It's time for everybody's favorite game: Make Cheryl Rich ! To play, all you have to do is buy a $475 cookbook, sit back, and watch gold tumble from my eyeballs. Good times for you, good times for me.
(Confused? Read my updated disclosure policy for enlightenment.)
Below is my gift to you, Holiday Shoppers. It's a list of some of the cookbooks that have made my acquaintance in the past year. Unfortunately, my vaunted ideals have crashed to the earth in a glorious explosion of delinquency and ineptitude, so my original plan to post separate entries about each book has fallen by the wayside, at least for now. I instead offer this catchall list of the books that have caught my attention, that generally please me, and that I look forward to cooking from in the days and months to come.
Recipes Every Man Should Know by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen (Quirk Books, 2010)
This slim volume is about the size of my hand, when stretched out like I'm going to trace it to make a paper turkey. It's something that can fit almost anywhere, like in a Christmas stocking, Hanukkah kneesock, or President's Day leg warmer. The cover is slick, masculine, Armani-like, and virule. With 144 pages packed with manly food, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but also a very practical (and inexpensive) gift for women to give those men in their lives who claim they don't know how to cook.
Who for: College students, bachelors, teenage boys, non-cooking husbands.
Recipes I'm excited to try: Maple-Bacon Banana French Toast, Jambalaya, Beef and Beer Chili.
Recipes I'm not excited to try: Bacon-wrapped meatloaf (sorry, I'm too girly)
Price: $9.95 retail and online (paperback)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: Not very.
The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel (Da Capo Press, 2010)
I met Kim earlier this year (or was it last year?), and all of a sudden we started showing up at many of the same events. This was excellent news for me, because she's a highly accomplished writer, so I figured if we were hanging out at the same conferences, I must be doing something right. Kim's book is a no frills, recipe-filled, menu-driven guide to incorporating more meatless meals into your weekly dinner-rotation. It goes beyond the obvious (pastas, tofu) and empowers cooks to expand their definition of what dinner is, and what it could be.
Who for: Anyone who wants to eat less meat but doesn't know where to start; vegetarians; people who should be vegetarians; those concerned about their own health; those concerned about the health of loved ones
Recipes I'm excited to try: Jig-Inducing Falafel Burgers, Red Lentil Dal with Cumin-Fried Onions
Recipes I am not excited to try: Tempeh-Hoagie Letta
Photos: Very few, in the center of the book.
Price: $18.95 retail / $12.85 currently online (paperback)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: Not as rich as I would like.
Soups + Sides by Catherine Walthers (Lake Isle Press, 2010).
This 200+ page paperback pairs comforting soups with classic sides, just as the title suggests. I think of it as a nice weekend lunch book. Like if your friend Jen is coming over for Saturday lunch and you don't want to give her the dregs of last night's lasagna, you can instead make her a pot of kale and vegetable soup with farro and pair it with some fresh mozzarella and roasted red pepper sandwiches. Would you actually do this? I have no idea, but if she's a good friend, you probably should.
Who for: People who like soups, but aren't clever enough to know what else to serve
Recipes I'm excited to try: Chicken tortilla soup, Thai carrot soup, Crostini with goat cheese & roasted pears
Recipes I am not excited to try: Watercress soup
Photos: Quite a few color photos
Price: $19.95 retail, $13.37 online (paperback)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: Only slightly richer than if you buy Kim's book
Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010)
I'm already on my way to being rich because I know deep in my heart that as soon as she sees this book, my friend Heather is going to order it, thus depositing about $.37 in my linty pocket. (Thanks, Heather, in advance!) Seriously, people, this book is the follow-up to the terrific Baked, one of the books on my shelf I swear I would bake from every weekend if I had no children, no job, no budgetary restrictions, and no pants to fit into. I like this new one just as much, even though, like Recipes Every Man Should Know (above), the styling evokes a masculine aesthetic that kind of cracks me up.
