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Nov 12, 2007 05:46 AM

Gift season approaches: What cookbooks are people looking at?

Went to B&N yesterday. I saw a couple of books that just came out:

1. Susan Spicer (New Orleans-style cooking). Looked good. Definitely not Wednesday night cooking, but looked like a great book for entertaining.

2. Cook by Jamie Oliver. as ever, really practical. Is it just me though, or are his recipes getting less and less simple? I have a couple of his older books that I reach for to use. I reach for his new stuff and just read.

3. Kitchens of Biro: Interesting, but no way in heck am i going to make any of it Too complicated. I have only had mixed results from his first cookbook.

4. Jean-gearge V has a new Asian cookbook. Very good. i suspect it is similar to his other books: Some very straightforward (and great) rcipes with a couple of all-day shopping and cooking ones thrown in.

What else is out there?


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  1. My newest purchases are Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food and Patricia Wells Vegetable Harvest. I love them both.

    1. I practically never buy dessert books, but I took one look at Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma and simply had to own it. Great on technique, a wonderful read, and wine pairings!!!!--unusual in a dessert book. It just arrived and I've barely flipped through it, but can't wait to spend time with it.

      9 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        I hope to give a couple of copies of Michael Ruhlman's new book, "The Elements of Cooking."

        1. re: rockandroller1

          those are the three on my list
          Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food
          Dolce Italiano
          and The Elements of Cooking (holding out for the Kahlman illustrated version, a la Elements of Style...)

          1. re: rockandroller1

            RockandRoller, I saw Michael Ruhlman pumping his book yesterday on the Cleveland noon news, and I might purchase this work.

            I was amazed when he stated that good cooking isn't about $50K magazine kitchens and boutique ingredients. Its about good ingredients, a few choice tools and the knowledge of basic techniques and the desire to experiment a little.

            I did not realize that he was from Cleveland until about 1 year ago, but he is obviously very knowledgeable, plus his friendship with the culinary maverick Tony Bourdain, is a definite plus.

            Surely he Mr Ruhlman have a few local book signing at indie bookstores, plus the usual Buns-and-Nibbles and Border chains.

          2. re: JoanN

            Ooh, Joan, I'm realllly jealous. I'm just too cheap to buy cookbooks anymore....especially since I've had to rent our local football stadium to store the ones I already have. I might just have to have this one, though.

            1. re: oakjoan

              I understand. I made the mistake of throwing away a whole bunch of cookbooks recently and those spaces on the shelves just kept beckoning to me. I nearly always buy cookbooks at when I'm buying something else anyway and want to get the total order up to $25 to get the free shipping. That way, I figure I'm not only getting the cookbook at a very good price (often about half retail), but I'm saving an additional $6.25 by not paying for shipping. Just amazing what I can rationalize when it comes to buying cookbooks!

              1. re: JoanN

                JoanN: I'm going to buy this book! I made 2 desserts from Dolce Italiano for Thanksgiving (I already posted in another thread about this but wanted to tout the Gina De Palma book cause it's so great. I made Cranberry pie and creamy pumpkin custard (or was it called "mousse"). The cranberry pie was just okay, mainly because I'd originally planned to make another tart with cranberries and blueberries. So I used that combo instead of all cranberries. I also didn't entirely make her crust which sounds wonderful. The pie was pretty good, but not great.

                On the other hand, the creamy pumpkin custard was outstanding. It's a rich baked custard of pumpkin, cream cheese (I used half mascarpone and half light cream cheese cause that's what I had), eggs, brown sugar, crystallized ginger, and pumpkin (I used butternut squash as I had no pumpkin).

                It's baked in ramekins and then served with a compote of golden raisins steeped in orange juice and rum. Again, I had no rum and used a combo of calvados and pear brandy - tasted great.

                The custards are supposed to be unmolded, but mine never got firm enough to come out of the I left them in, spooned the raisin compote over and topped with a dollop of mascarpone mixed with nonfat yogurt.

