Cookbooks by Friends: The 2011 Collection

 PASTRY PARIS by Susan Hochman.  I don’t really know how to describe this jewel of a book.  Susan photographed places in Paris and then, remarkably and wonderfully, found Parisian pastries that mimic the landscapes and objects and art in the photographs.  For a sneak peek, take a look at Susan’s Slideshow. Five of my Paris friends are getting this for book for Christmas … please don’t tell them.

SUPER NATURAL EVERY DAY by Heidi Swanson.  Having read Heidi’s blog for years, I knew I would love her the instant I met her.  And I did.  And I have ever since.  I love her sensibility, her style, the way she cooks, the way she writes and the way she photographs the world around her.  And it’s all in this book.  When Heidi says ‘every day’, she means it – this is a kitchen book, one you’ll use every day and for every meal.

GOOD FOOD TO SHARE by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan. So many of us follow Sara Kate at The Kitchn, but now, with this beautiful book, we get to follow her right into the rest of her home too.  It’s a winner.  And it’s filled with food we want to make and actually will.

ODD BITS: How To Cook the Rest of the Animal by Jennifer McLagan. Heads up carnivores – this just might be the book you’ve been waiting for.  Jennifer is not just passionate about using every bit of an animal, she’s an expert at getting the most flavor out of every odd bit.  The last time we were in Paris together, she made an oxtail and tongue stew that I’m still dreaming about — and the potatoes were pretty swell, too. All from the beautifully photographed book … of course.

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites From My Life in Food. The Pepin in the title is Jacques, bien sur, and only he can get away with having 700 (count’em) all-time favorites, because only he and a handful of others has had such a long, celebrated, influential and delicious life in food.  And, if you’d like, there’s a DVD to accompany it.

AS ALWAYS, JULIA: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto edited by Joan Reardon.   Joan Reardon is not my friend (although I wish she were), but Julia was a dear friend of mine and reading the correspondence between her and her dear friend, Avis DeVoto, brought her back to me.  These are letters from ‘the early Julia,’ from a woman just discovering what she loves in life and working extremely hard to create the book that would be the bedrock of French cooking in America.  Her friend and advisor, Avis DeVoto, is a fascinating woman and together they are a formidable team.  I loved their smart, generous, caring friendship and came to look forward to spending time with them.  No sooner did I finish this book than I read it again — I missed their company.

SERVE YOURSELF: Nightly Adventures in Cooking For One by Joe Yonan.  I’d probably be happy to read Joe Yonan if he were writing about watching grass grow, but here he’s writing about food with both humor and know-how.  He’s so persuasive that you might just want to send everyone in your household out for the night so that you can cook for one and ‘serve yourself’.

THE FOOD 52 COOKBOOK: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.  If you, like I, are a regular reader of Food 52, then you know that Amanda and Merrill are the queens of getting the best recipes from the best home cooks from around the country and then showing them off to their very best advantage.  Their motto is "The Best Cooks are Home Cooks" and this books proves the point … beautifully.

COOKIES FOR KIDS CANCER: The Best Bakesale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt.  A great book fora great cause written by a great woman who’s a true cookie lover.

RUHLMAN’S TWENTY: 20 Techniques 200 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto by Michael Ruhlman. Whether you’re a newbie in the kitchen or an old-hand, each of Michael’s chapters will make you think about what you do in a new way — or maybe for the first time.  AR, After Ruhlman, you’ll never be on automatic pilot again … and that’s a very good thing, since the more you know about ingredients and techniques, and the more you think about them, the better you get as a cook and the more fascinating cooking becomes.  There, that’s my manifesto!

SERIOUS EATS: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are by Ed Levine.  Readers of Serious Eats know that the site is chockablock with great information on where to go, what to eat when you get there and how to make terrific stuff at home.  Think of this as the best of the best of a site that has been serving up the best for years.

COOK THIS NOW: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by Melissa Clark.  I used to wonder how Melissa managed to do as much as she does — a column for The New York Times, a book a year, so many magazine articles, so many recipes — but I don’t wonder any longer, I’m just glad that she does.  

