by Chef Michael Bennett, The Food Brat
review by Maralyn D. Hill
Chef Bennett’s book starts out with a long title: In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks, Orchestrating Florida’s Caribbean Pantry into a Modern Metropolitan Cuisine. The rest is intriguing, well organized, and easy to follow with delicious recipes.
Among the hundreds of cookbooks I’ve read, including ones I’ve co-authored, this gets high marks for being useful, interesting, and cutting edge. A story with recipes always piques my interest and Chef Bennett weaves you through Caribbean history and customs and how they contributed and blended into South Florida culture.
This book challenged me personally, as it is QR Code Enabled. I had not seen that applied to a book before, so I downloaded a QR Code Reader to my iPhone (it would be available for any smart phone) to test it out. When there is a less well-known ingredient, there is a QR code as to where to find it. The same is true for some “how to” videos. You can walk away knowing the answers.
To include so many delicious and appealing gluten-free recipes is a true find for those who must eliminate gluten. For the rest of us, they represent tasty and easy solutions to a variety of healthy meals.
Let me cover the organization of this book, as it is extraordinary. It starts with an overview, recipe highlights, and a brief early history of the Caribbean. Recipes move forward to starters or appetizers, spices and marinades, and a little more story telling.
As the section on Florida’s Fusion Cuisine, Floribbean, begins, it includes salads, new and different approaches, followed by sauces. Naturally, The Food Brat author shares numerous signature dishes, and brings in the importance of seafood, poultry and meats, finishing up with veggies and starches.
The index is complete and thorough. Yet, I almost forgot to mention the importance of the tip boxes throughout the book, with substitutes, pairings, and the like.
This book was revised and updated to provide a totally gluten-free alternative that everyone can enjoy. I know I did and would certainly recommend it. I was going to test out all of the QR links. However, after my daughter went though the book, she asked for it. That is a testimonial in itself, as she doesn’t usually want any of my cookbooks. She is an excellent cook without recipes, but these, she wanted.
You can follow Chef Michael on his blog at http://www.FoodBrats.com. You can also purchase several books he has written, there or on Amazon. The ISBN for this one is 9780615297781. Chef Michael has been featured in The New York Times, Ocean Drive Magazine, National Culinary Review, Zagat Review (“Best of”), as well as many local outlets. He has appeared on television shows, including “The Today Show—South Florida.” He was featured in the Miami New Times Magazine as one of South Florida’s pivotal figures in the use of exotic tropical food.