Cookbook Giftbooks By Mary Ann Smyth, December 2004
'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents.' (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women)
Christmas is upon us once again. No matter how we growl and cry Humbug, the big day will arrive and we'll enjoy it with family and friends. The stumbling block to achieving a perfect day, though, is the gift list. Well, I'm here to help you (you knew I had a motive, didn't you?) I've discovered some wonderfully wonderful cookbooks to present to the cooks on your list – cookbooks that will be in constant use, and will keep your name near and dear to their hearts all through the year.
Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrick The perfect choice for the chocoholic in your life from the woman whose name is synonymous with chocolate – Alice Medrich. She has other cookbooks in print that are all wrapped around that wonderful foodstuff that's irresistible to so many of us. With this latest in her repertoire, Medrich presents such glorious confections as White Chocolate Ice Cream, Chocolate Meringue, Light Chocolate Pound Cake and Alice's Chocolate Sauce. She also offers tips that make a difference when working with chocolate. Seems to me Bitter Sweet should be on everyone's cookbook shelf.
The Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook by Mary Corpening Barber & Sarah Corpening Whiteford The perfect cookbook for newlyweds. Knowing the hectic lifestyle of today's young married couples, this book emphasizes a do-ahead philosophy wherever possible. Great tasting food that's ready fast so you'll have more time with your mate - from modern twists on the classics and comfort foods that feed your soul to quick pantry-inspired meals. Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa and Blackberry Syrup sounds really good and easy. Maybe accompany that with Orzo Salad with Lemon, Feta and Pine Nuts. Finish up with Triple Decker Pound Cake with Raspberries and Lemon.
Feast by Nigella Lawson Nigella Lawson's fourth cookbook is chock full of Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. It's a trifle late for this year's Thanksgiving, but there is always next year – and the year after that. Lawson doesn't worry about using ingredients that clog an artery or two. But, come on – anything in moderation. What I really like about her is that she's not afraid to improvise nor to admit that she does it. She encourages her followers to do the same. Feast contains recipes written for between eight to twelve people, with everything from Goose Stuffed with Mashed Potatoes to Georgian Stuffed Chicken, Yorkshire Pudding and loads of luscious desserts. Not sure how to put a meal together? There are full menus with accompanying recipes. Great for the person who loves to give dinner parties.
Gourmet Meals in Minutes by Culinary Institute of America The perfect choice for someone who loves to cook but hasn't enough time for involved recipes. Try Veal Scallopine with Lemon and Capers, Grilled Steak Salad with Horseradish Dressing, Cappellini with Grilled Veggies, the most marvelous sauces. If all these don't tempt, I'm sure Fresh Fruit Gallette would. The recipes come with step-by-step directions. My daughter graduated from the Culinary (I won't say how many years ago) and she declares this cookbook to be top drawer. P.S. A little bragging here. She's a top-drawer cook too.
Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver Chef Oliver's cookbooks are always up-beat – full of the love of life and the love of good food. The names of some of his dishes reflect his perspective on his profession - serious while, at the same time, fun. Cheat Dessert, for instance. Or Italian-Style Upside–Down Fish Pie. Doesn't Andy the Gasman's Stew capture the imagination? Oliver likes to use the best and the freshest ingredients, as unadorned as possible – which earned him the nickname of 'The Naked Chef.' This is his fifth cookbook. Any one of them would make a super choice for the young-in-spirit cook on your list.
Marcella Says by Marcella Hazen The cover reads, 'Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher's Master Classes.' What better recommendation! Marcella Hazen has taught cooking, and the reverence she holds for good cooking, for years. Here she combines 120 of her new recipes with the expertise needed to achieve the finished product. Foods include Asparagus and Shrimp Risotto, Fennel and Goat Cheese Salad, Baked Lobster with Mustard and Oregano. One wonderfully appetizing dish trips on the heels of another. It's a truly thoughtful book for the beginning chef with tantalizing lessons from a talented teacher ... and you get to eat your final exam.
Neiman Marcus Cookbook by John Garvin with John Harrison If you should need a present for that someone on your list who has everything, you can take a chance they don't own this cookbook. If they did, they would have bragged about it. For understated elegance, open the pages to signature foods served in Neiman Marcus restaurants – chicken broth that precedes every meal, and popovers that accompany them, Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies that are divine. From soups to salads to entrées and on to desserts, this is an excellent gift. I've just sent one to friends of mine who are great cooks. But they will be even greater.
The Pat Conroy Cookbook by Pat Conroy & Suzanne Williamson Pollak You might well ask why Pat Conroy's name is in a list of cookbooks authors? My answer? 'This splendid author has compiled a compendium of his favorite foods and better yet has interspersed the recipes with memories of his own of the dishes he enjoys'. This cookbook is a must for anyone who loves exquisite writing. The bonus is that Conroy not only writes about his beloved recipes but also conveys his zest for cooking, and delight in eating and sharing good food. It's a thoughtful gift for almost anyone on your list.
Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell & Tim Turner Patrick O'Connell, owner and chef at The Inn at Little Washington, has been often called 'the Pope of American Cuisine'. The Inn has been selected as one of the top ten restaurants in the world! And I hold in my hot little hands O'Connell's groundbreaking, elegantly beautiful cookbook. His version of refined American cuisine is highly doable. There's Macaroni and Cheese with Virginia Ham, Crab Cake Sandwich with Fried Green Tomatoes, Pan-Roasted Maine Lobster with Rosemary Cream - a myriad of recipes to tempt the most discerning of eaters. What a presentation this book makes for the cook hooked on American food.
The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells No self-respecting list of cookbooks would omit one dedicated to French cooking. This is my choice for that coveted position. Patricia Wells has an awesome background in food preparation. In her latest cookbook, she not only shares her magnificent yet simple recipes, but also suggests vendors for ordering ingredients. Possibly you know someone who spends time in Provence. This book would be perfect for them. But if not, it's not a shabby gift for anyone at all who loves to cook.
Stonewall Kitchen Harvest by Jim Stott, Jonathon King & Kathy Gunst This one contains mostly simple recipes, 'paying respect to the seasons and the purity of taste found in freshly harvested food.' There's Swiss Chard Quiche with a Potato Crust, Grilled Swordfish Provencal Style, Roasted Tomato Sauce. (Be still my heart – if you've read my cookbook columns, you know I'm addicted to good tomato sauce.) And how about Cranberry-Lemon Bars? This cookbook makes the perfect gift for the home gardener.
Whatever your choice – one of mine or a find of your own – cookbooks always make a welcome gift. And if the recipients take their contents seriously, you may be in for some fine eating in return.
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