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 crème 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 12 reviews by award-winning essayist, FOF Annette Gallagher Weisman.
V IS FOR VEGETABLES: INSPIRED RECIPES & TECHNIQUES FOR HOME COOKS FROM ARTICHOKES TO ZUCCHINI
by Michael Anthony
Little Brown and Company. 384 pp.
Whether or not you pushed peas around your plate for half an hour as a kid hoping they’ll disappear, you will love V Is for Vegetables. This is a must have cookbook, the kind you will keep nearby in your kitchen instead of gathering dust on a high shelf.
Author Michael Anthony is the executive chef-partner of Gramercy Tavern and the executive chef and director of Untitled restaurant in New York City. Along with Dorothy Kalins, the first editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, he has compiled this A- Z of over 150 vegetable-based dishes.
The focus of his cookbook is on seasonal vegetables using innovative ways to cook them. Aside from sharing restaurant recipes that the home cook can manage, Anthony believes that “If we re-envision the proportions in which we serve protein to vegetables, it would have such a profound effect on the way we eat.”
Cooks with busy lives will be glad to know many of these recipes take little time and are easy to make such as Roasted Leeks with Tangerine Vinaigrette and Fennel Tabbouleh. While it includes recipes with meat and fish, vegetables take center stage. One of my personal favorites is Mushroom Hot Pot with Beef and Daikon.
Visually, V is for Vegetables is beautiful to look at. In addition to archival lithographs, Anthony’s wife Mindy Dubin has a whimsical vegetable drawing on almost every page, not to mention more than 500 stunning photographs by Maura McEvoy. McEvoy also photographed Anthony’s The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook. Even the easy to follow recipes on the page look attractive.
For this, his second cookbook, Anthony’s goal is to encourage the home cook to produce meals with confidence and enjoy the process of cooking. He says that while going out to restaurants is fun, given a few basic skills, cooking at home should be fun too. In fact, Anthony and Kalins made sure when formulating these recipes that home cooks of varying abilities could prepare them on their own without the advantage of restaurant cookware and staff to help out.
WHO FOR: This cookbook belongs in every home cook’s kitchen.
BISTRONOMY: RECIPES FROM THE BEST NEW PARIS BISTROS
by Jane Sigal
Rizzoli. 240 pp.
After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, one clear sign of French solidarity is that Parisians continue to frequent their restaurants and sit outside bistros and cafes, a signal to all that the French way of life will not be changed by ISIS or any other group.
Jane Sigal’s Bistronomy is a compilation of recipes from the hottest new bistros in Paris. She describes “bistronomy” as a trend whose aim is “to whack the starch out of fine dining.” Take a tour of these pages and you can picture yourself in bistros all over Paris. There’s one that looks like a mom and pop store, another a simple bar/kitchen, and others that are more hip, but all a departure from the more formal restaurants of old. Many of these neo-bistro chefs have worked under the tutelage of famous chefs in Paris or abroad, who are intrigued by the science and techniques of modern cooking such as freezing individual ice creams or sorbet in a PacoJet, or making foams in a siphon.
Food journalist Sigal selected recipes that do not need special skills, tools, or a high-tech kitchen and most of the ingredients can be found in one’s local market. With 100 dishes to choose from, I was surprised to find each recipe was as tempting as the next, such as Chef Edward Delling-Williams’ Slow-Cooked Lamb with Rutabaga Mash from Au Passage, or Chef Frank Baranger’s show-stopping Calvados Baba with Apple-Ginger Compote from Le Pantruche. There is also a helpful reference guide at the back giving both the addresses and the arrondissements of the bistros featured as well as some other restaurants Sigal recommends.
WHO FOR: Lovers of Paris and French cuisine. Not for the novice, but with clear directions the adventurous home cook should be able to tackle these recipes easily.
by Paul Bocuse
Flammarion. 240 pp
They say good things come in small packages…in the case of Simply Delicious, that’s true. Compiled by France’s culinary icon Paul Bocuse, this paperback is small in size but solid in weight. With over 100 recipes and 78 beautiful glossy color photographs, it is, in effect, a compendium of classic French cuisine.
Bocuse, a legend in the culinary world whose career spans over fifty years, has won numerous culinary awards. Who better to help you cook traditional French dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon and French Onion Soup? Whether crepes, omelets, soufflés, tarts or delicious sauces, the best of Bocuse’s recipes are all here.
Some dishes are more advanced, but with step-by-step instructions simply laid out, nothing looks intimidating. You’ll find some useful information and general advice at the back too. I also love the fact that in this age of the big, the bold, and the dramatic this gem of a cookbook is under $20.00
WHO FOR: Tout le monde – everyone who likes to cook and enjoys French food.
WINE FOLLY: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO WINE
by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack
Avery. 240 pp.
The subhead The Essential Guide to Wine sounds academic in tone. I found the essential part of Wine Folly to be a paring down to the bones of the basics one should know about wine as well as offering wine drinkers a broad knowledge of specific grapes and varietals grown worldwide. And, rather than the kind of thick book you can use as a doorstop, it is an attractive 7 x 9 paperback.
Wine Folly is not in the least intimidating to read. The layout with its colorful graphics and flavor wheels makes it fun, easy to navigate and more interesting than comparable primers like Wine for Dummies. Aside from a certified sommelier or serious wine connoisseur, those who’d like to learn about wine will find this a handy reference book. Within just an hour or two of study, you could feel more confident about discussing a wine varietal or choosing a bottle at your local wine store.
This wine guide covers everything from how wine is made, to tasting, decanting and pairing wine with food. It also includes wines you may not be as familiar with such as Aglianico from southern Italy or Carignan from Spain.
Those who’ve studied for a wine exam will recall how many notes one has to take; Wine Folly does it for you. To find out even more Puckette and Hammack’s award-winning blog winefolly.com is a good online resource.
WHO FOR: Wine lovers, especially enthusiasts who are just getting started. Would make a nice hostess gift.