Who for: Duh, people who love to bake.
Recipes I'm excited to try: Sweet and Salty Brownie, Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Apple Frosting, Almond Joy Tart, New York-Style Crumb Cake
Recipes I am not excited to try: Tomato Soup Cupcakes
Recipes I have already tried: Classic shortbread with fleur de sel (two thumbs up)
Photos: Many, many photos that you will want to eat
Price: $29.95 retail, $16.47 online (hardcover)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: Sigh, I'd be richer if they didn't discount the book so much. Maybe you should buy both Baked & Baked Explorations. Yes, yes, I think you should.
Heart of the Artichoke and other kitchen journeys by David Tanis (Artisan, 2010)
So I was in my new favorite Vancouver-based bookshop and lo! This book grabbed me by the neck, ripped open my wallet, and $42 later I was its adopted mother. Seriously, that's essentially what happened. It is not like me to pay $42 for a book, especially in foreign currency, but this one is worth its steep cover price. It is a quiet, whisper of a book, with lots of clean white space, and I am reading it cover to cover as I tab it with a rainbow of sticky post-its. I will admit that I once picked up Tanis's other book, A Platter of Figs, and it didn't do much for me, but this one? If I weren't already married...
Who for: People who like to read, people who like to daydream, people who like to cook, people who have a bunker filled with sticky tabs
Recipes I'm excited to try: Fragrant lamb with prunes and almonds, Wild mushroom ragu with ziti
Recipes I'm not excited to try: Terrine of pork and duck liver; Hair of the Dog, Salty Dog, and other grapefruit drinks
Recipes I have already tried: Flat-roasted chicken with rosemary (two thumbs up)
Photos: Many, many lovely, serene, evocative photos
Price: $42 in Canada, $35 retail in U.S., $23.10 online (hardcover)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: I may be able to buy a small tub of yogurt
Farmers' Market Desserts by Jennie Schacht (Chronicle, 2010)
I've been meaning to bake from this book ever since it landed on my doorstep this past summer. It's a lovely, sweet, colorful book, and very practical for farmers' market devotees like myself. It's the kind of book that strikes me as both accessible and inspirational, with recipes that don't intimidate.
Who for: Those who like to shop at farmers' markets, CSA subscribers, farmer wannabes, people who like fruit, people who like to bake, people who like to bake with fruit
Recipes I'm excited to try: Fresh fig bars; baked apple dumplings with cinnamon caramel; dates & figs with fromage blanc and toasted nuts
Recipes I am not excited to try: Avocado Velvet
Photos: plenty of lovely food and farm photos, plus a stunning spread of two men who appear to be in a cranberry bog
Price: $24.95 retail, $16.47 online (paperback)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: Rich, but only if you buy it for everyone whose name begins with S
Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010)
I've already written about this book so many times it's getting kind of ridiculous, so I'm not going to wax poetic for fear of repeating myself repeating myself repeating myself. Do I love this book? I do. Is my freezer jam-packed full of weird grains? It is. Do I sometimes wish I could just find the ice cream? Yes.
Who for: Adventurous bakers tired of using white flour & interested in experimenting with different textures & flavors
Recipes I've already tried: Flatbread, chocolate chip cookies, honey amaranth waffles, buttermilk pancakes, steel cut oatmeal, banana cereal muffins, grahams
Recipes I'm not excited to try: blue cheese and onion scones; quinoa and beet pancakes
Photos: dark, sophisticated, elegant photography, plenty of pictures
Price: $29.95 retail, $19.97 online (hardcover)
How rich I will be if you buy this book: Unbelievably rich, because if you're smart, you'll buy several copies
And don't forget these books from my archives, all of which were also published in 2010: Southern Pies, The Perfect Finish, The Earthbound Cook, The Kosher Baker, and Will Write for Food (revised edition). I've also been meaning to check out 100 Perfect Pairings by my friend Jill Silverman Hough, even though I don't write about wine.