                The combo of the rich pumpkin/mascarpone custard and the tangy raisin compote is spectac. The whipped cream topping adds another layer of flavor. It's a great dessert!

                1. re: oakjoan

                  I'm so glad you made--and liked--that custard. I gave it serious thought for Thanksgiving, but ended up going traditional instead. I'll have to find an excuse to try it soon. Sounds heavenly.

            2. re: JoanN

              I was at B&N a few days ago and was looking at Dolce Italiano - good choice. It is going on my list to Santa. lovely.

              1. re: JoanN

                I just bought this yesterday morning at DiPalo's - she was doing a signing there. Didn't intend to buy it, so to speak, but well, as I saw my bill running up, I figured it wouldn't be terribly impacted by the addition of this book. It's beautiful and there are lots of things I want to try - especially since my Christmas meal is Italian, and I hadn't figured out what to do for dessert - yes, now I remember, that was the justification for buying it! Anyway - great photos, I like her voice, and the chocolate/tangerine semi freddo maybe for dessert. She's very sweet, by the way.

              2. Now that we can get really good Spanish ingredients like Pimenton Dulce and Picante and real Serrano ham here in the SF Bay Area, I've become very interested in Spanish cooking. Thus, I was really happy to see that Spain's most popular cookbook (for about 35 years) has just been translated into English. It's called __1080 Recipes__ and it is quite comprehensive (over 900 pages.)
                You can see more about it here:

                I'm always looking for new Jewish cookbooks, so I was thrilled to see 2 really nice (and really different from each other) ones, __Cooking Jewish__ and __Aromas of Aleppo__.

                __Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family__ is by Orange County (CA) Register food writer and columnist, Judy Bart Kancigor (who is a friend of mine -- no bias, though -- I really admire her work) and who originally collected the recipes and wrote this book as a gift to her family. It's full of wonderful stories and recipes that really work and is a book with which I can really identify. Judy first self-published this book and sold over 10,000 copies. An editor from Workman Publishing (the folks who publish the Silver Palate books) saw her at a conference and they decided to publish her book. It's been a long time coming, but it's really good and I highly recommend it. More info:

                The other (completely different) Jewish cookbook is __Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews__ by Poopa Dweck. This absolutely beautifully photographed book contains recipes that are completely new to me but that look really wonderful. More info:

                11 Replies
                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  I saw Aromas of Aleppo book. It looked very nice. More like a coffee table book than anything I would subject to splatter in my kitchen.

                  1. re: Westy

                    The recipes are really good, so just scan or enter the ones you're going to use into your computer and then print them out for shopping, cooking, etc. I do this all the time -- much neater and more convenient than using the book directly.

                    1. re: Nancy Berry

                      In my book, nothing will ever top Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food. It has recipes from all over the world, including places like India, China and the Middle East. It's a beautiful book - the recipes are great and so are the sepia photos (some from long ago).

                  2. re: Nancy Berry

                    There are just a few reviews of 1080 on Amazon. While they are good, I'm a little concerned about some negative reviews of the corresponding Italian book, Silver Spoon. I already have a few Spanish cookbooks, such as The New Spanish Table, that apparently give more background information than 1080.

                    One online review of 1080 (from a Boston paper) included a recipe for pasta with bell peppers and ham. That turned out pretty good, though it didn't seem to be particularly Spanish in character.

                    I found a copy of The Splendid Table in a used book store. It has a lot of information besides recipes. But it is very focused on one region of Italy, with page after page of ragu recipes. I expect to get ideas from it (such as long cooked double boiler polenta), but I doubt if I'll every follow a recipe exactly. Check the latest radio episode for a recipe from the book for pasta with orange juice and almonds.


                    1. re: paulj

                      Ah! That foolproof, no-stir, long-cooked, double-boiler polenta! Just brilliant. Lynne Rosetto Kasper got that recipe from Carlo Middione, author of The Food of Southern Italy, another overlooked gem. He has a recipe for "Eggplant Sandwiches," mortadella (or prosciutto) and Provolone sandwiched between two slices of eggplant, breaded, and baked until crisp. You cut them into wedges and serve them as cocktail finger food either hot or at room temp. Positively addictive.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        this reminded me of the "eggplant on waffle-maker thread a while back.... i'll bet your sandwich would be fantastic on the waffle-iron, JoanN!


