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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply amazing! Very inspiring!
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...
Published on January 7, 2011 by Ethan Unick

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94 of 127 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inaccessible for the average (or even above average) cook
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...
Published on January 14, 2011 by Sally


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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply amazing! Very inspiring!, January 7, 2011
By 
Ethan Unick (Sparta, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
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.

Another great technique is their explanation of "pre-hydrating starches", which again in practice is simply soaking rice or pasta for a few hours in cold water (or any other flavored liquid!), draining it then cooking normally but in less time. When this is done the starch cooks quicker, and allows for the addition of extra flavor via the soaking liquid, really cool!

I have read my fair share of cookbooks and in terms of value for your investment I can't imagine a better pick than this book. There is so much knowledge, explained with such finesse and enthusiasm, this is definitely a rare find. I thank the authors for their contribution and hope they keep the ideas coming! :)
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A miniature Modernist Cuisine, February 20, 2011
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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 Food.com 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: CookingIssues.com) that examine food science, where does Ideas in Food fit in? Having read pretty much every food science offering, I can say that this is the densest and most accessible of them all. McGee and This offer more lab sterile approaches to food science where their findings are undisputed and readily disseminated. You can't go wrong with either. CookingIssues is more experimental and up-to-the-minute, but at the whim of its authors' fancies. Ideas in Food starts with the basic principles but quickly races down roads guided by their own creativity. What good is it to learn the best way of making pasta if you don't do anything interesting with it? Where McGee and This's lecture circuit is the classroom, Kamozawa and Talbot's is in the kitchen.

The book is divided into two sections: Ideas for Everyone and Ideas for Professionals. The Ideas for Everyone section includes seasoning and preserving, bread, pasta, gnocchi and risotto, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and meat and seafood. The Ideas for Professionals section includes hydrocolloids, transglutaminase, liquid nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Possibly because I work with the professional additives that they cover, I did not find the professional section overly useful (with the exception of carbon dioxide which rarely gets coverage) with the exception that it provides a succinct summary of the various hydrocolloids. However, the Everyone section was ripe with new and refined ideas.

With no fuss, Aki and Alex throw out tip after tip. For example, they state that in frying "We use rice bran oil for frying because it has a high smoke point and a clean, neutral flavor, which means that fried foods tend to cook evenly without burning or absorbing any heavy flavors from the oil." After reading this I switched my restaurant's oil over to rice bran oil and we haven't looked back. Really, rather amazing stuff - how did I not get the memo on this earlier!? And transfat free!

In regards to brining, "We don't generally wash fish and seafood; instead we soak them in a 5 percent salt solution for ten minutes. This soak coagulates exterior proteins, firms the flesh, and extends the shelf life of the fish." When considering the best way to have pasta cook quickly, "The answer was a cold-water soak. This technique almost completely separates the hydration and cooking processes. We know that starch needs water to cook properly. A cold-water soak, at a 4:1 ratio of water to pasta, allows the starch to slowly absorb the water that it needs to gelatinize." Page after page of tips and techniques that are not esoteric, but down-to-earth useful.

Ideas in Food also offers 100 recipes ranging from scrambled eggs to root beer braised short ribs. Nothing crazy and fancy, just food that you're likely to attempt at home. And while the authors may mention the use of the expensive professional gadgetry in the introduction to the recipes, none is required to attempt the recipes in a home kitchen.

Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work is a worthwhile book for your library. It is said that humans only use 10% of our brains, and if you only use 10% of this book, your meals will still be richer for it.
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94 of 127 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inaccessible for the average (or even above average) cook, January 14, 2011
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This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and easily accessible approach to cooking, April 22, 2011
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This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
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
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This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
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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70 of 98 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelmed, January 16, 2011
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This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
I have to agree with "Sally" -- this book has some interesting elements, but the recipes are either basic (nothing particularly innovative in the biscuits or banana bread) or tortuous (the braised short ribs.) Why I feel I'm qualified to write this review: I'm a good cook. While I'm certainly not a professional, I did cook professionally at my family's restaurant that earned its sixth or seventh DiRoNa award while I ran the kitchen. I can read through an unfamiliar recipe, and have a pretty good idea of what the outcome is going to be. I don't mind lengthy processes or challenging techniques. I've made mozzarella cheese in Tajikistan, bagels in Afghanistan, mint chocolate chip ice cream in Europe, and very American-style pizza in the Middle East. But this book didn't inspire me in the least. Pouring the fat from a pound and a half of bacon (to say nothing of the cooked bacon) into a risotto dish that requires a pressure cooker to make a stock from apple cider and cheddar cheese, that serves 4 people as a main dish is nothing short of scary, as is combining white cheddar cheese, garam masala, buttermilk, tomatoes, and soy sauce for a poaching stock for grouper. In the "Ideas for Professionals" -- Popcorn Gelato, using butter-flavored Orville Redenbacher Microwave Popcorn? Oy. And frankly, the tone of the book is condescending. The authors point out their professionalism at every opportunity, and assure readers how transported we will be by their recipes. The science is interesting to a point -- I believe it goes way beyond what a cook wants or needs to know. Finally (while I'm on a roll) I believe the majority of ingredients in a cookbook, especially in 2011, shouldn't be filled with ingredients that can't be obtained at least at speciality shops in large cities. I learned to cook in the 1980s in North Dakota at a time when only one brand of olive oil was available. With the exception of some of the fresh seafood/fish recipes, I was able to find everything I needed to make good, interesting and innovative food, using the original Silver Palate book, and books from Julia Child, James Beard and the San Francisco Junior League. I still have -- and use -- those. This book is going in the "to be donated" pile.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science and sous vide cooking, February 20, 2011
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This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
Divided into two sections, "Ideas for Everyone" (most of the book) and "Ideas for Professionals" this is a book for cooks who like to spend time in the kitchen and enjoy curling up with a cookbook in their off hours.

The husband-and-wife team discuss ingredients and how to use them in chapters including Seasoning and Preserving; Bread; Pasta, Gnocchi and Risotto; Eggs; Dairy, Fruits and Vegetables; and Meat and Seafood. The "professionals" section features Hydrocolloids, Transglutamase, Liquid Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide.

The authors are big on sous vide - vacuum bag cooking - though they always offer alternative methods - generally using freezer bags or pressure cookers. They claim that the FDA does not allow any leaching plastics in food-grade plastic wrap or bags. Enthusiastic and willing to experiment, they might even convince you to invest in a FoodSaver. They also espouse cryo-blanching (freezing) for vegetables.

They explain why and how no-knead bread works, how to cook the perfect egg, make perfect mashed potatoes and risotto (twice cooking), and braise and roast meat. There are recipes for Preserved Lemons, Potato Chip Pasta, Crispy Chocolate Mousse, Parsnip Ice Cream, Homemade Ricotta and Yogurt and vinegars and pickles of all kinds.

A different sort of cookbook, this will appeal to those who cook for fun, enjoy the science and are willing to try new methods and ingredients.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!, March 13, 2011
This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
Hope you've had the pleasure of dropping by the popular food lovers blog ideasinfood.com by the husband/wife team of Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, a pair of intelligent, enthusiastic foodies if there ever was one. Owners of a Pennsylvania consulting business they began their blog some 7 years ago and began making note of their work in restaurant kitchens.

Now, lucky for us, we find their energy, ideas, and zest in IDEAS IN FOOD, an indispensable guide discussing the hows and whys of the way we cook (of course, recipes are included). The concept of their book is described in the Introduction which emphasizes the necessity of understanding "what's happening beneath the surface of what we experience in the kitchen." The authors have "learned to be methodical" in experimenting with new ingredients, techniques, and equipment in order to maximize their results. And they share their experiences and new found knowledge with us.

The book is divided into two parts - the first is for home cooks. The authors suggest new ways to think of familiar ingredients and offer techniques to use them. For instance we come to understand why roasting dried pastas contributes to a dish with an added rich flavor, how water can be used to intensify soups rather than turning to stocks.

With a focus on information for professional cooks the book's second part discusses working with liquid nitrogen, carbon, dioxide, and the like. However, be assured that this section is not dry reading but will hold the interest of serious foodies as well as pros.

While there are numerous tempting recipes included in IDEAS IN FOOD, two of our favorites are Potato Chip Pasta and Peanut Butter Custard. Bon appetit!

