The first edition of "Fannie Farmer" was published in 1896 under the title of "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book." Fannie Farmer is such a good name that it sounds like a nom de plume but isn't. And she wrote, rather sternly, during a time when the center of the universe as we know it was still New England. And fitting it is that the modern "Fannie Farmer" -- Marion Cunningham -- resides in California, the new center of the universe.
"The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95) is the first new edition of this classic in more than a decade, and Cunningham, who is respected by nearly everybody in the food business, has succeeded in updating it without rendering it uselessly fashionable. It's always been the book to go to when meatloaf was on the menu, but now the cook looking for risotto or microwaved polenta will be satisfied as well.
While all of America is encompassed in Fannie Farmer, there are some pockets of the country whose cuisine is sufficiently distinctive as to demand whole cookbooks of their own. (It might be noted that the number of these pockets is fewer than some cookbook authors and publishers would have us think.) There are also a few other offerings this year that seek to embrace the whole of America from points of view slightly different than Fannie Farmer's. (Reviews of some worthwhile books that have sprouted from American kitchens in recent months follow this review.)
The Fannie Farmer book is more than 800 pages long, plus appendices, and it includes basic cooking information as well as recipes. There are a few illustrations, including the obligatory divided-up steer, and nice little graphics to indicate vegetarian or microwave recipes. Cunningham's approach to the "health" question, which she nicely summaries in the introduction, is that we should all get a grip and start being reasonable instead of hysterical about food.
Whether the recipes work is not a question that seems fitting to this book, since it seems almost biblical in its authority, but in case you're a skeptic, they do. This is the basic American reference book, one that has evolved in harmony with the times, and for many cooks the only one they might ever need.
MEATLOAF (6 servings)
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 onion, chopped fine
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup milk
Butter a loaf pan. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; your freshly washed hands are the best tools for the job. Pat into the loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 45 minutes.
Per serving: 486 calories, 43 gm protein, 12 gm carbohydrates, 28 gm fat, 11 gm saturated fat, 222 mg cholesterol, 820 mg sodium.
From "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" by Marion Cunningham (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95)
By Ronalie C. Peterson Washington Post Staff Writer
The point of "America the Beautiful" by Phillip Stephen Schulz (Collins Publishing, $39.95) is not innovation; it is, rather, an chronicling of authentic Americana. This is the familiar made glamorous with lavish photographs, a coffee-table-sized tribute to regional American cooking. But it must be added that, despite all the prettifying, this is territory most American cooks know: pumpkin or apple pie; tuna noodle casserole from Indiana, pancakes, succotash, chicken pot pie.
It would be an impressive gift for the young or new cook, an inspiration to a foreign friend or a recent immigrant. Worth trying: the slightly sweet pumpkin rolls, the tart rhubarb pie and the classic hash browns.
"The New American Kitchen" by Michael McLaughlin (Simon & Schuster, $24.95) proclaims a new attitude for home cooks. After a decade of restaurant experimentation and a resurgence of regional awareness, we now know what we want. McLaughlin, who while working at the Silver Palate in New York collaborated on its original cookbook and now writes about food fulltime, says "I want unfussy food ... ." This is simple food, not clever shortcuts. But the recipes are innovative twists on established combinations. McLaughlin simply wants to reclaim much of the turf Americans have ceded to the pizza delivery man.
The book is easy to use. The Broccoli with Orange Shallot Butter was an ingenius variation as was the Wild Rice with Pears and Chestnuts. Heaven and Earth had an old-fashioned harvest-time feel.
Also with an old-fashioned tone is "Mrs. Witty's Home-Style Menu Cookbook" by Helen Witty (Workman Publishing, $12.95). In an irrevrent introduction titled "Why Has Mrs. Witty Written This Book and What's In It?" she states that we should be "paying more attention to our own traditions -- what we like to eat, no matter why we like it, and less to what the trendmongers tell us we should like." She should know, as she has written for Gourmet, Food & Wine and is a three-time winner of the International Association of Cooking Professionals' tastemaker award for previous cookbooks.
This book is composed of 40 menus with variations built around her family's favorites. A recipe list organized by seasonal ingredients helps improvisers. However, the style is a little chatty and a bit too busy graphically. But the recipes seem solid: Try the Lemon Chicken My Way or the Sweet Potato Sticks.
