It may not be as glamorous as Oscar season, but cookbook season shouldn’t be overlooked. Around this time each year, the best new cookbooks go head-to-head for prestigious industry awards, including the James Beard Cookbook Awards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Awards . Discover and win this year’s leading contenders and then, meet the FOFs who wrote them.
Enter to win by answering this question in the comments below: Which cookbook would you most want to win?
Former Food Network star and Gourmet test kitchen chef Sara Moulton jokes that she’s “unemployed.” With a new cookbook, an in-the-works iPhone app and a slew of freelance gigs, we beg to differ. [Read the entire interview here.]
What was your mission with this cookbook?
To help people get dinner on the table during the work week. Most people really like the idea of making a home cooked meal but can’t figure out how to make it happen. They have kids, they don’t get home until 7, or they tend to make the same boring 5-10 dishes over and over again.
How does this cookbook help?
I came home from work at Gourmet at 5 or 6 p.m. and I had to get dinner on the table for my family. I came up with all these tips and tricks about how to do it that I wanted to share. I also want to free people from this idea that dinner should be a protein, a starch and a vegetable. There are other ways to get a healthy dinner on the table. Why not have breakfast for dinner? Or soup? Or a substantial sandwich?
Where did you get inspiration for the recipes?
Sometimes I took a classic and updated it. Or I took a dish I like — a Reuben sandwich, for instance — and put it on a pizza instead. I tried to make the book international because it’s more interesting. Grocery stores have so many worldly ingredients now.
Do you have a favorite recipe from this book?
I have so many favorites. I can’t believe I have to pick. There’s a smoky fish chowder with Canadian bacon, smoked trout and potatoes. I’m from New England so I love chowders. Can I give you one more favorite?
A hearty salad with hearts of palm, smoked salmon and watercress with buttermilk dressing. It’s a meal in a salad and I love that the buttermilk dressing is low fat.
Last September, when Bon Appétit magazine relocated from California to New York City, FOF Barbara Fairchild stepped down as editor-in-chief after a 32-year career there. Her final “course” at the magazine? Bon Appétit Desserts, the ultimate ode to sweets.
Has Bon Appétit Desserts been a sweet success so far?
As Bon Appétit transitioned to New York with an entirely new staff, Bon Appétit Desserts made the New York Times Bestseller list. No pun intended, it was ‘the icing on the cake.’
Why did you decide to publish a book on desserts?
There are books about pies, books about cakes, and books about cookies… but there was nothing as broad of a resource on desserts as this book.
What do you think readers enjoy most about this book?
Each recipe is rated from one to five whisks based on how complicated it is. In the back, we have the recipes listed by the number of whisks, so you can do the whole Julie & Julia thing and start with the one-whisk recipes and work your way up.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
The ‘Deep, Dark Chocolate Cheesecake.’ It’s every bit as seductive and delicious as it sounds.
When you’re not baking from Bon Appetit desserts, where do you go for baked goods?
I love City Bakery in New York. I’m a big fan of their pretzel croissants. Here in L.A., I like Joan’s on 3rd. She does wonderful cookies and a fantastic chocolate peanut butter cup cake.
Your ideal birthday cake?
An all-chocolate cake from Pierre Hermé in Paris.
At age 13 she burned down her parents’ kitchen and vowed never to cook again. Today, FOF Dorie Greenspan has published 10 cookbooks (five of them are award-winning and one she wrote for Julia Child). Her newest, Around My French Table, is up for a International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award and has a cult of fans (French Fridays with Dorie) who cook one recipe from the book each week.
Are you French?
I’m not. The first time I went to Paris, I came home to my mother in Brooklyn, and said ‘I love you madly, but you made this terrible mistake and had me in Brooklyn.’ I teasingly say I forgave her and spent the rest of my life making up for her poor judgment.
Do you live in Paris now?
Four months of the year. I have three kitchens; New York, Connecticut and Paris. I wrote Around my French Table after I bought a place in France.
You published quite a few successful books before Around my French Table, is that correct?
Up until this book, all my books were about pastry. This book is proof that in all those years I was feeding my kids cookies and cakes, I was making them eat their dinner first.
What’s the essence of this cookbook?
