Ever wonder how top-notch chefs prepare the meals we all pay the big bucks for? While I could have sworn there must be some magic involved in creating culinary masterpieces to the likes of Jamie Bissonnette and Tiffani Faison, there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Local chefs and bloggers around Boston have opened their cupboards for the rest of Boston to see. While there is no magic dust involved (though I still suspect Harry Potter has something to do with Flour’s infamous sticky buns), there is plenty of instruction and step-by-step recipes that give us mere mortals a chance to make magic in the kitchen.
Below are five of the area’s published chefs and bloggers who each have their own way of attacking the food industry. Whether you are looking for Flour Bakery-caliber baked goods or a dinner fit for the standards of Barbara Lynch, these six books will help you on your way to culinary success.
The Boston Homegrown Cookbook: Local Food, Local Restaurants, Local Recipes: Written by Leigh Belanger, this book is by a Bostonian foodie for Bostonian foodies, especially those embracing the farm-to-table restaurant trend. The Boston Homegrown Cookbook delves into the Boston restaurant scene and profiles 28 Boston chefs who buy their own produce from local farms and turn them into delectable dishes. Belanger is an expert on the topic because she is a food writer and program director for Chefs Collaborative, a program that, according to its website, is “changing the sustainable food landscape using the power of connections, education and responsible buying decisions.” Because sustainable growing depends on using produce that is in season, the book is conveniently organized into the four seasons. The sections include pairings between the chefs and the farms they buy from and recipes made from each pairing. The book is complete with mouthwatering color photos by Margaret Belanger.
Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food With Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen: Though the name of the book does not sound super enticing, Cambridge blogger Alex Lewin shares important kitchen skills in controlling what you put in your body. According to Lewin, it is the first fully illustrated step by step guide to creating simple fermented foods at home. The Harvard alum graduated with a degree in math, but returned to school to study his current areas of interest: cooking and nutrition. Both skills came in handy when putting together his cookbook, a book that includes an introduction to the fermentation process, including the tools required and the importance of buying local produce. The book finishes with fermentation recipes split into sauerkraut,vegetables, dairy, fruits, beverages and meat categories. Lewin’s cookbook makes me want to give food fermentation a try.
Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget: Who doesn’t need to know about cooking on a low budget? Especially for those of us who are poor college students, it can be hard to get the food you need to make gourmet recipes. Author Amy McCoy, a Rehoboth native, includes 83 meal recipes that, for the most part, serve families of four for under $15. Except for the splurge section, which includes meals for $15-$30, I would be able to choose any recipe to feed my group of friends for under $15. And don’t think these meals are ramen noodles made 83 different ways. The book is split into soups and salads, entrees, veggies and sides and bakery and desserts and the splurge section, giving you something a little more sophisticated than Kraft Mac and Cheese.
Flour: As Bostonians, we know of Flour Bakery + Cafe, three locations of warm and gooey deliciousness baked from head chef Joanne Chang. Among some of the featured recipes are pop tarts, lemon marshmallow meringue pie and her famous sticky buns, which brought Chang to stardom when she ousted Bobby Flay in a sticky bun contest on the Food Network’s Throwdown. Her book also includes tips for creating the perfect pastry, as well as almost 150 recipes for you to create your own version of Flour Bakery. All I can say is how did I not know about this sooner? Let me get my hands on this bad boy.
Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition: Barbara Lynch, the South Boston native who also heads a hugely successful restaurant group, shares her culinary intelligence with readers in Stir. Many of Lynch’s classic dishes, such as her individual lasagnas with chicken meatballs, potato gnocchi with peas and mushrooms and lobster rolls with aioli, are included in the cookbook. Growing up in Southie, Lynch took what she knew from a high school home economics class and combined Italian and French classics to come up with something completely unique. In the cookbook, Lynch shares her opinion on each dish, helping the everyday kitchen cook with her five-star creations. Colorful photographs serve as a guide to show you what you’re supposed to be making when all is said and done. Whether you get there is up to your spatula.