IN CONVERSATION WITH EXCEPTIONAL WOMEN: Seeds of inspiration to help you bloom where you are planted, by Monica Bhide.  Full disclosure: Monica chose to include me in her collection of conversations and I’m honored to be in such fine — and inspiring — company.  Monica coaxes wisdom, humor and good advice from 50 writers, among them Ruth Reichl (former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine), Susan Orlean (New Yorker writer) and Lynne Rosetto Kasper (host of Splendid Table), in a collection that’s deliciously readable.  (A digital book.)

SIMPLY TRUFFLES: Recipes and Stories that Capture the Essence of The Black Diamond by Patricia Wells. I think of Patricia as the Mistress of Truffledom – she not only loves truffles, she knows just what to do to tease every last bit of flavor and pleasure out of them.  If you’re lucky enough to find a truffle in your stocking this Christmas, I hope you find this book tucked in there too.  

GIRL HUNTER: Revolutionizing The Way We Eat, One Hunt At A Time by Georgia Pelligrini.   I am not about to kill for dinner and you might not go hunting either, but my guess is that, like me, once you pick up this book, you will read it to the end.  Georgia is smart, funny, insightful and a very good writer.  

BITTERS: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, With Cocktails, Recipes, And Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons. If bitters weren’t already the hottest things on the hot cocktail scene, Brad would have made them so — the man is obssessed with bitters and his enthusiasm is contagious.  I got halfway though Brad’s book and then … and then … it was gone.  Pilfered by The Kid.  The definitive book on the fascinating elixir.

FOUR KITCHENS: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris by Lauren Shockey.   The title tells it all.  After culinary school, Lauren, now a writer for The Village Voice, set out on an around the world journey, cooking everywhere she went.  She returned, as so many before her have, learning as much about herself as she did about kitchens.  

ONE SWEET COOKIE: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes by Tracey Zabar. This is such a beautiful book … and it’s as useful as it is appealing.  Tracey did a great job of gathering the best cookie recipes from 50 of the country’s best chefs — among them some of my favorites, like Dan Barber, Michael Laskonis, Daniel Boulud and Sarabeth Levine.  The selection’s terrific — you’ll use the recipes over and over.

BASIC TO BRILLIANT, Y’ALL: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up For Company by Virginia Willis.  Virignia’s the cooking pal you want – a woman who knows so, so much about food and wants to share it with you, so that you can be as happy in the kitchen as she is.  She’s a natural teacher and her recipes are the kind that appeal to all of us, Southerners or not.

ALL ABOUT ROASTING: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens.  To call what Molly has done here terrific is probably to give her less credit than she deserves.  Anyone who has All About Braising — and everyone should — knows how good Molly is at teaching us solid techniques and giving us great recipes to put those techniques to use.

A SPOONFUL OF PROMISES: Stories & Recipes From a Well-Tempered Table by T. Susan Chang. Of course you’ll want to take this book into the kitchen to cook Susan’s recipes, but not so fast.  I’d suggest that the first thing you do is block out a few hours for yourself, make a pot of tea (or pour a glass of wine) and settle in to read Susan’s book – it’s a charmer.

EASY AS PIE by Evan Kleiman.  Not a book, but too good not to include.  Remember Evan Kleiman’s great Pie-A-Day project?  Well Evan’s taken her love of pies to the next level: here’s her app.  It’s got 20 recipes and 5 full hours of step-by-step videos.  A must for all of us who adore pie.

PARIS PASTRY SHOPS by David Lebovitz.  Having started with Paris pastry, it seems only fitting to close with it.  This is an iPhone/iPad app that takes you on a tour of 300 Paris pastry shops with David Lebovitz filling in the color commentary.  The next best thing to being there with him.

Every year I worry that I’ve forgotten a friend, and every year I do.  Please, please forgive me and please write to tell me.  

Hoping this list will help make your holidays even more delicious!

PS: I knew I would forget someone.  How could I?  And apologies.  My friend Kerrin Rousset of My Kugelhopf translated LADUREE: THE SWEET RECIPES from the beautiful patisserie in Paris.

Dorie Greenspan