Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian and Beyond

Image of Basque: Spanish Recipes From San Sebastian & Beyond
Release Date: 
March 28, 2016
Reviewed by: 

In line with the latest of gorgeous cookbooks under #foodporn and #travelporn, Jose Pizarro’s Basque is more than a collection of regional recipes. Basque is a collection of Pizarro’s emotions and memories of Basque Country, an autonomous region of Spain in the western Pyrenees.

The photographs are a lovely mix of full color and black and white on the stylish matte paper in magazine format, staying away from the slick glossy images so many cookbooks once favored. This is part photography coffee table book and part cookbook.

Yet some of the photos are a bit twee: the smiling chef with the ocean or dock, blurred out, and the setting sun glaring over one shoulder while perhaps a series of lights in the background conveniently create a heart-shaped halo. Though the food photography is self-explanatory, sitting as it does next to the recipe, the rest of the photos could use captions somewhere to explain who or what readers are looking at.

The plates showing the food look like one would expect from a gourmet restaurant—the serving size is small and the layout is artful. Some of the page formatting is awkward, however: A thick white border partially surrounds a third of the photo or just one edge instead of acting as a complete frame, perhaps because the photo would spread into the spine or perhaps the photo size wasn’t large enough to permit further resizing.

The recipes are divided into Meat, Fish, Vegetables, and Dessert, and are straightforward and sufficiently explained. All levels of cooks will find something in this book that they can make and feel comfortable attempting. Many of these recipes would do well as a round of tapas for a party, such as the Spinach & Goat’s Cheese Croquetas, though it appears these dishes are intended to be standalone main courses. Step by step Pizzaro walks reader through the creation of delicious items such as Spinach, Blue Cheese & Pine Nut Empanadas and Cinnamon Fritters with Plum Compote.

Pizarro even does American readers a favor and converts his metric measurements in parenthesis, so no math is required. Depending on where the aspiring chef-reader lives, ingredients may be as easy to come by as the local Whole Foods or farmer’s market, depending on the season. Other ingredients, like Spanish pardina lentils, may take a specialty store or an explanation, like of “runny honey”—is it watered down somehow or from specific bees?

At the back of the book are sample Basque menus and an index that explains, for the budding chef and party planner, what to do the day before and on the day to prepare. Unfortunately, wine selections aren’t included—a reader wouldn’t be amiss in hoping for them in this collection given the several photos of vineyards and of the author with a wine glass in his hand.

Each recipe comes with an introductory paragraph that talks about the author’s experience with the food, perhaps at a restaurant in San Sebastián or his time at a fish market, and suggestions for cooking ahead or storage, even on occasion alternatives for a main ingredient.

Armchair travelers will enjoy the photographs as will cookbook collectors.