So many cookbooks, so little time…That pretty much says it all about this rarefied category of books. If you love to cook, or just plain love to eat, chances are you also enjoy looking at cookbooks. They fascinate with their commentary, recipes, anecdotes and pictures, all of them inspiring us to reach new culinary heights (or at least dream about doing it). Below are some standouts from the year.
Mom’s Big Book of Baking ($17) by Lauren Chattman
The seasoned pastry chef and author shares recipes “that produce the highest quality baked goods with the least amount of fuss.” Chattman focuses on simplicity from the perspective of a busy mom who still wants to offer delicious, home-baked goodies that appeal to kids as well as adults. An especially nice touch is a handful of recipes adapted to be ‘low-fat,’ always a welcome option.
The Splendid Table ($35) by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
In addition to such interesting recipes as ‘Coriander-Orange-Scented Red Lentil Soup,’ the beloved NPR food personality peppers her pages with bons mots from the likes of Baudelaire and Twain and provides running commentary on everything from pasta shapes and politically correct fish to brining and ‘meat scientists.’ A very entertaining book.
Eating St. Louis, the Gateway City’s Unique Food Culture ($18) by Patricia Corrigan
From Fitz’s in the Loop to Companion Baking in Clayton, former Post-Dispatch restaurant critic Patricia Corrigan has researched the city’s food culture and presents it in this anecdotal little book. It’s filled with fascinating old photos from St. Louis landmarks like Kemoll’s and The Parkmoor, and provides a very interesting look at the history of food in our town.
660 Curries ($23) by Raghavan Iyer
The first section is devoted to curry blends, and after you master these, the sky’s the limit. You can use them on fish, eggs, veggies and meats and your palate will never be bored. Add a little coconut milk and some cashews, and you’ll have a restaurant-quality feast. This book gives you plenty of ways to spice up your dinner menus.
Around the Table ($28) by Ellen Wright
Entertainment pro Ellen Wright has divided her book into ‘Cold-Weather Menus’ and ‘Warm-Weather Menus,’ and each offers several multi-course dinners so you don’t have to wonder which appetizer or dessert to serve with that Cranberry Orange Roast Chicken you want to serve. She also encourages hostesses to prepare as much as possible in advance so they can enjoy the evening; cook what they like eating; allow friends to help with the serving and even to bring dishes; and to think of the guest list as a recipe, good ingredients make for a good evening.
New England Soup Factory ($25) by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein
I can’t think of a more appealing cookbook in the cold of winter. This little tome offers more than 100 soups, divided into categories like ‘Tomato Teasers,’ ‘Championship Chowders’ and ‘Spring in a Bowl.’ The authors talk about the basics of stock and a few key techniques and then dive into some very tantalizing recipes, all created by them.
The Cook’s Essential Companion: Fish Without a Doubt ($35) by Rick Moonen & Roy Finamore
In addition to 250 scrumptious, all-fish recipes, this book includes an educational section about the different kinds of fish, which ones are over-harvested, how to tell when seafood has been treated with preservatives and other interesting information for anyone who consumes large quantities of fish. There are grilling tips, cleaning and filleting tips, and poaching tips.
A. Lincoln Cookbook ($39.99) by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Foundation
Any history buff is bound to be fascinated by recipes recreated from the personal files of Mary Todd Lincoln (Mrs. Abraham) and her descendants, things like President Lincoln’s favorite white cake, sorghum gingerbread and buffalo meatloaf. The recipes have been adapted for modern kitchens (we no longer have to pound a block of sugar to achieve crystals, for example) and modern cake pans. Also of interest, no doubt, are the period artifacts pictured on divider pages that depict items ranging from the second inaugural ball dance program and menu (circa 1865) to the monogrammed tea napkins and Haviland custard cups used in the White House.
Great Food Great Beer-The Anheuser-Busch Cookbook ($25) by Sunset Books
With a foreward by August Busch IV, this attractive book describes the differences between various beers and how to properly taste and savor them. Each of the tempting recipes suggests a companion beer, and some are highlighted by art and artifacts about the history of beer in St. Louis. The recipes range from salmon with picholine olives (best with a light lager) to pear-cardamom upside-down cake (serve with a wheat beer).
Hello, Cupcake! ($16) by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson
You can now make bakery-grade cupcakes at home. This book illustrates the techniques for piping decorative leaves, swirls, petals and more for mini cakes that look as good as they taste. Besides offering a fun activity to share with the kids, these little works of art add an extra dollop of creativity to the mundane cupcake. Keep in mind: The book is only about decorating cupcakes, not baking them.
The Modern Baker ($35) by Nick Malgieri
This book spends as much time on breads and rolls as it does on sweets. Represented on its pages are classic favorites from around the world, chocolate babka loaf, Breton butter and sugar pastry, Palermo focaccia, as well as unusual baked goods: curried fish pie, orange-scented olive oil cake and mango and rice tart. The photos are enticing, and the directions easy to follow.
Eat, Feed Autumn Winter ($35) by Anne Bramley
If you like hearty meals, this cookbook offers a series of cold-weather menus already coordinated, with game dishes, root vegetables and thick soups all well represented. The recipes are not ‘simple,’ but neither are they too complex for the seasoned home chef. The dishes are interesting: lamb stew with figs and apricots, chocolate beef stew with butternut squash and amaranth, chicken breasts with pumpkin seed filling and butternut sauce, and beef rib-eyes with whiskey sauce. You won’t be bored!