BOOK AND AUTHOR: "Coastal Cooking with John Shields: 125 of the Best Recipes from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts, and Hawaii" (Broadway Books, $32.50).
A respected chef, cookbook author and cooking show host, Shields grew up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where he caught blue crabs, cooked with his grandmother in a church hall kitchen and watched his uncles make their own fishing boats.
He intended to be a musician, but a fill-in stint cooking in the restaurant of a popular Cape Cod inn made him change course -- first at restaurants in northern California, and eventually back east. He now lives in Baltimore where his restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Gertrude's, is named after his grandmother.
Shields's three previous books and popular TV series focused on Chesapeake Bay cooking. For this book and its upcoming 13-part companion public television series, he went far beyond that base. Traveling to coastal areas from Maine to Florida, California to Washington state, the Gulf states and Hawaii, he sought out regional recipes and food lore from home cooks and professional chefs.
FORMAT: Although Shields's research led him to coves, shores and bayous -- and the book does include terrific seafood recipes -- it also has chapters on poultry and meat, salads, vegetables and side dishes, breads and desserts. Yes, there is gingered salmon from San Diego, and Louisiana crawfish etouffee. But there are also recipes for pork chops with caramelized peaches and bourbon from Georgia and cranberry scones from Wellfleet on outer Cape Cod.
WHO WOULD USE THIS BOOK: Anybody with an interest in food and a fondness for these coastal regions will find hours of pleasurable cooking and eating here. So will many other home cooks. The recipes suggest ingredients that are sometimes specific to the region, and occasionally Shields assumes readers already know their way around the kitchen. But the directions are not hard to follow, and the completed dishes are very good.
-- Judith Weinraub