“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child
Raise your hand if you are not done shopping? I knew it. I’m not the only one! So here’s my first annual Cookbook Gift Guide to help you out. Despite the huge growth in food delivery (and apparent decrease in home cooking), hard bound cookbook sales are still on the rise. So why not consider shopping from the comfort of your favorite chair with your laptop and order some cookbooks? Apparently, even your DoorDash-dialing family and friends will cherish one!
The cookbooks in this Guide are listed in no particular order. In fact, I struggled to decide what to include. I’ve identified each item on the list with a descriptor of who might like it. If you want more suggestions for your special someone – just email me, leave a comment below, or write to me on one of my social media channels. I am happy to help!
For the crafty foodie:
Food Swap by Emily Paster. Emily is founder of the Chicago Food Swap, publisher of the blog West of the Loop, and a very creative cook. If you’ve never been to a food swap, she not only explains what they are, how to participate, or even start your own, but she even includes tags to help you decorate and properly mark your wares. From the best caramel sauce in the world to the cheese-pairing Spanish-inspired quince paste to the Matcha Cupcakes and Lavender-Infused Sugar and all the wonderful jams and pickles, Emily has your gift-giving and creative food inspiration covered in this first-of-its-kind food swapping resource. She organizes the recipes by shelf life as that is how she arranges her food when she returns from a swap – what to eat now (perishable), what will last a few weeks, and what is shelf stable.
For the avid or novice home cook:
Small Victories by Julia Turshen. I heard Julia speak on a webinar about being a successful freelance food writer. Her honest and engaging approach to sharing her experiences immediately inspired me to check out her new cookbook. Often, she is a ghost writer for other books but this effort with her in the lead portends a very successful future of Julia Turshen, cookbook author. So far, every word I have read and recipe I have seen is one I wish I had written or a recipe I want to cook. As Ina Garten says in the forward, “Julia is a cook who not only trusts her recipes but also her readers.” This book will give you the confidence of years of experience in the kitchen, even if you don’t really have it.
For the Italian “preservationist”:
Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti is the perfect book for the crafty foodie who also loves Italy. Domenica Marchetti, former newspaper journalist, is a very talented cookbook author and Italian food expert. Italy’s food culture is rooted in seasonality but with preserving and pickling techniques you can capture that seasonal flavor to enjoy throughout the year. Domenica shares techniques for creating the preserved item as well as recipes that incorporate it. It includes a section on preserving in oil, which Domenica considers to be the most Italian inspired preserving technique. You might also want to check out her tours to Italy – they are on my personal bucket list!
For the cookie lover:
Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan is chock full of new and re-invented cookies. As Dorie explained in a bookstore talk, her editor thought she would just do a compilation of her huge compendium of cookie recipes from her storied career. But Dorie thought that would be dull and instead invented almost all brand new recipes. It also includes all the recipes from her cookie pop-up store she ran with her son. In this highly volatile day and age, the World Peace Cookies are a favorite of mine but what really tickles me about this book is how some of her recipes are created. Often she wakes up having dreamed a recipe, then heads to the kitchen and actually bakes it. Who wouldn’t want to bake her dreamy recipes?
For the creative baker:
Marbled, Swirled, and Layered by Irvin Lin is his first cookbook (I’m sure not his last). I first met Irvin Lin at a food conference in 2010. I’ve watched his career in food unfold and couldn’t be happier for his success with this gorgeous book. If you read Irvin’s blog Eat the Love, you can just imagine what he would be like in person – full of energy, personality, creativity, and most importantly, warmth. These characteristics exactly describe him and his baking. His recipes may not always be the fastest recipes to prepare but they will be a labor of love that will impress yourself and your guests with flavors you may never have thought to put together in a baked good. If you like to step outside your comfort zone even a little bit when you bake, Irvin’s book is a must buy.
For the pie lover:
Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott. One of my earliest blog posts was about my fear of dough, and in particular I wrote about pie dough. My friend and brilliant food writer, Cheryl Sternman Rule walked me through the process of making a pie crust and a pie and I shared my discoveries and her wisdom in a post about my “doughaphobia“. Kate McDermott, in her new book Art of the Pie, will win you over with her approach to pie-making and life. (My favorite piece of wisdom: It’s ok to vent – your pie and in real life). I especially love the story of her grandmother, who, like mine was a wonderful baker with no recipes written down. And one last selling point – Kate has a tab on her web site called “Piechiatrist”. If only I had made an appointment with her when I was suffering from doughaphobia.
For the yogurt lover:
Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Published in 2015, this book by my pie tutor mentioned above, is a must-have for the yogurt lover in your life. Cheryl teaches you how to make the creamy elixir if you so desire. Whether you use your homemade or store-bought yogurt, her recipes from appetizer through dessert, will inspire you in the kitchen. Her Creamy Pasta Marinara that mimics a vodka sauce using the tanginess of yogurt is simple brilliance. My daughter can’t wait to make it when she gets home from college for the holiday break. And her tender pancakes are terrific as is but also withstand the tinkering of my kitchen and still turn out tender, flavorful, and crisp.
For the “Jerusalem” cookbook fan:
Zahav by Michael Solomonov who owns a highly acclaimed restaurant by the same name in Philadelphia was published with high expectations in 2015. The hummus recipe in it, according to members of my virtual cooking community Tasting Jerusalem, rivals or possibly exceeds the taste of the recipe from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Could it be? Try for yourself. In addition to his legendary hummus, Michael’s stories about his path to becoming a chef and the history he shares behind each dish are fascinating. He also imparts many details about the various ingredients that make up the flavor profile of Israeli cuisine. And yes, the book won the James Beard Book of the Year and Best International Cookbook Awards (2016).
For the “Great British Baking Show” fan:
The Cardamom Trail by Chetna Makan caught my eye because of its use of flavors of the East which crossover so much with the ingredients I love from my Tasting Jerusalem group – cardamom, tamarind, rose, and saffron just to name a few. Many of the Great British Baking Show’s participants won me over with their creativity and personality – Chetna was one of them. Many of the winners and runners up of the show have published books so be sure to search for others as well but Chetna’s way of incorporating unique flavors into her baked goods was just plain inspiring to me. With similar flavor profiles, also check out Nadiya’s Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain.
For the gluten free bread lover:
The Gluten-Free Bread Machine Cookbook by Jane Evans Bonacci and Shannon Kinsella includes 175 recipes so those who choose OR must avoid gluten do not have to give up bread or pizza or any number of other comforting bread products. Loaded with tips and tricks for baking and for keeping your kitchen gluten free in general, this will become your go-to book to keep gluten-free bread front and center in your meal planning. Even the magnificent sourdough bread is addressed in depth. And if you’re like me and you have a bread machine that you have left dormant, drag it out and start using it. Gluten free flours offer different flavor profiles that you may enjoy, regardless of your relationship with the protein known as gluten.
Bonus Bite — for the Joan Nathan groupie:
Pre-order King Solomon’s Table by Joan Nathan. In September I was lucky enough to attend and assist in a private cooking class at Foodie Goes Healthy’s home taught by Joan Nathan. It was just like getting family together to cook a big holiday feast with no family squabbles or politics. We cooked recipes from Joan’s last book Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous and a couple of previews from her upcoming book called King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World. From her preview card: “Driven by a passion for discovery, King Solomon is said to have sent ships to all corners of the ancient world, initiating a mass cross-pollination of culinary cultures that continues to bear fruit today. ” Based on this cultural mash up, Joan gathered more than 170 recipes that include classics as well as contemporary updates. It’s coming out April 4, 2017 published by Alfred A. Knopf.