Staff book picks for 2012

At the close of each year, we gather up a list of our favorite books for cooks to post on the site. That list serves as a great gift guide, but it also represents what we each consider to be among our favorite cookbooks of the year, and it tends to say a lot about our personal tastes.

 

Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Host
 

The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz
For pure fascination and dynamite DIY projects, this is the prime reference book of the year.

The Extraordinary Cookbook, by Stefan Gates
For all who take their food and cooking far too seriously. This is a sleeper! Stefan is the British cook cum mad scientist and giver of wild and wonderful theme parties. His glow in the dark jello is prime.

Salumi, by Bruce Palcyn and Michael Ruhlman
For Italophiles who love a challenge, learn to make Italian cured meats like the pros.

The Hungry Ear, by Kevin Young
For the love of a good read, this poet's anthology.

Gran Cocina Latina, by Maricel Presilla
My top pick for the cookbook of the year. It's an epic adventure with recipes. We've never seen such a firsthand account of so much of what food in Latin America is about. And her recipes shine.

 

Sally Swift, Managing Producer
 

Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, by Alice Medrich
I'm not kidding: EVERYTHING works in this book and is utterly delicious. Don't miss her perfect Almond Cake recipe. It's worth the price of the book.

Charred and Scruffed, by Adam Perry Lang
Who knew there were new ways of grilling?

 

Jenny Luebke, Technical Director
 

True Food, by Andrew Weil
I have always been interested in food, diet and nutrition, and admittedly, I have also been on a near life-long search for the optimal weight-reducing diet. Lately, however, I've grown tired of the search, tired of the fads, tired of the struggle. Time for me to make an attempt to return to True Food. Who better to lead me than a man I've long admired, health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, author and the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine? Dr. Weil co-founded the True Food Kitchen restaurants with restaurateur Sam Fox, with a shared goal to provide delicious -- and healthy -- food. True Food provides just the inspiration I'm after: health-promoting food that doesn't seem like "diet" food. There are recipes and ingredients in the book to inspire adventurous cooks, but there are also many recipes that are fairly straight-forward -- and fairly tempting. A few in my queue to try? Quinoa Johnnycakes, Sweet Potato Gratin and Chocolate Icebox Tart. Oh, and the Pomegranate Martini ... yeah, I think I can do this.

The Homemade Pantry, by Alana Chernila
My life is so busy, between family stuff and working full-time, that most of the time I am simply too fried to cook. Kind of a surprise coming from someone who works on a public radio food show, huh? Well, I admit, the first time I saw Alana Chernila's book about making homemade versions of staples you usually buy fully prepared and packaged, I thought, Yeah, right! Who would do this? After looking more closely, however, I thought, Hey, I might do this. From fresh mozzarella to condiments, and crackers to pop tarts (yes, homemade pop tarts), Chernila has laid out the practical path to ditching store-bought staples and making your own. It even seems fun. Heck, I might even be able to get my kids to help.

 

Jen Russell, Producer
 

Canal House Cooks Every Day, by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton
This is a stunning book by the creators of Canal House. The book is arranged by season, and then broken into months -- which definitely reflects the way a lot of us cook these days. There are about 250 well-written and well-tested recipes, and the book is peppered with stunning photographs throughout. Melissa and Christopher are real home cooks, and I adore their approach to food. This is one of those cookbooks I take to bed with me, and it's definitely on my list of gifts for cooks this year.

Roots, by Diane Morgan
I'm not a big meat-eater, and I'm a huge fan of the root vegetable. They're healthy, hearty, versatile, sustainable and budget-friendly –- so what's not to like? This is a beautiful book with about 225 recipes utilizing root veggies that run the gamut from the familiar (potatoes, carrots, beets) to the obscure (cassava, galangal and crosnes). There is fascinating history and lore accompany each, as well as tips for buying, storing, using and cooking. So it's both a reference book, and a cookbook.

Fifty Shades of Chicken, by FL Fowler
A spoof on Fifty Shades of Gray, which, I must confess, I just couldn't get into. This one made my list simply because it made me laugh. It might be the perfect gift for your foodie friend with an irreverent sense of humor, and I hear some of the chicken recipes aren't bad.

 

Jennifer Larson, Associate Producer
 

Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
I have been waiting for the Bouchon Bakery's cookbook since it was only a mere mention in the vast sea of the interwebs. Now that it's out, I can confidently say it was well worth the wait. It's filled with recipes to satisfy novices and professionals, featuring the favorites found in the Bouchon Bakeries throughout the country. Thomas Keller's skill and precision can be intimidating to many a home baker, but both Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Bouchon's executive pastry chef) help guide one through their sugary endeavors with helpful tips and techniques. This book would be a beautiful edition to any baker's library.

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, by Tom Douglas
James Beard Award winner Chef Tom Douglas' new book would not only be a great gift for bakers but for anyone who enjoys their time in the kitchen. His recipes are approachable and delicious. I know that many of the dishes are already staples in my home. In addition to the recipes, Douglas includes helpful lessons such as "How to chop chocolate," "How to fold with a wisk," and "How to whip egg whites." However, my favorite part is that he not only looks at the sweet side of baking but focuses on the savory side as well, providing excellent recipes for both dinner and dessert.

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