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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Epicurious Cookbook & MyRecipes America's Favorite Recipes

Despite the popularity of recipe websites, we enjoy printed cookbooks too much to dismiss them. Fortunately two big website publishers have compiled cookbooks that are truly stellar in some ways marrying the best of both worlds. They not only share their top rated recipes, but give use quotes and tips from readers and reviewers. The result is cherry picked recipes with plenty of reader insight. 

The Epicurious Cookbook has over 250 "four fork" recipes that are tried and true. There are plenty of photographs, though not for every single recipe. The recipes are from magazines including Gourmet and Bon Appetit, as well as members. The headnotes for the recipes are particularly helpful, making serving, storage, and even substitution suggestions. The recipes have a certain practicality to them, as the back cover says "recipes you'll make again and again." There are also recipes from beloved chefs like Dorie Greenspan, Alfred Portale and Tom Colicchio. The photography is often elegant and have a consistent style (yes, more weathered wood finished backgrounds...) I love the sound of Eggplant Lasagna with Parsley Pesto, Beet and Carrot Pancakes and Mahogany Chicken (glazed in a soy, mirin and ginger sauce). The only thing I don't like about this book? The recipes are organized seasonally. Calling granola a Winter breakfast just seems dumb to me. There is no good reason not to make it and eat it all year long. Perhaps in some parts of the country this is helpful, but not in California where seasons overlap and are not always so distinct. 

MyRecipes America's Favorite Food culls recipes from magazines including CookingLight, RealSimple and Sunset. It has 200 recipes all highly rated and tested. If you are the kind of person who prefers photos with every recipe, you will be happy with this book. If you are the kind of person who likes to read helpful headnotes, you will be disappointed, because there are none. There are some tips now and again, but more often there are symbols prompting you to scan a photo with your smart phone. Once you do that, you might get more recipes or a technique video. I'm a little bewildered. I use my phone for recipes, but not while I am reading a cookbook. It's an attempt to "bridge the digital divide" but frankly, it seems a little gimmicky to me.  I like that they tell you where the recipes come from, something the Epicurious book does not do. Recipes that peaked my interest include Brandied Cranberry Short Rib Stew, Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, and Pine Nuts and Red Lentil Rice Cakes with Simple Tomato Salsa. 

Both of these books have really great recipes, so which one is right for you? It depends on where you generally turn for recipes. I actually think the Epicurious book has more interesting vegetarian recipes and more creative recipes in general, and the MyRecipes book has more healthy options. I've bookmarked more in the Epicurious cookbook but that's not surprising since it's my go-to recipe site. Have you seen these books yet? Let me know which one you like best.