May 08, 2008

(++++) YUM!

Slurp: Drinks and Light Fare, All Day, All Night. By Nina Dreyer Hensley, Jim Hensley, and Paul Løwe. Andrews McMeel. $16.99.

      This book looks good enough to eat, but that would be a mistake, because then you would lose all the recipes that lead to these delicious-looking concoctions. Not that your own creations will necessarily look this good if you follow the recipes: Slurp is very professionally assembled. Nina Dreyer Hensley and Jim Hensley are photographers, and Paul Løwe is a food stylist and interior designer. A food stylist is someone who makes sure all those gorgeous displays on menus, in ads and in books like this look wonderful – helping photographers work their magic getting just the right angles, colors and placements. So these authors know how to make stuff look absolutely scrumptious.

      But these recipes are delicious, even if you don’t manage to make everything look as picture-perfect as the authors do. Slurp focuses largely on drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, but it also includes plenty of recipes for light snacks to go with the liquid refreshment. The book is arranged, somewhat arbitrarily (but, again, very attractively) by time of day: morning, daytime and evening. The idea is that certain drinks and snacks will be most enjoyable at specific times. That is a matter of opinion: the authors place hot chocolate with cinnamon in “morning,” for example, but it would be wonderful at night as well. However, every book needs an organizing principle, and the “time of day” one is just fine, as long as you don’t take the suggestions as gospel.

      The best way to use this book is to go through it cover to cover, oohing and aahing at the lovely pictures of gorgeous drinks and foods, and then pick and choose among the recipes to decide which ones you want to try. The authors start with “recipes” for a party (their tips include good music, enough ice and “tell the neighbors so the cops don’t show up”). They showcase some very creative uses of everyday items, such as using hollowed-out three-inch chunks of cucumber to serve vodka – with cucumber strips as stirrers. And then they get into the recipes. Unlike many authors of food books, the Hensleys and Løwe do not insist that readers buy lots of fancy equipment in order to achieve the best effects. For example, they say you can make foamed milk with a milk steamer or wand mixer, but if you don’t have either one, “pour a little hot milk into a bottle and shake well!”

      The recipes themselves are delightful. Think of mint tea (made with fresh mint), perhaps accompanied by baked plums with yogurt and almonds. Consider a frozen daiquiri with mango and papaya, perhaps served with salmon and potato salad with lemon mayonnaise. How about a blue margarita or a “blue heaven” (both made with blue curaçao)? There’s a plush plum and a raspberry rush, an opal ice and a citron crush. There’s a tropical punch that you can make with or without champagne. And there are dishes from mini pies with goat cheese and rosemary to Moroccan pancakes. Oh – and if you overindulge in the alcoholic offerings, you can consult the authors’ “ten great tips for surviving the day after,” which range from the conventional (“eat dry toast”) to “Sweat it out. Sex or sauna!” Slurp is a book you will want to drain to the dregs.

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