The New Brooklyn Cookbook
Melissa and Brendan Vaughan
Like a well-balanced meal, the carefully collected recipes and stories representing the food and people of the “new” Brooklyn cuisine, come together deliciously in The New Brooklyn Cookbook, by husband and wife team, Melissa and Brendan Vaughan. The sturdy 264 page volume, complete with a hand drawn Brooklyn map on inside covers, showcases 70 recipes from 31 Brooklyn restaurants, peppered with occasional vignettes sharing the stories of local food artisans churning out homespun treats such as granola, kimchee, pickles, and chocolate. The bulk of the cookbook is dedicated to the restaurants that have sprouted up over the past decade or so to create what the authors call the new cuisine of Brooklyn, powered by the gentrification of many neighborhoods in the borough and the slow food, farm-to table movement that characterizes many of the recipes and food goods in this book. However, the Vaughans don’t use buzzwords like “locovore,” or praise new fleeting food trends. Instead, their book is a work of love; of the people, food, and community that is authentically Brooklyn.
The Vaughans take the reader on a culinary journey through much of Brooklyn from the late 90’s through present day with the artisans and restaurants encompassing a dozen or so neighborhoods. To set this book apart from just a book of recipes, the authors dig deep to uncover the truth and passion driving each restaurateur and food artisan. The scope of recipes included in this collection varies from the familiar and comforting Braised Pork with Ricotta Dumplings to the brazen Steak and Eggs Korean Style. Vegetarian dishes have a respectable presence with such recipes as Soft Tofu with Broad Beans and Chile Bean Paste. The collection concludes with a mix of notable cocktails to be found in the borough such as the Nor’easter, a Brooklyn take on the classic Dark and Stormy.
In addition to stunning photographs of every dish in the book, recipes are written with clear, numbered steps, full ingredient lists for each component of the dish, and tips, reminders, variations, and explanations. Another immensely helpful feature is information on which market in Brooklyn to visit for hard to find ingredients. Save for a few odd or gastronomically adventurous ingredients such as octopus and calf’s tongue, the ingredient lists are refreshingly straightforward, simple, and seasonal. There is a brief section devoted to recommended kitchen equipment that will make many of these recipes easier; however, not every home cook will have pasta maker, digital food scale, or potato ricer. Finally, the book rounds out with a handy list of resources including the authors’ favorite shops, markets, pizza joints, food trucks and the like in the borough.
The stories and recipes showcased in this book will surely inspire weekend outings to any of the 31 restaurants featured to experience first-hand the masterful food preparation by some of the best chefs in Brooklyn. But, with this book in hand and a trip to the greenmarket later, you’ll be ready to create your own culinary masterpiece, at a fraction of the cost to boot.
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Check diets, and new dessert trends, at the door when delving into the newest addition to the Baked cookbook collection, Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Baked Explorations pays homage to classic, retro dessert dishes, many of which are heirloom, handwritten recipes from grandmother’s kitchen and the old church cookbook. These are, according to the authors, a collection of the most beloved dessert recipes from around the country. Lewis and Poliafito, owners of the highly acclaimed Baked Bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, scoured lands far and wide across the country to find the vintage recipes of yesteryears, dripping in Americana. When necessary, they bring them up to speed “Baked” style, all while still managing to hold each recipe’s integrity intact, not unlike how their cream cheese icing holds together a red velvet layer cake ever so delicately.
This impressive, if not elegant, hardback spans a touch over 200 pages including strikingly beautiful, drool-worthy photographs of roughly half the recipes. It tells the story of 75 classic American dishes representing all corners of the country, unearthing mysterious origins when possible, such as the lore behind Sawdust Pie. Lewis and Pioliafito find particular worth in sharing recipes, like grasshopper pie and chiffon cake, that have fallen out of vogue over the years, and have created updated versions like Grasshopper Bars made of brownie, peppermint butter cream, and rich dark chocolate ganache. There is a spattering of regional favorites like New York Crumb Cake and Heartland Turtle Bars mixed with rifts on classics like Banana Peanut Butter Pie and Almond Joy Tart to the downright weird Tomato Soup Cupcakes and completely unexpected Strawberry Jello Salad. And if you like the comfy flavor of malt, you’re in luck as it’s one of Lewis’ favorite ingredients and makes an appearance in several recipes.
Lewis is unapologetically lazy in his approach to baking, which ensures these recipes are for the most part unfussy. Keep in mind that many of the recipes have been altered to use a stand-up mixer, like a Kitchen Aid. Recipes are easy to follow, broken into manageable steps, and include insightful tips and variations in the “Baked Note” following most every recipe. Overall this is a must have for any baking enthusiast, foodie historian, or just plain anybody who likes to slip into the occasional sugar coma. And yes, they did sneak in their recipe for their own infamously, devilishly delicious Sweet and Salty Brownie.
Food Lovers Guide to Brooklyn
Food writer, Sherri Eisenburg, has created a culinary guidebook for Brooklyn with her Food Lover’s Guide to Brooklyn. While not classifiable as a cookbook, this easy to travel with paperback is more of an all-things-food travel companion for the borough. This is a comprehensive resource divided by neighborhood to include what the author has determined to be the best of the best in restaurants, from old Brooklyn landmarks to new hipster hangouts, specialty food stores, markets, producers, food events, and recipes. One of the most fantastic aspects of the book is that is visits every corner of Brooklyn from Park Slope to Greenpoint and Bay Ridge to Brighton Beach, and everywhere in between. Eisenburg leaves no rock unturned, as long as there is something good to eat under it.
Although lacking showy font, glossy photographs, or color of any sort between the covers, this humble guidebook is a well thought out reference with a dizzying array of reviews; each larger neighborhood or grouping of smaller neighborhoods showcases between 11 and 58 food destinations. There is an easy to read numbered map of each neighborhood or region, along with a brief summary of the area, making it a respectable companion book for local and traveling foodies alike. The interesting facts and tidbits scattered throughout, such as the story behind Brooklyn pizza and the recent proliferation of food trucks parking in many neighborhoods will satisfy any food trivia enthusiast. Recipes from local businesses are limited to a mere eight, and include a mix of savory and sweet delicacies such as Salvatore Bklyn’s Ricotta, One Girl Cookies’ Fresh Apricot Cake, and Eton Chan’s Pork and Beef Dumplings.
The author includes a “Best of Brooklyn” section that lists her favorites in the borough ranging from doughnuts and coffee to dim sum and jerk chicken. If there is not already enough information packed tightly into 300 plus pages, Eisenburg squeezes in over a dozen food news and review sites to satiate the hungry, tech savvy foodie, including her Twitter handle, SherriNYC, in case you want to check her out. If you don’t know what that last part means, you’re better off just buying the book.
- Eisenburg, Sherri. Food Lovers Guide to Brooklyn. Morris Book Publishing, LLC. 2010.
- Lewis, Matt and Poliafito, Renato. Baked Explorations. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 2010.
- Vaughan, Melissa and Vaughan, Brendan. The New Brooklyn Cookbook. HarperCollins Publishers. 2010.