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10 Cookbooks That Make Great Gifts


CookbookGifts

The past year has been a good one for cookbook lovers, with dozens of new titles covering every topic from opulent cocktails to special desserts. Here are 10 choices in no particular order that would make great gifts to various people on your holiday shopping list:

1. “La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy” (Rizzoli, $45)  – Fifty years ago, a group of Italians known as the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina decided to collect recipes from throughout their home country. The recipes were gathered region by region, and the project was only completed in 2001. It took eight years, but this encyclopedic approach to the country’s culinary riches is finally available in English. The end result can be richly rewarding for those who are not slaves to a recipe, as some need finessing (too little water here, too much spice there). Yet the compilation is exhaustive, exhilarating and an exciting new way to view Italian cuisine.

2. “I Know How to Cook” by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon, $45) – The success of “Julie & Julia” has turned the spotlight on Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” But don’t overlook this French volume, first printed in 1932 and now available in English for the first time. More than 6 million copies have sold in its home country, and it’s easy to see why. It’s clear and concise. Yes, editors have updated the work, making the 1,400 recipes more direct without losing their Gallic charm. Soon, you’ll be saying “Je suis cuisiner” (“I know how to cook”), too.

3. “Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style” by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman (Random House, $32.50) – Who can resist a cookbook with a recipe for something called Peach Daiquiri Likkercicles? Fredericksburg pastry chef Rebecca Rather offers recipes for six Texas-style parties ranging from San Antonio Fiesta (of course) to Gulf Coast Beach Bash. Nothing pretentious here, and many of the recipes use home-grown recipes, such as Honey-Lavender Rack of Lamb.

4. “The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets With Ideas for Inventing Your Own” by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter, $35) – DeMasco, Tom Colicchio’s former pastry chef, uses seasonal ingredients to create an array of spectacular desserts. She also tells you how to adapt your recipe to what’s in season, so a Rhubarb Rose Cobbler becomes a Mixed Berry Cobbler as the seasons change. The list of must-bake recipes just keeps growing as you leaf past the likes of Pine Nut Tart With Rosemary Cream, Pumpkin Seed Brittle and Raspberry Granola Bars.

5. “America’s Most Wanted Recipes” by Ron Douglas (Simon and Schuster, $15) – Ever wanted to make Olive Garden’s salad dressing in your own home? Or Johnny Carino’s Five Cheese Chicken Fettuccine? Copycat versions of all your favorites are here, including Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuits and Luby’s Spaghetti Salad. There are no pictures in this affordable paperback. But who needs pictures? You’ve had the dishes enough at each of these chain restaurants to know what it looks like. The recipes are no presented in a no-nonsense way that makes each easy to replicate in your own home.

6. “The Conscious Cook” by Tal Ronnen (William Morrow, $29.99) – This vegan chef has taken a familial approach to his cookbook, inviting fellow vegan chefs to join him in creating a surprisingly varied array of dishes. He starts with the basics, including a section on cashew cream, which he swears “makes it easy to live without dairy.” He then moves on to small plates, salads, soups, sandwiches, entrées and desserts. Even meat-eaters could like Paella With “Sausage,” Nori-dusted Oyster Mushrooms and Wine-braised Artichoke Hearts or Cajun Portobello Sandwich with Avocado and Rémoulade.

7. “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller (Artisan, $50) – The chef/owner of the French Laundry goes for more accessible fare at his home-style restaurant, Ad Hoc. By accessible, we mean Buttermilk Fried Chicken and chicken pot pie. Those who were put off by the tortured, laborious recipes Keller presented in his overwrought “French Laundry Cookbook” will be surprised by the warmth and down-home style here. “Ad Hoc at Home” is still a large, coffee table-sized book that won’t fit into many small kitchens easily, but the recipes will leave you hungry for more.

8.  “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method” by Jim Leahy (W.W. Norton & Company, $29.95) – If you’ve always wanted to make bread but haven’t trusted yourself around yeast or the controversy about kneading (too much vs. too little), then this book is for you. Leahy mixes flour, yeast, salt and water together quickly, then leaves the mixture alone for 12 hours before baking it in a Dutch oven. That’s it. And people swear by the results. Once he finishes the basics, Leahy takes cooks on through a series of breads as well as pizza dough.

9. “Foods and Flavors of San Antonio” by Gloria Chadwick (Pelican Publishing, $19.95) – Want to send a taste of home to some friends who live far away? Check out this cookbook, which is a savory mix of traditional Alamo City classics presented alongside some colorful variations, such as Chipotle Salmon to Apple Enchiladas. Chadwick also offers some good information on the city’s cultural traditions and attractions, making it a keepsake for locals and tourists alike.

10. “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, $27.50) – Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond (thepioneerwoman.com) welcomes you to her culinary frontier, where home cooking is prized by all. Recipes for Cowboy Calzone, Tomato-Basil Pizza and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes are all accompanied by step-by-step photographs, so you can cook to your heart’s content with assurance. From Spicy Pulled Pork to Patsy’s Blackberry Cobbler, this is an Oklahoma answer to Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home.”

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Spice Up a Portobello Sandwich


PortobelloCajun Portobello Sandwich With Avocado and Rémoulade

“Marinating mushrooms takes out a bit of the earthy flavor that some people find off-putting,” writes Tal Ronnen in the new vegan cookbook, “The Conscious Cook” (William Morrow, $29.99). “Of course, the longer they marinate, the more intensity you’ll get. This is a rich sandwich, with luscious avocado and a generous smear of rémoulade.”

Mushrooms:
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons low-salt Cajun seasoning, divided use
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed, cut on the bias into 1/4-inch slices

Assembly:
About 1/4 cup rémoulade (recipe follows)
4 soft sandwich rolls, split
4 to 8 romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pit removed and sliced

Rémoulade:
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons capers, minced
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced red bell pepper

For the mushrooms: Place a large pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect.

Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add 1 tablespoon of the Cajun seasoning, along with the wine, vinegar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Pour the mushrooms and liquid into a shallow container, cover and set aside to marinate for 1 hour.

Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and press between paper towels or in a cotton dish towel to remove the excess marinade, then sprinkle with the remaining Cajun seasoning, pressing the seasoning into both sides of the mushroom slices. Discard the marinade.

[amazon-product]0061874337[/amazon-product]In a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat, cook the mushrooms in a single layer (you may have to do this in two batches) until blackened, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate.

To assemble: Spread a spoonful of the rémoulade on one half of each roll. Top each with 1 or 2 lettuce leaves and a few slices of tomato and avocado. Divide the mushroom slices among the rolls. Close each sandwich, cut in half and serve.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

For the rémoulade: Place mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, capers, shallot, parsley and pepper in a food processor or blender and blend on high for 1 minute. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 1/4 cups.

From “The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat” by Tal Ronnen

This article is part of the series:  World Vegetarian Day Brings Some Meat-free Surprises

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