Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Holiday Cookbook Gift Guide 2012

 Here are my picks for great gift worthy cookbooks! From coffee table books, to DIY books and more... 

Big and beautiful coffee table books

Some cookbooks are really coffee table books. They are large, filled with glossy photos and tell intriguing stories--they are the anti-ebook. The recipes and the restaurant recommendations are kind of secondary. These two books will satisfy the armchair traveler who loves to eat.

Lonely Planet's Food Lover's Guide to the World: Experience the Great Global Cuisines is over 300 pages of stories, photographs, recipes, and recommendations for where to find some of the most iconic dishes in the world--everything from Korean Bibimbap to Argentinian Empanadas and French Tart Tatin. Along the way you'll find food festivals and drinks, rules of etiquette, cooking schools, ingredients and markets. This is a book probably written using clips from guide books and then some. It definitely is the right book for someone who travels a lot or plans to. There is plenty of advice and direction for where to go, what to eat and even how to eat it. The recipes are definitely secondary. Some of them are not terribly well written but they do add flavor to the book.

Saveur The Way We Cook: Portraits from Around the World is a glossy book of full page photographs, there are some stories too, but mostly it's photos. At the back of the book are 50 recipes including Bistro French Fries, Layered Herring Salad and Dry Cured Olives with Rosemary and Orange. It's a book to get lost in, not so much for planning trips like the Lonely Planet book. It's as if Gourmet and National Geographic somehow came together in one. It's a book that truly appreciates the food ways of foreign places--be they in Tennessee or Tehran.This book is for anyone who enjoys photography as much as travel and exploration. 

Make it

For DIY types, a how to book and a jar of something delicious is probably the best gift of all. I've picked three that I think really stand out.

Mother in Law's Kimchi is the best kimchi I have ever eaten. Really. So I couldn't be happier to see The Kimchi Cookbook, filled with recipes for making spicy succulent kimchi and using it, from Lauryn Chun. The photos make kimchi sexy! I've bookmarked Quick Cucumber and Chive Kimchi and French Breakfast Radish Kimchi. There are recipes for kimchi and recipes using kimchi, like Kimchi Cornmeal Pancakes.

The ingredient section will help get you up to speed on what's necessary to create authentic Korean flavors. But the uses of kimchi are not all traditional. Pair this book with a jar of kimchi (perhaps even homemade!) and give it to your favorite chile head. 

Jams are hot stuff. I am going to share some of my favorites in another post for now let me say, making jam rivals eating it. It's an outlet for creativity and allows us to preserve the best of every season. I've reviewed jam cookbooks in the past, but I particularly like Jam On (from Laena McCarthy of Anarchy in a Jar)because it enables you to customize and come up with your own flavors, there's also pickled fruit, fruit butter and shrub recipes and some nice suggestions for ways to use jams and marmalades you might not have considered like in a roast chicken recipe, in cocktails and even risotto. I tried Anarchy in a Jar jams and was mightily impressed. My favorite was the Grapefruit and Smoked Salt Marmalade, but any jar plus this book would make a truly fine gift for the DIY maven in your midst. 

For the hardcore DIY types, kimchi and jam may be child's play. But I bet making salami isn't. Michael Ruhlman's Salumi will walk you through the steps and techniques to making Italian style salami and many variations. Cotechino, pancetta, lonza, coppa, even culatello which is not imported from Italy to the US, t's all here.

There are also recipes for using your homemade product like Coppa, Orange & Onion Salad and Spuma di Mortadella.

For someone who has already taken on charcuterie, this is what comes next.

And now for something completely different

Perhaps it's because I went to Israel this year, but Jerusalem is the cookbook I keep gravitating towards. The sensibility is just different. And yet very appealing.

Written by a Jew and an Arab both from Jerusalem, it's hard to put your finger on because the dishes featured have Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Sephardic roots. But it has a freshness and vibrancy that speaks to the place that inspired it. So some of these recipes may be familiar, but many are combinations that will excite you! Roast Chicken with Clementines & Arak, Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread, Lamb Stuffed Quince with Pomegranate & Cilantro and Swiss Chard Fritters are just a few of the intriguing recipes in the book.

Wild and wonderful 

This is a trend I predicted for 2012. And it continues to take off with two fantastic books that help you find you to find, cook and enjoy foraged wild ingredients. 

The first recommendation is for Foraged Flavor. This book really makes it easy to explore and identify edibles in your backyard and beyond. The photos are great. The recipes are eclectic with Italian, French and Asian playing starring roles. They are mostly very easy and very appealing.

Recipes include Daylillies stuffed with Lobster, Avocado and Sushi Rice, Purslane Eggplant Caponata and Dandelion Flower Jelly.

A Feast of Weeds is a bit more academic, not surprising since it was written by an Italian professor. The book explores the literary side of the plants that you can find and cook. The recipes are solidly Italian and anything but run-of-the-mill! Consider Pomegranate Risotto, Polenta with Nettles and Spaghetti with Wild Arugula. Talk about cucina povera. This is the real deal.

While written by a professor the book is very approachable and easy to use and appreciate.

The book features lovely drawings but no photos. The essays that go with each ingredient are less field guide and more Humanities or Classics major. You can read an excerpt.

So pretty! 

For someone who loves to entertain, nothing could be a more welcome gift than this gorgeous gold trimmed little volume--Ladurée: Entertaining: Recipes, Ideas & Inspiration which comes packed in tissue in it's own box.

While not terribly practical for weeknight dinners, it will be a great source of inspiration with stylish tips and modern recipes like  Lobster Rose Petal Carpaccio and Sea  Bass Tartar with  Grapefruit and finally classics like Orange-Passion Fruit Macarons, Tableware, glassware, and yes, etiquette are all addressed. For the girliest girl (or boy) on your list or that relative that has everything

For other books I've recommended this year:
Mexican Cookbook Roundup

The Epicurious Cookbook & MyRecipes America's Favorite Recipes

Food Blogging Resources

Cookbooks for Right Now

DIY Canning & Preserving

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links