                        1. re: alkapal

                          I'd missed that. Thanks for pointing it out. And you're right. I'm sure they'd be terrific on the waffle iron.

                        2. re: JoanN

                          Joan! Regarding the Carlo Middone recipe.....You should be arrested for telling me about this! Sounds too terrific.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            Joan -- I'm glancing at The Food of Southern Italy at amazon right now... the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Is this one that you cook from often? One critique mentioned that he requires hard-to-find culinary tools for many of the recipes. Do you agree with that? That comment was the only thing swaying me against the book.

                            What level cook would most enjoy this book, and succeed with it, do you think? I definitely want a good Italian cookbook for my mom, but I would also like a book that will be used often (weekly, say, or at least twice a month). I think my mom would go CRAZY over that eggplant "sandwich" you mention... mmm! :)

                            1. re: foxy fairy

                              I can't say that I do cook from it often, but that has more do with me than with the book. I've had the book since it was first published 20 years ago and as an avid (crazed?) cookbook collector I just automatically reach for my newest books. But I turn to Middione for certain specific recipes and for pasta and shellfish dishes--especially when I want something simple, flavorful, and uncomplicated. It's very definitely the kind of book you can cook from weekly. Many of the recipes are quite simple (no lengthy preps; no unusual ingredients) and each recipe has menu suggestions and wine pairings.

                              As far as hard-to-find tools is concerned, he has workarounds for all of them. He recommends a special kind of baking pan for breads, but it's not at all necessary. And most of the other tools he specifies are for particular pastas and pasta shapes such as one of those rolling pin thingies for making ravioli. I didn't come across any mentioned tools the lack of which would keep you from preparing the recipe, so don't worry on that account.

                              I don't think you'll go wrong in buying this. Especially now that I've checked the price on Amazon and seen what it's selling for. Very definitely worth it.

                          2. re: paulj

                            I looked through 1080 at B&N. I think I'll pass on it. A lot of recipes were simple, generic European ones, not that different from what one might find in Joy. The instructions for all recipes are simple, straight forward, with little discussion of the ingredients, regional origins. The New Spanish Table is more inspiring for a cook who wants to both get a flavor of Spain, and improvise.


                        3. Not new, but I definitely want a copy of Bouchon this year.

                          Ruhlman's new book - not really a cookbook though.

                          Bittman's veg book - my husband doesn't eat red meat so I am looking forward to it. I really like his other books, though I know he has his detractors on this board...

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: jnstarla

                            You may really enjoy Peter Berley's "The Flexitarian Table" - includes menus with veggie/non-veggie options and wonderful flavors. Search the boards for a discussion a couple months ago.

                            1. re: mimilulu

                              I like Flexitarian Table a lot, and second the recommendation.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Thanks guys! I am always on the lookout for good cookbooks that accommodate his weird no-red-meat thing.

                                1. re: jnstarla

                                  I eat almost no red meat, and no pork at all. I often just sort of slightly change recipes. Turkey cutlets for porkchops or putting dark meat chicken in place of beef or rabbit in stews, braises. Doesn't always work out, but a surprising number of times it does. And of course turkey bacon and ground turkey can be subbed for regular bacon and ground beef.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    We definitely do all of that - but it'll be nice to not have to think about subbing things out while reading recipes, you know?

                                    1. re: jnstarla

                                      Absolutely - and you'll like that you get a couple of different ways to do each dish. I think it helps you look at *all* recipes as more adjustable. I hope you like it.

                          2. I have looked at Lynn Rossetto Kasper's "The Splendid Table" and really can't figure out why it doesn't get more play on these boards. It has a lot of good stuff in it.

                            Also, at this link, there are several lists of good cookbooks.