From chocolate to chicken fat, Northeast Ohio’s food glitterati have a new stack of cookbooks worth cracking open this fall.
Because brownies, cookies and cakes weren’t enough, Bev Shaffer is out with the fourth in her “to die for” series — Chocolate Desserts To Die For! ($26.95, hardcover, Pelican).
Shaffer, a Seville resident who works as corporate chef for Vitamix in Olmsted Falls, is at her best when writing about chocolate.
Unlike her other single-subject titles, Chocolate Desserts has it all: cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, tortes, puddings, muffins, cheesecake, even waffles, granola and bread, all united by some form of cocoa butter.
When it comes to chocolate preference, there’s something for everyone, from white chocolate to the very dark and decadent.
Shaffer devotes an entire chapter to pairings — chocolate with orange, chocolate with pumpkin, chocolate with cinnamon to name a few — and focuses other chapters on comfort foods, party foods, chocolate gifts and elegant desserts.
“I continue to find such inspiration in chocolate because of the fact that it’s so unique among foods: an ingredient, a flavoring and a foodstuff in its own right. The possibilities are endlessly delicious,” Shaffer said. “And it’s part of the four basic food groups — milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate and chocolate truffles.”
The book is laced with Shaffer’s signature humor and her husband John Shaffer’s photography and food styling, which will leave you longing for something chocolate, of course.
Author Michael Ruhlman’s new book, The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat ($25, hardcover, Little, Brown), is a true love letter.
For those who aren’t Jewish or familiar with the cuisine, schmaltz is rendered chicken fat cooked with onions, which is used to flavor many traditional dishes. Ruhlman was motivated to write about schmaltz after he heard his neighbor, Cleveland Heights resident Lois Baron, lamenting that the fat would soon be lost.
Ruhlman was intrigued. “Basically, I’m a pro-fat proselytizer in a fat-phobic country. Fat doesn’t make you fat, eating too much makes you fat!” he said in an email exchange. “Schmaltz was a mysterious type of fat I knew about but had never used.”
While Baron thought the idea was a little crazy, she agreed to teach him about schmaltz. The book contains detailed instructions on how to prepare schmaltz, with photographs by Ruhlman’s wife, Donna Turner Ruhlman, along with two dozen or so recipes. The book actually began as an app that the Ruhlmans developed for the iPad. Ruhlman’s publisher liked it and asked to publish it in a hardcover format.
Ruhlman said a simple recipe of schmaltz-roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary is enough to provide non-Jewish cooks with that aha moment to show them why this is a fat like no other for cooking.
Though Jews tend to fear schmaltz as heart attack food, Ruhlman said readers are beginning to understand his fascination. “For people who love to cook it’s been a revelation. It also feeds into the important trend of our learning to use all of the animals that we raise for our food,” he said.
Finally, Cleveland chef Michael Symon is out with his newest book, Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 ($19.99, softcover, Clarkson Potter).
The subtitle tells the tale of this book: “Five fresh ingredients, plus five minutes, equals 120 fantastic dinners.”
The book contains recipes for more than 100 quick dinners and a few desserts that can be put together in five minutes, using just five ingredients along with a handful of pantry staples. There are recipes that cook quickly on the grill or stovetop, as well as egg dishes, sandwiches and plenty of pasta.
In the introduction, Symon explains that when he was asked to join the cast of ABC’s The Chew, he wanted to devise segments that were “practical and encouraging” for home cooks.
“My goal was to show people that cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating or time-consuming or expensive to be delicious,” he states.
The book was written with Cleveland food writer Douglas Trattner.