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Cookbook Lover’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016

12/06/2016 04:17 am ET
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Food is our common ground, a universal experience. - James Beard

The holidays are once more upon us and it is time to begin thinking of gifts. So once again, I have selected an exciting collection of original, beautiful cookbooks for you to offer to the cooks, the bakers, the food lovers on your gift list, whether expert and novice.

As a passionate (okay, fanatic) home cook and baker, a food writer, and with my own cookbook due out at the end of next year, I love offering the perfect cookbook to each family member and close friend and my criteria are strict: each cookbook must be written by a trusted expert, either a professionally-trained chef or cooking teacher, or an excellent home cook who has become an expert on his or her topic; the recipes must be uncomplicated, informative, and inspiring in the kitchen; and like any great book, it must be wonderful to sit curled up with, the stories a joy to read. I love cookbooks that are unusual and quirky, the hidden treasures, not the first one we might think of grabbing off of a bookstore shelf, nor the most publicized. And I love cookbooks that teach – a technique, a history, or a cuisine and culture, and that reassure with accessible recipes and warm encouragement, like cooking with a friend.

Each one has to be a delight to cook or bake from time and time again, the dishes becoming familiar favorites. I love nothing more than sharing cookbooks that have become the most loved and most used in my own kitchen.

You can also check out my cookbook gift guides for 2015 and 2014, and 2013 - these great cookbooks and food-inspired books are still as tempting, excellent, and loved as when they first came out.

Summers Under the Tamarind Tree (Recipes and Memories from Pakistan)

Sumayya Usmani brings the flavors of Pakistan to the pages of a cookbook, a fascinating cuisine that is often overlooked and underestimated. Exploring the cuisine of her childhood, a childhood spent cooking with her mother and grandmother in Karachi, Sumayya shares the rich heritage and traditions of her native Pakistan. Pakistani cuisine is extraordinarily varied, exciting, and thoroughly contemporary, albeit steeped in ancient influences and history, blending the flavors and characters of a myriad of overlapping cultures, including Iran and Afghanistan, India, China, and Tibet.

Summers Under the Tamarind Tree is a collection of authentic, exotic yet very accessible recipes – Sumayya simplifies many techniques for the modern kitchen - for a variety of spice blends, breads (puris, roti, naan), rice dishes (pulao, biryani) and daal, pickles and chutneys, curries, side dishes, desserts, and drinks, the recipes infused with stories and anecdotes, traditions, and the scents and flavors of a country.

My Kitchen in Rome (recipes and notes on Italian cooking)

Rachel Roddy’s gorgeous book My Kitchen in Rome perfectly captures the beauty and magic of Rome and life in this fascinating, vibrant city, her recipes the flavors and traditions of la vera cucina romana. Rachel, who writes a weekly column for the The Guardian called "My Kitchen in Rome," charts a year in her city and in her kitchen in her first cookbook, taking us along with her to the market, the butcher and fishmonger, norcineria and fruttivendolo, sharing the secrets and customs behind the emblematic dishes she has learned to prepare in her own kitchen which she now shares with us. A true Roman holiday…

My Kitchen in Rome is one of the most complete books of Italian family-style cuisine I have come across thanks to her extraordinary selection of recipes, her detailed instructions, and her charming stories of the food, the people, and life in Rome, written like letters to an old friend. Authentic, rich and warming, and very practical, I wish I had had this book with me when I moved to Italy! Rachel shares the best of the best of Italian cuisine: Sweet and Sour Onions, handmade pastas; Roman-Style Artichokes; Insalata di Puntarelle – my favorite! – Saltimbocca and Pasta e Ceci; White Beans with Sage and Sausage; Sautéed Beef with Arugula and Parmesan; Crostata di Ciliege; Baked Pears with Marsala and Cinnamon and, of course, Tiramisù.

