my favorite cookbooks of 2011 – and a giveaway! December 5, 2011
As a food blogger, stacks of cookbooks are an occupational hazard. We’re sent quite a few of them throughout the year. Some of your friends put out books, so you have to get those, too. Then there are those that just grab your attention while surfing the Internet – Amazon Prime is the best/worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Picking one favorite book that was published this year would be impossible – there really were a plethora of great books in 2011. I wanted to highlight my favorite books of the year and limiting it to nine was a tough – this could easily be a list of 30 books. There were works of art like Eleven Madison Park that, while visually stunning, is more special event than everyday cooking. The Macy’s Culinary Council Holiday Cookbook is going on the cookbook stand for the upcoming Christmas season – more on that later in the week. Virginia and Lisa have books out this year, too…and I haven’t even gotten to those yet! My Top 9 are the books I keep going back to because of the stunning photography, ease of cooking for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and the inspirational nature of the contents year round.
- Momofuku Milk Bar – I’m not a dessert person, really…and I’m not a baker. However, I had to have the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook just for inspiration alone. The cereal milk. The crack pie. All of the bizarre & off the wall flavor combinations and techniques that somehow end up seeming really cozy and familiar. Christina Tosi is an evil genius.
- The Family Meal by Ferran Adria – While you might think this cookbook is going to be another El Bulli tome of inspiring but impractical recipes for the home cook, it’s not. It’s “real food” inspired by communal meals at his acclaimed restaurant. Solid interpretations of classics like Caesar Salad and Pasta Bolognese are served up alongside easy soup and dessert recipes.
- Canal House Cooking – For those who aren’t familiar with Canal House Cooking, it’s a periodically produced volume full of wonderful recipes and photos. The heirloom nature of it means that it’s always a keeper – a subscription is also available, which would make an amazing holiday gift. This will be on my favorite cookbooks list every year.
- Mourad: New Moroccan – I’ve heard of Aziza, the San Francisco restaurant but didn’t know much about its owner, Mourad Lahlou. When I received this book, I was blown away. The photos are lovely, the stories have such a personal tone, and the food is a modern take on classic Middle Eastern recipes. After one pass through the book, I had a dozen recipes marked to try.
- Tender by Nigel Slater – While picking one favorite cookbook all year was a bit like picking your favorite child, the fact that this cookbook sat on the stand in the kitchen for months speaks volumes. It’s epic at over 600 pages but it’s a must-have, for vegetarians and carnivores alike. The design and photography of the book are mind-blowingly simple and inspiring.
- Paella by Alberto Herraiz – I don’t often buy cookbooks specifically about one dish/technique but the graphic design of Paella nabbed my attention. Spot-on paella is something I’ve rarely experienced and certainly want to try and create at home. If anyone could teach you how to do that, it’s Herraiz, whose quest to perfect paella has won him a Michelin star.
- Vegetables from an Italian Garden – After Tender, this is the book that’s most inspired me this year. Broken up into seasons, there are ideas in each chapter on how to use every vegetable that grows those months. There are some recipes with meat involved and plenty to cook for vegetarians. Not particularly fussy, the photos are stunning in their simplicity.
- Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home – Ice cream is something we just started making at home this year, largely thanks to this cookbook. Jeni’s ice creams are available for purchase here in Atlanta but making them at home – with their kooky flavor combinations and seasonal influence – has been much more rewarding than eating them out of the container.
- A New Turn in The South by Hugh Acheson – With its matte paper, loose styling and conversational style…Hugh Acheson’s book is more culinary journal than it is a cookbook. You’ll find recipes for classics like Pimiento Cheese as well as twists like Boiled Peanut Hummus. Regardless of which recipe you make, you’ll never look at Southern cuisine quite the same again.
To say thanks for an amazing year and everything that ya’ll have given back to me through the blog in 2011, I’m giving away part of my Top 9 list. You can choose any three books that you’d like – maybe you’ve had your eye on one but it seems like a splurge or maybe I’ve introduced you to a book here that you’d like to see more of. Whatever the case, this is a pick-any-three prize. To enter, leave a comment on this post with the three books you’d like to win. One winner will be chosen at random from the comments below – you need to have your short list posted here by 8 pm on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011. Please make sure your email address is available as I’ll be dropping the winner a line. Since this is my gift to you and not a sponsored post, I’m only able to ship to the US and Canada – sorry overseas friends. Enjoy and good luck!