BOOKS FOR COOKS
Right about now, if you're writing your list and checking it twice, you might be happy for a little help. After all, the holidays are right around the proverbial corner.
Wouldn't it be handy to have a solution that could provide one-stop shopping?
Cookbooks can do just that. With the amazing array of subjects that they cover, there should be something for almost anyone, whether they like to eat or they like to just read about it.
LEARN HOW TO COOK: "Cooking: 600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education." Coffee-table size, but kitchen-worthy, this book is the work of restaurateur, teacher and cookbook author James Peterson. It isn't a textbook with pages of culinary theory, so explanations of why things happen are scant. But it is a thorough compilation of cooking techniques as exemplified through recipes, and the strongest teaching tool is the how-to photographs. For the beginner, from starters through dessert. Ten Speed Press. $40.
COOK VEGETARIAN: "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food." Whether you know him as The Minimalist, from his column in The New York Times or from "How to Cook Everything," his award-sweeping comprehensive tome and subsequent television show, you probably will recognize Mark Bittman. For depth (1,000 pages), creativity (2,000 recipes) and reliability, here's a book for those interested in increasing the proportion of nonmeat products in their diet. Be advised that Bittman does not exclude dairy products. On the same page, you can find recipes for Hot and Sour Edamame With Tofu and Fresh Favas With
Eggs and Croutons. John Wiley & Sons. $35.
COOK SLOW FOOD: "The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes From a Delicious Revolution." Seasonal, local and sustainably produced is the mantra of Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse restaurant and vice president of Slow Food International. Her position is "that the underlying principles of good cooking are the same everywhere. These principles have less to do with recipes and techniques than they do with gathering good ingredients." Los Angeles Times columnist Russ Parsons has, in fact, written of mistakes he has found in some of the recipes. But Slow Food aficionados are rarely dogmatic, recipe-driven cooks and they will love this book for its philosophy. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. $35.
COOK SOUTHERN: "A Love Affair With Southern Cooking: Recipes and Recollections." Don't be put off by the lack of glossy pictures. A prolific magazine and cookbook author, Jean Anderson's goal with this book is "to pass along the South's rich culinary history, the gossipy stories Southerners love to tell, the snippets of folklore, and not least the precious insight gained by watching Southerners cook." And she does it deliciously. This book's for anyone who loves lip-smacking Southern favorites such as Pickled Oysters and Peppered Pecans, Shrimp and Crab Cakes and Spoon Bread. William Morrow. $32.50.
COOK ITALIAN: "Cucina Del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking." Italian cuisine, not to mention Italian travel, is very popular these days. Author Nancy Harmon Jenkins offers up a healthy serving of both. Adding history and anecdotes to recipes, she takes the armchair traveler as well as the cook on a tour of southern Italy and across the strait to Sicily. If you give this book, put on an "Open Before Christmas" tag; there is a lovely Neapolitan Christmas menu: Christmas Pie of Fish and Greens, Christmas Vegetable Salad and Sliced Oranges With Sugar and Marsala. William Morrow. $29.95.
COOK SPANISH: "1080 Recipes." A must-have for those with a serious culinary library, here's Spain's comprehensive cookbook of traditional and authentic recipes, translated for the first time into English. Authored by one of Spain's premier food writers, Simone Ortega, and first published 35 years ago, "1080 Recipes" has sold more than 2 million copies. It has been updated for the American market. This is the go-to cookbook for Spanish dishes from appetizers to dessert. Phaidon Press. $35.95.
COOK LIKE A PRO: "Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking." This colorful cookbook from one of the country's hottest chefs should please the pro on your list. Executive chef and partner in New York's BLT Steak, BLT Prime, BLT Fish, BLT Burger and BLT Market, Laurent Tourondel calls his cuisine a combination of French bistro and American steakhouse. But it is his creativity that makes it unique: pommes frites tossed in garlic and rosemary-infused brown butter, parmesan cheese and fresh rosemary; Cobb salad with sauteed lobster; filet with sauteed foie gras. John Wiley & Sons. $34.95.
MAKE BREAD: "Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor." Reinhart's first book, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," won both James Beard and International Association of Culinary Professionals awards. I took several of the newest breadmaking books to a very talented baking instructor who, after studying them, declared this one, hands-down, had the best information, techniques and recipes. It is, however, a cookbook for the professional baker or the very, very serious home one who wants to know how to make artisan-quality whole-grain breads and convert sweet bakery products such as cinnamon buns to healthier whole-grain versions. Ten Speed Press. $35.
MAKE DESSERT: "Pure Dessert: True Flavors, Inspiring Ingredients, and Simple Recipes." Author Alice Medrich, founder of Cocolat, a chocolate dessert company, and author of several famous all-chocolate dessert cookbooks, does a 180 in this book. She turns her attention to other flavors: milk; grains, nuts and seeds; fruit; honey and sugar; herbs, spices, flowers and leaves; and wine, beer and spirits. And she makes the recipes simple enough to showcase them. Cardamom-Roasted Figs, Jasmine Panna Cotta, and Strawberries With Single-Malt Sabayon. Refreshing changes. Artisan. $35.
JUST READ ABOUT IT: "The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food." This autobiography of senior editor and VP at Alfred A. Knopf Judith Jones, who fostered such luminaries as Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey and Edna Lewis, is the read of the season for the culinary cognoscente. All stargazers like to look behind the scenes — television certainly has proved that. I only wish that she had left off the recipes and added more about her fascinating life with these culinary icons. Knopf. $24.95.