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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 (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 28, 2010
Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa, husband-and-wife chefs and the forces behind the popular blog Ideas in Food, have made a living out of being inquisitive in the kitchen. Their book shares the knowledge they have gleaned from numerous cooking adventures, from why tapioca flour makes a silkier chocolate pudding than the traditional cornstarch or flour to how to cold smoke just about any ingredient you can think of to impart a new savory dimension to everyday dishes. Perfect for anyone who loves food, Ideas in Food is the ideal handbook for unleashing creativity, intensifying flavors, and pushing one’s cooking to new heights.
This guide, which includes 100 recipes, explores questions both simple and complex to find the best way to make food as delicious as possible. For home cooks, Aki and Alex look at everyday ingredients and techniques in new ways—from toasting dried pasta to lend a deeper, richer taste to a simple weeknight dinner to making quick “micro stocks” or even using water to intensify the flavor of soups instead of turning to long-simmered stocks. In the book’s second part, Aki and Alex explore topics, such as working with liquid nitrogen and carbon dioxide—techniques that are geared towards professional cooks but interesting and instructive for passionate foodies as well. With primers and detailed usage guides for the pantry staples of molecular gastronomy, such as transglutaminase and hydrocolloids (from xanthan gum to gellan), Ideas in Food informs readers how these ingredients can transform food in miraculous ways when used properly.
Throughout, Aki and Alex show how to apply their findings in unique and appealing recipes such as Potato Chip Pasta, Root Beer-Braised Short Ribs, and Gingerbread Soufflé. With Ideas in Food, anyone curious about food will find revelatory information, surprising techniques, and helpful tools for cooking more cleverly and creatively at home. 

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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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307717402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307717405
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply amazing! Very inspiring! January 7, 2011
By Ethan U
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Even though my expectations for this book were extremely high, I can honestly say it's leagues better than I could have imagined. For anyone with even basic cooking technique, from home cook to professional, there truly is enough to reinvigorate and elevate your creativity in the kitchen for a long time.

The book is organized broadly into two parts, firstly for the home cook and lastly professionals. The techniques in the second part are not necessarily more difficult, but simply address newer food products and applications such as "meat glue", liquid nitrogen and carbon dioxide which most home cooks would not likely have on hand. However, Aki and Alex make them so familiar and understandable in their explanations that I'm left to believe that some will be as common to us as baking powder and gelatin someday.

The home cook section covers such topics as how to perfectly cook eggs, make no knead bread, fresh pasta, pickling and preserving, making vinegar from scratch, fruits and vegetables, ice cream, making fresh cheeses and a ton more! What I liked most is that unlike most cookbooks which just give you the "how to", Aki and Alex explain in simple detail why each step is taken in the recipe so these topics are truly demystified once and for all and you are left feeling like you've grown to be a more confident cook and not just followed someone's instructions.

I've only had the book a few days and I've already "cryo-blanched" some Kale to great effect (this is simply using a foodsaver vacuum sealer to vacuum seal raw kale leaves, freeze them and rethaw them so the process tenderizes the vegetable without cooking and destroying the nutrients.) I couldn't believe how easy it was.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A miniature Modernist Cuisine February 20, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If a book's worth can be measured by the number of dog-eared pages, then Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work could turn around the international financial crisis. In fact, my copy has so many turned page corners that I'm expecting a `Cease and Desist" order to arrive at my home any day now. Well over 75 pages are marked as requiring my re-reading and note taking. And lest you think I'm a chronic book destroyer, a quick scan of my most favorite and used books show less than ten dog-eared pages in any one book. This is one worthy book for anyone who cares about the inner workings of their food or for anyone who wants someone to do the homework for them so they can simply follow instructions and put out great dishes.

Aki Kamozawa and H. Alex Talbot are the pragmatic culinary uber duo from Ideasin and the Kitchen Alchemy column of Popular Science magazine. Their kitchen pedigree includes Clio in Boston and a slew of smaller kitchens and consultancies. In the modernist cyber kitchens, Alex and Aki are royalty.

The much anticipated Ideas in Food comes in at 320 pages with zero pictures, sketches, drawings or even graphical imagery. That's right! This book, the sister of the blog, as know for its rich stimulating photography as its cutting edge techniques, has left the artistic creativity to the reader's imagination. Instead, it hones in on the science of creating great food. And Aki and Alex bring the reader this science in such a friendly way that even the most science phobic among us will be able to understand why eggs cook the way they do.

