No matter how many recipes you can access online, there’s nothing quite as satisfying in the kitchen as having a real cookbook at your side, while you make your first or fiftieth creme brulée or a new roast chicken dish.
So think cookbooks as Christmas gifts, and don’t leave yourself out! Here, we have the pleasure of presenting you 7 reviews by book critic and essayist, FOF Annette Gallagher Weisman.
COOKING FOR JEFFREY
by Ina Garten
Clarkson Potter. 258 pp.
It’s that time of year when celebrity chefs come out with their latest cookbooks. Ina Garten, one of the most beloved cooks of our time, has just published her tenth, Cooking for Jeffrey.
Jeffrey, as her fans know, is Ina’s husband, the most affable of men who loves to run errands for his wife. Whether in Paris or the Hamptons, Jeffrey can be seen on her television show, the Barefoot Contessa, shopping for a special wine or cheese and coming home with his prize as delighted as a man can be to have accomplished his mission.
As well as the many beautiful food shots by Quentin Bacon, there are some personal photographs. One of them shows Ina and Jeffrey on their wedding day exuding the kind of joy and happiness they emote together on television. Cooking for Jeffrey also includes tales from their happily-ever-after marriage and recipes for his favorite dishes including Filet Mignon with Mustard and Mushrooms, Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken and Raspberry Rhubarb Crustata.
Ina’s new television series is also called Cooking For Jeffrey. Both the cookbook and the new series are a love letter of sorts to a man to whom Ina has been married for 48 years… “My most constant and appreciative audience has been my sweet Jeffrey.”
Just reading through these easy to make recipes makes me want to say “I’ll have what he’s having!”
by Anthony Bourdain
Ecco. 290 pp.
In August of 2000, Anthony Bourdain’s controversial memoir Kitchen Confidential brought shock and awe to the food world. Since then he’s written many books, both fiction and nonfiction.
Appetites is Bourdain’s 13th book – a cookbook with the focus on comfort food that’s full of the irreverent talk he’s known for. He doles out plenty of advice too, as when making Eggs Benedict, “Toast your goddamn muffins.” Bourdain is both entertaining and informative with comments like “Caesar Salad is of Mexican origin.” And just when I am thinking – really? he adds “I bet you didn’t know that.” In fact, going through his recipes, I get the feeling Bourdain is shadowing me, and if I don’t shape up, he’ll ship me out of my own kitchen!
Seriously, reading this conversational-style cookbook is like having a friend tell you exactly how things should be done and how not to screw up. The brilliant photographs by Bobby Fisher include many candid shots such as Bourdain sitting on a closed lid toilet seat eating a sandwich or feeding linguine to the elegant Chef Eric Ripert who is wearing a badass T-shirt. But the recipes alone are worth the price of the book, from Macaroni and Cheese to British Style Pheasant with Bread Sauce and a pullout illustrated guide to Bourdain’s Perfect Burger.
Anthony Bourdain is an edgy, authentic, and likeable human being. Read him and laugh!
THE LONDON COOKBOOK
by Aleksandra Crapanzano
10 Speed Press. 352 pp.
Let’s travel across the pond to a city best known for its gourmet food. You might be thinking Paris. But, no, I mean London. Who knew a country once known for its bangers and mash and nondescript looking dishes is now considered by Aleksandra Crapanzano to be “the gastronomic center of the world.”
That may seem to be going a little far, but the world-class restaurants and other establishments serving specialty foods and beverages featured in The London Cookbook confirm that statement. Crapanzano shows us that this sophisticated, hip and lively city is undergoing a culinary rebirth.
Restaurants such as Ottolenghi, Clos Maggiore and Trullo showcase over 100 recipes that make one salivate. Some are a bit involved for the home cook, but others are relatively easy to make such as The River Café’s signature Crab and Raw Artichoke Salad or St. John’s Plaice, Salsify, and Capers. The superb desserts include Tom’s Kitchen’s Baked Alaska and Brasserie Zedel’s Bavarois Framboise, which are followed by yummy cocktails in the back pages.
It’s obvious that Crapanzano knows the increasingly diverse London dining scene inside and out. In The London Cookbook she describes in an engaging way the history of British food, the ingredients used in each recipe, as well as personal details about the chefs – a touch of humanity that runs throughout the entire book. In fact, if you have a friend who is a professional chef, he or she, along with home cooks would appreciate owning this cookbook.
THE 24 HOUR WINE EXPERT
by Jancis Robinson
Abrams Image. 112 pp.