It would certainly confuse genetics if one had enough grandmothers to bequeath this motherlode of ethnic recipes. From Asian, to Caribbean, to Central European, the dishes in "The Frugal Gourmet on Your Immigrant Ancestors" by Jeff Smith (Morrow, $19.95) come in staggering variety, but all have one thing in common: They are the sturdy fare that nurtured people in difficult times.
Author and TV chef Smith notes that "the table holds tradition most firmly" and offers these recipes in the hope that the diversity itself will help draw diverse cultures together -- sort of a route to world peace through eating. Smith, in his usual bubbly manner, keeps things simple but informative.
HEAVEN AND EARTH (6 servings)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large, sweet apples, cored, peeled and chopped
1 very large onion, peeled and sliced thin
3 medium (about 1 1/2 pounds) baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 medium (about 1 1/2 pounds) turnips, peeled and chopped
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup homemade or canned beef stock
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh dill (or substitute parsley)
In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Add the apples and onions, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat and cook, stirring often, until the apples and onions are well browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor or to a food mill fitted with a medium blade and set over a bowl.
In a saucepan over medium heat cover the potatoes and turnips with cold, lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 12 minutes after the water boils. Drain, cool slightly and transfer to the food processor or food mill.
Add the broth and process until the pure'e is smooth. (Pure'e can be prepared to this point up to one day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate.)
Reheat the pure'e over low heat until steaming. Adjust seasonings and add a generous grind of pepper. Stir in the dill and let stand 1 minute before serving.
Per serving: 302 calories, 4 gm protein, 38 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 10 gm saturated fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 133 mg sodium.
"The New American Kitchen" by Michael McLaughlin (Simon & Schuster, $24.95)
By Sharon Isch Special to The Washington Post
If your idea of a good time is cooking to loud music from a book dedicated to Elvis Costello ... if " 'Mean Streets' Sausage and Polenta" appeals to you before you even know what's in it ... if your taste runs to garlic, goat cheese, more garlic, shiitakes, salsa, fresh herbs, polenta and even more garlic ... if you liked the Silver Palate books but never quite came to love them, "A Cook's Tour of Sonoma" by Michele Anna Jordan (Addison-Wesley, $15.95) could be just what you're looking for -- a cookbook to get passionate about, to improvise with, to curl up with when left alone with your garlic breath. You can even use it to plan an actual cook's tour of Sonoma.
The most difficult thing will be deciding which recipe to try first. Consider: Red Potato and Apple Stew with Andouille Sausage; Potato Pancakes with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese; Smoked Duck Breast Salad with Dried Cherries, Oranges and Hazelnuts; Wild Rice Pudding with Cranberries and Maple Syrup -- '90s comfort food at its finest.
"A Taste of San Franciso" by the San Francisco Symphony Cookbook Committee (Doubleday $24.95), on the other hand, is a showcase for the ethnic diversity and sophistication of Bay Area restaurants. The San Francisco Symphony has put together a book that successfully adapts menus and recipes from more than 80 restaurants for use in the home kitchen. As you might expect from such restaurants as Chez Panisse, Postrio and Stars, and such restaurateurs as Ken Hom, Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, the recipes are imaginative, the ingredients lists run long and a typical three-course menu will take at least 1 1/2 hours to prepare, not counting cooking time.
If you're not willing to invest the time to produce a three-course meal from this book, consider using it for just one course or two. Begin with Fleur de Lys' gorgeous Salad of Warm Bay Scallops and French Green Beans, seasoned with curry, dressed with toasted Almond Vinaigrette and served with croutons topped with whipped cream and horseradish. End with The American Baker's Sesame and Lemon Bars. And you can probably get away with serving almost anything in between.
You'll need to use your imagination or try the recipes to appreciate the eye appeal of the San Franciso chefs' recipes, but in "Food for all Seasons, Savory Recipes from the Pacific Northwest" by David Pisegna (Chronicle Books, $18.95), 48 full-page, full-color photographs are used to add show and showmanship to the presentation. This first book by Greenbrier-trained chef Pisegna is dedicated to the proposition that gourmet fare can be nutritious and healthful.
A magnificent Hot Hazelnut Tart features Oregon blue cheese but can be made with other varieties. King salmon fillets are cooked with fresh herbs tucked under the skin and served with a red wine sauce. Onions, leeks, shallots and garlic are baked and pure'ed to make a soup flecked with chives and topped with broiled slices of homemade salmon sausage.
Many of Pisegna's ingredients will be difficult to find here but substitutions are suggested whenever possible and overnight shippers of northwest seafood, game and other provisions are listed.
