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The Brazilian Table
By Yara Castro Roberts; Photographs by Richard Roberts and Marty Snortum
ISBN: 142360315X
Publisher: Gibbs Smith
Publication date: May 2009
Format: Hardcover
Number of recipes: 100
List price: $30
Type: Ethnic: Brazilian
Sample recipe: Salad with Chayote and Pumpkin
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all/mostly color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Oh my gosh, what a gorgeous book! Oh my gosh, what a frustrating book!

The book covers much of the history and geography of Brazil through its food. It is filled with lots of text and the most gorgeous photographs (many taken by the author's husband). You wouldn't say the recipes play a secondary role, but they are no more important than the coffee-table aspect.

They are also the source of our frustration. There are recipes where exotic ingredients are explained. There are recipes where substitutions are offered for some exotic ingredients. And on the whole, there are not that many exotic ingredients – you will be able to make many of these recipes without working too hard to find this or that ingredient.

But there are recipes that feature one of more exotic ingredients that don't tell you what it is! There probably has been a reference to it in the text about the region, but how do you find it? Do you reread the entire chapter when you just want to cook one recipe? We are totally flummoxed by the recipes for Giló Puff Pastry Tart and Salad with Caramelized Giló. At least in the second recipe you are given a hint – "you may replace gilós with small eggplants."

There is a chapter at the front of the book that explains some of the major Brazilian ingredients – manioc, hearts of palm, dendê palm oil, cachaça, pequi – but where is giló? (Giló, it turns out, is also known as scarlet eggplant, is a relative of the tomato and eggplant, is a descendant of the Ethiopian eggplant, and is as likely to be spelled with an initial J as with a G.) How much research should you have to do to prepare a recipe?

The recipes also assume you know how to cook. The chapters highlight Brazil at the Table, Brazilian ingredients, the cooking of the Amazon, Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Cerrado, the King's (Portuguese) Table, the immigrants' table, traditional ingredients used in new ways, and a list of places in the United States to track down Brazilian ingredients.

With a one-page glossary, this would be an excellent book. (A map really wouldn't hurt, either….)


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