Friday, December 17, 2010

Top Cookbooks 2010: Basics & Behemoths

It's always tough to choose which cookbooks to recommend from the myriad published each year. Today I'm going to share with you the books I think are particularly worthwhile in two categories, basics and behemoths. Next I'll cover sweets and special interests...

BASICS
Ah the basics! This year lots of cookbook authors were returning to simpler recipes. I think it's safe to say that at least some of the time new cooks as well as experienced ones want recipes that are tasty and yet not necessarily time-consuming.

Harvest to HeatHarvest to Heat
There were a lot of "farm to table" cookbooks this year, but this is the only one I am keeping. It balances the voice of farmers, chefs and artisans. The book is filled with contemporary American recipes that are genuinely appealing and unique.

Bookmarked recipes: Angel hair pasta with oyster butter cream sauce and caviar, Creme fraiche galette with heirloom tomatoes, Goat cheese panna cotta with caramelized figs

Why?
I always get nervous with "chef" recipes. But in this case seasoned test kitchen director from Saveur, Kelly Kochendorfer has clearly made sure these recipes will WORK in a home kitchen. They are straight-forward and don't have a million ingredients.

Who?
This is for creative cooks looking for new flavors and excited to use the best ingredients but who don't see the point of torturing them.

Heart of the ArtichokeHeart of the Artichoke
Imagine a chef who spends six months a year in a restaurant making food for the fussiest guests and six months in a tiny galley kitchen with a rickety stove and barely any counter space. Meet David Tanis of Chez Panisse. His recipes are mostly pretty easy, but rely on the best quality ingredients.

Bookmarked recipes: Celery, radish and watercress salad with walnut oil, Buckwheat galettes with ham and cheese, Black sticky rice pudding with coconut cream.

Why?
It's fascinating to see the way a restaurant chef cooks at home, when he wants to, to please himself and his friends.

Who?
Anyone who has access to fantastic quality ingredients and wants to learn how to make them shine.

Sara Moulton's Everyday Family DinnersSara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners
Sara Moulton isn't on national television everyday anymore, nor is she in the kitchen at Gourmet magazine. Where is Sara? She's at home, cooking dinnner. In touch with the "weeknight cook" in all of us, she seems to know just what we want to eat.

Bookmarked recipes: Chicken cassoulet, Edamame mash, Raspberry almond rugelach

Why?
Duh, this book is just a no-brainer. Appealing recipes, by a cookbook author who will never leave you in the lurch.

Who?
Everyone and anyone responsible for getting dinner on the table.





BEHEMOTHSEvery year there are some huge cookbooks that come out. Not all of them are worth their weight in gold. More is not always better. But sometimes as Mae West famously said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."

Around My French TableAround My French Table
I don't know anyone who is not amazed by Dorie Greenspan. She's not only a talented baker and meticulous recipe writer but an internet phenomenon, who happens to lead a charmed life in Paris, New York and Connecticut.

Bookmarked recipes: Mussels and chorizo with or without pasta, Potato chip tortilla, Marie-Helene's apple cake

Why?
Her recipes are detailed but easy-peasy to follow because she is ultimately a home cook, not a restaurant chef. This is like a personal scrapbook of all the recipes she makes. It is impossible not to fall in love with this book.

Who?
Anyone who enjoys cooking and eating more than fussing over food.

The New York Times Essential CookbookThe New York Times Essential Cookbook
Proving that a cookbook does NOT need photographs to be successful, this is about tried and true recipes from a familiar source and very familiar names--contributors like Mark Bittman, Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, David Chang, Nigella Lawson. Good stuff!

Bookmarked recipes: Marinated flank steak with asian slaw, Roasted carrot and red lentil ragout, Cranberry upside-down cake

Why?
Hat's off to Amanda Hesser for compiling a fantastic set of reader approved recipes and creating new notes that will ensure success with each recipe.

Who?
Anyone who has loved reading the New York Times food section and is looking for solid recipes to rely on.

The Sunset CookbookThe Sunset Cookbook
I grew up with Sunset magazine, Sunset cookbooks and a philosophy of cooking that was influenced by living in "the West." This is a huge compilation of very contemporary recipes. Sustainable seafood, recipes to make on the grill, tons of salads, Asian inspired dishes and plenty of guacamole.

Bookmarked recipes: Shiraz-soy trip-tip, Frisee, tangerine and sesame salad, Kumquat bon bons

Why?
Because we want to make the most of our bountiful produce and healthy lifestyle

Who?
I don't know if this book will appeal to those not living on the West Coast, but for anyone who is, it will seem like a natural fit.


James Beard's American CookeryJames Beard's American Cookery
Don't you just love the word cookery? It's so old-fashioned. Sometimes old-fashioned is a good thing, especially when it means solid, classic, regional American recipes.

Bookmarked recipes: Watermelon rind pickles, Wilted dandelion salad, Blueberry cake with bourbon cream

Why?
Some recipes should not be lost. They are part of our heritage and more importantly, delectable! I have also NEVER failed with a James Beard recipe.

Who?
Anyone who appreciates the diversity of American cuisine.

India The CookbookIndia The Cookbook
The amount most of us knows about Indian cuisine is miniscule. And yet, who doesn't love Indian food? Making it at home using the best ingredients is a revelation. This book has the largest collection of Indian recipes that I have ever seen. The introductory sections on the regions of India alone is wonderful.

Bookmarked recipes: Dry cabbage in masala, Lamb in chickpea flour and curry yogurt, Coconut filled pancakes

Why?
This encyclopedia of 1000 recipes will be your go-to Indian cooking reference.

Who?
Those who love Indian food but want to experience a wider variety of fresh, tasty food than they can find in any given Indian restaurant.