It’s not Escoffier, it’s not Julia Child, it’s not a textbook. It’s a kitchen journal. It’s the food I cook in my kitchen, that my French friends cook and recipes from working with French chefs. It’s a snapshot of what French food is like today.
What is French food like today?
It’s lighter, it’s more diverse. French cuisine is taking influences from all around the world now.
Where do you shop for your ingredients?
For Around my French Table I shopped in the supermarket. I wanted all my readers, no matter where they live, to be able to replicate the recipes.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
‘Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake.’ She’s my editor and a great cook. She makes this cake I adore but doesn’t use a recipe. I worked and worked to get the recipe right, just the way she wanted.
“My favorite Italian cookbook author,” Julia Child once said of FOF Julia della Croce. Julia is one of America’s foremost authorities on Italian food. Her newest book, up for an IACP award, is an ode to cucina casalinga or Italian comfort food.
On your website, you call Italian home cooking “endangered.” Why?
Women passed the torch of Italian cuisine for thousands of years. When they started going into the workplace, they weren’t home cooking. Also, young Italian chefs want to cook new cuisine, not what their grandmothers made. It’s not profitable to make home cooking in a restaurant. You don’t spend 6 hours making gnocchi if you can’t charge for it.
Why did you write this cookbook?
This cookbook looks at what we could lose. I’m not saying women should be in the kitchen—it’s a good thing they are in the workplace. I’m saying that [Italian home cooking] is a precious thing, let’s keep it.
When did you start cooking?
I lived in Edinburgh while I did graduate work. The food was awful, although there were great ingredients, so I cooked. My professor gave me Italian Food by Elizabeth David. I read the book backwards, forwards and cooked everything in it.
Are you Italian?
Both of my parents were born in Italy. I’m first generation American. When my first cookbook came out in 1986, Italian cooking was very hot, so I specialized in it.
Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?
On the cover, what looks like lasagna is actually pasticciata di polenta. It’s like a lasagna with polenta in place of the pasta. This dish came from my grandmother, who was from Sardinia.
Where do you shop for ingredients?
Di Palo Fine Foods in New York City. They must have over 300 Italian cheeses although it’s not a big store. It’s been family owned for six generations.
When Napa Valley chefs want the newest, most unique and seasonal ingredients, they turn to FOF Connie Green. Connie is the a top forager and purveyor of food. Thirty years ago, she turned chefs onto chanterelle mushrooms, an unheard of ingredient at the time.
Sarah Scott has been a chef in Napa for 30 years and has worked with culinary greats such as Jacques Pepin, Daniel Boulud and Alice Waters. The two joined forces to write The Wild Table, perhaps the most comprehensive guide to foraging and cooking earth-to-table cuisine at home.
Tell me about the structure of this book.
Connie: It’s structured by season. We have five seasons including Indian Summer. Readers can refer to the upcoming season and learn how to deal with what’s on hand. ‘The wild’ can include peoples’ backyards as well as wilderness areas.
Why did you write this book?
Sarah: An interest in foraging and raw foods is emerging. Connie wanted to make sure foraging isn’t just about survival—about being stuck in the wild and chewing on tree bark. It’s about finding these incredible ingredients that have delicious flavor and nuances.
How did you come up with the recipes?
Sarah: I created these recipes to be accessible. There are 10-12 chef recipes in here from Connie’s clients—chefs who actually use these ingredients in their kitchens. I took those recipes and adapted them for the home cook.
What if someone couldn’t find the ingredients in their area?
Sarah: We’ve offered substitutions as well so it’s not daunting. If you can find some but not all of the ingredients, you can still learn from and enjoy the book.
What’s an under-the-radar, wild ingredient everyone should know about?
Connie: Sea beans. They’re thick, spaghetti-shaped, crunchy and salty. I expect that two to three years from now they’ll be very well known. Sara does this incredible Nicoise-inspired salad which uses sea beans instead of haricot vert.
Enter to win one of five award-nominated cookbooks by answering this question in the comments below: Which cookbook would you most want to win?
(See all our past winners. See official rules. Five winners are chosen at random from all those commenters who answer the question. Contest closes April 21, 2011.)