In "The Best of the Midwest" (Viking, $24.95), Cleveland talk show host Fred Griffith and his cooking-teacher wife Linda set out to prove that Midwestern restaurants can compete with the best the rest of the nation has to offer. They make their case with this collection of menus and recipes from 32 restaurants in eight states.
I still haven't figured out what the New Orleans specialty "Bananas Foster" is doing here. Or why a Midwestern cookbook would contain only four recipes that use beef. Or why so much space is consumed with restaurant profiles that wax effusive over specialities of the house not included in the recipe section. But almost everyone who tasted it asked for the recipe for the Prune and Tomato Chutney that accompanies the pork loin roast from Lacorsette in Newton, Iowa.
The other thing I can't figure out is whether it's become trendy to rattle off all your pets' names in cookbook acknowledgement sections -- two of these four books do. (In case you care, these reviews would not have been possible without the cooperation of Murgatroyd, Mr. Bingley and Tansy.)
ROAST LOIN OF PORK WITH TOMATO-PRUNE CHUTNEY (8 servings)
FOR THE CHUTNEY:
3 cups fresh, or 2 cups dried, prunes, halved and pitted
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, juice reserved
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 rounded tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
FOR THE ROAST:
4 pounds boneless pork loin (3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
In a heavy saucepan, combine prunes, tomatoes and juice, sugars, vinegar, mustard seed, salt, cayenne and onion. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
Add garlic and ginger, stir well, and simmer, stirring often, for 1 1/2 hours, until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat and stir in raisins. Adjust seasonings after mixture cools.
Season roast with salt and pepper. Scatter carrot, onion and celery in roasting pan and place pork loin on top, fat side up. Pour about a half cup of water in the pan. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the roast. Put roast into a preheated 400-degree oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Roast 1 1/2 hours, adding more water as needed. If roast is more than 4 inches in diameter, increase the roasting time by about 20 minutes.
When thermometer reaches 155 degrees, remove roast from the oven and cover with foil. Let rest 10 minutes, then cover with a large towel 5 minutes more.
Slice the roast and arrange on heated serving plates. Serve with a moderate amount of the cooked chutney mixture next to the meat.
Per serving: 890 calories, 69 gm protein, 84 gm carbohydrates, 31 gm fat, 11 gm saturated fat, 214 mg cholesterol, 587 mg sodium.
From "The Best of the Midwest" by Fred and Linda Griffith (Viking, $24.95)
Chesapeake Bay & The South
By Jeanne McManus Washington Post Staff Writer
The Chesapeake region was discovered early by 17th-century settlers to America but late by 20th-century trend-seekers who, when interest in American cooking was revived, deemed California and the Southwest as the new frontiers. That's probably a good thing for Chesapeake fans. The simple and lush bounty of the Chesapeake region -- corn, tomatoes, melons, fish, clams, crabs, oysters, ham and chicken -- does not need or want much gourmet meddling, as these two cookbooks prove.
"The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook" by John Shields (Aris Books, $18.95), with black and white photographs and small tidbits of local history accompanying recipes, is the simpler of the two. Its author, born in Baltimore, conducts a tour of his native land, with stops at six locales, including Annapolis, Chestertown and Tilghman Peninsula. Each district provides its own idiosyncracies and specialties, its own local folk offering up their special touches or family recipes.
You'd scarcely know you were on the same planet, let alone the same bay, from looking at the "The Chesapeake Cookbook" by Susan Belsinger and Carolyn Dille (Clarkson N. Potter, $30). It's big and flashy, full of glitzy photographs of ornate place settings and stylish people, picturesquely sipping tea out of mason jars. Some recipes are presented menu style: a Boat Lunch, A Steeplechase Picnic, A Hunt Breakfast ... Who are these people? Not your oyster-shucking, crab-picking crowd, to be sure. Yet this book's recipes are actually just as simple and true to the Maryland, Delaware and Tidewater tradition. That hunt breakfast features old-syle clam chowder, vinegared ham, waldorf salad and gingerbread. The authors, both with roots in Maryland, make no apologies for kale and cabbage, succotash and corn pone, ingredients that sit happily on the same page as cranberry vinegar and chanterelle mushrooms.
When John Pinderhughes, a New York photographer, set out to produce an African-American cookbook, he had to look no farther than his family and friends. Scattered throughout the country, they bond together in spirit -- thus the title. And in "Family of the Spirit Cookbook" by John Pinderhughes (Simon & Schuster, $24.95), their photographs, recipes, nicknames, snippets of their lives and thoughts on cooking are lovingly presented. His own recipes -- paella, pork chops with onion and garlic gravy, papaya flambe', for example -- are ample proof of the love of food that he inherited from this extended family.
