Cookbook Reviews, Food Musings
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The Annual Cookbook Review: Books to Give, Get and Gobble!

stack of cookbooks

This year’s recommended cookbooks and food writing books

Although I write and buy books and cookbooks, I am always amazed by the tremendous number published every year. Who does cookbooks? Celebrities, celebrity chefs, musicians, athletes, bloggers, restaurants, farmers’ markets . . .. The list goes on and on. With so many new books on store shelves—and seemingly more coming out each week—it’s tough to know which ones will satisfy and which will leave you hungering for something more substantial. To help separate the filets from the hot dogs, the Bordeaux from the Two-Buck-Chuck, it’s the annual cookbook review! Included this year are baking books, a cocktail guide, vegetarian, Italian, German, Mediterranean and English cuisines as well as several food writing books and a graphic novel-like book. Happy shopping, reading and cooking!

The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
If you want to learn the proper way to mix, bake and decorate a myriad of cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, breads, pastries and candy, reach for The Baking Bible. Perfect for bakers of any skill level, this comprehensive, IACP Award-winning cookbook provides over 100 recipes with helpful, step-by-step instructions, storage tips and color photographs. Here you’ll find out how to create soft, flavorful scones, flaky yet velvety pies and tarts and gorgeous cakes such as the red velvet-with-raspberry glaze cake Red Velvet Rose and the chocolate chiffon cake Chocolate Cuddle Cake. Use Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s invaluable cookbook to master a specific dessert, expand your repertoire or simply become a better baker.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Mark Bittman‘s exhaustive book on vegetarian cuisine, a revised edition of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has been released. In it the former New York Times food writer shares over 2,000 tasty vegetarian and/or vegan recipes. Although many have been updated, all still retain the straightforward approach to cooking for which Bittman is known. If you have a vegetarian, vegan or a friend who wants to eat more vegetables on your holiday shopping list, pick up a copy of this tremendous and timeless book.

The Reporter’s Kitchen by Jane Kramer (St. Martin’s Press, 2017)
The Reporter’s Kitchen features some of the best food stories from longtime New Yorker contributor Jane Kramer. Divided into four sections, Kramer’s book offers up chef profiles, including one of an author on this list, Yotam Ottolenghi, and essays on everything from kitchens and loosely structured cookbook reviews to foraging with Danish chef Rene Redzepi of Noma. The Reporter’s Kitchen is an engaging collection of nonfiction writing and a lovely gift for anyone drawn to good writing, cooking and international foods.

The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan and Chris Gall (Sterling Epicure, 2011)
I’ve given this cocktail recipe book to several friends. This year I finally gave it to myself. If you are or know of a fan of cocktails, both classic and contemporary, you’ll want a copy, too. The bartender at the NYC speakeasy Please Don’t Tell (PDT), Meehan serves up over 300 recipes and sidebars on fascinating beverage facts. Color illustrations from Chris Gall round out this handy book. Whether you want to dazzle friends with Hemingway daiquiris and pharaoh coolers or make yourself a memorable sloe gin fizz or sidecar, The PDT Cocktail Book has the information you need to mix delightful drinks.

Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ten Speed Press, 2017)
Look through past years’ cookbook reviews and you’ll see that I’m a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s beautiful, creative and consistently good cookbooks. Sweet is fast on its way to becoming yet another favorite. In Sweet Ottolenghi and pastry chef Helen Goh offer over 110 recipes for such to-die-for treats as Apple and Olive Cake with Maple Frosting, Spiced Praline Meringues, Chocolate Banana Ripple Cheesecake and, my new go-to, Apricot and Almond Cake with Cinnamon Topping. They also provide more traditional, but no less tasty, goodies including sesame brittle, rugelach and lemon and poppy seed cake. With vibrant photos, engaging headnotes, clear instructions and a final chapter dedicated to baking tips and ingredients, this makes a great gift for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman (Storey Publishing, 2016)
Part of a series by illustrator Julia Rothman, Food Anatomy resembles a graphic novel in appearance and a food encyclopedia in content. Curious about the different types of wheat, millet, pasta, eggs and what they look like? Maybe you’re interested in learning where different cuts of meat are found on a cow, pig or chicken. Perhaps you’re more fascinated by cooking tools and appliances from around the globe. Rothman provides charming visuals and quirky facts that educate readers about these aspects of cooking and more. Food Anatomy is a fun book for anyone intrigued by food and the culinary arts.

