As the old year comes to an end and we are on the cusps of ringing in the new, many of us may pause to reflect and perhaps consider our friends and family members. Of course, breaking bread often plays an important role at gatherings, and this year’s compilation of cookbooks offers pleasing propositions for entertaining, as well a quiet meal at home. Enjoy!
Make it Ahead by Ina Garten
(The Crown Publishing Group, $35)
Of course, preparation can be key when hosting a special dinner party, or even for a two-career household when considering weekday meals. With her ninth cookbook, Ina Garten gives us Make it Ahead. According to the forward, the most common question received by the Barefoot Contessa herself is: Can I make it ahead? Well, this collection certainly offers wonderful ideas, including a Make-Ahead Thanksgiving, as well as other tips like storing food properly and for throwing a party. Recipes not to miss include Rosemary Rack of Lamb with Easy Tzatziki, Make-Ahead Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Skillet Brownies. And Fido is not forgotten with Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits!
How to Roast by Michael Ruhlman
(Little, Brown and Company, $25)
James Beard award-winning author Michael Ruhlman advises us on all things roasted in his latest title, How to Roast, with a magnificent collection of recipes, accompanied by wonderful instruction and illustrations. Again, the Thanksgiving Turkey is covered, as well as the Standing Rib Roast. Direction also is included for perfectly roasting a red pepper to Duck-Fat Roasted Potatoes with Onion and Rosemary. And, hello! Dessert can be roasted, too! How about Roasted Peaches with Crème Fraiche and Mint, or Roasted Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce?
Around the Table by Martina McBride
(Harper Collins, $30)
The girl can sing—and she can cook, too! Turns out country songstress Martina McBride likes to host a party, so she is sharing her favorite fares for celebrations throughout the year in Around the Table. From complete menus to cooking game plans to party playlists (including country selections and beyond), McBride covers it all, right down to the libations. She shares ideas about seasonal celebrations, and includes photos of her family helping out in the kitchen. Thinking of putting together a Taco Fiesta? Everything you need begins on page 253, including McBride’s Latin playlist…
Sunday Suppers by Karen Mordechai
(Clarkson Potter Publishers, $32.50)
From the writer of the Brooklyn-based food community and blog of the same title, Karen Mordechai is all about removing the stress from a dinner party to focusing on the idea of just gathering and connecting with delicious food. This collection of menus moves through the seasons, with chapters including Winter Brunch; Day Trip, Camping and City Picnic; Whiskey Feast and Autumn Dinner; and Holiday, among others.
The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman
(Workman Publishing Company, $23)
A bonus to this cookbook is the gardening guide that also is included—so you can grow what you eat and cook what you grow. In Part One, The Garden, Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman start with the soil and lead you laying out your garden plan through what to grow and how to grow your bounty. The cooking begins in Part Two, The Kitchen, with creative menu items, including Chicken Soup with Apples; Baby Turnips with Honey and Mint; Broccoli Bread Pudding, Red Thai Curry with Fall Vegetables; and Hazelnut Torte with Summer Berries.
Drink the Harvest by Nan Chase and DeNeice Guest
(Storey Publishing, $19)
While we’re in the garden, think of the possibilities at your next gathering found in Drink the Harvest. Learn to make juice (with less sugar), tea and cider, as well as hard cider, mead and wine. And while wine typically evokes images of grapes, a ‘garden’ wine can be made from any herbal or floral tea to which sugar and yeast have been added for fermentation. (Yes, a recipe for Dandelion Wine is included.) And a mead? Instead of sugar, add honey to feed the yeast for fermentation. Some highlights: Big Wow Grape Cider; Garden Mint Wine; Red, White and Blueberry Mead; and Very Perry Holiday Mead.
Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture by Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress, with recipes by Lynda Balslev
(Watermark Publishing, $22)
St. Louisans Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress have co-penned a fascinating account of the history of the almond, detailing customs and traditions from countries on almost every continent. Lynda Balslev's recipes include Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Rice, Cranberries and Almonds; Almond-Crusted Pork Chops with Sweet-and-Sour Apricot Glaze; and Pear and Almond Frangipane Tart—and so much more!
