Books for cooks

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2007 - 11:07 AM

There are plenty of choices if you have a cook on your gift list.

Illustration for Taste on Holiday Cook Books

Photo: Steve Rice, Star Tribune

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Now is the height of cookbook season and this year proves no exception. Here are some highlights of the new batch that may brighten the eyes of your favorite cook.

"Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route" by Andreas Viestad (Chronicle Books, 287 pages, $40). This beautiful book from the Norwegian author of "Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking" offers photos galore, travel tales and interesting recipes (a few of them impractical, including the Balinese suckling pig). It's a travelogue as much as a cookbook, with Viestad taking readers to where cumin, tamarind, turmeric and nutmeg are grown.

"Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, and Environmentally Sustainable Seafood" by Paul Johnson (John Wiley & Sons, 438 pages, $34.95). Whew. That title covers it all, which is no surprise once you realize that Johnson is owner of the Monterey Fish Market, which he founded in 1979. He's passionate and descriptive in this encyclopedic look at many fish species. There are plenty of recipes and photographs of fish dishes as well as the fishing environment, but information is clearly the focus of this well-thought-out book.

"How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food" by Mark Bittman (John Wiley & Sons, 992 pages, $35). The author of "How to Cook Everything" has set his sights on a narrower subject, although the book itself is encyclopedic. Got beet greens? Bittman will tell you what to do with them. Radicchio, parsnips or quinoa at the ready? Bittman has the recipes. He covers the rainbow of vegetables, then moves onto other dishes that meatless meals depend on -- eggs, grains and legumes among them.

"The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without" by Mollie Katzen (Hyperion, 144 pages, $22.95). It's been 30 years since her "Moosewood Cookbook" was first published. Katzen revisits the style of her trendmaking book in this new volume, which she handwrote, in black and white on plain paper.

"The Bacon Cookbook" by James Villas (John Wiley & Sons, 276 pages, $35). It's all here, from guacamole and bacon canapés to New England apple and bacon griddlecakes and German fennel and bacon soup.

"The Best International Recipes: A Home Cook's Guide to the Best Recipes in the World" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen, 579 pages, $35). From the test kitchen that leaves no pan unturned, these worldwide recipes cross the continents with recipes from a vast number of nations, all done in the careful style that Cook's Illustrated has made its own.

"Better Homes and Gardens Anyone Can Cook: Step-by-step recipes just for you" by editor Tricia Laning (Meredith Books, 505 pages, $24.95). With more than 500 recipes and 1,000 pictures, this basic book takes a new approach that's heavy on visuals and explanations. The first chapter is a set of how-to examples, from how to roast garlic and peppers to how to remove tomato skins, how to caramelize onions and the difference between shredding, grating and crumbling cheese. Each recipe includes a reference to a how-to that explains a technique or ingredient.

"Cooking: 600 recipes, 1,500 photographs, one kitchen education" by James Peterson (Ten Speed Press, 541 pages, $40). Peterson has created a library's worth of instruction in this single volume. If it's not discussed in this volume, you probably don't need to know it. That said, it's aimed at the more advanced cook -- or at least one who wants to be advanced.

"The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics, revised and updated" by the editors of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter, 672 pages, $35) and "The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics" (Clarkson Potter, 704 pages, $35). Recipes from the first 10 years of the magazine are updated in the "Original Classics" volume, and it's a noble effort with 1,100 recipes from 1990 to 2000. The second volume includes the "newer" recipes of the past decade. There are a few photos, but both volumes are serious collections of recipes from the MSL magazine. The second book contains a master index of recipes for both.

"Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes From the World's Healthiest Cuisine" by Martha Rose Shulman (Rodale, 398 pages, $39.95). Shulman is a master author, with more than 25 books to her credit. The book reflects her years of travel and research in this vast region.

"Quick & Kosher: Recipes From 'The Bride Who Knew Nothing'" by Jamie Geller (Feldheim, 365 page, $34.99). This is a charming personal book from a young cook who learned her way around the kitchen after she was married. With beautiful photos, plenty of recipes and a wide-ranging text that includes interviews with a butcher and more (she's a former producer at a cable network and now hosts "Simply Kosher"), Geller offers her lessons with gusto and insight.

"Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes From the Rabinowitz Family" by Judy Bart Kancigor (Workman, 656 pages, $19.95). The author started out writing a self-published family cookbook that grew to include recipes from 303 relatives and friends. Now a massive book, it tells a family tale of a journey from Russia to America, with old photographs, maps and, of course, recipes. In doing so, it moves from a family story to one of immigrant Jews in the United States.

"The Cornbread Gospels" by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman, 379 pages, $14.95). Who knew there were so many variations of cornbread? Dragonwagon takes a delightful historical and personal look at recipe variations nationwide.

"The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes From a Delicious Revolution" by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, 406 pages, $35). In another volume from the famed chef/owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., Waters offers recipes that reflect her philosophy in the kitchen. As she covers a lot of ground, there's only a handful of recipes in each category (four in "Fruit Desserts," for example).

Niche books

"Gadgetology: Kitchen Fun With Your Kids, Using 35 Cooking Gadgets for Simple Recipes, Crafts, Games, and Experiments" by Pam Abrams (Harvard Common Press, 90 pages, $14.95). I love this book, never mind that my kids are now adults. Abrams runs through an unusual gamut of gadgets (an apple-peeling machine, baster, cherry pitter, funnel, kitchen scale, mortar-and-pestle and the like), offers a recipe and other options for using the gadget both with food and for a different activity (a pasta spoon to make a puppet, for example). This is definitely fun in the kitchen.

"Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations From the Golden Age of American Cookery" by James Lileks (Crown, 176 pages, $23.95). The author of "The Gallery of Regrettable Food" is at it again as he comments on food and photos from the 1930s to '70s. Not for the faint of appetite. This era was not a good time for food photos, which are ripe for comments from Lileks, a humorist and Star Tribune reporter now seen at the Strib's buzz.mn.

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