Food for All Seasons by Oliver Rowe (Faber & Faber, 2017)
If you or your gift recipient loves reading a lush, well-written account of cooking through the seasons, pick up British chef Oliver Rowe’s book. If you or your gift recipient is a bit of an Anglophile, get Food for All Seasons. If your intended recipient enjoys straightforward yet creative recipes, well, you know, grab a copy of this book. Food for All Seasons can be read as a book, used as a cookbook or serve as a month-by-month guide to what’s in season in the UK and parts of the U.S. Three uses for one book? That’s brilliant! Besides, any cookbook with a recipe for oatmeal-crusted herring with orange zest gets a vote of confidence from herring enthusiast Kathy.

Osteria by Slow Food Editore (Rizzoli, 2017)
This fantastic, weighty tome comes courtesy of Slow Food, the grassroots organization that began in Italy and is dedicated to preserving local food traditions and cultures. In Osteria the group showcases 1,000 regional recipes collected from taverns, or osterie, throughout Italy. Pizzas, crostinis, frittatas, salads, soups, vegetables, pastas, meats, seafood, pastries, breads and desserts all get their due. Whether you’re new to or an old hand at Italian cuisine, you’ll appreciate Osteria‘s range of recipes, techniques, tips and stories of homegrown Italian food.

Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss (Ten Speed Press, 2016)
Whether you’ve scoured the English language shelves of countless German bookstores, searching for a solid German baking book, or you just enjoy a luscious streusel, torte or pfeffernüsse, check out Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking. Weiss serves up over 100 recipes for sweet and savory baked goods including such traditional offerings as apple cake (apfelkuchen), flourless poppy seed torte (mohntorte), gingerbread (lebkuchen), springerle, potato strudel and soft pretzels (brezeln.) Those looking to spice up their holiday offerings will especially like Weiss’s final chapter, “Christmas Favorites,” which contains recipes for 24 festive baked goods.

Imbibe by David Wondrich (Perigree, 2015)
Originally released in 2007, Imbibe tells the histories of classic American cocktails and the 19th century saloon owner behind the world’s first bartender’s guide How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion, Jerry Thomas. Here readers learn about everything from punches and fizzes to martinis and sazeracs and how Jerry Thomas became “the father of American mixology.” Engaging and educational, Wondrich’s James Beard Award-winning book is the perfect present for history lovers, food fans and anyone interested in American drink culture.

Herring: A Global History by Kathy Hunt (Reaktion, 2017)
I’m proud of the research, writing and effort that went into Herring: A Global History so I’m selfishly putting my book on this year’s list. Part of Reaktion Books’ Edible Series, Herring looks at the historical, economic, political, cultural and culinary impact of this small, omega-3-rich fish. Found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, herring has long been a mainstay of Scandinavian, Eastern European, British, Dutch and Japanese cuisines. In fact, so abundant were herring and the Dutch fishermen who caught them, it’s said that Amsterdam was literally built atop the bones of this fish. Filled with rich history, unusual tales, over 50 color photos and 15 recipes, Herring is ideal for natural and world history buffs, seafood aficionados and those with a passion for global food and culture.

In case none of those suggestions work for you, check out some of the previous years’ cookbook review lists.

2016 Cookbook Review
2015 Cookbook Review
2014 Cookbook Review
2013 Cookbook Review
2012 Cookbook Review – Baking Books
2012 Cookbook Review – Food Writing Books
2012 Cookbook Review – Cookbooks
2011 Cookbook Review – Food Writing Books
2011 Cookbook Review – Cookbooks

1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth says

    I am looking forward to reading a few on this list. Especially “Imbibe“ and “The Baking Bible”. Very interesting reviews!

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