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My Modern Caribbean Kitchen: 70 Fresh Takes on Island Favorites by Julius Jackson, Page Street Publishing, US $25.00, Pp 176, July 2018, ISBN 978-1624145810

The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen: 80 Authentic, Healthy Recipes Made Quick and Easy for Everyday Cooking by Samantha Ferraro, Page Street Publishing, US $25.00, Pp 192, July 2018, ISBN 978-1624145544

Salad Feasts: How to Assemble the Perfect Meal by Jessica Elliott Dennison, Matt Russell (Photographer), Hardie Grant, US $24.99, Pp 160, July 2018, ISBN 978-1784881641

 Real Life Dinners: Fun, Fresh, Fast Dinners from the Creator of The Chic Site by Rachel Hollis,  St. Martin’s Griffin, US $21.99, Pp 210, June 2018, ISBN 978-1250153234

Most people think of the Caribbean islands as a vacation destination. Caribbean islands are known for their beaches, commerce, and liveliness. But, equally important is the Caribbean cuisine. Julius Jackson says that life in much of the Caribbean is centered around food. Also, in many Caribbean islands, the serving sizes are large. Traditional Caribbean breakfast is usually different from the eggs and bacon of the mainland. They use ingredients that are warm, heavy and filling. Breakfast is the fuel for the rest of the day. Breakfast is served with tea instead of juices and milk. Mouth-watering breakfast recipes include ‘Dum Break and Cheese’ and ‘Breakfast Pate.’ In the Caribbean, mealtime is family time. They usually serve large portions for lunches and dinners and meals are well seasoned, featuring locally sourced, whole ingredients for maximum flavor. Finger-licking main meals include ‘Stewed Conch’ and ‘Salman Salmon Balls.’ Soup is a staple throughout the Caribbean. People have always lived off the land and relied on less expensive ingredients to create meals. Traditionally, West Indians without access to a stove used coal pots as a heating source. Coal pots are best used for boiling, which creates a perfect canvas for turning simple ingredients into delectable dishes. Affordable ingredients such as beans, pig extremities, okra, and fish are basic ingredients in the Caribbean cuisine. In the Caribbean, they feel as if a meal is not complete without many options for starches. In the Caribbean, they love to snack. The flavorful snacks and sides include ‘Dawn’s Coal Pot Saltfish Cakes’ and ‘carnival Beef [or Saltfish or Lobster] Pate.’ If you want to have a glass of juice, there are many options like ‘Tropical Fruit Punch.’ My Modern Caribbean Kitchen features over 80 Caribbean recipes perfect for the novice or expert cook and anyone that doesn’t have a Caribbean restaurant right next door. You will find interesting tips that she’s plucked from Caribbean kitchens.

*****

If you love international cuisines, you must have tried Mediterranean cuisine and loved it. The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen has many great Mediterranean recipes from across the region. Samantha Ferraro says that Mediterranean food is simple and honest and made impressive with bold, flavorful spices such as smoked paprika, sumac, and za’atar. People who eat a Mediterranean style diet have been known to live the longest lives by filling their plates with lean proteins, heart-healthy olive oil and loads of fresh seasonal produce. Mediterranean cuisine spans several continents and ethnicities. The recipes included in The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen are from different Mediterranean ethnicities, particularly Turkey, Spain, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran. Even if you consider cooking an art, it should not be time-consuming. The mezze and appetizer recipes include such flavorful recipes as ‘Steamed Mussels with Tomato and Harissa’ and ‘Baked Feta Two Ways.’ The main meals include ‘Poached Fish with Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Herbs’ and ‘Za’atar chicken Skewers.’ Many of us love soups. The aromatic soup recipes range from ‘Turkish Lentil Soup’ to ‘White Bean Soup with Herbs, Lemon and Arugula.’ There are many delicious options for salads such as ‘Autumn Squash Salad with figs and Arugula’ and ‘Fennel Fattoush Salad with Pistachio.’ If your staple is rice, there are many great options that include ‘Basmati Rice with Pistachio, Lima Beans and Dill’ and ‘Persian Rice with Turmeric and Saffron.’ Samantha Ferraro has also included several recipes for dips like ‘Yogurt Feta Dip with Fresh Herbs’ and ‘Mediterranean Chimichurri.’ Samantha Ferraro is the founder of the popular blog ‘The Little Ferraro Kitchen.’ The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen is packed with demystifying Mediterranean cookery, every recipe easily accessible, and easy to follow. If you are new to the Mediterranean cuisine, read the author’s passion and perfection as you make every recipe. The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen is at the top of its genre.

