If someone on your holiday gift list is a serious cook — or even a novice — here are some great cookbook selections.
All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens is a monster-size book of technique with 150 recipes. The author goes into the history and science of roasting, explaining how to choose the best cuts of meat, chicken and fish; which roasting method is best for which food; how to carve; the role of fat, basting, salting and oven rack position; pan drippings, gravies and jus; roasting equipment and ovens; and more.
Recipes range from simple Beef Tenderloin and Rack of Lamb to Prosciutto-Wrapped Boneless Pork Loin with Rhubarb and Sage. There’s a section for vegetable lovers, too, that includes Quick-Roasted Mushrooms with Pine Nuts and Parmesan and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers and Lemony Browned Butter. Yum! The author is the recipient of the James Beard Award and was named Bon Appétit Cooking Teacher of the Year. She includes instructions, shopping tips, and step-by-step color photographs. W.W. Norton & Co., hardcover, 573 pages, $35
If you’d like to step away from meat, try Vegetarian Entrées That Won’t Leave You Hungry by Lukas Volger. The author sets out to prove that vegetarian main courses can be delicious and filling as well as nutritious. He takes pantry and refrigerator staples such as grains, beans, noodles and eggs and incorporates them with year-round and seasonal vegetables, then adds finishing touches such as croutons, toasted bread crumbs, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, pestos, kimchi and more.
How about some Cassoulet with Tomato-Roasted Carrots and Chard? Spring Vegetable Paella with Endive? Soba Noodles in Mushroom-Ginger Broth? Tomato and White Bean Sauce over Rigatoni? He also includes a section on eggs and one on pizza, a selection of appetizers and desserts, tips on cooking for one, and advice for hosting a vegetarian dinner party. Full-color photos, but alas, not for every dish. The Experiment, softcover, 256 pages, $17.95
Now, these people are after my heart: The all-new edition of Taste of Home Baking comes in a five-ring binder to lay flat on the counter as you follow the instructions for 786 recipes (700 of them are new) and compare the results with the more than 730 color photos. It even has snap-in splash guards to protect the pages as you work! Sections include baking basics and all the cookie, cake, pie and muffin categories, as well as “Almost Homemade” with Cranberry-Cherry Lattice Pie; “Trimmed-Down Favorites” with Gluten-Free Carrot Cake; and “Holiday Classics” such as Traditional Stollen. It includes a chart of food equivalents and ingredient substitutions. Plus, it comes with a free subscription to Taste of Home magazine. Taste of Home Books, binder, 510 pages, $29.95
The Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking runs the gamut of food preparation, from beverages and appetizers, to soups, salads and sandwiches, through main dishes, casseroles and slow-cooker recipes, to breads, desserts, and even gifts from the kitchen.
Let’s try some recipes for Farmhouse Quiche, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Shrimp & Mushroom Fettuccine, Irish Corned Beef Dinner and Buckeye Brownies. This is a great collection of many basic recipes that every cook’s going to want to have. It includes equivalency charts and tons of beautiful, four-color photographs. Oxmoor House, hardcover, 368 pages, $29.95
You can create a spectacular presentation with Mini Pies by Christy Beaver and Morgan Greenseth, which itself is a mini-size book. Full instructions explain how to make these lovely little pies, tarts and individual quiches, as well as toppings. Choose from seven pie crusts, including shortbread, vegan, gluten-free, and cheddar cheese; then select fruity, creamy, nut, or savory fillings; and finally, mix and match by adding one of the suggested toppings.
Pie recipes include Sweetheart Cherry, Blueberry-Rose Water, Aunt Jimma’s Chocolate Cream, Sue’s Pink Lemonade, Bourbon Pecan and Caramelized Onion, Olive & Thyme Tart. Add your own creative touches by using your favorite cookie cutters to add a little topper. Is this heaven? Ulysses Press, softcover, 128 pages, $14.95
In Cake Ladies: Celebrating a Southern Tradition, author Jodi Rhoden tells us that almost every town in the South has its “cake lady,” a woman who demonstrates her love for family and community by bringing sweetness to life’s big moments. She profiles 17 such women and shares their recipes, which include Italian Cream Cake, Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes, Trifle, Peanut Butter and Banana Cupcakes, and more. Comes with complete instructions, and beautiful color photos of the desserts. Sterling Publishing Co., softcover, 144 pages, $19.95
Good Housekeeping: The Cookie Jar Cookbook edited by Susan Westmoreland is smaller than most cookbooks — about the size of a paperback book — but it’s packed with goodies. Besides, it’s presented in a spiral binder that opens flat for ease of use. In categories of drop cookies, shaped cookies, icebox cookies, and brownies and bar cookies, there are 65 recipes for such goodies as Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Classic Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies, Whole-Grain Gingersnaps and Triple-Nut Biscotti. It also includes punch-out blank recipe cards. Hearst Books, hardcover binder, 128 pages, $12.95
Copyright © 2011 by Mary Louise Ruehr.