Through beautiful images, palatable ingredients and curious methods, a good cookbook will almost always encourage inspiration. For those looking for new, insightful ideas to use in the kitchen, a variety of selections from the 2011 cookbook harvest provide wonderful offerings, from local to national, down-home to elegant and bite-size to ‘the whole hog.’
Stone Soup Cottage: A Vignette of Seasonal Recipes by Carl and Nancy McConnell (Stone Soup Holdings, $29)
This delightful French-inspired recipe compilation is only enhanced by the presence of artfully illustrated creations. Nicely organized with seasonal tasting menus, Stone Soup Cottage (from the Cottleville, Mo., restaurant by the same name) takes the guesswork out of meal planning, even suggesting comparable wine pairings with courses. Whether preparing an all-encompassing dining experience or an individual dish (say, the Wild Mushroom Bisque or the Pommes Anna with White Truffle Oil), 72 appetizing recipes directly from Cottage menus will make an excellent addition to any cookbook collection. And, 20 percent of proceeds benefit Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles County.
Cooking Wild in Missouri by Bernadette Dryden (Missouri Department of Conservation, $15)
Another local offering, this cookbook features everything Missouri, from blackberries to venison. Both savory and sweet are well represented with recipes for Smoked Duck Salad, Pasta with Autumn Nut Sauce, and Bass-and-Crappie Spring Rolls, as well as Blackberry Gelato and Pancakes with Missouri Maple Syrup, Apples and Pecans. Especially appealing—several tips, fun facts and quotes are sprinkled throughout, including Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food—Michael Pollan. Also noteworthy, events around the state are highlighted, such as the Rockwoods Reservation’s Maple Sugar Festival that is held every February.
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (Sterling Epicure, $25)
From The Fabulous Beekman Boys of Planet Green TV, this cookbook feels like home with uncomplicated, tasty recipes that Mom used to make, arranged by the season for both everyday and special-occasion use. Entrées, sides and desserts alike feature heirloom varieties, and while inventive, appetizing twists can be found throughout, many will appreciate the good ol’ fashioned comfort foods, like the Chicken ’N’ Dumplings.
Wine Bites by Barbara Scott-Goodman (Chronicle Books, $25)
Wine Bites is sure to add a little flavor and pizzazz to your next gathering, with passarounds rich in creativity and taste. From healthy to indulgent, there are plenty of culinary options to accompany any varietal, and with each recipe, suggested wines pairings are offered. For instance, for Pizza with Caramelized Red Onions, Gorgonzola & Sausage, Barbara Scott-Goodman recommends staying with the Italian tradition of Chianti or Valpolicella. The final chapter, Small Sweets & Treats, focuses on “delicious last bites and sips of the evening,” such as Caramelized Fruit with Goat Cheese paired with a sauvignon blanc or a muscat.
The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers (Rizzoi International Publications, $30) With the foreword written by Paula Deen, this collection of recipes is without surprise down-home with “chops, loin, shoulder, bacon and all that good stuff.” If you haven’t guessed, every recipe contains at least one element from the hog, right down to the Best Ever Family Reunion Chocolate Sheet Cake, which contains leaf lard (made from pork leaf fat), and its Bacon Pecan Icing, containing four slices of “cooked crisp, finely diced” bacon. With enticing photography and plenty of how-to’s, the recipes travel beyond the South, with entries including West African Pork Stew and Midnight Pork Tamales. Many recipes feature ingenuity, like the Prosciutto Pretzel Knots, which not only include the hog, but 12 ounces of a stout beer, to boot!
The WiseJack Man’s CookBook by Jon Harris, Zack Deutsch & Ari Axelbaum (Dynamic Creations, $25)
Built for the person (read: man, with this book’s use of numerous masculine references) intimidated by the room with the stove and kitchen sink, this cookbook empowers with plenty of useful tips and hints, beginning first with “the truth about steak.” Popular chapters include Best Meals to Surprise Your Wife or Girlfriend, What to Make for a Sports Party and How to Survive as a Bachelor. Of course, the chapter on How to Pull Off a Holiday Dinner would be handy for the current season, starting with Winter Wassail for a Crowd and Savory Stuffed Mushrooms as an appetizer, the Herb-Rubbed Roast Beef for the main course and ending with the Cherry Topped Way-Easy Cheesecake.
