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August 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Five Seattle-area food books with a twist

Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes/Sasquatch Books

Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes/Sasquatch Books

As late summer starts turning towards fall, bookshelves overflow with new releases as abundantly as gardens with crops. Seattle food writers are well-represented with a mix that goes beyond the standard cookbook, including memoirs and fiction and even party planning. We’ll spotlight a few individual books in coming weeks and months, including Darlene Barnes’ memoir of cooking at a University of Washington frat house, James Beard finalist Christopher Boffoli’s “Big Appetites” photography, and PCC cooking instructor Erin Coopey’s “The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook.” For now, here’s a peek at five local authors who go a step beyond the norm.

Foraging food writer Langdon Cook brings a hidden profession to literary life in “The Mushroom Hunters” ($26, Ballantine Books.) Putting in untold research hours over seasons in the forest, Cook teased out the secrets, the economics, and the romance motivating a cast of characters that features Jeremy Faber, owner of Seattle’s Foraged and Found Edibles, along with chef Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce and the late Christina Choi of Nettletown. With wild mushrooms starring on so many restaurant menus, it’s fascinating to get a front-seat, insightful look at the people it took to get them there. Cook tells his story as skillfully as some seek out chanterelles.

It’s O-fish-al! That’s all you need to know about the new Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook($29.95, Sasquatch Books), a handsome hardcover that contains as many puns as recipes. The recipes are serious, though. Basic white clam chowder includes house-made bacon (you can use store-bought if you prefer), and the cedar-planked salmon instructions not only include a hazelnut vinaigrette, but also recommendations on buying the cedar plank. Ivar’s director of purchasing, we learn, nixes high-priced cookware versions in favor of untreated cedar siding from the fellow hometown boys at Dunn Lumber. The restaurant chain, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is a Seattle institution, and the book takes us through the highlights of its history with “flounder” Ivar Haglund, the brilliant marketer with a sense of humor as strong as his sense of community. Readers may be inspired to make their own Mesquite Cornbread or Crispy Fish Tacos, or just to keep clam and make a dinner reservation.

Still craving a summertime beach book? Susan Mallery now has one for the kitchen. Harlequin fans know the Bellevue author as a mega-prolific, mega-bestselling writer of romance novels, and she’s set the “Fool’s Gold Cookbook” ($21.95, Harlequin) in the land of her fictional town. The 150 recipes are straightforward, gimmick-free home cooking, current enough to use farro grains and kale chips but strong on homey basics like peach pie and beef stew. Mallery has woven a Fool’s Gold novella through the cookbook — the storyline, appropriately, involves a fund-raising cookbook project in the small town. Still, you don’t need to be familiar with the books to appreciate happy endings in the form of Guinness Gingerbread or Coconut Vanilla Snowball Cupcakes.

If you couldn’t tell already from her perfectly piped frostings and charmingly chic displays, Trophy Cupcakes founder Jennifer Shea admits to being a control freak. But she wasn’t aware until her son’s second and third birthdays, she writes in “Trophy Cupcakes & Parties!” ($24.95, Sasquatch Books) that not everyone throws elaborate themed parties with carefully planned sweets and games and decorations. Her book does include recipes for her shop’s cupcakes, from chocolate and vanilla to locally famous specialties like the S’mores version featured on the Martha Stewart show. But it’s also got really a party planning guide for both kid and adult celebrations, with guidelines and accompanying recipes for decorations like fairy wands for a Forest Fairy Tea Party or even painted wooden buoys for a nautically themed Life Aquatic party. The supply list for the latter includes a hand saw and coarse sand paper, probably a first for a cupcake book.

Urban farmer and entrepreneur Amy Pennington has followed up her successful Urban Pantry cookbook (Gwyneth Paltrow was a fan) with a series of seasonal e-cookbooks, each slim volume devoted to a specific ingredient, from carrots to lettuce. In her latest edition,Fresh Pantry – Berries” ($2.99, Skipstone Press) Pennington provides 15 creative recipes for strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, as well as advice on growing, maintaining, and preserving the fruit. The cookbook emphasizes savory dishes like Blueberry-Oregano Turkey Meatballs and Raspberry-Shallot Butter with Shaved Radishes on Toast, though sweet tooths get a nod with old-fashioned strawberry mousse and blueberry-cardamom donuts. Pennington came up with the project (the volumes will be collected in print in 2014) as a way to get out of cooking ruts, and to get us thinking about what we eat when we talk about cooking with the seasons.

Comments | More in Cookbooks | Topics: Ivar's, The Mushroom Hunters, Trophy Cupcakes

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