Summer 2009 Cookbook Gift Guide

Summer 2009 Cookbook Gift Guide

Because cookbooks are easy to wrap and fun to give

By Roxanne Webber

Cookbooks are a classic gift. Every conceivable niche is covered. But great variety in subject translates into great variety in quality. So as an adjunct to our Summer 2009 Gift Guide, we offer up the best of the recent cookbook releases, the ones we would like to have or give.

Pure Simple Cooking, by Diana Henry. This soft-cover book is packed with pictures and really approachable. The mostly easy, healthy recipes (like pear, fig, pomegranate, and prosciutto salad) are just what we want to eat on a weeknight.

Heard It Through the Grapevine, by Matt Skinner. The first thing that comes to mind is: “For a wine book, this is actually interesting.” But really, Matt Skinner’s book is so well laid out and fun that it would hold its own against any topic. Skinner breaks down the essentials of wine in an amusing way, with a focus on how to enjoy the stuff, not be pretentious about it.

Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita. In this inspiring but accessible book, Frank Stitt pulls together Southern ingredients and sensibilities with Italian techniques. The great photos of his soulful food make us want to go straight to his Alabama restaurant Bottega and stuff ourselves full of dishes like potato ravioli with crawfish and candied lemon, charred onion dip, and warm cream cheese tart with cinnamon and almonds.

Lobel’s Meat Bible, by Stanley, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel. The Lobels (butchers who’ve been in the business for five generations) have written a book that covers pretty much everything you need to know to feel like an educated carnivore: how cuts differ, techniques for working with those cuts, recipes, and more.

Bixology, by Eve O’Neill and Doug “Bix” Biederbeck. If you were, say, looking for a guide on how to come off as a cool dude, this book would be a good start. It’s got oyster-eating instructions, a visual guide to bar glasses, directions for making and serving mini burgers, essential jazz albums to know, and, of course, recipes for cocktail classics.

Cake Love, by Warren Brown. This book makes baking cakes foolproof with step-by-step photo guides. The recipes made us really hungry, too, like the one for Mr. Banana Legs, a banana cake with layers of rum frosting, bananas, and ganache.

Beyond the Great Wall, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. A beautiful tome that captures the people, food, and culture that lie outside the urban parts of eastern China. It’s got gorgeous National Geographic–esque photos interspersed with interesting recipes for things like Eastern Guizhou chile paste, fried Uigur pastries stuffed with pea tendrils, and tea spiked with dried fruits, salt, and sugar.

Chanterelle, by David Waltuck and Andrew Friedman. This book is epic—fancy and big—yet still manages to come off as inspiring rather than overwhelming. Delicious recipes from famed NYC restaurant Chanterelle include roasted venison with creamed sauerkraut and paprika, poached halibut with saffron sauce and leeks, butternut ravioli served over oxtail ragout, and fig and goat cheese tart with huckleberry ice cream.

Fish Without a Doubt, by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore. Chef Rick Moonen is an evangelist for sustainable seafood, and we love his book on how to cook it. There are step-by-step photo tutorials on cleaning and filleting just about every sea creature you’ll encounter, tips on shopping for seafood, and ideas on storing and preparing it.

’wichcraft, by Tom Colicchio. Say what you will about Mr. Top Chef, but Tom Colicchio’s sandwich-making superpowers are undeniable. If you’ve never tried his marinated white anchovy sandwich—crisp country bread with a soft-boiled egg smeared over it, roasted onions, white anchovies, salsa verde, and frisée—get this book and get to it.

Mexican Modern, by Fiona Dunlop. Dunlop profiles chefs and their food from Veracruz, Puebla, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Michoacán, giving a nice taste of regional Mexican cooking. There are recipes for things like scrambled eggs with yuca blossoms, marinated turkey in spiced onion broth, and orange mousse with mezcal.

Vegan Brunch, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The latest book from Veganomicon author Isa Chandra Moskowitz is dedicated to the most important meal of the weekend. The meat-, egg-, and dairy-free recipes include savory buckwheat waffles with tarragon-mushroom gravy, crêpes stuffed with spicy Ethiopian lentil stew, a hefty section on making vegan versions of scrambles and omelets, and plenty of sweets like pumpkin French toast and toasted coconut–mango muffins.

Further Adventures in Search of Perfection, by Heston Blumenthal. Chef Blumenthal’s latest is essentially an OCD-level analysis of eight classic dishes—trifle, baked Alaska, fish pie, hamburgers, Peking duck, chicken tikka masala, risotto, and chili con carne—and what it takes to execute them perfectly. While the book is short on recipes, it’s huge on technique, and getting to walk through the making (or remaking) of a classic dish via the brain of Blumenthal is an interesting read.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.
Roxanne Webber is an associate editor at CHOW.