There are a few outstanding cookbooks that I recommend this season to give to your favorite foodie.
Ferran Adrià is the chef at the greatest restaurant in the world, El Bulli. Inspired by the dishes at his world famous restaurant, Chef Adrià has written THE FAMILY MEAL: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria (www.amazon.com). The book features 100 recipes and menus that are targeted to the home cook. Although Adrià is definitely known for his innovative molecular gastronomy style of cooking, the recipes in this book are not just for “Top Chef” or “Chopped” contestants! The awesome color pictures with step by step instructions are easy to follow but I do recommend a more than basic culinary knowledge before tackling some of the more complex recipes. Two thumbs up on the saffron risotto with mushrooms! Other taste-tempting recipes include grilled lettuce hearts; Mexican-style slow-cooked pork; and Catalan-style turkey which could be a nice variation for this holiday season. I am not a huge fan of menu cookbooks. They are very hard to use but I will excuse this one since the pictures and innovative ideas far outweigh my prejudice against menu cookbooks.
The second choice for the December blog is THE PROFESSIONAL CHEF: NINTH EDITION from The Culinary Institute of America (www.amazon.com). The Professional Chef is another reference tool that is geared for well-skilled cooks. The new edition has a global perspective with a user-friendly design. There are tons of color photographs in this indispensable reference for budding chefs and very serious home cooks who want to take their cooking to a new level. To quote Anthony Bourdain on the back of the book: “how to cook everything from the best culinary school in America. This is The Mothership for recipes and basic culinary techniques. Anyone and everyone serious about food and cooking should have one in their kitchen.” For the technologically savvy, for the first time The Professional Chef will have a digital interactive edition available exclusively for the Ipad ($49) with 100 cooking videos, photo slideshows showing step-by-step techniques, and fun quizzes.
For those who like compilation books, THE FOOD 52 COOKBOOK: 140 Winning recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs (www.amazon.com) is an assemblage of great home cooks’ recipes from the popular website food52.com. It is the perfect book for those who love big color photographs and adventuresome recipes. For 52 weeks, home cooks across America competed in recipe contests at Food52.com. Authors Hesser and Stubbs and their team tested and selected the finalists and then the readers voted. These are the winning recipes from that contest. Intriguing recipes are included: the (not barefoot) Contessa’s fish pasta; griddled polenta cakes with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and honey; and toasted coconut gelato. The only downside to the book is that the menus are organized by seasons.
As a rule, I don’t watch many cooking shows. Most of them are competitions or just not to my taste. Jamie Oliver is a major exception to my rule. I like his food, his show, and his style of helping out school children with better eating habits. JAMIE OLIVER’S MEALS IN MINUTES: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast (www.amazon.com) shows you how to feed your family fast but without compromising on quality. As I discussed with The Family Meal, menu cookbooks can be confusing, but this soup to nuts style of rapid cooking also works. The photos are lovely and the tips and organizational system works. This book espouses a European philosophy of slow dining and one we, in the states, should practice more. If we did so, we could enjoy good fresh food without resorting to fast food or processed boxed fare. Try the menu of spring lamb, vegetable platter, mint sauce, Chianti gravy, and chocolate fondue; sticky pan-fried scallops, sweet chili rice, dressed greens, and quick brownies; or spinach and feta filo pie, cucumber salad, tomato salad, and coated ice cream.