There are many great new cookbooks on the shelves that would make wonderful last minute gifts for your favorite foodie. Or you may want to treat yourself -- after all, you deserve it!
Leading the list is The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert (John Wiley & Sons), a book that is not for Type-A cooks who throw steaks on the fire for dinner. The dishes in this focused collection, like a Cretan potato and squash pie spiked with mint, and spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes and bottarga, take planning. Here slow-cooking is relative: four hours for duck with olives but 20 minutes for oven-steamed salmon fillet. Some dishes, like cauliflower baked in yogurt, are cooked in stages, offering the option of a last-minute reheat, and others, like steak with piquillo peppers, require a generous but carefully timed resting period before serving.
There may not be a better, more up-to-date baking primer than The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (Countryman Press). This doorstop, by a team working for the flour company in Norwich, Vt., guides the baker from pancakes and quick breads straight through to the challenges of sourdough and croissants. Cakes, cookies and pies are covered too. The recipes and sidebars are crystal-clear, often accompanied by line drawings. Even the cluster of inviting color photos is instructive, with cross-sections of cakes and pastries arranged to show textures.
If the King Arthur book is too everyday for you, there is Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World by Canada's Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan). As they did for their forays into flatbreads and rice, this couple traveled the world and photographed cooks at work and markets in full swing to produce a gorgeous, original and somewhat exotic volume. It is comprehensive but not designed as a thorough reference work. The authors use relatively small amounts of yeast to allow better flavors to develop. This book also has gluten-free and strudel recipes.
If health is a high priority, look for Taste Pure and Simple by Michael Nischan and Mary Goodbody (Chronicle Books). This is a beauty. For Mr. Nischan, the former chef of Heartbeat restaurant, healthy cooking is sensibly defined by fresh, seasonal, flavorful ingredients in worthwhile recipes like sweet potato and root vegetable gratin, roasted cod with celery and heirloom potatoes, and almond polenta cake with orange cream. He seasons with strong Asian condiments and uses reduced fruit and vegetable juices as sauce bases. A vegetable juicer is a must. Give one of those too!
Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli (Clarkson Potter) is great for those who like to curl up with a good book, namely a good cookbook. Despite 140 recipes, including instructions for making prosciutto and curing olives fresh from the tree, this highly personal volume offers text that any serious cook should savor and absorb. Mr. Bertolli, the accomplished chef and owner of Oliveto in Oakland, California, takes the reader through a variety of techniques, like roasting, and ingredients, like tomatoes. One of the more compelling chapters discusses designing a menu with the dessert as the first consideration. This way, it is not merely an afterthought but a star, like Bertolli's irresistible bitter orange cake with blood orange compote that follows a succulent pork shoulder.
The Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally, Riad Nasar and Lee Hanson (Clarkson Potter) looks just like the New York City restaurant. A thoughtful introduction by the art critic Robert Hughes sets the stage for what are mainly classics, including moules a la mariniere and a buttery chicken liver mousse that mimics foie gras. Sometimes the ingredients are listed after the directions, sometimes before. Still this cookbook is a great gift for someone who loves to travel to and eat in New York City.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.
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