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What do you get a cook who has everything? Well, that's the thing about cooks. They can't have everything, because there is always something new -- especially cookbooks. Some of us read them like novels. Others use them for inspiration. A few actually cook from them. Regardless of their purpose, cookbooks are a welcome addition to any kitchen.
I always look forward to what our local authors and publishers have cooked up. Some offerings from this year:
• "The Bizarre Truth," by Andrew Zimmern (Broadway Books, 271 pages, $24.99). The host of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern" tells the behind-the-scenes tale of eating his way around the world, all on camera. Raw camel kidneys, anyone?
• "Cooking From the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America," by Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang (University of Minnesota Press, 248 pages, $29.95). This, the first Hmong cookbook, with 100 recipes and text on Hmong life, serves as a useful reference. Its Hmong perspective comes from Yang, who was born in Laos and came to the United States as a child, where she later met Scripter.
• "Damn Good Food," by Mitch Omer and Ann Bauer (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 215 pages, $27.95). The owner of Hell's Kitchen restaurant in Minneapolis and Duluth offers 157 recipes and a mini-memoir, as told by Ann Bauer, of his earlier raucous years induced by then-undiagnosed bipolar condition. Be forewarned that the language is sometimes vulgar, even in recipes. His book signings include one Saturday at 11 a.m. at Cooks of Crocus Hill, 877 Grand Av., St. Paul. On Dec. 19, he will be at Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Av. S., from 1 to 3 p.m.
• "Drink This/ Wine Made Simple," by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl (Ballantine Books, 348 pages, $26). Longtime reviewer demystifies the world of wine. (Q and A with her at startribune.com/taste.)
• "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day," by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 324 pages, $27.99). The fast-bread duo has done it again. See the review in the baking story above.
• "Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons From Italy's Culinary Capital," by Eric Dregni (University of Minnesota Press, 230 pages, $22.95). A delightful chronicle of three years of eating in Italy, where the author taught. "I want to live in the place with the best food in the world," Dregni wrote. And he did.
• "The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin," by James Norton and Becca Dilley (University of Wisconsin Press, 192 pages, $24.95). Hot off the presses, this volume introduces us to 43 master cheesemakers and their stories. But you need to taste these cheeses yourself, so the authors have included info on tours, tasting notes and food pairings. Norton is editor of the online site heavytable.com; Dilley is a photojournalist.
• "New Vegetarian," by Robin Asbell (Chronicle Books, 137 pages, $19.95). Light, healthy dishes from the author of "The New Whole Grain Cookbook," who is a regular on the local cooking school circuit. (Q and A with her at startribune.com/taste.)
• "Petite Sweets," by Beatrice Ojakangus (Seller Publishers, 144 pages, $18.95). This slender volume from the prolific Duluth author may be one of my favorites: beautiful (with color photos), timely (bite-size desserts are all the rage) and just plain fun (individual fresh lime pies). For more, see the review above in the baking story.
• "300 Sensational Soups," by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds (Robert Rose, 384 pages, $24.95). Now a Minneapolis resident, Deeds has been a great addition to the local food scene. (Check out her "Big Book of Appetizers" for some seasonal inspiration.) One of my favorite soups from her book? Beef Stroganoff and Noodle Soup. Mmm.