Not many cookbook authors would sub-subtitle their debut “An Illustrated Guide to ‘Simply the Finest,’” but the Frankies—Falcinelli and Castronovo—are New Yorkers, and therefore entitled to the smart, hip attitude that makes their food, their restaurants and their book, The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, written with Peter Meehan, a delight. Friends from childhood, the Frankies grew up eating excellent Italian-American food, then took the haute French road to professional culinary careers. Eighteen years later, tired of fancy ingredients and calculated chic, they decided to return to their roots, using their decades of cooking experience to lighten up and expand on the comforting cuisine of their youth. The result is “dead simple,” no-flourish food that can feed a crowd or keep you and your mate surfeited for days. Starting with Tomato Sauce, the basic of tutti basics, the frankly frank Frankies amble through their greatest hits from antipasti to dessert, with tips galore, a few tutorials, advice on wine and cheese, equipment and pantry, and totally supportive explanations and instructions for both newbies and seasoned cooks. Mangia bene.
As summer simmers and local fruits and veggies glimmer, going organic gets more appealing and easier. If you want a little encouragement or a handy reference, Cathy Thomas is here to help with her latest, Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce. Arranged alphabetically from apples to turnips (zucchini hangs out with the other squash), the book gives you all the specific info you need on buying, storing, prep and availability, plus a seasonal chart and nutritional content for 56 commonly available varieties. Then select a recipe from the more than 225 offered to showcase what you’ve harvested or chosen at the market. With corn coming into its own, try the Spicy Grilled Corn on the Cob with Parmesan, then gather as many heirloom tomatoes as you can and feast on a salad made with mangoes and blue cheese. When plump red cherries show up, use them in a savory Relish with Grilled Pork Tenderloin. And there are plenty of recipes for year-round organics like Roasted Red Radishes, Broccoli Mac’n’Cheese and spicy Potato and Turnip Curry.
COOKBOOK OF THE MONTH
If you’ve been waiting for the barbecue book of the season, it’s here and it’s a wow, as expected. Steven Raichlen, grand guru of the grill and bold baron of barbecue, serves up his most ambitious, enticing and comprehensive take yet (quite a feat after The Barbecue! Bible) on cooking with fire and smoke. Planet Barbecue! is a sweeping tour of the best live-fire-cooked food from 60 countries on six continents, from Australia to Azerbaijan, Cambodia to Colombia, South Africa to South Korea, with 309 recipes, more than 600 color photos, short essays on each country and profiles of grill masters, all spiced with fiery fervor. Starters, salads, breads, a wide mélange of meats and poultry, fish and shellfish, veggies and desserts all get the Raichlen treatment: detailed instructions, many with step-by-step photos, plus grilling needs, headers that set the scene and sidebars that give you the scoop on these sizzling sensations. Right on, Raichlen, you’ve done it again!