I’ve got a few suggestions for you.
Being a food writer, avid reader and collector of cookbooks, I come across a wide assortment of food-focused books. Some are good. A few are awful. (Seriously, you don’t test your recipes?) Several end up being so spectacular that I add them to my eclectic collection of favorites. Such is the case with the following books. Great to give or receive, they would be fitting gifts for any foodie.
Ard Bia Cookbook by Aoibheann Mac Namara and Aoife Carrigy (Atrium, 2013)
Straight from Galway, Ireland comes a lovely, wholesome and tad exotic cookbook from the equally lovely, wholesome and tad exotic Ard Bia restaurant. Fitting for new as well as adventurous cooks, Ard Bia tempts readers with luscious photos, engaging anecdotes and fresh, creative recipes. Among the gems are smoked trout pate with caperberries and preserved lemon salsa, the easy, retro Ard Bia Mess, and chickpea pancake with spinach and feta, romesco sauce and tabouleh. With Ard Bia you’ll cook well and eat healthfully throughout the year.
Cook’s Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking by the Editors of America’s Test Kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated, 2012)
In The Science of Good Cooking readers learn how mastering 50 basic culinary concepts, such as “slow heating makes meat tender” and “a covered pot does not need liquid,” will improve their cooking and enhance their enjoyment of time spent in the kitchen. Featuring over 400 recipes and the science behind each technique, this is an invaluable book for any home cook.
Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrew McMeel, 2012)
Part memoir of an American cook living on a Japanese farm, part Japanese cookbook, Japanese Farm Food will charm both readers and cooks. As a cooking instructor, Slow Food movement leader and wife of a Japanese farmer, Hachisu imparts her immense knowledge of Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques with ease. Her recipes, including tofu and vegetable croquettes, egg custard squares with crab and spinach and steamed buns stuffed with azuki paste, are approachable, executable and delicious. Her cookbook is likewise beautiful and engaging. Definitely worth a read!
Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson (Clarkson Potter, 2013)
I’m a sucker for Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. Smart, witty and lavishly produced, they always contain at least a half dozen recipes that become staples in my kitchen. Lawson’s fresh take on Italian cuisine is no different. Nigellissima provides a fun romp through 100-plus familiar and not-so-familiar Italian specialties.
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press, 2012)
Jerusalem made the ‘Great Books for Cooks’ list last year. I loved it so much that I’ve put it on the list again for 2013. For a review, click here.
Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel E. Presilla (Norton, 2012)
Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook of the Year award, Gran Cocina Latina ranks as one of the most comprehensive cookbooks that I’ve ever used. At over 900 pages long this weighty tome covers the varied cuisines of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Along with providing historical and cultural references, the book contains over 500 straightforward recipes and anecdotes for each dish. It also includes lush color photos, pairing suggestions and serving tips. Whether you crave a memorable tamale or just want to learn more about Latin American cuisine, Presilla’s detailed book is a must-have for your collection.
Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press, 2006)
Baking enthusiasts will love Reinhart’s classic guide to making extraordinary bread. Known as one of the world’s authorities on bread, baking instructor and multiple James Beard awards-winning author Reinhart shares his vast knowledge of leavened and unleavened doughs. Through clear, detailed steps he takes beginning as well as seasoned bakers through creating a starter and then kneading, shaping and baking bread. Through his approachable coverage of 50 master formulas, he enables readers to create everything from rustic and whole wheat breads to bagels, brioche and challah. Crust and Crumb should appeal to any baker.
Tomatoes by Miriam Rubin (University of North Carolina Press, 2013)
Part of the “Savor the South” cookbook series, Tomatoes is a delightful look at the South’s longstanding relationship with the tomato and how this fruit stars in a host of delectable recipes. Among the 50 specialties included are Baby Plum Tomato and Olive Tapenade, Curried Tomato Soup and Spiced Green Tomato Crumb Cake. Knowing that not every cook has a lush garden or access to top notch produce, Rubin includes recipes using canned as well as pink tomatoes. Engaging and well-written, this is yet another book that would be wonderful for readers and cooks.
The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining by Colin Spoelman and David Haskell (Abrams, 2013)
Although I will never make moonshine in my apartment or amass a collection of whiskeys for my next cocktail party, I did get a kick out of The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining. Written by the owners of NYC’s first post-prohibition distillery, this book provides a fascinating look at the history of American whiskey, its resurgence among the cocktail crowd and the rise in home distillers. For DIY’ers it’s a detailed guide to making your own whiskey. For budding bartenders it’s a handy whiskey-based cocktail guide. For people like me who love culinary history, it’s a great read.
Fish Market by Kathy Hunt (Running Press, 2013)
Do I feel sheepish about putting my own book on this list? Of course I do. It’s shameless! And, yet, I don’t. I worked long and hard on Fish Market, wrote, tested and re-tested over 140 recipes and, ultimately, put out one heck of a seafood cookbook. Publisher’s Weekly, Weight Watcher’s and NPR’s Kitchen Table seem to agree. All have endorsed Fish Market. So, shameless or not, it’s on the list.