Some notable books that will be useful throughout the year:
• "The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion," by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst (Barron's, 794, $29.99). Now in its fifth revision, this food dictionary is more important -- and expanded -- than ever. No cook should be without it.
• "Gourmet Today," edited by Ruth Reichl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1008 pages, $40). Well, the timing was bad (released immediately prior to the magazine folding), but the book is terrific -- comprehensive and legible (its first big book was notable for its impossible-to-read colored text). No pictures but plenty of words and recipes.
• "The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern," by Matt Lee and Ted Lee (Clarkson Potter, 255 pages, $35). The Lee brothers are at it again with their blend of Southern recipes, wit and charm that is just as comfortable in the Midwest.
• "New American Table," by Marcus Samuelsson (John Wiley & Sons, 356 pages, $40). How does he do it? Samuelsson, executive chef of Aquavit and other restaurants in New York City, and who just finished his role as visiting chef for the state dinner at the White House, now has a third cookbook to his name (the other two are also remarkable). The first was Scandinavian in scope, the second African. Now he's traversing his adopted country, and we're the richer for it.
• "The New Portuguese Table," by David Leite (Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $32.50). Who knew Portugal was so exciting? Leite, of the online site leitesculinaria.com, gives us a taste of the foods found today in the land of his heritage, and such foods, from Salt Cod and Shrimp Fritters to Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Coconut Sauce. With gorgeous photos of the recipes and country.
Poll: Which 2013 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest entry do you most want to try?