Gift guide: Books for cooks

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2011 - 9:22 AM

There's a cookbook this year with your tastebuds in mind. Check out our gift suggestions today as we search for recipes and stories that tickle our palate.

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How many cookbooks are enough? No two cooks will agree. It depends -- on the cook and the cookbook.
 
As the one wielding the spatula, do you use the volumes for inspiration, technique or details? What are the proportions of flour to leaveners in bread dough? At what temperature do you roast a leg of lamb? Do I salt the finished recipe before or after it cooks?
 
Those are the questions many books answer. Or perhaps you're not a cook but someone fascinated with food, browsing the recipes while dreaming of meals you'd like to sample. Whatever the prompt, there's a cookbook this year with your tastebuds in mind. Check out our suggestions today as we search for recipes and stories that tickle our palate.
 

Some cooks prefer the comprehensive approach, and this season of books has plenty.

"The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2001-2012," by the editors at America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, 790 pages, $39.95). If that doesn't say it all, the subtitle does: "Every recipe from the hit TV show with product ratings and a look behind the scenes." Whew. Makes me tired just to read the title. The Test Kitchen focuses on home cooking, with more than 800 recipes -- not only the directions, but WHY they work, from grilled stuffed flank steak to waffles or pumpkin pie. With photos.

"Cook's Illustrated Cookbook," editors at America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, 890 pages, $40). The results of 20 years of testing recipes -- 2,000 in all -- appear here, usually with notes about why the recipe works, whether it's Mexican rice or sautéed zucchini. No photos, but some step-by-step line drawings.

"Essential Pepin," by Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 688 pages, $40). With DVD on techniques. A culinary star long before the current crop was out of diapers, Pepin offers more than 700 of his all-time favorites from his 60 years as a cook, as he evolved from a young French cooking apprentice to a longtime American cookbook author and TV host. Recipes range from roast capon with Armagnac-mushroom sauce to dried lima bean purée. With charming drawings from Pepin.

"The Food52 Cookbook," by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (William Morrow, 440 pages, $35). Smaller in physical size than the other books mentioned here, but as big -- or bigger -- in scope, this serves as the first crowd-sourced community cookbook, based on weekly contests that the authors held at their food52.com website. The 140 recipes, with photos, represent the winners from a year's worth of contests.

"The Food of Morocco," by Paula Wolfert (Ecco, 518 pages, $45). The Mediterranean expert offers up her love for Moroccan cuisine, with lessons in culture and recipes from 50 years of research. With photos.

"The Food of Spain," by Claudia Roden (Ecco, 610 pages, $39.99). Comprehensive tome on the regions of Spain, from little known to classic dishes. With photos.

"Martha Stewart's Entertaining / A Year of Celebrations," by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 432 pages, $75). She knows how to throw a party, at all of her many homes. How do I get an invite? With stunning photography that dominates the book, and a modest number of recipes.

"The Silver Spoon," new edition (Phaidon Press, 1,504 pages, $49.95). An updated edition of the 2005 English language version of the classic encyclopedia of Italian cuisine, originally published in 1950 in Italy by the design and architectural magazine Domus.

Recipes were gathered from cooking experts around Italy; this edition has more than 2,000, updated and revised, with 400 photos. The new version includes recipes and menus by "celebrated" Italian chefs, including Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich.

Lee Svitak Dean • 612-673-1749

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