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Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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A book guide for the chefs in your life

For anyone who watched Bryan and Michael Voltaggio compete on the sixth season of "Top Chef," it might be difficult to imagine them sharing a kitchen again, much less writing a book. Both were fierce competitors – Michael earned the title Top Chef – and the rigors of the show had them tossing barbs at each other and arguing. Since then, the two have joined to become a singular brand as spokesmen for Williams-Sonoma and Samsung. And now, for the holidays, they have co-written a new cookbook of gourmet recipes, "Volt ink." The title combines the name of Bryan's Volt restaurant in Frederick, Md., with Michael's Ink restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. The book sticks to a family theme, albeit families of ingredients. The laurel family, for example, includes such seemingly disparate cousins as cinnamon, avocado, sassafras and bay leaf. The goosefoot family links quinoa, spinach, beets and Swiss chard. The mustard family finds cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts and bok choy bunched together.
Each brother takes turns playing with those ingredients, mixing and matching in unique ways that are likely to surprise readers with creativity and inventiveness. They even surprised Michael Voltaggio. "We tried to choose families that had a lot of diversity," he said. "To be honest, I didn't know what a nightshade vegetable was until we wrote the book. You start realizing all the things that are in that family [potatoes, tomatoes, bell pepper, eggplant] and realize, wow, there is a lot of stuff to work with." The book is far from a cuddly kitchen guide in the vein of "Joy of Cooking." The Voltaggios, known for their progressive cooking techniques that employ sous vide water baths and liquid nitrogen, wrote a book that showcases dishes that will be out of reach for most home cooks. Octopus with buttered popcorn and piquillo pepper turned into paper is unlikely to become the next slow-cooker pot roast. "There is not the expectation that they cook the entire recipe," Michael said. "They might take one of the sub-recipes and apply that to their own dish, like a salad dressing or a sauce or a garnish." "I think that's how food evolves," he said. "People take ideas from one thing and put their own twist and turn on it. You could take the seaweed mashed potatoes and put it with the short ribs that are on the beef with broccoli dish." A few recipes are more approachable. Bryan's coffee cake recipe and vinaigrette dressing are home-cook easy. So is the tongue-in-cheek bacon challah rolls they came up with by accident while kneading pork inside bread. Despite their use of new kitchen technologies, the brothers say the pendulum is swinging back to more traditional cooking. Home cooks fascinated by gizmos are going back to the basics, Michael said. "All this stuff is getting them interested in getting back in the kitchen," he said. "All of a sudden they're realizing, 'Hey, let's make mashed potatoes, and let's make a roast.' This stuff is luring them in and forcing them to go back in and cook." Or as his brother put it, "Let's stop making instant mashed potatoes in a powder. Let's start making the real thing." So that's another thing the brothers can agree on. For anyone who ever wanted to move to the country "Masala Farm; Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country" by Suvir Saran with Raquel Pelzel and Charlie Burd (Chronicle Books, $29.95) The book: Indian chef and restaurateur Suvi Saran moves from Manhattan with his partner to a 67-acre farm in upstate New York. Worlds collide, friends visit, lessons about seasonal cooking are learned, and delicious food is made. Don't miss: The Banana Caramel Pudding For hot heads "The Sriracha Cookbook; 50 'Rooster Sauce' Recipes That Pack A Punch," by Randy Clemens (Ten Speed Press, $16.99) The book: "There are those of us who love Sriracha, and then there are those who need Sriracha," Clemens writes. Something about the Thai pepper sauce inspires chili heads to near idolatry of the condiment. This book offers lots of ways for devotees to enjoy their spices. Don't miss: Bacon-Sriracha Cornbread, Sriracha Salt For those with a sweet tooth "One Sweet Cookie; Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes," by Tracey Zabar (Rizzoli, $30) The book: Zabar, a pastry chef and jewelry designer, collected recipes from the likes of Lidia Bastianich, Daniel Boulud, Dore Greenspan and Jacques Torres. Don't know who they are? Doesn't matter. Their cookies look amazing. And relatively easy to make. Don't miss: Ice-Cream Sandwiches by Thomas Keller For seasonally hungry foodies with a conscience "Molto Batali; Simple Family Meals From My Home To Yours," by Mario Batali (Ecco, $29.99) The book: Batali splits this cookbook into 12 chapters – one for each month of the year - with seasonal recipes for feeding groups of eight to 12. The reason: Batali is promoting his foundation, which aims to stop child hunger. Buy the book, make a donation to his foundation. Fill your belly and theirs. Don't miss: Baked Apples with Gorgonzola and Figs For bread lovers and home bakers "Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day; The Homemade Bread Revolution Continues," by Jeffrey Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne, $27.99) The book: Only a few years ago, Hertzberg and Francois made bread baking easy using a simple recipe and a refrigerated master dough. Now they've brought the same simplicity to pizza and flatbread. Give these recipes a try, and you'll never call Dominos or buy DiGiorno again. Don't miss: Rainbow Beet Pizza For those who travel with their taste buds "The Food of Morocco," by Paula Wolfert (Harper Collins, $45) The book: This book is as much a travelogue as a guide to North African food. The native food, made with ingredients which are now accessible at groceries in the United States, is not as well known as other Mediterranean cuisine. Wolfert illuminates the basic flavors and gives readers a tour of regional cuisines. Oh, and the photos are a feast for the eyes. Don't miss: Carrot and Golden Raisin Salad For whisky lovers "Malt Whisky; The Complete Guide," by Charles MacLean (Mitchell Beazley, $15.99) The book: When this book came out in 1997, it became a definitive guide for all things whisky. Almost 15 years later, it has received an update and revised content, including news about whisky societies and a directory of producers. This book is both authoritative for aficionados and approachable for newcomers to the barley grain spirit. Don't miss: The Language of Whiskey For those who love Italian family style cooking "Ciao Italia; Family Classics," by Mary Ann Esposito (St. Martin's Press, $40) The book: For two decades, Esposito has been cooking authentic Italian dishes on her PBS series "Ciao Italia." This book retraces those classic recipes. Reading through the book is like finding your grandmother's old stash of comforting and satisfying recipes. Don't miss: Nonna Galasso's Potato and Onion Frittata For those who love a good brewski "Brewed Awakening; Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution," by Joshua M. Bernstein (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) If you haven't noticed, there's a great upheaval ongoing in the world of adult beverages as small-batch craft brewers invade the territory of big time beer giants. Bernstein chronicles the nation's top craft labels, examines the home brewing trend and offers tips to finding great suds in unlikely places. It's almost like peeking into a diary. A very delicious, beer-soaked diary. Don't miss: The Beer Map inside the book's cover sleeve.

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