This is the time of year for gift lists of all kinds. Right now my social media feeds seem over run with cookbook gift list but this got me thinking, what books would I recommend. Not all of my recommendations were not published this year. That’s not what I am going for. I wanted to recommend cookbooks that are well used, well loved, referenced regularly and had a profound impact on my cooking.
So here they are:
The Spice Companion – This book is great for both novice and experienced cooks. This should be in every kitchen somewhat in the same way The Joy of Cooking typically is. The spice companion will get you or those you love out of their cooking ruts and experimenting with all sorts of new spices and flavors.
This book is set up as a reference book. It’s over 120 spices and herbs in alphabetical order. It tells you all about the plant, it’s history, what parts can be used, and even gives you great ways to use it! Now when your spice rack is looking unloved look up a spice you tend not to use and try some of his recommendations! You won’t be sorry!
I go to this book all the time when I am trying to enhance something I have made before or make something better that was disappointing. I think my favorite spice discovery so far has been Dried Limes (Limu Omani), check it out!
Sous Vide at Home – Think of this book as one of those “How to make the most of your slow cooker” types of books. Now, think if it were only way better, offered more variety, and if the recipes actually turned out as shown! That’s this book. If you have a family member or loved one who is tech savy and loves new techniques this is a great book!
Granted they will need to have one of the many types of immersion circulators on the market but let me tell you now, this is the direction cooking is headed and you won’t be sorry. Sous vide cooking is all the easy and hassle free experience you would expect from a slow cooker or even a pressure cooker but with precision results! I could tell you all the joys and benefits to sous vide cooking but this post isn’t about that. This is about how great this cookbook is. This book will take someone who has never cooked sous vide and make them a true believer. Deep complex flavors of a stewed chili but with tender medium rare pieces of beef, Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken that is simple and delicious (I tend to make it when I don’t know what to make).
The author offers up everything from dinner to dessert and even Thanksgiving options. This book is packed full of easy recipes but the flavors are anything but simple.
Dandelion & Quince – This is for your more adventurous cook. It’s also a great gift for those on a diet or eating more plant based foods. I am surprised how often I go back to this book. The focus of the book is teaching you how to use ingredients that you would otherwise over look but she makes them the centerpiece.
She organizes the book by the ingredient she is working with. She does use the occasional thing that might be more comfortable like sections on dates and asian pears but she also has sections on things like Celeriac (Celery root), Kohlrabi, Persimmons, and Purslane, as well as many more.
Six Seasons – Have you heard you should eat your vegetables? I know I sure did and I didn’t like it one bit. This book solves that problem. This is entirely about vegetables. Now, it’s not entirely vegetarian but there is plenty here that can be and for the vegetarians in your life it wouldn’t be hard for them to figure out what to substitute for the ingredients that are not in their diet.
This is yet another book I keep going back to. Once recipe in particular Potato and Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Olives, Feta, and Arugula is now maybe one of my all time favorite summer lunches. Me! Loving Cauliflower! Who would have guessed! This is also the best gift you can give the person in your life who loves shopping the farmers market. I always take mine. Since I never know what will be at the market, I come prepared. Often there is beautiful produce that normally I would have no idea what to do with it. Now, I flip to that ingredient and have all sorts of delicious ideas and gets me trying new and interesting vegetables!
Bravetart – This is for the baker in your life. Trust me they need this book. This is specifically for the person who loves to bake cookies, cakes, and all those yummy treats that we all know we shouldn’t be eating but we do anyways. This book focuses on American classics. This isn’t just a compilation of recipes but it’s a look at the history of the dish and why it’s an American classic. Then when you get into the recipes they are updated just enough to be a fresh take on the recipe but in some magical way it captures the flavors and textures far better than any recipe that baker has tried before.
From cinnamon rolls, to peanut butter cookies, to cheesecake, to snickers bars, and twinkies it’s all in there and so much more. I had high hopes for this cookbook and it has far surpassed anything I thought was possible. If that’s not exciting enough the author takes it a step further and at the end of ever recipe offers “mix it up” with variations to create new flavors. This is key for any baker. We all over baking but often are afraid to change the recipe as it might cause disaster. Here there’s no need to worry and the flavors are phenomenal! Anyone interested in Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls?
Zingerman’s Bakehouse – This is for the bread baker in your life. One word: Sourdough. Yup! This book makes homemade sourdough a reality! I can’t believe it either! I doubted it at every step of the way and yet I kept up with it just to be able to say I tried. Not only have I tried but I have succeeded! I am now 9 weeks in and going strong but even better the process doesn’t feel overwhelming or intimidating.
The book is full of other truly delicious bakery items but unfortunately I have only made one other than the sourdough to date. Mainly because the sourdough is just SO GOOD! I did manage to make the Moroccan Challah which everyone raved about and I do have plans to try many more recipes.
Not wanting to limit this just to Christmas gifts I even have two fantastic Chanukah gift recommendations:
The Gefilte Manifesto – This book is a fresh take on Ashkenazi Jewish Classics. The co-authors of this book managed to make all of the things that your bubby used to and make it something that isn’t drowning in chicken fat. This book is for a new generation of Jewish cooks. Those who want to connect to their heritage but love the fresh clean flavors of foods today.
This book offered up something for every occasion. I have now made over a dozen recipe from this book and each one some how speaks to my soul as I take a bite. From Honey Seeded Rye Pull Apart Rolls, to Homemade Corned Beef, to Chicken with Tsimmes, and maybe hands down the best homemade Pickles ever! There’s something in here for every Jewish cook.
Molly on the Range – This book is just a sheer delight to read as well as to cook from. This isn’t strictly Jewish cooking as the author is both Jewish and Chinese. This creates wonderful flavor combinations and new ideas. I think what I love most about her recipes are that I can feel the Jewish influences but these are just recipes she loves and are a part of her story.
This book is for the Jewish cook who isn’t looking for anything fussy or traditional heck maybe they aren’t even wanting to be limited to what their mother and there mothers mother made but they still want that essence captured in some of their cooking.
Add to all of this Molly still blogs recipes quite regularly so there’s no waiting for another cookbook you can simply go to her blog and get all sorts of new ideas and keep up with her wonderful way of spinning a tale.