Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cookbook shopping? Try one of these

Looking for a cookbook or food book (or drinking book!) to give as a gift? Here are 13 new books I'll suggest:

1. Essential Pepin

By Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 704 pages, $40)

Jacques Pepin’s career has spanned France to New York, and World War II to digital. With 700 recipes, almost all classic and French, this is a masterwork. With a searchable DVD of techniques.

2. Cooking Light: The Complete Quick Cook

By Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Oxmoor House, 352 pages, $29.95)

For the person who wants to eat better and cook better but is overwhelmed by the task. With two experienced authors behind it, this magazine-based project is one of the best home-cooking guides I’ve seen in a while, with pictures, tips, smart thinking and solid recipes.

3. Serious Eats: A Comprehensive Guide to Making & Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are

By Ed Levine and the editors of seriouseats.com (Clarkson Potter, 368 pages, $27.99)

Give this to a young and eager diner. New York food writer Levine pulled together a smart bunch of young editors to build a great food-obsessed website. Their first book is a guide to obsessive eating from coast to coast (including North Carolina).

4. The Art of Eating Cookbook

By Edward Behr (University of California Press, 296 pages, $39.95)

Edward Behr’s newsletter/magazine The Art of Eating has been a source of smart, sophisticated food writing with a focus on classic cooking for 25 years. Now he’s gone back through all those recipes to put together a collection of essays and recipes that will pull armchair cooks out of their chairs.

5. The PDT Cocktail Book
By Jim Meehan and Chris Gall (Sterling Epicure, 368 pages, $24.95)

Shake it up, baby: The people behind New York’s almost-hidden cocktail bar, PDT (for Please Don’t Tell) have found the middle ground between retro-cool and contemporary in this fun guide to all things alcohol.

6. Basic to Brilliant, Y’All

By Virginia Willis (Ten Speed Press, $35).

I love this concept by Atlanta author Willis: Every recipe includes a variation or a way to dress it up. And thanks to her solid training at La Varenne in France, her recipes bring fresh perspective to basic Southern cooking.

7. Cooking in the Moment

By Andrea Reusing (Clarkson Potter, $35).

Reusing, the chef of Lantern in Chapel Hill, racked up honors this year, including a James Beard medal as Best Chef: Southeast. But there’s no pretension in her book, aimed at home cooks trying to make the best use of locally grown, heirloom foods. She’s not cooking with special chef food – this is the same stuff we get in our own farmers markets.

8. The Homesick Texan Cookbook

By Lisa Fain (Hyperion, $29.99).

Homesick Texan, Fain’s blog about re-creating Texas food when she moved to New York, found a huge following online. A book was the next step. You don’t have to be from Texas to appreciate her sincere, down-home recipes.

9. Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible

By Paula Deen with Melissa Clark (Simon & Schuster, $29.99).

Has anyone since Martha Stewart evoked so much love and venom? But this is a solid book, without too many corny gimmicks. It’s a reminder that at heart, Deen is still a cook from Savannah who knows how to turn out crowd-pleasing food.

10. Cook This Now

By Melissa Clark (Hyperion, $29.99).

Between exploring ingredients in her New York Times column and co-authoring with Paula Deen, Clark was writing her own inventive cookbook, geared to home cooks who aren’t afraid of frisee, quinoa – or good recipes.

11. The Food 52 Cookbook

By Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Morrow, $35).

It’s a little high-concept: The website Food52.com aims to create a “food community” by letting members post weekly recipes while other members vote on them. Skip all that and you end up with a solid collection of sophisticated home cooking. That’s much simpler.

12. The Italian Baker

By Carol Field (Ten Speed Press, $35).

After it came out in 1985, “Italian Baker” became a classic, a serious yet approachable guide to bread, pizza, focaccia and sweets. The revision is even better – and ready for a new generation to discover it.

13. Momofuku Milk Bar

By Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter, $35).

While David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants were taking over New York, his pastry chef, Tosi, was staging her own revolution with desserts so sweet, they verged on sugar obsession. Now Tosi shares the recipes for things like Cereal Milk and the crazy good Crack Pie.