Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Even more cookbooks for your gift list

What's harder than deciding which cookbook to buy? Deciding which cookbook to review. In Sunday's Observer, I picked four (for the record, I didn't suggest my own book, "Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook" - writer Pam Kelley made that decision).

In Wednesday's Food section, fellow writer Andrea Weigl and I named our seven picks. But we knew that it wouldn't be enough and that we both would have our own favorites. So here are a half-dozen more that are my picks, plus a recap of the ones we're already suggested.

Even Santa should be able to find something to cook:

Comfort Me With Offal, by Ruth Bourdain (Andrews McMeel, $19.99). Will the real Ruth Bourdain please not stand up? The joke is more fun if we never know who is behind the food-writing parody "Ruth Bourdain" - a mashup of impossibly elegant Ruth Reichl and always profane Anthony Bourdain. RB started as a Twitter account, but the book stretches the joke past 140 characters. It's a sendup of foodie-world pretensions, like a guide to "nose to tail" eating that includes probiscus monkeys and a chart to decide if you're a celebrity chef ("does the inside of a QVC studio feel homey?") Rock on, Ruth, whoever you are.

 "Southern Comfort," by Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing (Ten Speed Press, $35). Both chefs who moved back to Louisiana after a foray in New York, the Rushings are unabashed lovers of bold, hearty, homey Southern cooking. These are the kind of recipes you'd make on a Sunday afternoon when you want to hang out with a bunch of friends and eat something good.

"Fred Thompson's Southern Sides" (UNC Press, $35). Sometimes the side dishes are the best things on the plate. Raleigh food writer Thompson pulls from his family history and his own extensive experience for these 250 recipes. (Disclosure: Fred and I both have books from UNC Press.)

"Burma: Rivers of Flavor," by Naomi Duguid (Artisan, $35). I wrote a column about Duguid's Burma trek earlier this year, but her cookbook is definitely worth a deeper look. For global eaters, it's an exploration of a cuisine that is still a surprise, with a range of new flavors and techniques.

"Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes," by Alice Medrich (Artisan, $25.95). Medrich has always been one of our most innovative and creative food writers. She's not a baker so much as someone who loves all things sweet and knows how to lead your tastebuds in new paths.

"How to Cook Everything: The Basics," by Mark Bittman (Wiley, $35). Every year, I get questions about which book to buy for a beginning cook. This would be an excellent choice: It has more than 1,000 photos, including steps, and like his earlier "Everything" books, the recipes are accessible without being dumb. You can start here and learn enough to go a long way in the kitchen.

RECAP: What else have we suggested?

"Bouchon Bakery," by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan, $50).
"Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking," by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim (Andrews McMeel, $40).
"Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook," by Kathleen Purvis (UNC Press, $18).
"Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook," by Debbie Moose (UNC Press, $18).
"Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking," by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert (Gibbs Smith, $45).
"Great Meat Cookbook," by Bruce Aidells (Houghton Mifflin, $40).
"Barefoot Contessa Foolproof," by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35).
"Fix It & Freeze It, Heat It & Eat It," by Southern Living (Oxmoor House, $19.95).
"The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook," by Deb Perelman (Knopf, $35).
"Japanese Farm Food," by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrews McMeel, $35).
"Flour Water Salt Yeast," by Ken Forkish (Ten Speed Press, $35).