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Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work [Hardcover]

Aki Kamozawa , H. Alexander Talbot
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010 The husband-and-wife culinary team of H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa use chemistry, biology, and a host of creative cooking techniques to produce the uniquely delicious recipes found in Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. Building their book around the science of food preparation, Kamozawa and Talbot cleverly explain why quickly freezing fruits and vegetables best preserves their texture, which woods produce the most flavorful smoke, and why folding dough, rather than kneading it, is the key to making easy artisan bread. The recipes encompass the traditional and the exotic--from Roast Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese, to Grilled Potato Ice Cream and Red Cabbage Kimchi Cracklings. Prefacing every section with a fascinating look at the science behind the scenes, Kamozawa and Talbot's thoughtful and tantalizing book allows foodies, chefs, and home cooks of all skill levels to cook with intelligence and confidence. --Lynette Mong

Q&A with Authors Aki and Alex

What inspired you to write Ideas in Food?
Aki: We were out in a remote corner of Colorado opening a boutique hotel and restaurant and it was taking longer than expected to get things going. We were doing some cooking but lacked that inspiration that you get from cooking for a restaurant full of people. Our GM at the time introduced us to the idea of a blog and suggested it might be something we would be interested in exploring. I checked it out first and thought it would be fun. Six years later, here we are.

Who’s your favorite author? Chef?
Aki: That’s an impossible question because there are so many of both. Some of our favorite chefs are people we’ve been lucky enough to work with or get to know like Tony Maws, Spike Gjerde, Wylie Dufresne, David Chang, Johnny Iuzzini, Daniel Patterson, Michael Laiskonis, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, Marco Canora, Tony Conte, I could go on and on. Beyond that we are inspired by chefs around the world, we are inspired by reading menus and websites, places we’ve eaten and so many different things. Frankly there’s no list we could put together that would be long enough to cover everyone who we find inspiring although the people listed above are incredibly generous and forthcoming with their knowledge and experience and that is always a gift.

As for writers, that list is equally long. I can say that in my youth, before I ever worked in a restaurant, the writers who I read first and stayed with me the longest include MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin, John Thorne, James Villas, John T Edge, Roy Andries de Groot, Jane Grigson, Pierre Franey, James Beard, Nicholas Freeling, Madeleine Kamman, Calvin Trilling, Raymond Sokolov and Mimi Sheraton. I’ve always been a reader.

You can only cook from three cookbooks for the rest of your life. What are they and why?
Alex: Madeleine Kamman’s The New Making of a Chef, Shirley O. Corriher’s Cookwise, and to be totally immodest I would choose our book. We’ve actually been cooking from it since we got a copy of the galley.

What’s your favorite book? Why?
Alex: The latest edition of On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

Aki: It’s the one book to rule them all.

How do you come up with your recipes?
Alex: Recipes come together in a variety of ways and they are not always calculated. Our past, present and future are essential in directing the paths we take. Flavor memories and life experience guide our inspirations. Think about grilled lobster. I remember sea breezes and too much sun, the smell of seaweed and the aroma of drawn butter. All of these memories are touchstones in the creation of a new dish. Today we know about the different muscle fibers in a lobster and we can use this knowledge to cook each part to delicious succulence. So we combine our inspiration and technical knowledge to come up with something new and delicious.

What’s one food item or implement you couldn’t live without?
Alex: Since there are two of us we will take salt and a sharp knife. We share pretty well.

What does your kitchen look like?
Aki: It’s a traditional home kitchen with all the usual suspects from a great coffee maker to an electric range (can’t have gas where we live) but tucked away in what used to be our garage is our workshop and library stacked with books and more unusual cooking equipment from immersion circulators to nitrogen tanks and a CVap.

What’s your favorite childhood meal? Adult meal?
Alex: Childhood meal would be mac and cheese and my favorite adult meal would be macaroni and cheese with truffles.

Aki: I had a lot of favorite childhood meals and unsurprisingly there is a list in my head without one particular meal standing out in my mind. I was lucky to have a lot of good food in my life and for me the best meals were almost always occasions shared with people I loved and was very comfortable with so the company was as important as the food. That is equally true of my adult meals, great company can overcome bad food and the most amazing meal cannot triumph over an uncomfortable atmosphere at the table.

