Feasting with authors for Thanksgiving
This year has seen a spate of cookbooks written by seasoned authors, debutants who are famed chefs or celeb TV personalities, editors and writers of food magazines and nobodies who want become somebodies.
Some of the books are mere food porn and nothing more while some have recipes that sound good but are a disaster when made. Then there are the books that are good only for that one recipe, or maybe two.
But the year also has its fair share of keepers — cookbooks that are the whole package with foods that are exciting to eat. Instructional recipes are interwoven with techniques, tips and culture. They blend cuisines without going over the top, and are intriguing even as they are straightforward.
Here are my favorite 10 cookbooks of the year, which have recipes that will be appearing again and again at my daily and special-occasion dinners.
Arthi Subramaniam: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412263-1494 or on Twitter @arthisub.
“Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian” by Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Lidia Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Manuali, set out to make every meal a reason to celebrate, and they succeed in this book. The choice of recipes stand out because they are actually doable in the home kitchen. A goat cheese dip has fava beans and artichokes; deviled eggs get a salsa verde touch; panzanella is tossed with shrimp and fennel; and guinea hen shines with balsamic vinegar. It will make a perfect gift for those who like all things Italian.
“Cooking at Home With Bridget & Julia” by America’s Test Kitchen
The debut cookbook by “America’s Test Kitchen” TV hosts, Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison, is just as home cook-friendly and relatable as their TV show. Some of its 150 recipes might sound basic and familiar but they are a good reminder as to why you might want to get to know them again. So before you dismiss the recipes for shrimp and grits or meatballs and marinara or broccoli-cheese soup, read the ingredient list and directions and you’ll understand why the recipes are fool-proof. Gift it to any “ATK” devotee or comfort-food junkie.
“Rasika: Flavors of India” by Ashok Bajaj, Vikram Sunderam and David Hagedorn
In its eponymous debut cookbook, the famed Indian restaurant, Rasika in Washington, D.C., shares recipes that are rooted in tradition but that branch out in creative ways. Smoked rack of pork shows up in a vindaloo; the savory pancake, uttapam, is topped with asparagus; and samosas are made with sweet potato and served with cranberry chutney. Tips are given on what part of the dish can be done ahead of time and how to maintain optimal flavor. “Rasika” is an ideal gift for those who know better than to clump all Indian food as curry.
“Desserts” by the editors of Food & Wine
Chocoholics, pie lovers, cookie fiends and cake bakers will all have something to love about “Desserts.” Contributed by chefs, bakers and the Food & Wine staff, the creative recipes are enticing, made with easy-tofind ingredients (an exception might be the seaweed for the shortbread) and have simple-tofollow directions. Milk chocolate cookies are filled with malted cream and key lime pie sits on an almond-chocolate crust. Gift it to bakers who don’t like to be called dowdy or those who want to expand their horizon.
“The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School” by Alison Cayne
After having five children in eight years and getting a master’s in food studies at New York University, Alison Cayne pursued her dream — cooking. She took it a step further when she opened Haven’s Kitchen in New York City and offered cooking classes to inspire rookie cooks and teach them confidence. That philosophy is reflected in her debut cookbook, which has teaching recipes that offer variations and illustrative guidelines on how to use a pairing knife or dice an onion. It’s a great for anyone who loves food but is befuddled as to where to begin in the kitchen.
“Bringing it Home” by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox
When “Top Chef” judge, Gail Simmons, says she’s bringing her eating adventures from around the world home, she means it. She shares recipes for eggs in crispy potato skins that she had in a diner in Massachusetts, shrimp and grapefruit salad she learned to make at a resort in Bali, and pork and bean stew from a Montreal bistro. Chef techniques and kitchen wisdom are sprinkled through the book, which will appeal to a curious traveler or home cook.
“Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook” by Kerry Diaond and Claudia Wu
This bubblegum pink book will be a bright add to your kitchen library. Creative women of the food world who are contributors to the indie cult Cherry Bombe magazine and podcast are featured here. Their distinctive voices might be missing because the headnotes are straightforward, but the recipes make up for it. This includes sweet and sour shrimp from Padma Lakshmi (”Top Chef”); chicken with a lemongrass brine from Sqirl chef Jessica Koslow, and a cherry bombe from ice cream phenom Jeni Britton Bauer. It’s ideal for any #BombSquad loyalist.
“Onions Etcetera” by Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino
You can get to know everything you want to know about alliums from this one book. It’s comprehensive but not complicated. While it gives a nod to the yearround staples — yellow, red and white onions — it also features scallions in sesame pancakes, chives in pasta dough, leeks in a tart with feta and dill, pearl onions in a Greek beef stew, cipollini with duck and cherries, ramps with poached eggs and garlic scapes with fried rice. And an added bonus? Guy Ambrosino’s scrumptious photographs. Starting from the cover, each photo will make you fall in love with alliums.
“Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking” by Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner
The authors, who grew up in the Midwest, met on the balcony of a guesthouse on the Mediterranean coast, became fast friends and express their interest in food, culture and travel in this wellrounded cookbook. Sights and smells of modern-day Turkey come alive in the pages that describe vegetable stalls, and kebab and fish stands. Personal encounters with home cooks and store owners accompany the recipes. When you get to how to make Turkish Delight, it almost feels like you can get a whiff of the sweet sugar perfume.
“Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street” by Christopher Kimball
Speaking a global accent eloquently, “Milk Street” makes the case that you can travel the world without a passport. It explains how to make dukkah (Egyptian seasoning), Basque-style pork tenderloins, spinach-based Peruvian pesto and Japanese fried chicken with clear steps and eye-catching photos. Scientific hows and whys are sprinkled throughout, and explanations are given for why oil is better than butter for fluffy scrambled eggs and how salt and sugar help to remove excess water from vegetables. The book is as good to read in bed as it is in the kitchen and perfect for any food nerd.
Gail Simmons says: You can use ⅓ cup panko or plain breadcrumbs if you don’t have bread. Thanksgiving, what?: I am Canadian, and so I don’t have any long-standing family traditions around Thanksgiving. As my family back home doesn’t celebrate the same weekend as we do, we are free every year to do whatever we want in terms of menu and even location. Over the years we have used the weekend to go home to Canada and see our families and not make a traditional American meal at all. Some years we choose to have a big Friendsgiving. When she does cook: When I do cook I truly love the holiday. I often delegate dessert and wine duties or even a salad or side. But I love making the turkey myself as well as the soups and at least one potato dish. I’ve made Asian-flavored turkey with soy and lemon glaze and Mexican-flavored turkey with mole. I love making salt and vinegar smashed potatoes for the holiday as I use malt vinegar in them, which always reminds me of home. And I love finding new ways to roast or bake winter squash. But, why?: I have never understood putting marshmallow on sweet potatoes. I know it’s a sacred way to serve them for Thanksgiving but it’s far too sweet for me and not something I grew up eating.
Gail Simmons has been at the judging table on the reality TV show, "Top Chef," for 14 seasons.