef’s knife (a knife with a blade at least 8 inches long, used for chopping, cutting and carving) and a paring knife (a short knife with a blade 2- to 4-inches long, used for peeling, slicing, coring and close blade work). Anything extra, such as a serrated blade deli knife (for slicing loaves of bread or hard sausages), boning knife (for removing bones from fish or trimming meat), cleavers and others are personal choices.

There is a section on how to clean and sharpen blades, how to choose the best knife for you (always by feel: test the weight and balance by holding the knife as you would in your kitchen), the importance of cutting boards, and a few diagramson the proper way to carve a turkey and showcase other knife skills.

Mason Jar Salads and More: 50 Layered Lunches to Grab & Go, Julia Mirabella, Ulysses Press, $16.95, 144 pages. Recipes for salads, smoothies, cereals and single-serve meals are included in this book, showcasing innovative ways to take meals to the office or on picnics, to present meals as gifts and to manage portion sizes.

The book includes easy how-to-layer tips (start with a wide-mouth jar, add liquids first, follow with harder ingredients that won’t absorb too much liquid, then finish with delicate leafy greens, grains or cheese) and how to re-heat soups and oatmeal in jars. Recipes range from breakfast smoothies to various salads, soups and pastas. Really cool way to pack dips and veggies for parties and snacks.

Spinach, Radish and Quinoa Salad

Makes 1 serving

1/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1/2 cup water

2 to 3 tablespoons Blueberry Vinaigrette (recipe below)

1/3 cup cucumber chunks

1/3 cup vine-ripe tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup fresh peas (or sugar snap peas)

1/2 cup radishes, thinly sliced

2 cups spinach leaves

1 quart-size Mason jar

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under running water. Place in a small saucepan with the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, until the water has been absorbed. Let quinoa cool before adding to the salad.

Layer the ingredients in the Mason jar, starting with the vinaigrette dressing and continuing with the cucumbers, tomatoes, peas and radishes. Add the cooled quinoa and finish with the spinach greens. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.

Blueberry vinaigrette

Makes about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon honey

pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil

Place the berries, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil until it is the right consistency.

Beerology: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Beer ... Even More, Mirella Amato, Random House, 24.95, 180 pages. Mirella Amato is one of only seven Certified Master Cicerones (beer sommeliers) in the world, and her mission is to help you understand the history and mystery of beer so that you can enjoy that glass before you even more.

Starting out with the basics (what is beer?), Amato then moves in to discuss how to store beer (beer cellars, anyone?), how to serve beer (types of glasses and the perfect pour) and how to taste beer.

Beers are categorized (mellow, striking, captivating and beyond) with an overview, and each category has further breakdowns such as Fun For, Pairs With, Also Labeled and Examples. So, for instance, under Mellow Golden Lagers, the Common Lager has an overall description, a detailed overview and is listed as Fun For: Last minute meals; Pairs with: Classic light-flavored American foods, like hot dogs; Also Labeled: Lager, lager beer, premium lager, blonde lager, craft lager, session lager, American-style lager, domestic lager, pre-Prohibition lager; Examples: Beach Blonde, Tree Brewing Co, Canada; Moosehead Lager, Canada; Pabst Blue Ribbon, USA; Session Premium Lager, Full Sail Brewing Co., USA.

There is a section on how to host a beer-tasting party, how to pair beer with food and recipes for beer cocktails.

BB Sour

One drink

1/2 ounce bourbon

1 ounce grapefruit juice

1/4 teaspoon simple syrup

dash of lemon juice

4 ounces English brown ale

lemon wedge for garnish

Stir the bourbon, grapefruit juice, simple syrup and lemon. Strain into an 8-ounce rocks glass and add two or three ice cubes. Gently add the brown ale. Throw in the lemon wedge.

Girl’s Guide to Cocktails for Book Lovers, Tessa Smith McGovern, Sourcebooks, $11.99, 136 pages. OK, it may seem like there’s too much emphasis on alcoholic beverages in this column, but I say it’s summer, it’s hot, and let’s not take things too seriously here. Especially when it comes to book clubs where the running joke is (at least for my group) we meet for two to four hours, spend 15 minutes talking about the book of the month and the rest of the time sipping (usually) adult beverages and talking about anything else.

In a refreshing new angle on books and authors, Smith McGovern goes about giving you a brief biography of some 40-odd authors, what they are best known for, some suggested reading (yes, actual book titles) and a beverage inspired by the writing or reputation of the profiled author.

From classics (Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters) to moderns (Zora Neale Hurston, Anne Tyler and Dan Zevin), there should be something to suit every taste and genre.

Beer Margarita

Serves 4, inspired by Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook

Two 12-ounce bottles of your favorite beer, chilled

1/2 cup limeade (frozen concentrate, thawed)

1/2 cup tequila (chilled)

crushed ice

fig wedges, optional, for garnish

In a pitcher, combine the beer, limeade and tequila. Fill glasses with crushed ice then add margarita mixture. Garnish with figs.

Orange Blossom

One drink, inspired by The Complete Works of Zora Neale Hurston

3/4 ounce gin

3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

3/4 ounce orange juice

orange wheel for garnish

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange wheel.

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