The Farmette Cookbook (Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm)

Imen McDonnell is your typical American girl who dashes off and marries an Irish dairy farmer. Like Rachel charting her Italian learning experience, Imen documents her extraordinary Irish journey of life, family, and food in The Farmette Cookbook. We follow on her adventures, learning all about Irish customs and time-honored traditions and rituals, basic and fundamental kitchen skills and, of course, the recipes that Imen learned from her mother-in-law and the other Irish women who reached out to share their experience and knowledge of Irish cooking. This beautiful book is filled with stories and photographs of life on a family farm in rural Ireland and chockfull of traditional Irish recipes made from simple, fresh, seasonal ingredients, homey, wholesome, and comforting. Clotted cream, scones and Irish stout and treacle loaf, potted smoked trout, fish pie and shepherd’s pie, Irish wedding cake and Grandma’s gooseberry tart. The Farmette Cookbook is the next best thing to running off to Green Isle yourself.

Raghavan Iyer, master teacher and award-winning cookbook author, is best known for his cookbooks on Indian cuisine, 660 Curries and Indian Cooking Unfolded among many more, but now he brings us on a brand new cooking adventure featuring the world’s favorite veg, the potato! Inspired by a diversity of cuisines and flavors, Raghavan takes us on a continent-by-continent flavor and recipe journey and you’ll never cook potatoes the same way again! Smashed Mashed Boiled and Baked includes an excellent guide to potatoes, including varieties, choosing, purchasing, storing, as well as the potato’s history, and 75 recipes that’ll knock your socks off! Finger foods, sauces and condiments, soups and salads, entrées and sides, even sweets and desserts are covered in this book dedicated to the potato in every form. This is the ultimate potato cookbook!

Ecuadorean Llapingachos, Sweet Potato Samosas, Canadian Lamb-Potato Tortiѐre, Moroccan Potato Stew with Saffron Biscuits, Potato Lasagna, Pierogies and gratins, Potstickers, Cheesy Tarragon Tots, Chocolate Sweet Potato Pound Cake, Sweet Potato Rolls with a Creamy Cointreau Glaze, are among the exciting potato recipes you’ll find, along with the quintessential mashed, smashed, twice-baked, and fries… but thanks to Raghavan, those homey favorites will go from good to sensational!

Mashed isn’t just for potatoes and Holly Herrick offers a masterful array of recipes for potatoes and beyond… vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, peas, beets, and carrots, and fruits, berries, stone fruits, exotics, and more, as well as grains, eggs, fish, and meat! Mashes are redolent of homey comfort, yet can also be sophisticated and elegant, perfect dinner party fare. Holly leads you through the various methods and tools of mashing as well as preparing fruits and vegetables for maximum flavor and nutrition. She also shows you how to layer flavors for the best dish – maximizing the gustatory experience while avoiding waste. This beautiful book carries you through the seasons with recipes that are fresh, simple, and out-of-this-world delicious. Appetizers, sides, mains, desserts, and treats.

Butter Bean and Smoked Ham Hock Mash; Roasted Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup with Bacon Crumble; Chunky Chicken Liver Pâté with Dried Cherry and Orange Compote; Sweet Potato Indian Pudding; Christmas Guacamole with Pomegranate and Orange; Potato, Corn, and Salmon Muffin Cakes; Savory Summer Corn and Shrimp Pudding; Deep Purple Cherry and Blackberry Milkshakes.

Great Bowls of Food (Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls, and More)

With the enormous popularity of bowls – Buddha Bowls, Zen Bowls, Gratitude Bowls, or just the simple bowl of soup – Robin Asbell’s newest book shows us why this new trend is all about delicious, healthy, mindful eating and one worth keeping. Robin’s gorgeously photographed book has such an extraordinary range of recipes that I think I could now eat only entirely out of bowls. And she’s got us covered – she begins by instructing how to make a well balanced bowl, both in terms of nutritional value and one that will satisfy as well (Let’s Consider the Bowl and Daily Practice), by offering a Build Your Own Bowls Template, followed by recipes for the building blocks of a great bowl - Grains and Grain Alternatives to Condiments to flavor and top your bowl ingredients. She then shares recipes for an amazing, mouthwatering selection of recipes for Breakfast Bowls, Lunch Bowls, Dinner Bowls, Brothy Bowls, Party Bowls, and Dessert Bowls. This is the perfect gift for, well, just about everyone on your list! Dukkah-Spiced Nut Sprinkle; Kimchi Sesame Dressing; Creamy Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce; Pomegranate Couscous with Hemp, Chia, Raspberries, and Pear; Native Wild Rice Bowl with Dried Blueberries, Smoked Whitefish, and Sunflower Seeds; Farro with Artichokes, Roasted Peppers, Feta, and Balsamic Drizzle; Creamy Pistachio Oats with Cherries and Shaved Chocolate.