The Cookery Book (Cookbook Publishers, $25)
Benefiting the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo., The Cookery Book (per the English reference) features recipes enjoyed by the British culture in honor of Sir Winston Churchill, himself, as well as some American favorites. Coordinated by the St. Louis Friends of the Winston Churchill Memorial, et al, submissions from Great Britain to Fulton and beyond make this cookery book as much of a page-turner as the recipes, which include Sir Winston’s Jellied Consommé, “a traditional Scottish Christmas treat” called Scotch Black Bun and the Queen Mother’s Favourite Chocolate Cake.
Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Alfred A. Knopf, $35)
After observing the differences between traditional regional Italian cooking and the Italian-American methods of food preparation developed over time through the matrix of immigration, Lidia Bastianich addresses the evolution of Italian cuisine in America. During her two years of research, Bastianich stopped in St. Louis and visited Rigazzi’s (the oldest Italian restaurant on The Hill), Imo’s Pizza (and Mrs. Imo, herself) and Volpi Foods. In her book, she recreates Rigazzi’s Veal Hamburger Parmiciano and Imo’s St. Louis Pizza, with its “cracker crust and provel cheese—whatever that is,” Bastianich laughs. “I researched, figured out the recipes and gave them credit.” In her book, she recalls the cheese on the pizza as a “milky-velvety mozzarella cheese found in Italy.” Her version includes sharp white cheddar, Swiss and smoked provolone.
Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35)
Offering many insights into Greek culture, this cookbook touches on Traditional Foods, Easter Foods, Baker’s Foods and Sweet Foods, as well as Fasting Foods through the kitchens of Tessa Kiros’ Greek family and friends. Each recipe offers an author’s note with tips and tidbits of information, all with the feel of advice from a friend. The lovely photography combines artistry and enticement— whether it’s the desire to make the featured recipe or to hop on a plane to explore Greece, firsthand.
Classic Creole by Ann Cuiellette (Southeast Missouri State University Press, $21)
A native of New Orleans, Ann Cuiellette is the 12th of 13 children. Now splitting time between St. Louis and Chicago, Cuiellette felt the need to share her family’s heritage after Hurricane Katrina. Classic Creole is both a cookbook and a ‘storybook,’ filled with fabulous traditional New Orleans-style recipes, as well as memories from Cuiellette’s childhood and raising her own two daughters. As with any respectable Creole cookbook, look for the Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Red Beans and Rice recipes, along with some interesting New Orleans’ trivia. Equally inspiring are the Shrimp & Crabmeat Pie, Crawfish Pasta and (let us not forget) the Sweet Potato Pie.
Recipes for Life by Linda Evans (Vanguard Press, $26)
Recipes for Life serves as both a memoir and a listing of a lifelong recipe collection for Linda Evans of The Big Valley and Dynasty fame. “My two favorite things in life are people and food,” she notes in her book. “Combining them by preparing meals for the people I love is simply my recipe for joy.” Woven throughout memories of her childhood and Hollywood career are dishes like One of My Favorite Pastas (courtesy of Grandpa Tony), John Wayne’s Favorite Green Chile and Cheese Casserole and Warm Butternut Squash Salad, which Evans discovered while on a trip to London to visit the queen.
The Cupcake Diaries by Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne (HarperOne, $24)
It’s another case of sharing recipes and memories in The Cupcake Diaries—this time from the sisters of Georgetown Cupcake and the TLC series DC Cupcakes. Not just a cupcake cookbook, the collection is organized beautifully by the season and includes non-cupcake recipes like Babee’s Easter Bread and Katherine’s Chocolate Peppermint Hot Cocoa. But if it’s cupcakes that you want, this cookbook delivers with Carmel Apple Cupcakes and New Year’s Eve Strawberry Champagne Sparkler Cupcakes. Along with the memories and behind-the-scene stories, the authors share ‘sisters baking secrets,’ which are certain to help the novice home baker.
Handheld Pies by Sarah Billingsley & Rachel Wharton (Chronicle Books, $20)
At first glance, Handheld Pies appears to be a good read and resource for anyone in possession of a sweet tooth. However, once the page turning begins, it soon becomes clear that this collection of imaginative ‘handheld’ recipes focuses on both the sweet and the savory. Chapters are divided according to Free-Form Pies, Structured Pies, Jar Pies, and Nuts and Bolts. Beginning with the sweet, highlights include the Vanilla Malt Pie and Buttermilk- Whiskey Pie. Regarding the savory, don’t miss the Farmer Cheese Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Chicken Chile Relleno Pie from Oh my! Pocket Pies in Houston.