We get a lot of food-related books, in large part because I know many of the authors. This has been a rather spectacular year for them, and here's a few of the ones that we allow to occupy precious space in our pantry shelf. If you're here in San Francisco, please trek down to Omnivore Books and pick a few up, won't you?
Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese When I heard Stephanie and Garrett were working on a mac and cheese cookbook, I did not imagine that they would literally redefine the concept. Forget elbow macaroni and day-glow orange cheese sauce. With erudite information on artisan cheese and pasta, this book will make you think about the combinations of noodles and cheese in entirely new ways. I'll be cooking from this for a long time to come.
Duck, Duck, Goose Another blog friend, Hank Shaw returns with his second book (the first being the very useful Hunt, Gather, Cook), a compendium of recipes for duck and goose. Even if you're not a hunter, it's a great resource with tips on butchery and approachable recipes with a global influence. We haven't cooked much duck at home, and goose just twice, but we'll probably do more now.
Homemade with Love When Jennie's husband died abruptly a couple years ago, it rippled throughout the blog world. One of the ways she was able to put her broken life back together was through cooking, and this book reflects the heart and soul she has been putting into the food she makes for herself and two young daughters in the wake of the tragedy. Jennie graciously hosted a few of us for a brunch; you truly can taste the love.
Vegetable Literacy Deborah Madison, famously of the vegetarian restaurant Greens, turned out this stunner that goes beyond mere cookery and into the realm of botany. By grouping vegetables into families, you understand more about how their flavors complement each other, enabling you to become a more creative cook. Or, just leave it out as a gorgeous coffee table book. I won't judge.
Southern Italian Desserts I love Rosetta Costantino's first book, My Calabria, featuring one of Italy's most intriguing and overlooked cuisines, and moreover from one of the regions my family comes from. With her second, she focuses on the extremey diverse sweets of five southern Italian provinces: Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Sicilia. From the rustic to the extremely fancy, each of these recipes look amazing.
The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook Kathy Strahs started her blog Panini Happy only a couple years after I started Hedonia. With her book, she busts out not only creative, crispy sandwiches (hello, Nutella, brie and basil sandwich? Yes, and it totally works) but clever ideas on using the humble panini press as a versatile tool in the kitchen. I got to sample a few 'wiches recently with her and Adam, the associate publisher, and am inspired.
Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook I met Jessica Goldman Foung by sitting across the table from her in our local coffeeshop. Because of severe health issues, she must maintain an extremely low-sodium diet. What's a foodie to do? She took the bull by the horns and developed a book full of recipes that have little salt but big flavor. It's quite literally a life savor for those who must cut back on salt but don't want to eat cardboard.
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook We're big fans of the Beekman Boys, and it's not just becase we bear a mild resemblance to them and aspire to a similar existence to what they've undertaken. While the recipes look perfectly delicious, the photography is the star here, with moody overtones and compositions reminiscent of Dutch Masters' still lifes. A real beaut, the kind of cookbook you just want to sit and thumb through.
San Francisco: A Food Biography Food is at the core of San Francisco's culture and identity, so what better way to tell its story than through the lens of food. From its earliest days, with windswept dunes and Indian villages, through the Victorian era and right to modern times, Erica Peters serves up plate after plate of the City by the Bay. Since I myself am a tour guide with Edible Excursions, I'll be mining this for relevant information as well as just plain good reading.
Inside the California Food Revolution Of course California's modern era is what most people know best. Former chef Joyce Goldstein was present in the most influential years from 1970 to 2000, when California drove the culinary scene across the nation. Using material from interviews with some 200 people (!), Goldstein gets a holistic view on how and why California came to rise as a culinary power. I saw her speak on the book, and she really knows her stuff.
Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting I hate dieting, and I'm terrible at it. I can follow a regimen for a while, but I always fail, because I hate denying myself delicious things. As Darya Pino Rose says, "seriously, screw that." A neuroscientist, Rose lays out a framework for a "healthstyle" that allows you to make simple choices that help you lose weight without losing your mind.
For better or worse, a lot of cookbooks just magically appear in our household. Some go out just as quickly, but a handful make a more lasting impression. Here's a few that we fell for this year.
Jerusalem: A Cookbook I think this is topping most people's list this year. Yotam Ottolenghi grew up on the Jewish west side of Jerusalem; Sami Tamimi grew up on the Arab east side. Their common language is food, and astonishingly good food it is. Gorgeously photographed and compellingly laid out.
Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors A local favorite restaurant, Kokkari brings the flavors of Greece to San Francisco, through a Californian lens. Another gorgeously shot book (the photographer convinced the owners and publisher that they simply had to go to Greece to get beauty shots), we've cooked out of this a few times and every recipe has been a winner.