- Gail Cooke
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Great Ideas in Food, to Make You a Happier and Better Cook, October 24, 2011
This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
H. Alexander Talbot and his co-author/wife/chef Aki Kamozawa's blog has been a cutting edge favorite of mine for years! I'm going to share a little known secret with you. They, and writers like Harold McGee (get his amazing On Food and Cooking!) do the research, experimentation, make sense of it all and share their results in print with loyal readers. Talking heads like Alton Brown and Shirley Corriher then take many of the ideas and share the concepts with their huge TV and book audience in an entertaining 1/2 hour or so show. AB and SC also do their own food science studies i'm sure. What's important to you is that all of these writers have much practical advice to share, and your cooking (and fun level) rise from this shared knowledge.

Kamozawa and Talbot's book, Ideas in Food (like the blog), tells you in a simple, easy way how to do things in your own kitchen with household tools and simple ingredients, that make your food taste as if it came from your favorite chef's hands. When you learn the simple technique, you can apply it to any of your own creations.

Why use store bought vinegar, when you can make your own? Once you learn the simple technique and make your own, you can make all sorts of culinary vinegar riffs, like maple vinegar, dandelion, blueberry, Guiness, Tequila vinegars...you get the picture!

Home made mozzarella cheese? It's easy! Aki and Alexander made their first batch, and never looked back. I've had it made fresh at stores across Italy, at Whole Foods demonstration in Naples, Florida, and the process is the same, world wide, with eye-openingly delicious results you'll never taste in a packaged mozzarella. Once you make it with friends, you'll be on a roll, and probably will eat the whole batch while it is still warm from its bath! Then you may go and make the book's homemade ricotta recipe-it's that easy. Then makes macaroni and cheese with a twist, and you're the star.

Making ice cream is pretty simple, then make brown butter, ice cream, parsnip, Meyer lemon curd, white chocolate, and even grilled potato ice cream with teh book's recipes! what'll be your creation?

I've done simple sous vide cooking in Foodsaver bags and baggies for years, and it makes food taste several notches higher than what you've been doing. Learn the "controlled bruising" technique for fruits and veggies. Make braised short ribs, braised veal breast, braised grouper-it all comes from learning one or techniques. You don't need a $500 vcuum packer, or $1000 temperature controller. Gourmet food is just using a few truly simple techniques, one after another at home, to bring out the best tastes from simple ingredients.

Is your cheese is not melting right for pizza or on a sandwich? Read a few paragraphs in Ideas in Food to see what cheeses work best for your dish, and how to then best melt that cheese.

If you read what interests you from just the first 50, 100 or even 200 pages of the book you're gonna be a much better cook in your home.

The fun part comes for the adventuresome home and professional cooks with hydrocollioid magic on page 240, using starch, gelatin, natural gums and sodium alginate to make delicious stunning presentations. Yep, a bacon consomme, white chocolate sheet, peanut butter custard, citrus meringue,"pearls" of " and reheatable brown butter Hollandaise are a few of the treats you can make when you understand the food science that your grandmother's generation mastered and passed on to another, then all by word of mouth. Check out the bibliography and websites listed in the back to get more cookery info, or order unique ingredients.

I'm not a pro cook, just an amateur who love to experiment, and serve my friends. I don't have much spare time. These are recipes that work with my little time. Get the book for great recipes, learn why they work, and see the difference these really easy techniques will make. Your cooking will then quickly becomes more fun and tastier than before.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A scientific approach to cooking, January 29, 2011
This review is from: Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Hardcover)
Some people (like me) are cooks who prefer to wing it, approaching food and cooking as an art. It drives my husband nuts, as he takes a more scientific approach. I'm guessing he would love this book.

Even though it does delve into the science of how things work, it's not too much on the dry side. It's sort of like listening to your know-it-all friend explain things to you. About two thirds of the book is things you can try at home; the last third is things best left to professionals.

Lest you think it's a boring science sort of book, let me share some of the more intriguing ideas/recipes: vanilla salt, smoked pasta dough, no-knead breads, BBQ rigatoni, and root beer-braised short ribs. While I don't think I'd take the time to make most of them unless I had a lot more vacation time than I do now, I do want to try a few of them.

You can get a good flavor of their writing (and other ideas) at their website/blog [...].

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy. All opinions are my own
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Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work
Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work by Aki Kamozawa (Hardcover - December 28, 2010)
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