If you could cook for one person, who would it be?
Alex: Steve Jobs

What has been your biggest kitchen mishap?
Alex: Depends on the day.

Fill in the blank:

My guilty pleasure is ________

Alex: Starbucks Eggnog Latte

Aki: Haagen Daaz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream, straight from the carton with a spoon.

My superpower wish is: ________

Alex: I would not need any sleep. That would make me a heck of a lot more productive in my day.

Aki: The ability to motivate and inspire the people around me to stay on track and not lose focus because that only makes them stronger.

I need more: ________

Alex: Shelf Space in the kitchen to store all my junk.

Aki: Time to get things done.

From Publishers Weekly

Though it's not an all-purpose cookbook, this volume by Kamozawa and Talbot, the Ideas in Food bloggers and "Kitchen Alchemy" columnists for Popular Science, could easily be an everyday reference tool and a source of go-to recipes for anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. The authors break down the science behind correctly and deliciously preparing everything from bread, pasta, and eggs (including soft scrambled eggs; hard-boiled eggs, and brown butter hollandaise sauce) to homemade butter and yogurt. Most recipes fall into the "Ideas for Everyone" category, which composes about the first three-quarters of the book; the final section is "Ideas for Professionals," which explores trendy molecular gastronomy topics like liquid nitrogen--used to make popcorn gelato--and carbon dioxide, a necessary tool for making coffee onion rings. Straightforward prose and anecdotes with personality keep this from being a dry food science tome. And accessible recipes for such dishes as a simple roast chicken, green beans almondine, and root beer-braised short ribs mean it never gets too lofty. (Dec.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Say �molecular gastronomy,� and chances are that people will think of either Bravo�s Top Chef or Spanish restaurateur Ferran Adria, chef of El Bulli. Now, six years after Harold McGee�s ground-breaking scientific investigation, On Food and Cooking, comes a more consumer-friendly and recipe-packed (75) series of essays by husband-and-wife Talbot and Kamozawa. Several features interact to seduce reader-cooks. First is the authors� exuberance and passion for the subject. No longer, for instance, will hydrocolloids be items of fear and loathing; they�ll be an acceptable ingredient that forms a gel when water is added. Second is the brevity of their 50 essays, whose length rarely exceeds five pages. Third is that the scientific explanation, even though communicated in the vernacular, is immeasurably bolstered by the inclusion of at least one relevant recipe. A bonus for foodies and professionals alike. --Barbara Jacobs


"Alex and Aki have done the hard work—this book will enlighten any cook with its insightful recipes and new perspectives on food. I will make sure to have a copy on hand at all of our restaurants."
--David Chang, chef-owner of Momofuku

"Ideas in Food
is filled not only with intriguing recipes but also enormous intelligence and thoughtfulness about the way food works and why, everything from the simple stuff, such as fruits and vegetables, to the bizarre, including ‘meat glue.’ Alex and Aki are serious players with food, and here they tell you all the cool stuff they've figured out. I love this book."
--Michael Ruhlman, author of Ratio

"Alex and Aki have produced an essential reference book that belongs on the shelf of every fan of contemporary cooking.  By exploring the building blocks of flavor from the garden to the test kitchen, it opens a fascinating window on the past, present, and future of American cuisine."
--Michael Anthony, executive chef of Gramercy Tavern

"I am so excited about Aki and Alex’s book. I have been a fan for many years and am constantly inspired and educated by their work! I can’t wait to cook my way though these pages and add these new techniques to my repertoire."
--Johnny Iuzzini, head judge of Top Chef Just Desserts and author of Dessert FourPlay

"Alex and Aki's excitement and enthusiasm is contagious and it gives both professional and home cooks alike a kick start of creativity with the turn of every page."    
--Chris Cosentino, chef-owner of Incanto

"Finally! A cookbook that puts it all into perspective. Aki and Alex blaze the culinary trail, looking under every rock they come across and sharing their insightful discoveries along the way. This is a book that will open the eyes of professional chefs and home cooks alike."
--Sean Brock, executive chef of McCrady’s

"Alex and Aki have done a remarkable job of explaining many techniques and ingredients in the modern kitchen. I’m excited to see a book that makes this approach accessible to more people and that also includes delicious recipes."
--Wylie Dufresne, chef-owner of wd~50

