Gift Guide for Foodies: A Food Writer's Top Cookbooks of 2015

Dec 14, 2015

Cookbooks are a wonderful gift for the aspiring foodies in your life. But how do you choose one you'll actually use from the paleo, gluten-free, Mediterranean-rich, tea-infused, grind-your-own pasta flour variety that were published by thousands in 2015?

Associated Press Food Editor and bestselling cookbook author J.M. Hirsch sifted through the pile for the most useful, interesting and inspiring food books of the year - he joined us to share his top picks.

Kitchen Hacks: How Clever Cooks Get Things Done

By America's Test Kitchen

Credit Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen / http://bit.ly/1RNoLei

    

J.M. recommends this book as a stocking stuffer for your preferred cook. His favorite tip? How to turn cheap bourbon into more-expensive-tasting bourbon.  

From America's Test Kitchen:

"Get 1,000+ ingenious kitchen hacks from 20+ years of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. These quick tips for food prep, cleaning, organizing, entertaining, transporting food, and last-minute substitutions will help you do it all with what you already have on hand. Hand-drawn illustrations accompany the hacks show you exactly how to succeed. Kitchen Hacks also includes 22 of our favorite weird and wonderful test kitchen recipe discoveries. These “recipe hacks” include the easiest (and best) method for cooking bacon, how-to make the perfect steak straight from the freezer, and a seriously magical way to whip up amazing vanilla ice cream without an ice cream machine."

The Broad Fork

By Hugh Acheson  

Credit Photo courtesy Penguin Random House / http://bit.ly/1SX7i1p

The perfect guide for anyone who has an aversion to veggies. According to J.M., Acheson "...has a powerful way with flavor. And what’s nice is that even though it’s a vegetable cookbook, it’s not a vegetarian cookbook.”

From Penguin Random House:

"From James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson comes a seasonal cookbook of 200 recipes designed to make the most of your farmers’ market bounty, your CSA box, or your grocery produce aisle. 

In The Broad Fork, Hugh narrates the four seasons of produce, inspired by the most-asked question at the market: “What the hell do I do with kohlrabi?” And so here are 50 ingredients–from kohlrabi to carrots, beets to Brussels sprouts–demystified or reintroduced to us through 200 recipes: three quick hits to get us excited and one more elaborate dish. For apples in the fall there’s apple butter; snapper ceviche with apple and lime; and pork tenderloin and roasted apple. In the summer, Hugh explores uses for berries, offering recipes for blackberry vinegar, pickled blueberries, and raspberry cobbler with drop biscuits. Beautifully written, this book brings fresh produce to the center of your plate. It’s what both your doctor and your grocery bill have been telling you to do, and Hugh gives us the knowledge and the inspiration to wrap ourselves around and produce in new ways." 

Spuntino: Comfort Food (New York Style)
Credit Photo courtesy Bloomsbury / http://bit.ly/1FY3dUZ

    

By Russell Norman   

J.M. describes the food in this book as "Brit gastro pub grub, but...tinged with a New York flavor." Ideal for anyone who looks at both sides of the pond for food inspiration. 

From Bloomsbury

"Hidden behind rust-coloured frontage in the bustling heart of London's Soho, Spuntino is the epitome of New York's vibrant restaurant scene. After bringing the bàcari of Venice to the backstreets of the British capital at his critically acclaimed restaurant POLPO, Russell Norman scoured the scruffiest and quirkiest boroughs of the Big Apple to find authentic inspiration for an urban, machine-age diner. Since its smash-hit opening in 2011, the restaurant has delivered big bold flavours with a dose of swagger to the crowds who flock to its pewter-topped bar. 

Spuntino will take you on culinary adventure from London to New York and back, bringing the best of American cuisine to your kitchen. The 120 recipes include zingy salads, juicy sliders, oozing pizzette, boozy desserts and prohibition-era cocktails. You'll get a glimpse of New York foodie heaven as Russell maps out his walks through the city's cultural hubs and quirky neighbourhoods such as East Village and Williamsburg, discovering family-run delis, brasseries, street traders, sweet shops and liquor bars. 

With radiant photography by Jenny Zarins capturing New York's visceral grittiness, Spuntino pays homage to the energy, dynamism and extraordinary cuisine that the world's greatest melting pot has inspired." 

A Visual Guide to Drink

Credit Photo courtesy Penguin Random House / http://bit.ly/1NsFwpR

  

By Ben Gibson, Patrick Mulligan, & Pop Chart Lab  

If you've got a infographic-loving imbiber in your life, this is a great gift option. Its centerfold includes a Venn diagram showing how all beers are related - just a taste of the eye-catching charts that break booze down in this coffee table book. 

From Penguin Random House

"From the meticulous minds at Pop Chart Lab comes an imbiber’s delight: a comprehensive infographic investigation into the world of beer, wine, and spirits.

Containing everything from the many varieties of beer and the vessels from which to drink them, to cocktails of choice in film and literature, A Visual Guide to Drink maps, graphs, and charts the history, geography, and culture of the world’s very favorite pastime. The domestic beer-drinking novice and whisk(e)y aficionado alike will relish this perfectly practical primer awash in essentials like charted cocktail recipes, a breakdown of brewing processes, and extensive maps of the world’s wine region in Pop Chart Lab’s trademark clean and elegant design.

The definitive guide to informative imbibing, A Visual Guide to Drink is a fun, functional, and beautiful concoction of data and design that is sure to inspire delight in readers (and drinkers) everywhere." 

What Katie Ate on the Weekend
Credit Photo courtesy Penguin / http://bit.ly/1I4fb4P

  By Katie Quinn Davies  

Part of the genre of cookbooks seemingly designed to make your life feel under-lit and bland compared to those of the authors', this was a book J.M. was prepared to hate. Nonetheless, he says that he was drawn in and found himself actually wanting to try the recipes - an important qualification that can get lost between glossy pages of stylized food pictures. 