Want to become a wine expert overnight without wading through books that double as doorstops? Jancis Robinson, a well-known wine critic, writes prolifically about the subject and is esteemed by wanabee sommeliers. Yet her latest book is for non-experts, the average wine lover who, after reading it, will feel more comfortable about selecting a wine in a restaurant and in a wine store.
Although small in size, The 24 Hour Wine Expert is jam-packed with useful information. Chapters include How to Taste, Ten Ways to Pick the Right Bottle and Matching Wine with Food. Last year, the 4th edition of Robinson’s tome The Oxford Companion to Wine was published – required reading by serious students. However, this tiny primer is an easy read and a user-friendly guide for anyone who loves to drink wine.
DINNER AT THE LONG TABLE
by Andrew Tarlow & Anna Dunn
10 Speed Press. 336 pp.
Restaurateur, chef, and publisher of Diner Journal Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn his editor-in-chief have written a cookbook that celebrates special occasions and the art of slow living. It is organized around 17 menus representing the essence of good food, such as Ragu, a sauce that takes a weekend to make. As with other meals, Ragu is described poetically. “Serve it in the afternoon, when you can still glimpse low angular light arching through the window.”
Tarlow and is wife Kate Huling have six restaurants, a hotel, a bar, and a bakery, all in Brooklyn, New York. At Diner, their first restaurant, there was a long table at the back where about 20 people who had worked hard in helping the restaurant get started sat around for a celebratory meal together.
Dinner at the Long Table is a big thank you to all the fans and supporters who helped make their restaurants successful. It’s also for those of us who truly love to cook, preferably without time constraints. Dishes such as Rabbit & Chorizo Paella, Roasted Leg of Lamb Dressed Down with Zest, and Cassoulet are the kind of meals to be savored, but not the kind you can whip up in 30 minutes after a busy day at the office.
There are, however, some recipes that can add a little zing to your culinary life without going to too much trouble. But this cookbook is not for cooks in a hurry; rather, it’s a book about love, about taking the time to prepare a satisfying meal for friends and sitting down with those loved ones around your table, or mine.
A NEW WAY TO DINNER A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead
by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs
10 Speed Press. 288 pp.
Food 52’s cookbook A New Way to Dinner is perfect for the person who likes to make lists and be organized. I mean really organized. In fact, thinking of all the work that went into this comprehensive cookbook makes me tired.
Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, co-founders of the online home destination Food52, will plan a week’s worth of meals for you, supply you with grocery lists, and provide strategies for selecting meals you can prepare in advance. Divided into seasonal recipes, you’ll find these techniques and more, such as cooking timelines and how to mix and match food with sauces (almost like clothing), for first one meal and then another.
Hesser and Stubbs have put a tremendous amount of thought and personal experience into writing a cookbook that will make the home cook’s life easier. By taking their advice and doing some planning and preparatory cooking on the weekend, you can quickly put together meals during the week to come. Even if you’re like me, and get an adrenalin rush from winging it using ingredients I have on hand, you’ve got to admit Hesser and Stubbs are on to something. Their cookbook has so many inspiring recipes too, such as Chicken Cutlets with Charmoula and Preserved Lemon, Frittata with Peas, Spring Greens, and Ricotta and Lemony Pasta with Asparagus, as well as useful tips.
Whether you need a little structure or a lot in planning meals for the week ahead, A New Way to Dinner could be your new best friend.
AMARO: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas
by Brad Thomas Parsons
10 Speed Press, 280 pp.
Amaro (plural amari) is the Italian term for bitters. Reading Brad Thomas Parsons’ Amaro has shown me how ignorant I was about the breadth of this genre of herbaceous liqueurs; that there’s a whole world out there of bittersweet aperitifs and digestifs that I, and maybe you, have been missing out on.
These drinks are not all as bitter tasting as Fernet-Brancas or Negronis either. Take Aperol, an orange liqueur owned by Compari but not as bitter. An Aperol Spritz is easy to make, low in alcohol, and so popular in Italy it may as well be the national drink. Sipping this pretty orange-flavored Spritz, makes me feel as if I am sitting in a small ristorante on the Amalfi Coast or some other sunny clime.
Amaro is so versatile it can be a digestive aid, used as a hangover helper, or enjoyed as part of a cocktail. But before we get to the more than 100 recipes with accompanying color photographs by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriot, Parsons first takes us on an informative tour of Italian bars, cafes and distilleries.
With names like “Hanky Panky” and “Exit Strategy,” even making these drinks sounds like a fun way to liven up one’s evening. Amaro is the perfect gift for the cocktail enthusiast who wants to expand their repertoire, as well as the bar professional.