"Aki and Alex share a mission—to change the way we think about both what we cook and how we cook. Delicious ideas leap from every page, easily put to immediate use in the kitchen. Painstakingly researched yet highly readable, Ideas in Food lays out the science behind cooking in a precise and personal way that we can all grasp!"
--Michael Laiskonis, executive pastry chef of Le Bernardin

"I have been a fan of Alex and Aki's website Ideas in Food for years and have always found it an incredible inspiration. It is fantastic that they have crafted an easy-to-read and informative book for everyone to enjoy."
--Grant Achatz, chef-owner of Alinea

"A fantastic glimpse into the minds of two of the most creative cooks in the country, Ideas in Food brings modern restaurant techniques and sensibilities into the home kitchen. A must for anyone interested in new ways of looking at food."
--Daniel Patterson, chef-owner of Coi

" everyday reference tool and a source of go-to recipes for anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen."
-- Publisher's Weekly

"The amazingly prolific hosts of one of the most fascinating food Web sites have finally gathered many of their most useful and ingenious ideas and recipes—ranging from brining a chicken and baking no-knead brioche bread to hypermodern creations such as yuzu meringue and encapsulated celery root—and put them between hard covers for our pleasure and edification." --

"Illuminating...this book is bound to get many readers thinking of new possibilities in their kitchens."
-- Library Journal

"The brains and talent behind one of the very best food websites also are behind one of the very best new food books....Ideas in Food is an entertaining, inspiring and enlightening book that will broaden your understanding about cooking and eating."  
-- The Sacramento Bee

About the Author

AKI KAMOZAWA and H. ALEXANDER TALBOT met in the kitchen at Clio in Boston in 1997 and have been cooking together ever since. They own Ideas in Food, a consulting business based in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and have worked with individual chefs as well as with companies such as No. 9 Group in Boston, Fourth Wall Restaurants in New York City, Frito Lay, and Unilever. Their company grew out of their Ideas in Food blog, which they started in 2004. Together they wrote an online column called “Kitchen Alchemy” for Popular Science. Visit them at

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

No-Knead Brioche Dough
Makes two 9 x 5-inch loaves
Good brioche is an amazing thing. The bread is light, buttery, and full
of flavor. It can be somewhat labor intensive in its original form, so we
were immediately intrigued by the idea of creating a no-knead version.
Normally the butter is beaten into the dough, but here we melt it and
add it to the wet ingredients. The long resting period allows it to be
fully absorbed into the dough without all that extra work. This may
seem like a large recipe, but the dough can be used to make various
sweet breads like the sticky bun recipe that follows, and the plain loaves
freeze beautifully.
6 ½ cups/975 grams all-purpose flour
½ cup/100 grams sugar
3 ½ teaspoons/20 grams fine sea salt
½ teaspoon/2 grams instant yeast
8 large eggs
1 cup/230 grams room-temperature water
½ cup/135 grams milk
1 pound/450 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Milk or heavy cream for brushing the loaves
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Whisk to
thoroughly blend.
In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, water, and milk. Once
they are well blended, whisk in the butter. Pour the wet ingredients
into the dry mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon
until the liquid is absorbed and there are no lumps. The mixture will
resemble muffin batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it
rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours. The dough will rise to
approximately one and a half times its initial volume.
Using a rubber spatula, gently loosen the dough from the bowl.
Dampen your hands with cool water and, with the dough still in the
bowl, slide one hand under one side of the dough. Fold that side of the
dough into the center and press down gently so the dough adheres to
itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the folding process. Do
this two more times. After the fourth fold, flip over the dough so the
seams are on the bottom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it
rise at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. The dough will double in
Repeat the folding procedure, ending with the seams on the bottomn.
The dough is now ready to use.
To Bake the Brioche
Divide the dough in half. Place each half in a greased 9 × 5-inch
loaf pan. (You can also bake half and reserve half for the sticky bun
recipe that follows.) Cover the pans with a towel or plastic wrap. Let
the dough rest in the pans while you preheat the oven to 375oF
(190°C) or 350oF (175°C) with convection.
Brush the loaves with milk and bake on the middle rack of the
oven for 1 hour. The loaves are done when they are a deep golden
brown and sound hollow when tapped firmly with your finger. Cool
for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Turn the loaves out of their
pans and return them to the rack to cool completely.
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