From Penguin:   

"Every month, Katie Quinn Davies’s award-winning blog, What Katie Ate, receives hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe, and her world-class photographs are adored by many of the most prominent names in food.

Davies’s acclaimed debut cookbook, What Katie Ate, won the 2013 James Beard Award for photography. In this superb follow-up, What Katie Ate on the Weekend, Davies focuses on her favorite simple dishes for weekend entertaining. More than a hundred delicious new recipes for flavor-packed pizzas and pastas, tapas, cocktails, and decadent desserts are included here, along with stories from Davies’s own dinner parties and Sunday brunches. Readers will learn how to minimize their time spent in the kitchen and maximize the enjoyment of delicious meals shared with friends and family.

Beautifully photographed in Davies’s signature rustic style—and peppered with anecdotes and images from her travels in far-flung locales such as Italy and Ireland—What Katie Ate on the Weekend will bewitch food lovers and armchair travelers alike."

Milk Bar Life
Credit Photo courtesy Penguin Random House / http://bit.ly/1NZV0km

    

By Christina Tosi

This is the book for a home cook with a sense of humor and taste for nostalgia. As J.M. says, "Christina Tosi's book is dedicated to embracing your grubby inner child." 

From Penguin Random House

"Go off the clock with Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar as she bakes one-bowl treats, grills with skills, and embraces simple, nostalgic—and often savory—recipes made from supermarket ingredients.

For anyone addicted to crack pie®, compost cookies®, and cake truffles, here are their savory counterparts—such as Kimcheezits with Blue Cheese Dip, Burnt Honey–Butter Kale with Sesame Seeds, and Choose Your Own Adventure Chorizo Burgers—along with enough make-at-home sweets to satisfy a cookie-a-day habit. Join Christina and friends as they cook their way through “weaknights,” sleepovers, and late-night snack attacks to make mind-blowingly delicious meals with whatever is in the pantry." 

Olympia Provisions
Credit Photo courtesy IndieBound / http://bit.ly/1YfdBi9

By Elias Cairo  

Even though J.M. says it's a "little intense for the average home cook," the book is well worth checking out for inspiration. And who knows! Maybe you'll end up with some home-cured prosciutto as a 'thank you.'

From IndieBound

"A rigorous exploration of what American charcuterie is today from Portland's top-notch meat company, featuring in-depth techniques for crafting cured meats, recipes from the company's two restaurants, and essays revealing the history and personalities behind the brand. 

Portland's Olympia Provisions began as Oregon's first USDA-certified salumeria, but it has grown into a mini-empire, with two bustling restaurants and charcuterie shipping out daily to all fifty states. In his debut cookbook, salumist and co-owner Elias Cairo dives deep into his distinctly American charcuterie, offering step-by-step recipes for confits, pates, sausages, salami, and more. But that is only the beginning. Writer Meredith Erickson takes you beyond cured meat, exploring how Cairo's proud Greek-American upbringing, Swiss cooking adventures, and intense love affair with the outdoors have all contributed to Olympia Provisions singular and delicious point of view. With recipes from the restaurants, as well as extensive wine notes and nineteen frankfurter variations, Olympia Provisions redefines what American charcuterie can be."

The New Sugar & Spice
Credit Photo courtesy Penguin Random House / http://bit.ly/1NlhAqv

    

By Samantha Seneviratne

If you're exhausted by dessert cookbooks that list the same chocolate chip cookie recipe over and over, J.M. recommends this new book which infuses classic recipes with new flavors. It's organized by spice, a different take from the pie-cake-cookie regiment. 

From Penguin Random House

"Raise your desserts to a whole new level of flavor with The New Sugar & Spice, a collection of more than eighty unique, unexpected, and uniformly delicious recipes for spice-centric sweets. Veteran baker Samantha Seneviratne’s recipes will open your eyes to a world of baking possibilities: Her spicy, pepper-flecked Chile-Chocolate Truffles prove that heat and sweet really do go hand-in-hand, and a fresh batch of aromatic, cinnamon-laced Maple Sticky Buns will have the whole family racing into the kitchen.

Discover new recipes from around the globe, such as Sri Lankan Love Cake or Swedish-inspired Saffron Currant Braid. Or, give your classic standbys a bold upgrade, such as making Raspberry Shortcakes with zingy Double Ginger Biscuits. Filled with fascinating histories, origin stories, and innovative uses for the world’s most enticing spices—including vanilla, cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom —The New Sugar & Spice guarantees that dessert will be the most talked-about part of your meal." 

The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook

Credit Photo courtesy Harper Collins / http://bit.ly/1NsHyX6

  

By Danny Bowien and Chris Ying  

J.M. says, "It is as inauthentic as possible, but it is incredibly good. This is a guy that bashes you over the head with flavor." This is the cookbook for anyone who loves American-Chinese flavors and wants to replicate them at home. 

From Harper Collins

"From Danny Bowien, chef and co-founder of the tremendously popular Mission Chinese Food restaurants, comes an exuberant cookbook that tells the story of an unconventional idea born in San Francisco that spread cross-country, propelled by wildly inventive recipes that have changed what it meand to cook Chinese food in America...

The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook tracks the fascinating, meteoric rise of the restaurant and its chef. Each chapter in the story—from the restaurant’s early days, to an ill-fated trip to China, to the opening of the first Mission Chinese in New York—unfolds as a conversation between Danny and his collaborators, and is accompanied by detailed recipes for the addictive dishes that have earned the restaurant global praise. Mission Chinese’s legions of fans as well as home cooks of all levels will rethink what it means to cook Chinese food, while getting a look into the background and insights of one of the most creative young chefs today."