The Fearrington House Restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., is more than a restaurant; it's a state of mind. In 1984 Fitch Creations purchased the historic Fearrington farm and set out to turn it and its land into a country "village," including the restaurant, an inn, a market (once the farm's granary) and craft stores (located in what was once the milking barn). "The Fearrington House Cookbook" By Jenny Fitch (Dell, $11.95, soft cover) reflects this picturesque-village-in-a-packet. It includes not only recipes, organized by seasonal menus (August Ice Cream Party, Groundhog Day Lunch), but also tips for arranging flowers, creating topiary, harvesting herbs, making potpourri and planting wild flowers. And its recipes reflect what might be called a Yuppified approach to country cooking: Grits, that simple staple of the South, are served as a timbale; greens appear as "saute'ed baby greens," with balsamic vinegar and chive butter; black-eyed peas are cooked in the same pot with herbes de Provence. The fare is delicate and precise, with no rough edges.
The reader of "Side Orders" By John Egerton (Peachtree Publishers. $14.95) will have to put aside two preconceived notions: first, that a cookbook should have to look like a cookbook; second, that a side order is a small, ancillary dish. This book instead is a rambling anecdotal narrative about the joys of the Southern cooking and culture and about how those two deliciously reside together in "side orders," the "forever food" of Southern history -- grits, corn bread, fried pone, fried pies, red rice and the like. Throughout, the ingredients are not pulled out of the text for easy reading; they are part and parcel of the narrative. To cook, one must understand. Nor is this a book for the compulsive; measurements are rounded off or qualified by expressions such as "more or less." To cook, one must relax. And to retrieve recipes from this book, one must join Egerton in great philosophical debates, one of the most important being: What Constitutes Barbecue?
BARBECUED SHRIMP (Makes 1 recipe, serving 6)
For each 2 pounds of jumbo shrimp, washed but left in the shells, prepare a marinade by finely chopping and combining 3 garlic cloves, 1 medium-sized onion, enough fresh parsley to make 1/4 cup, and 1 teaspoon of fresh or packaged basil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and the juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup).
When the mixture is well blended, cover the shrimp with it and marinate overnight in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Build a well-distributed charcoal fire in your grill. Cover the cooking rack with aluminum foil and poke holes in it with an ice pick or fork.
Spread the shrimp over the rack and cover it to hold the smoke in. You can turn the shrimp with a slotted spoon if you like, but it's not essential. Baste them generously with the marinade. In about 20 minutes, the smoky, spicy jumbos ought to be about ready. (Watch the shells; when they harden and begin to crack, it's time to remove from the fire.)
Per serving: 336 calories, 31 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 21 gm fat, 3 gm saturated fat, 231 mg cholesterol, 594 mg sodium.
From "Side Orders" By John Egerton (Peachtree Publishers. $14.95)
By Kristin Eddy Washington Post Staff Writer
A friend commented recently, while reading the menu in a "new American" restaurant, that the names for all these innovative dishes are starting to parody themselves. A new cookbook from the chef of the acclaimed Mansion On Turtle Creek Restaurant in Dallas, "Dean Fearing's Southwest Cuisine" by Dean Fearing (Grove Weidenfeld, $29.95), has that same problem, in spades. After reading through pages of recipes like Grilled Chicken Breasts with Sweet Corn-Apple Relish and Barbecued Fire-Roasted Onions (that's just one dish, mind you), I didn't feel hungry, I felt talked to death.
Having said that, I liked the book a lot. The crazy combinations were a refreshing challenge and made for some colorful plates of food. There is a strong emphasis on using fresh ingredients to create flavorful and heart-healthy recipes, and although the idea isn't new, the ideas worked. The desserts were created by Fearing's pastry chef, Robert Zielinski, including this very naughty cake:
HEATH BAR CAKE (8 servings)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 Heath Bars, frozen and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Grease and flour a 10-inch cake pan. In a mixing bowl, cream sugars and butter. When well mixed, beat in egg and slowly add buttermilk. Beat in vanilla, flour and baking soda. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle candy and nuts over the top.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Per serving: 542 calories, 5 gm protein, 63 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 8 gm saturated fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 154 mg sodium.
From "Dean Fearing's Southwest Cuisine" by Dean Fearing (Grove Weidenfeld, $29.95)