As Thai restaurants proliferate, many Americans have become real aficionados of this intensely flavorful cuisine. But most of us haven’t had the courage to do Thai make-in instead of Thai take-out. Leela Punyaratabandhu—a Bangkok native, accomplished cook and creator of the blog She Simmers—wants to change that situation by providing all the support, info on ingredients (with suggestions for easily available substitutions) and the doable recipes you’ll need to re-create Thai classics in your own kitchen, no gadgets or gizmos required, in less time and more economically than ordering in. Punyaratabandhu has adapted 100 authentic recipes for home cooks in her first cookbook, aptly titled Simple Thai Food (Ten Speed, $24.99, 236 pages, ISBN 9781607745235). This isn’t “fusion fare” or fancy “Thai-inspired” riffs; the food you’ll cook is the food Punyaratabandhu cooks when she’s longing for the taste of home: Pork Satay with irresistible Peanut Sauce, soul-soothing Pad Thai with Shrimp, “down-home” Chicken-Ginger Stir Fry, Fish with Lime-Chile-Garlic Dressing, versatile basics like Chile Jam and red, green and yellow curry pastes, plus an array of super sweets.

SAY CHEESE!
Claudia Lucero doesn’t just say cheese; she makes it—and makes it fast. In One-Hour Cheese she distills thousands of years of cheese-making know-how into a foolproof, simple-to-follow manual—with step-by-step photos—that makes turning milk into 16 different cheeses a DIY delight. Lucero is as enthusiastic as she is capable, and her preamble of pep talks, tips on the cheese kitchen and pantry, tricks of the trade and troubleshooting basics will put you in a creative comfort zone, ready to change the way you think about creamy, spreadable, firm, chewy, melty and gloriously gooey CHEESE. The recipes, from delicate Meyer Lemon Ricotta to dreamily decadent Brown Butter Burrata, flow in a natural progression, each with a brief summary letting you know what to expect. Add advice on customizing flavors and great party sides to these wondrous one-hour winners, and you’ll be in cheese heaven.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
Though Marc Forgione—chef and owner of his eponymous, Michelin-starred Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York City and star of “Iron Chef America”—was born into a chef family, he had to fight the good fight to make his mark in the food world, never changing the way he cooked or the food he served. His debut cookbook, Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant, details the challenges he’s had to overcome and challenges you to push your inner chef to new heights—to become fearless in the kitchen. These are complex recipes with many intriguingly combined elements, and until you feel comfortable, you can pick the parts you want to tackle. Marinated Cuttlefish with Sriracha Mayo, a spectacular Salt-Crusted Rack of Lamb, Pine Nut Butter and Apple Pie Soufflé are just a small sampling of the treasures you can try before attempting one of Forgione’s multicomponent masterpieces like Pork Tenderloin with Speck, Mustard Greens and Gnocchi à la Romaine, or his signature Chicken Under a Brick and Chili Lobster. Forgione’s food is fabulous, his techniques learnable. So, take his challenge, stretch your cooking muscles and enjoy the results.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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