But with Harold McGee and Hervé This books and the countless food blogs (paramount among them: that examine food science, where does Ideas in Food fit in?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and easily accessible approach to cooking April 22, 2011
By gfweb
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is the logical outgrowth of the "scientific" approach to cooking that is most associated with Harold McGhee and perhaps Alton Brown. It is more cooking/recipe focused than McGhee and a modestly motivated reader will come away with a changed approach to traditional dishes. Many of the recipes are simple eg pickled vegetables, but at the same time illuminating. There are sections designed to appeal to professional cooks but these aren't inaccessible to the rest of us and provide more advanced techniques that could easily fit into a home kitchen.

Recently Nathan Myrvold's monumental/titanic 6 volume Modernist Cuisine has gotten deserved attention. Clearly a great book, but Ideas in Food covers much of the same turf and at 1/40th the price.

Ideas in Food is not a replacement for The Joy of Cooking. It is a book to read, appreciate and grow into a better cook in the process.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing resource December 29, 2010
By Joe
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
On one the best food books of 2010. A really great resource for home cooks as well as professionals. Working in a professional kitchen I found their entire book to be incredibly useful. Also bought the digital edition to always have at my disposal. A must buy for anyone who loves food and learning.
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97 of 135 people found the following review helpful
By Sally
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As someone with a background in both biology and chemistry as well as someone who is known by family and friends for being almost comically exacting in applying science in the kitchen I brought very high expectations to this book. I was hoping that it would both expand my knowledge of the science behind various cooking techniques as well as supply some delicious recipes that I could duplicate in the kitchen. I was sorely disappointed on both fronts.

The scientific explanations, while interesting, are frustratingly vague and difficult to apply to your cooking without a concrete example. I assume the the recipes which follow were intended to provide concrete examples. Unfortunately most of the recipes are immensely complex, expensive, and labor intensive. For example the braised short ribs recipe referenced in the publisher's weekly review is nothing less than a 48-72 hour cooking marathon requiring ice baths on two separate occasions, a circulating water bath on three separate occasions, a pressure cooker on two separate occasions, and a vacuum sealer. They provide some substitution options such as zip locks for vacuum bags, but how, for example, I am I supposed to safely keep a large pot of water at exactly 149 F on my open flame gas stove-top for 24 hours? This recipe is far from an exception. Most of the recipes in the book are not accessible unless you own a mountain of kitchen equipment, have extensive cooking experience, and have a lot of time on your hands.

I had to give the book two stars because there are some useful tidbits that make it not a complete waste of time and I could see how if you did own the equipment and have the time and experience it would probably be very helpful. If you don't have those things, be prepared to be frustrated as you come across recipe after recipe which you simply can't duplicate at home.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Incredible book
Published 3 months ago by jake
4.0 out of 5 stars He loved this book
I gave this as a Christmas gift to my nephew in law, who is a doctor and blossoming cook. He loves the scientific aspect of cooking, esp. baking. He loved this book! Read more
Published 4 months ago by David Mendoza
5.0 out of 5 stars learned more than any other food book I've read
Perfect if you want to learn how and why things work, along with brilliant examples in the recipes and stories.
Published 7 months ago by Muffie
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
interesting techniques, for those looking for a quick introduction to modernist cuisine.
Published 8 months ago by MagicFan!
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideas, inspiration, and a whole lot of knowledge!
When I first opened this book, I was immediately disappointed. I had grown so used to wonderful food photography, spoiled by Maximum Flavor, Modernist Cuisine at Home, Ruhlman's... Read more
Published 11 months ago by DarthClem
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 11 months ago by Andrea L Palm
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant technical and passionate resource for all committed cooks
This is really a treasure trove of flavour, technique and passion. This and Maximum Flavour are really not to missed by the serious home or professional cook.
Published 13 months ago by anne bright
5.0 out of 5 stars Obsessive foodie paradise
As in their sequal, "Maximum Flavor", this book gives obsessive foodies reason to rejoice! Excellent essays describing in depth background on ingredients and techniques,... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Tara A. Palen
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool book, an extension of their blog
The authors' also have a blog of the same name which is a great resource - this book is like an extension of that blog. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Pete O.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone but if you're a fan of their website, this book is a...
Same attention to detail as the recipes and articles on the website. A great read if you're a food geek.
Published 21 months ago by Chris
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