July 6, 2008

Food Chain; Read, Watch, Click



The Spice Bible. By Jane Lawson. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. $29.95.

An impressive volume detailing how spices enhance and transform the foods we eat. Spices are divided according to whether they are derived from seeds and pods, berries and flowers or roots and bark, with each spice getting its own descriptive introduction, then a handful of recipes showing its culinary range.

Lawson, a former chef in Sydney, has a facility for capturing the essence of a spice. She says of elusive, complex cardamom that it is "warm, pungent . . . eucalyptine . . . with camphor undertones."

Vanilla, she writes, is a "marvelous example of how human interference with nature can turn something odorless and inedible into one of the most prized spices on earth."

Many entries provide glimpses of different culinary traditions. Australian wattleseed ("nutty and coffeelike and sweet"), for example, is the key ingredient in the dessert pavlova, a chocolate and fruit base with a meringue topping, baked and served with wattleseed cream. Asafoetida, also known by some as "devil's dung," has a pungent odor "often likened to human sweat," but is essential to Worcestershire sauce.

The book has close-ups of the spices in their many forms and of the dishes in which their flavors shine. Its only flaw is the binding, which is soft-cover, with a flimsy glued spine that won't withstand prolonged use.


"Emeril Live!" on Fine Living Network

There was a period a few years ago when you could turn on the TV at any given point and find Emeril Lagasse staring back at you. He had shows on PBS, The Food Network, and reruns churning out of various broadcast channels.

Lately, he is mostly confined to the Food Network. Beginning Monday, however, Lagasse's most popular show, "Emeril Live!" moves to the Food Network's companion network, Fine Living, where he'll be on a seven-night-a-week run. Once again, you can get your daily fix of Emeril, providing you turn on the TV at 6 every night.



Includes sections on how to grow herbs, harvest them, process them (dry or freeze) and use them in cooking.

-- Mary-Liz Shaw

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