As summer approaches, a new wave of cookbooks is hitting the shelves. We've been lucky enough to purchase two winners.The Japanese Grill: From Clasic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood and Vegetables by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat is one of those books. While the recipes may seem deceptively simple, they are full of bold flavor and as you flip through the book your fingers will literally itch to grill. Broiled salt cured salmon served with hot rice was one of my favorite childhood dishes and it made me happy to find a version here. It's a great example of what I love about Japanese home cooking, it can be simple in technique and execution and still somehow both comforting and delicious. The side dish section at the end of the book is really a salad section and this is a good thing because raw vegetables in a variety of rich and acidic dressings are a perfect accompaniment to the deep, smoky flavors of the grill that precede them. There's a wide range of dishes to appeal to any palate from chicken oysters, hearts, livers, and skin grilled yakitori style to garlic and soy marinated porterhouse, lamb shoulder steak with Japanese curry oil to grilled lobster with ponzu-brown butter. It's a pretty wonderful book and I challenge you to read it without getting hungry.
Another great buy was Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Working With Sugar by Gesine Bullock Prado. Yes she's the sister of Sandra Bullock but that has absolutely no bearing on this book. Organized by temperature starting with simple dissolve to hard crack and beyond, it is a clever and beautiful book showcasing a wide range of recipes capitalizing on the diversity of sugar. Sugar is one of those ingredients that seduces and confounds many cooks, including myself, of both the sweet and savory bent. It is endlessly intriguing for it's flexibility and beauty. From spun sugar cotton candy to candy corn, from whoopie pies to French macaroons this book is an odd mixture of old fashioned pleasures and modern sensibilities that manages to be charming in a straight-forward, slightly smart alecky way that I totally appreciate. Buy it if only to encourage the production of cookbooks with actual personality and keep it because there's so much to learn between the front and back covers. Candy cookbooks that cover a wide range of textures and flavors beyond the basic chocolate-caramel-hard candy type treats are few and far between and we should appreciate the ones that appear and enjoy them.