Food Truck Road Trip by Kim Pham and Philip Shen
(Page Street Publishing Co., $22)
Food Truck Road Trip allows the home cook to bring home some the most delicious, most popular menu items from food trucks around the country. While authors Kim Pham and Philip Shen somehow managed to overlook the many fabulous food trucks cruising the streets of St. Louis, this compilation of recipes is worthy of a place on your kitchen shelf because of recipes like Bourbon Pecan Pancakes with Ginger Stout Syrup from The Cinnamon Snail in New York; the Thai Green Curry Breakfast Bowl with Basil Chicken from Gai Gai Thai in Minneapolis; and the Pork Burger with Bacon Tomato Jam from Flat Iron in Los Angeles.
A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse by Mimi Thorisson
(Crown Publishing, $40)
First of all, the photography in this cookbook is stunning, and before even reading a word, we felt inspired to get into the kitchen. Organized like many of this year’s titles, this cookbook, as well, is arranged with the seasons. From Mimi Thorisson’s farmhouse to yours, many enticing recipes, which do not seem to be too complicated, using ingredients from farmers local to Médoc, France, are featured. And did we mention the photography? So, let's start with dessert—the image of the Cherry Clafoutis quickly put us in the mood for spring and our own local cherry harvest! But, for now, we'll have to muddle through winter with Winter Vegetable Cocotte, the Coq au Vin and the Salted-Butter Crème Caramel. (Sigh.)
Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain by Jeffrey Weiss
(Agate Publishing, $40)
No, we are not ‘on the road again’ with Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman and Claudia Bassols. But, this offering from Jeffrey Wiess does a wonderful job of explaining traditional and modern methods and techniques regarding the Spanish cuisine—including how it has evolved, and how it has and continues to influence cuisines around the world. Not to be missed: Tomate Frito, Garbanzos Con Butifarra Negra and ‘Salchichoc’ (Chocolate Sausage).
Taste of Beirut: Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More by Joumana Accad
(Health Communications, $19)
Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Joumana Accad notes that she learned about Lebanese cooking traditions from her grandmother, Teta Naiha. After moving to the U.S. in 1979, Accad looked for ways to blend her Lebanese heritage with American cuisine while raising her children. Years later, Accad moved back to Lebanon for three years to gather as much information as possible for her first cookbook, Taste of Beirut. The result is a collection of recipes from her homeland—along with tips and techniques—that will be welcome in your home, like Oven-Baked Omelet with Parsley and Onion; Fava Bean Soup; White Beans with Cilantro in Tomato Sauce; and Semolina Cheesecake.
Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla
(Agate Publishing, $35)
Designed to introduce preparation of Indian cuisine to home cooks in the U.S., Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla begins by offering a useful chapter called ‘Getting Started,’ which includes ‘Tools of the Trade, Indian Spices and Herbs, and ‘The Fridge and Pantry.’ And then when it’s time to cook, find well-thought out chapters that include recipes for Spice Blends, Chutneys, Street Foods, Breads, Meats, among others. To highlight a few enticing entries: Makki ki Roti (Indian Corn Bread), Tandoori Chicken and Kulfi (Indian Ice Cream).
A World of Cake: 150 Recipes for Sweet Traditions from Cultures Near and Far by Krystina Castella
(Storey Publishing, $25)
And for dessert, how about a cookbook titled A World of Cake? That’s right—take a ‘sweet journey,’ visiting cultures around the world to learn about their cake baking, decorating and serving traditions. Learn about cakes that take center stage at family celebrations and gatherings on every continent. Who knows, perhaps some of these traditions might make their way into your home? Perhaps the Queen Mother Cake—or the Tamale Corn Cakes—or even the Chrysanthemum Steamed Lemon Cake? The possibilities are endless! Cheers!