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Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors

Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise have helped transform the U.S. food scene, through the restaurants they've been associated with (most notably Chez Panisse) and their cookbooks;  their newest collaboration, Bold, is a celebration of that transformation.

Hoffman and Wise use the melting pot metaphor about American culture to describe their approach to cooking. Their recipes are traditional in the broadest sense, drawing on sources as diverse as Cuba, Louisiana, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the U.S. steakhouse. They layer flavors in unexpected ways without succumbing to preciousness: lamb chops in a cola glaze, flank steak with a pomegranate marinade, potato and celery root latkes with a pear compote. Their recipes offer comfort food with a twist. 

Bold is more than a cookbook. Its pages are larded with food history: from cod's role in European expansion through the introduction of yogurt to the U.S. by Armenian immigrants to the creation of Campbell's Soup. Hoffman and Wise consider the frequently surprising impact of different ethnic groups on American cuisine. (General Tso's chicken, anyone?) They tell the story of specific ingredients, including Tabasco sauce, rye whiskey, olives and peanuts. Each recipe is introduced with a tidbit to put it in culinary context.

Thanks to its combination of storytelling and well-written recipes, Bold will appeal both to people who read cookbooks as if they were novels and to adventurous cooks. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins