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Reading meets cooking, eating and exploring food


There are some lovely books being written about food. This reviewer has acquired a taste for large-format books that contain mouth-watering recipes paired with tantalizing photos of the dishes featured therein.

Here are a couple of recent offerings that could whet your appetite for this sort of reading fare:

“Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture” by Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress, recipes by Linda Balslev (Gibbs Smith, 160 pages, $21.99)

As a history nut who loves to read about food I was a pushover for this food book that offers recipes, as well as the history of the nuts that we call almonds. The authors write that “the earliest-known almonds were found on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.” Almonds originated in Asia. Today California produces 80 percent of the total worldwide crop.

Almonds are versatile cooking ingredients. They can be employed in various forms; shelled whole, slivered, sliced, flaked, diced, chopped, as flour, meal, paste, oil, butter, milk, and in extracts. The recipes in this book showcase almonds across this whole range of toothsome incarnations.

These recipes are divided into five sections; starters and snacks, salads and vegetables, pasta and grains, land and sea, and baked goods and desserts. If you can get your hands on some green almonds “the entire nut is edible, from the fuzzy pod to the jelly-like interior.”

During the month of May you might consider preparing a dish of fragrant white peaches with prosciutto salad and green almonds. Linguine with almonds and garlic can be made at any time of year. Consider fixing some almond-crusted pork chops or almond-crusted lamb chops.

Other standouts are Catlan fish stew with chorizo, fennel, and almond picada, and almond-and-lemon crusted salmon. And for dessert you could bake almond and apricot skillet bread or try chocolate almond bark with raisins and chile.

“Plant Food” by Matthew Kenney, Meredith Baird and Scott Winegard (Gibbs Smith, 160 pages, $19.99)

There’s no actual cooking involved for the recipes in “Plant Food.” All these foods are served raw. This book has some of the most exquisite photographic food styling you’ll ever encounter. The authors divided their recipes into these sections: found, let, sprouted, spun, dried, smoked, sealed, cured, pressed, fermented, aged, sweetened and sipped.

Perhaps you were wondering what they meant by their chapter titled “LET?” They said that “in LET, we allow the quality of the plants to speak for themselves … sometimes we need to just LET things be.” Are you searching for some healthy recipes? Look no further.

You’ll find recipes for summer roots and shoots, bartlett pear soup, smoked heirloom tomato, compressed watermelon, smoked cashew cheddar cheese, and a lime cheesecake that you’ll prepare by freezing rather than baking.

Morel mushrooms will be popping up soon in our area. The authors are foragers. One described the thrill of finding 10 pounds of morels in Oklahoma: “I’ll never forget when we happened upon the first patch of morels … I still get super excited thinking about that day.”


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