This book truly surprised me – I expected a book of flavorless, boring recipes, but Robyn Webb’s cookbook is stunning, full of tempting recipes for everyone, family and guests, while also ideal for those with diabetes. Robyn combines her culinary talents and a Master’s in nutrition to create delicious and healthful meals, working extensively with the American Diabetes Association, as Food Editor for Diabetes Forecast magazine, teaching cooking classes and writing cookbooks, and this is her 16th! In The Perfect Diabetes Comfort Food Collection, she has created 9 essential techniques, the basis for 90 fabulous meals! Her lusciously photographed book is overflowing with guidance and information as well as sidebars filled with simple and nutritious sides and variations for the main dishes. Simple to make yet bursting with flavor, you’ll be making every recipe in this book when you want something truly comforting. But oh so spectacular!

Basic Grilled Chicken Thighs with Port Wine Chinese Five Spice; crispy Chickpea Patties with Mango Chutney; Italian Meatball Burgers; No-Noodle Zucchini Lasagna; Lemon Asparagus Soup and Classic Beef Stew. Throw in a dizzying array of Stir Fries, Tacos, Burgers, Pasta Sauces and Salad Dressings and you can be sure that everyone will find their perfect – and healthy - comfort food.

Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg, MD have done it again with their newest Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook! The dynamic bread duo have recreated their original Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by updating information, changing and adding recipes including sourdoughs, and have added weights and more photos. This is Zoë and Jeff’s 6th book featuring their super simple, fast, and fail-proof no-knead method of preparing bread dough and I absolutely love them! In fact, I bake almost exclusively from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day series! This is THE cookbook for your favorite bread baker or the wanna-be, novice bread baker. And this is most definitely for the bread baker who just doesn’t have the time to make fresh, homemade, from-scratch bread the longer, more traditional way. Includes the Master Recipe followed by variations for whole grain breads, breads with fruits and vegetables, flatbreads and pizzas, enriched breads and pastries, and includes a chapter on gluten-free breads and pastries.

Jane Evans Bonacci and Shannon Kinsella have created 175 splendid recipes for gluten-free breads made easier by using a bread machine! Sourdoughs, holiday breads, pizza and focaccia doughs, sweet breads and quick breads to baguettes and sandwich loaves, Jane and Shannon have written the complete gluten-free bread book. And they didn’t stop there! They offer information on brands and models of bread machines. They even let you know when to use the "gluten-free" setting on your bread maker and when it's better to just avoid it. As an extra bonus, they have included recipes for homemade jams, and condiments (Asian BBQ Sauce, Pineapple Bourbon BBQ Sauce) to accompany your freshly baked breads as well as recipes using the gluten-free breads from the book (Blueberry Bread Pudding, Sausage Strata, Italian Ribollita, Turkey with Pomegranate-Cranberry Panini). Now even those following a gluten-free diet can enjoy a sensational variety of breads!

Preserving Italy (Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions)

Domenica Marchetti’s Preserving Italy has been on every Cookbook Best of list this year and for good reason: this standout book is unique in its genre, informative, engaging, a complete and fascinating guide on preserving the Italian way. Domenica’s 7th cookbook devoted to Italian cuisine shines the light on Italy’s rich tradition of preserving, canning, jarring, bottling, marinating, infusing, and pickling of an abundance of fresh, flavorful ingredients. Domenica traveled across Italy observing home cooks, soaking in the local traditions, and collecting family recipes – including her own – sharing such recipes as sweet and sour peppers, pickled garlic scapes in oil, Marsala-spiked apricot jam and sweet hazelnut paste, lemon-infused olive oil, her grandmother’s sour cherries preserved in alcohol, and traditional Mostarda. But preserving goes beyond fruit and vegetables and you’ll find recipes for making cheese, curing meats, infusing liqueurs, and more. An added bonus, she offers loads of mouthwatering recipes using your bounty of Italian preserves! Domenica guides you masterfully through the Italian kitchen and pantry, expertly instructing the processes of preserving while recounting the stories behind the recipes, the traditions, and the people who shared these with her. This book is a must for anyone passionate about preserves!

