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Books that Cook: For cooks who like a challenge


© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001

Jacques Pepin Celebrates

By Jacques Pepin

Alfred A. Knopf, $40

If you've ever seen chef extraordinaire Jacques Pepin on television, you know that to him every meal is a celebration, and this new cookbook showcases the dishes prepared on his upcoming PBS series. Most of the 200 recipes are from his The Art of Cooking, now out of print. They have been revised and updated for contemporary home cooks.

(Jacques Pepin Celebrates will air at 3 p.m. Saturdays, beginning Oct. 6., on WUSF-Ch. 16.)

There are a few recipes, however, that some home cooks may find too difficult or too expensive. Many chefs would agree that making puff pastry from scratch is a waste of time when frozen pastry works fine. But for those from the old school, Pepin shows three ways to make puff pastry.

Although various cooking techniques are illustrated, some will take practice to perfect.

Expense could also be an issue with recipes that include such ingredients as truffles and cognac, or just lots of ingredients. Many of Pepin's recipes, such as Chocolate Yule Log With Mint Leaves and Chocolate Bark, have more than 13 ingredients, along with numerous steps. It is no doubt a show-stopping dessert, but after factoring in the time it takes to prepare, Raspberry Sherbet With Raspberry Sauce might be better.

Many recipes in Jacques Pepin Celebrates are better left for a special occasion. Most are time-consuming. Braised Duck With Glazed Shallots and Honey Sweet Potatoes, Parsleyed Ham With Remoulade Sauce or Grilled Leg of Lamb Robert With Puree of Spinach would make wonderful holiday meal alternatives. Dishes such as Gratin of Butternut Squash or Connecticut Pot Roast are better suited weeknight dinners.

Wine notes written by his daughter, Claudine Pepin, and menus devised by Pepin are the highlights of this book.

Cooking under pressure

Express Cooking

By Barry Bluestein and Kevin Morrissey

HP Books, $17.95

The pressure cooker is probably the kitchen's most misunderstood appliance, but with the newer, easy-to-use models on the market, the days of fearing explosive disasters are over.

The goal of authors Barry Bluestein and Kevin Morrissey is to convince today's home cooks that the new generation of pressure cookers is indispensable. To that end, Express Cooking offers 125 pressure cooker recipes.

Every recipe in Express Cooking is for a pressure cooker. No adaptations are given to prepare the recipes for conventional methods, such as stovetop, oven or grill. This cookbook does a good job explaining just what a pressure cooker is, the different types of cookers, safety features and how to use the appliance.

Express Cooking devotes an entire chapter to guidelines for converting your favorite dishes for a pressure cooker. For instance, the poultry cooking chart claims that a whole cornish hen can be cooked in 10 to 12 minutes -- a far cry from the hour or so it would take in the oven.

Busy lifestyles and time restraints may give this appliance the push it needs to get back into the kitchen. Spring Lamb Stew can be cooked in about 15 minutes, Crab Thermidor Risotto takes only 12 minutes and Carolina Barbecue Pork, using a 3-pound pork shoulder roast, in a mere 35 minutes. Preparation for some recipes, such as Turkey With Gravy or American Seafood Stew, may take longer than the cooking time. It is wise to have all the chopping, slicing and measuring done before beginning to cook.

Obviously this is not a cookbook you would purchase if you don't own a pressure cooker. It would be a nice addition, however, if you are giving a pressure cooker as a gift.

* * *

Apple Cookbook

By Olwen Woodier

Storey Books, $9.95

Although apples are available year-round, they seem to taste better as fall approaches. Apple Cheese Spread, Apple Banana Bread, Apple Coffee Cake and Sweet Applesauce are all tastes of autumn found in Olwen Woodier's Apple Cookbook. This cookbook delves into one of America's favorite and more ubiquitous fruits.

School is in, and Woodier's class includes the history of apples, popular orchard varieties, cooking with apples and how to store apples, among other lessons.

You'll find traditional apple recipes such as Apple Butter, Apple Brown Betty and Apple Crumb Pie, plus more unusual dishes such as Curried Apple Meat Loaf and Apple Ratatouille.

Each recipe offers suggestions for apple varieties. For example, Cornmeal Apple Cheese Muffins suggests using Granny Smith, Braeburn or empire, while you should choose Rome beauty, winesap or Ida red for Apple Blackberry Crisp. Very few recipes, such as Johnny Appleseed Squares, suggest mixing varieties. These choices are helpful if a certain variety is not available at your market.

The most beneficial chapter in Apple Cookbook is "Meet the Apples: Apple Varieties." From Braeburn to Wolf River, you can read about when and where they were discovered and their best uses. For instead, red delicious are not good for pies or sauces; choose Granny Smiths for pies and galas for sauces.

Information boxes throughout the cookbook offer everything from apple tips to trivia. One, Add an Apple, suggests that an apple can be added to almost any stuffing recipe without throwing it off balance. And, did you knowm that bobbing for apples began as a Celtic New Year's tradition?

The recipes themselves are simple. None require numerous steps or unusual ingredients. Most recipes have no more than six steps, but some desserts have more. Apple Lemon Cake and Apple Turnovers have 10 and nine steps, respectively. But after all, isn't dessert worth the extra effort?

- Ellen Folkman's cookbook review column appears monthly in Taste.

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