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One of the most beloved cookbooks in my collection is the Moosewood Cookbook. I've had it since God was a boy, and it looks it with stains and scuffs and pages that are all bendy or wrinkled from getting damp, a broken spine and the occasional note. I love that book because it's free-spirited and whimsical, and the recipes are darn good.

So today I've been reading through "Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health" and while I'm appreciating the nutritional information, and the thoughtful way of approaching the subject of vegetarian/vegan cooking, for me it's missing something. Certainly it's not information of any sort. In addition to nutritional info for each recipe, there are sections on organics -- with info on pesticide levels in common fruits and veggies -- phytonutrients, food allergies, fish, the ingredients used, cooking methods, resources, and so on. And I can't possibly fault the recipes since they're classic Moosewood, both new and riffs on old favorites.

But along with all the emphasis on nutrition, sustainability, and organics, comes a new kind of seriousness which I really do get and appreciate. Gone are the goofy little drawings and asides on most pages, replaced by lovely, sedate drawings at the heads of chapters, and the aforementioned nutritional info. I doubt there's a spontaneous "YUM!" on any page. And I miss it.

So while the Moosewood cookbooks remain go-to references for any basic vegetarian/vegan kitchen, don't expect a lot of the old Moosewood spirit in this volume. It's all grown-up now and it takes food much more seriously than it used to.
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The sandwich is a creature born of convenience, and a certain amount of negligence, a Just-slap-it-on-a-slice-of-bread-and-I'm-outta-here mentality. So when someone comes along and raises the lowly sandwich to a work of art, it's worth a look. Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortúzar have done just that with “'wichcraft” a beautiful book that takes sandwiches to a higher level.

The book is broken down by the sort of sandwich you might want to create: Breakfast, cold sandwiches which are particularly well-suited for lunches, and hot sandwiches which are heartier. There is also a section on sweet sandwiches which range from sandwich cookies to towers built of cake slices, ice cream and fruit. While there are some familiar sandwiches such as BLTs, most are either new takes on other dishes such as Salad Lyonnaise or very new concoctions such as the beer-braised beef short ribs with pickled vegetables, sharp cheddar and horseradish. There are also sections on sandwich information: The history of the sandwich, good sandwich architecture and so forth. There is even a section on the sandwich as a meal, and how less is more when it comes to piling the food on the plate. Excellent advice.

If I have a problem with this book, it's a minor one, but still worth discussing. Many of the sandwiches require a number of special ingredients. Now granted you can make many of these yourself; the recipes are included. But it almost pre-supposes that you're cooking for more than one or two people. And leftovers are often good for a week, which means you'll either be eating the same sandwich all week, or throwing a lot of relishes and garnishes out. I don't think this will keep many people from creating the sandwiches in the book, but it might mean they'll make them less often, or substitute other ingredients.

On the whole, though, I think that if you're a sandwich lover as I am, this book will set you to imagining all the amazing sandwiches you might whip up. It might provoke you to entertain more!

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cloud berriesIf, like me, you read cookbooks like other people do novels, or brood over handsome color photos in them as if reading a coffee table book, then you will love Falling Cloudberries. It is a perfectly beautiful book, loaded with glorious images, not only of food, but of the author's family -- the source of her love of food and many of the dishes presented in the book -- and the places where she has lived or traveled.

The recipes themselves are generally simple variations on regional favorites from Finland, Greece, Cyprus, South Africa, Italy and a few other countries where Kiros or her family members have traveled. I tend to prefer simple recipes, not only because they are just faster and easier to create, but because I believe they give a clearer idea of the flavors of a place. (I always think that one of the best ways to understand another culture is to eat their food.) The more complex recipes tend to show what a culture eats during celebrations, and that's a lesson, too.

But one of the most interesting facets of this book is seeing these recipes virtually side-by-side which allows us to understand how the same basic ingredients can be made into so many different dishes with so many different flavors, just by virtue of the herbs and spices used, or what produce tends to dominate in a place.

Falling Cloudberries is a Gourmet bookclub selection and for good reason. It's a stunning book filled with recipes that virtually anyone can master. It gives us clearer ideas of how cuisines overlap and how they make use of local flavors to create regional cuisines. If you love cookbooks, you couldn't do much better than to add this one to your collection.

Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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