Art of the Pie (A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life)

Kate McDermott’s Art of the Pie is the pie book to end all pie books and will quickly become a classic. The woman who I fondly refer to as “The Pie Queen” – and who calls herself the Piechiatrist - has finally published the definitive cookbook on pies! With Kate, pie making is simple and fun, and Art of the Pie, her first cookbook, captures the spirit of Pie Camp, her famous pie-making workshop, where she has shared her methods and technique, her expertise, and her recipes to thousands of eager pie-lovers. Art of the Pie is a complete, practical, and informative step-by-step guide to pie making, with detailed instructions for preparing the ingredients and the process, measuring, making, rolling, finishing, and baking crusts. Whether seasoned baker or beginner, Kate’s warm encouragement, thoughtful guidance, passionate coaching and scrupulous instruction will inspire you to don your apron and bake pies.

Hand pies and jam pies, sweet pies and savory pies, traditional and thoroughly modern pies, Art of the Pie is the only pie book you’ll need. Parmesan Chicken Pie; Shaker Blood Orange Pie; Apple Cranberry Walnut Pie; English Pork Pies; Mocha Cream Pie; Best Peach Pie in the World; and recipes for perfect crusts including a gluten-free nutty no-bake crust.

Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore (Dinner for Everyone at the Table)

Anna Thomas’ Vegetarian Epicure groundbreaking series of cookbooks have been my best-loved and most-cooked-from cookbooks in the 30+ years I have been cooking. The recipes are not only easy to follow and prepare, but her recipes are exciting, creative, and please everyone, not just vegetarians. Her newest cookbook Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore may be her best and most innovative yet – “My idea is simple,” says Anna. “Start with the food everyone eats, design a meal or a dish around that, then expand and elaborate with just the right amounts of the right cheeses, meats, or fish for your omnivores. Everyone feels welcome, and we eat the same meal - but in variations.” Each dish is designed for the vegan, the vegetarian, and the omnivore around your table, making your life as a cook much easier, while offering each guest a variation of the dish, making everyone happy and feeling included. Fresh Corn Polenta with Farmhouse Mushroom Ragout pairs with Roast Chicken Stuffed with Lemons; Farro with Lentils and Lavender served with Ratatouille from the Charcoal Grill can be served with garlic-and-herb rubbed lamb chops for the omnivores. Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Moroccan Spices is perfect with or without the Spicy Lamb Meatballs.

There have been many a day when my family arrived for dinner and all there was to eat was cake because I had spent all day baking. Baking, I find, is soothing and therapeutic, and there is no more joy in the world than offering loved ones, family and friends, home-baked treats. Not to mention that I find it impossible to go even one day without a chocolatey brownie, a fruity crumble, or a wedge of cake. Irvin Lin is of the same mind: his first cookbook, Marbled, Swirled, and Layered is all about sharing delicious baked goods and desserts and the fabulousness of his creations leaves me more than eager to bake every single one. Chockful of inspiration, instruction, information, and tips from a life-long, passionate home baker, Marbled, Swirled, and Layered is, nonetheless, first and foremost a gorgeously-photographed recipe book covering all of your desires: brownies and bars, cakes and pies, cookies, muffins, cobblers, and breads and breakfast baked goods of all sorts. From the homey and comforting to the spectacular and special, Irvin’s treats and confections will blow you away! If you love to entertain, are always volunteering to bring the dessert, or if you simply have a sweet tooth, this is THE baking book for you. Do you follow a gluten-free diet? Irvin doesn’t leave you wanting… there are plenty of recipes for gluten-free treats as well! Salted Caramel Popcorn Double-Chocolate Brownies; Strawberry and Basil Cornmeal Shortcakes with Vanilla Whipped Cream; Chocolate and Brown Sugar Buttercream Rolled Cake with Crushed Pistachios; Raspberry and Almond Battenberg Checkerboard Cake; Roasted Banana and Peanut Butter Cream Pie; Blueberry, Blackberry, and Corn Grunt; Strawberry and Cocoa Swirl Brioche Rolls; Italian Spice Tomato and Parmesan Garlic Pretzel Knots; Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Maple-Bacon Filling.

Jamie Schler lives and writes in Chinon, France. To read more of her work visit Life’s a Feast. Her first cookbook Oranges is due out November 2017.

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