Some of the Best 2008 New Titles
The best cookbooks do a single, simple thing: they make us cook.
They may give us new recipes, tips to improve our skills, menu ideas, a culinary or ingredient point-of-view, a little celebrity glamour, and maybe some stories to help us appreciate what we're eating. But above all, they draw us into the kitchen. In this spring's crop of new cookbooks, the best of them do just that.
The Sweet Melissa Baking Book: Recipes from the Beloved Bakery for Everyone's Favorite Treats
By Melissa Murphy
Viking Studio, $27.00, hardcover, color photographs
- Sweet Melissa is a popular Brooklyn bakery founded by Melissa Murphy that is known for its homey desserts, gorgeous wedding cakes, and for being a part of the neighborhoods she serves: Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. She describes her baking as "French influenced and American styled." The recipes are fun, accessible and include many of the items available in her Brooklyn bakeries. The book is engaging, and written with both an authentic voice and an appreciation of what it means to bake at home. Let's cheer on a home town girl.
Jewish Home Cooking, Yiddish Recipes Revisited
By Arthur Schwartz
Ten Speed Press, $35.00, hardcover, 100+ full-color photos
- "Food is more delicious when you know something about it." So writes Arthur Schwartz in his splendid Jewish Home Cooking, Yiddish Recipes Revisited. If you are Jewish, or have an appetite and fondness for the foods of Eastern Europe, or collect New York ethnic recipes, or just love knowing the stories of what and why we eat, you will be so glad to add this book to your collection. Arthur's candid, witty and exacting voice is on every page. His recipe for Cabbage and Noodles got me to spend a Saturday afternoon remembering and recreating childhood hours spent in a Ukrainian aunt's kitchen making pierogies.
The Art of Mexican Cooking
By Diana Kennedy
Clarkson Potter, $30.00, hardcover, black and white photographs and line drawings throughout
Revised 2nd Edition (original published in 1989)
- I've always been a bit intimidated by the foods of Latin America, Central America and the southwest. That's because I have an inexperienced palate when it comes to these cuisines and I have a fear of heat. But I've learned to put myself in Diana Kennedy's hands. She has the rigor, refinement and passion of Julia Child or Marcella Hazan and a lifelong experience with Mexican cuisine.
You can trust her blindly and when I have, I've found my way to explore these ingredients, flavors and methods which have led me to a whole new world of cooking. Diana Kennedy is one of the greats and this, the 2nd edition of a long-loved volume that includes many traditional and regional Mexican favorites, is continued proof of that. The publisher calls it "the ultimate guide to creating authentic Mexican food in your own kitchen." With Ms. Kennedy's 50 years of living and cooking in Mexico, there's every reason to believe this claim as true.
Martha Stewart's Cookies, The Ultimate Guide to Homebaked Treats
By the Editors of Martha Stewart Living
Clarkson Potter, $24.95 paperback, 200 full-color photographs
- It had been a while since I had baked a cookie but after opening the new Martha Stewart's Cookies, I have been quickly using up 5-pound bags of Hecker's All-Purpose Flour and pounds of unsalted butter. This book is flawless. The photographs don't just inspire, but also give us a template of what the final cookie is supposed to look like -- and there's a photo of every single cookie recipe in the book. The instructions are meticulous and in a case of "why didn't someone think of this sooner?" the book is organized into types of cookies: light and delicate, soft and chewy, crumbly and sandy, chunky and nutty, cakey and tender, crisp and crunchy, rich and dense. (Okay. Admit it. Right now you're craving a glass of ice cold milk.)
Besides its 175 recipes, the book includes a section on equipment and pantry items, handily demonstrated instructions on decorating, and since cookies are often given as a gift, a final chapter on presentation. I hate to sound obsequious, but the fact is that you could take every other cookie cookbook off your shelf and you won't miss them if you replace all of them with this one volume. Even your Grandmother's secret recipe is probably in it.
Other Promising New Spring Cookbooks
The River Cottage Cookbook
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Ten Speed Press, $35.00, hardcover, 95 recipes and 160+ full color photos
- The publisher describes it as "a groundbreaking book on eliminating the 'rubbish' from your diet and maximizing the pleasures of the table…." First published in the U.K. in 2001, this book is by the same author who brought us "The River Cottage Meat Book" which has just been nominated for a 2008 James Beard Award. Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall runs a farm in Devon and is often described as a "campaigner for real food" offering recipes and techniques, all done with wit and authentic information. Due in bookstores in early May.
Fish Without a Doubt
By Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore
Houghton Mifflin, $35.00, hardcover, 250 recipes, 40 full-color and 90 black and white photographs
- This volume's recipes use only seafood that is not overfished and include both classics (Trout Almondine, Linguine with Clams, Crab Cakes), modern recipes (Steamed Black Bass with Sizzling Ginger, Tuna Burgers with Cucumber Relish); quick weekday recipes, and fancy "concoctions" for "occasions." If you cook fish often and are looking for both new ideas and also a way to keep a sustainability standard in your seafood buying, this is a volume to consider. Due in bookstores in mid-May.
Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone
By François Payard with Anne E. McBride
Clarkson Potter, $35.00, hardcover, 70 full-color photographs, 100 recipes
- Cooking with all types of chocolate, from white to bittersweet, with such recipes as Chocolate Sorbet, Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding, Milk Chocolate Truffles, Flourless Chocolate Cookies. Mr. Payard runs the popular and very sweet patisserie on Lexington Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Chef Payard's recipes are often not for the beginning baker but if you've got some skill and love to bake with chocolate, this is a volume that may be a good choice. Due in bookstores in late April.
Serendipity Parties: Pleasantly Unexpected Ideas for Entertaining
By Stephen Bruce with Sarah Key, photos by Liz Steger, illustrations by Seymour Chwast
Universe, a Division of Rizzoli International, $19.95, 100 color photographs
- From Manhattan's popular Serendipity 3 restaurant, this book is about party planning, decorating and serving thematic celebrations such as "Academy Award Glamour at Home," "Down the Rabbit Hole for Sunday Tea," "Breezy Summer Soirees," and ideas for nearly every major holiday throughout the calendar. Due in bookstores in June.
Looking ahead to the fall, one of our favorite cookbook authors has a new title coming in October -- Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: How to Get Great Flavor from Simple Ingredients.
Until then, enjoy exploring the new spring cookbooks. One of them is bound to get you into the kitchen.