Feast­ing with au­thors for Thanks­giv­ing

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Food & Flavor - By Arthi Subra­ma­niam Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

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: asub­ra­ma­niam@post-gazette.com, 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.

Johnny Miller

Gail Sim­mons has been at the judg­ing ta­ble on the re­al­ity TV show, "Top Chef," for 14 sea­sons.

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