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef The guys at Montreal's restaurant of the moment include lengthy musings on the philosophy behind their food. Alternately respectful of the classics and infused with irreverent attitude, as with the "Hot Oysters on the Radio," actually served atop a vintage radio. You can use a plate.
Ripe A true collaboration between writer and photographer, Cheryl Sternman Rule and Paulette Phlipot's lush, colorful book is an absolute celebration of produce at its absolute peak. True food porn, in the best sense of the term.
The Art of Fermentation Thanks to my work with Punk Domestics, I spend a lot of time thinking about fermentation. Sandor Katz, the unrivaled expert in the matter, released this brick of a book, with the most in-depth discussion on fermenting just about everything. I file this as an evergreen reference, right next to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Kat Flinn became fascinated with those who couldn't cook. She somehow persuaded nine "hopeless" home cooks to let her into their kitchens, reorganizing and teaching them basic cooking skills. In one way or another, their lives were transformed. With her engaging voice, it may transform yours as well.
Suffering Succotash I somewhat famously have an aversion to oranges. dpaul detests cilantro, a common affliction. Stephanie Lucianovic, a recovering picky eater, went deep to learn the science behind food aversions -- and how to overcome them. But this is no dry tome. With her wit and wisdom, she makes this a thoroughly enjoyable read. Don't miss the section on The Picky Eater's Guide to Surviving a Dinner Party.
The Butterfly Effect Part 4: A cookbook or other written work
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten I've been writing professionally for over a decade, starting out in technology. I really enjoyed being a software reviewer during the early days of the tech boom of the mid-90s, taking in products faster than we could digest them, learning, assessing, reviewing. As Internet usage crept into the homes of normal people across the country, I shifted to covering the Web itself, observing its development from a patchy conglomeration of incoherent ramblings and sites with pictures of people's cats to ... well, we still have all of that, but so very much more, too.
But shortly before the Internet economy developed a nasty cough that threatened to turn to a death rattle, I grew weary of technology as a topic, and shifted my focus to travel. Yet, the more I paid attention to my own writings whilst traveling, the more I became aware of the fact that I wrote at least as much about the food as about anything else.
I took a food writing class, taught by Jeannette Ferrary, at Berkeley Extension with a coworker in 2000. To be honest, I found the class of limited use. The big takeaway, in fact, was when my coworker turned me on to this book. Steingarten was everything I aspired to be: Erudite, witty, well-informed and just plain enjoyable. If I didn't exactly want to be him, I at least wanted to mimic his best qualities as a writer.
Granted, I haven't read the book in a few years, but I still chuckle when I think back on his madcap (yet informative!) experiments with bread leavened with airborne yeast and with an expansive variety of espresso makers. Being a former lawyer, he has an amazing ability to drill down to the tiniest degree of detail, yet never gets lost in the minutiae.
My most favorite of his essays deal with debunking food myths. The highlight of this book is "Salad the Silent Killer," wherein he illustrates how each element of a typical raw salad is potentially not only utterly non-nutritious but potentially can block the absorption of valuable nutrients from other foods. It is of course hyperbole, but makes for a very enjoyable read.
The follow-up book, "It Must Have Been Something I Ate," is as enjoyable, and he still writes for Vogue and other outlets (as well as making the occasional Iron Chef appearance).
I like pickles. I like all things pickled. I'm an equal-opportunity pickle lover, too. Tart, zingy dill pickles? Great. Sweet-sour bread-and-butter pickles? Ideal. Salty garlic pickles? Yum! And so now, with the Zojirushi equation looming over our heads, I have a yen to make pickles so as to have some variety at our fingers.
A couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of Quick Pickles on impulse. The promise of making bright, colorful folk pickles was too much to pass up. I promptly set it on the shelf and more or less forgot about it. But one of the joys of having too many cookbooks is the rediscovery of one that's been lurking in a dark corner, or hiding behind a bigger book, or that you look at flat out hundreds of times and simply stop seeing.
I picked the recipe for Italian-Style Garden Pickles for its simplicity and its familiarity. But of course, I didn't follow it exactly to the T. (Do I ever?) Rather, the vinegar is mostly apple cider vinegar with some white wine and red wine vinegars thrown in to make up the balance (it's what I had in the house), and I tossed in some extra dry herbs to pump it up a bit.
The flavor will develop over the next few days. I'll report back accordingly. The recipe, as usual, after the jump.
Deliciously evil bitch goddess Martha Stewart descends on her broom for a book signing at the flagship Williams-Sonoma store on Union Square tomorrow. (Did I mention I'm a fan?) The event begins at noon, but prospective attendees are being encouraged to show up very early.
In other news, I predict PlanetOut, Gap and Schwab headquarters will face office closures due to an unusually high number of gay employees calling in sick.