*****

Salads are an essential part of healthy and delicious meals. Salads can very often even replace main meals. If you are looking for another cookbook for salads, Salad Feasts is what you should be looking for. Jessica Elliott Dennison has a very practical approach to make or, what she calls, assemble salads. She takes a few good ingredients and tumbles them onto a big sharing platter, without the worry of complicated techniques or inaccessible ingredients. When we do not have the exact ingredients listed or if we are unfamiliar with the exotic oil or paste or other ingredients, most of us tend to skip making that recipe altogether. To avoid such a situation, he has included substitutes for difficult-to-find or exotic ingredients with each recipe. She writes, “Perhaps I’ve used Brussels sprouts in a recipe but its mid-summer and Brussels sprouts are nowhere to be seen, or maybe the divisive green sprouts are just not your thing. If that is the case, chop a broccoli head, some cauliflower or a substitute cabbage instead. Use the recipe as a loose guide, get a feel for the method, standout textures and flavors then make it your own. Follow instincts and you’ll be onto something brilliant.” The flavorful salad recipes range from ‘Fig, Radicchio, Halloumi’ to ‘Hot Smoked Salmon’ to ‘Avocado, Coconut Noodles.’ Although many of these salads can replace light meals, there are some delicious light meal recipes as well such as ‘Roast Chicken’ and ‘Vegetable Fritter.’ Salad Feasts is a collection of easy-to-make salads for people who love to eat well and healthy. Jessica has given detailed tips for turning each recipe into a feast. The salad recipes showcase a large number of healthy and delicious and replaceable ingredients from arugula to avocado to coconut. Many of these salads are crunchy and textured which makes them doubly delicious. Matt Russell’s stunning photographs make the book quite attractive. They are easy-to-make and will forever change the way you think about and enjoy the salad.

*****

We are living in chaotic times, taking kids to and from schools and to the sports/music/play events and back. That is not enough. We also have to meet work deadlines. In real life, we are left with little time to prepare dinners unless it is a special occasion. In other words, nothing should be from a starter. But, you still want to know what is actually in the food you eat. In Real Life Dinners, Rachel Hollis takes you inside her kitchen, and shows how to make fresh and fast recipes which range from ‘Breakfast Quesadillas’ to ‘Homemade Hot Pockets’ to ‘Pineapple Chicken stir-Fry’ to ‘Ranch Beef stew’ to ‘Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs’ to ‘Layered Antipasto Salad.’

Rachel Hollis also helps your children – in some cases, the adults as well – learn table manners. Here are some of the tips she gives!

–  Don’t talk with your mouth full… or even partially full… even when your story is exciting.

–  Don’t reach across anyone else’s plate. Resist the urge. Simply ask the person whose plate is between you and your heart’s desire to please pass the item over,

–  If someone asks you to pass them something like ketchup, you may not help yourself to it before handing it over.

–  Keep your elbow off the table! When the dinner is over and you are all hanging out, feel free to get more casual.

–  Your napkin goes in your lap (even when it’s paper).

–  You should wait until three people at the table have their plates, then you should begin eating.

–  Don’t be gross! And that includes thinking about the release of any bodily gas or fluid, telling stories that make it hard for the rest of us not to gag, and so on.

–  Bring your food to your mouth, not your mouth to the food.

–  Wait for your turn to turn to speak.

–  No technology at the table. It’s rude.

–  Conversation is a must. Conversation is the whole point of having dinner together. This is where you learn about something that is bothering our children and vice versa.

–  Whoever cooks does not clean. This is a polite gesture you teach to your children. This is also one way of thanking your parents for preparing food for you. However, saying thank you remains a must.

Real Life Dinners is nothing short of brilliant! With these warmth and delicious recipes, Rachel Hollis combats excuses people use to eat fast food. Real Life Dinners is guaranteed to change hearts and minds. This beautiful book is a kind of resource guide that will provide good food and table manners to the whole family and groom your children at the dining table.

 

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