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Sep 9, 2008 05:54 AM

October 2008 Cookbook of the Month: Your Suggestions Needed [Thread ends TODAY, 9/15!]

First - my apologies for not putting this up sooner. I want to make one observation, as posters think about their suggestions for October. It seems to me - and I've gone back and reviewed many of the COTM threads - that the most successful months have been those where we've ended up using books that some posters have used a lot and love, rather than those when we've tried a book that may sound interesting, but that posters who've made the initial recommendations for them haven't actually used (which I know I've done - no finger pointing here!). This isn't meant to impede posters from making recommendations, but just food for thought, so to speak.

PLEASE NOTE: In order to make it easier for participants to scan others’ suggestions and for me to tabulate the results, I’d appreciate it if you would make your recommendations in the following format:

TITLE (in all caps), Author: Description of the book or reason you are recommending it (optional)

If you want to second or third a title that someone else has already mentioned, please repeat the title, typing it in capital letters. Just saying “I agree with Stewpot” may well get lost and your choice might not get counted. And the more often a particular title is mentioned, the greater the chance it will be among the finalists.

I'll leave this thread up until September 15th, and plan to do what I did last time, which is not to have a run-off vote, unless two books are hopelessly tied. My thought is to keep the voting period itself limited, so that posters will have more time to get the books. I’m looking forward to seeing your suggestions. And, as always, thanks for participating.

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  1. CRADLE OF FLAVOR: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore by James Oseland

    I know, I know. I keep nominating this. As I said in previous nominations, this was published in 2006 and won the James Beard award that year in the Asian cookbook category. I took this out of the library when it was in the running in the past and was so enchanted with it I ended up buying it. I've only had a chance to try one recipe so far (excellent), but have scads of them bookmarked. Lots of info on ingredients and where to buy and how to store them. Well-written and interesting introductory text and what seems like a very thorough index.

    I know we've done quite a bit of Asian recently and some people may feel ready for a change. On the hand, what a wonderful way to compare the cuisines of various Asian countries while many of the recipes are still fresh in our minds.

    15 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      I second CRADLE OF FLAVOR, Oseland.

      And, if we're tired of Asian (never!) I humbly suggest:

      ART OF SIMPLE FOOD, Alice Waters (this book was from Oct 2007, which will make it a year old in Oct--is it too new?)

      ART OF SOUTH AMERICAN COOKING, Felipe Rojas-lombar

      Thank you MMRuth!


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        To clarify: I've not cooked from any of the three books that I've seconded or nominated. RE: Cradle of Flavor, I liked that it beat out Into the Vietnamese Kitchen (which is one of the current COTM of course) for the James Beard award they year they both came out, 2006.

        RE: Art of South American Cooking, it appeared on Mark Bittman's list of "50 cookbooks I would rather not live without". Of this book Bittman said, "Unfortunately, the only serious book on the subject to
        date. Fortunately, it's damned good." One caveat is that list of Bittman's is about 5 [EDIT: his list is 10 years old] years old and he's in the process of updating it. However, I checked the book out from the library and found so many of the recipes so intriguing that I ended up buying the book. My worry is that this book may be hard to get ahold of. I would be in favor of doing a South American combo (similar to the current Nguyen/Pham) if that is a worry for people.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Wow, TDQ, South American sounds really good. I'm going to check my local libraries.

        2. re: The Dairy Queen

          Hey there, this is probably a moot point since there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest, but I would like to un-nominate art of simple food. It's a great book, don't get me wrong, and I absolutely plan on cooking from it, but I'm realizing the strength of that book is in its basics and simplicity. While the might find some of the recipes delicious, I don't think many of the home cooking 'hounds would find the recipes very challenging.

          Sorry for any confusion.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I don't know -- the biscuit recipe in this books yields the best damn biscuit I've ever eaten.

            1. re: pikawicca

              This is the Art of Simple Cooking? I've got to check it out since I bought the book and have never used it. Can I use my White Lily flour?

              1. re: MMRuth

                Yes to the Art of Simple cooking, no to White Lily. These are not Southern-style fluffy biscuits. They're crisp and flaky.

              2. re: pikawicca

                Hmmm...maybe I'll have to try that biscuit ASAP--while I'm still on hiatus from my diet! Thanks for the tip.

                However, I think I can't ask MMRuth to indulge me yet again while I re-nominate a book I just tried to un-nominate. ;-) Thankfully, I don't think it will be up to me because this book doesn't seem to be the frontrunner the voting thread... :).


              3. re: The Dairy Queen

                I would be interested in The Art of Simple Food! Sure the recipes are "basic" but the pizza dough recipe is brilliant and now my go-to recipe! The candied pecans are pretty darn perfect as well. The Chez Panisse books are great, but I find the latest Waters book to be the most accessible and practical.

                I'm all for Mario Batali too, but I would like to delve into one of his older books, Simple Italian Food. I bought this book a while back and need to get into it more!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD by Alice Waters

                  SIMPLE ITALIAN FOOD by Mario Batali

                  MMRuth, sorry that I forgot about the all caps before!

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    CL: You wrote "The Chez Panisse books are great"....that made me think of one of my all-time faves from the 1st CP cookbook (with Bertoli) and the carrot soup with red pepper puree spooned on top. Try it! You'll love it!

            2. re: JoanN

              CRADLE OF FLAVOR

              I've made a few things from this cookbook and everything has been absolutely excellent. Some of the ingredients were difficult to find for me, but those are available by mail order. And, really, the food has been very, very good.

              Edited to add address of place to buy hard-to-find ingredients:


              1. re: mirage

                I'm 4th-ing Cradle of Flavor. We've gone ost it too many times.

              2. re: JoanN

                I would also like CRADLE OF FLAVOR.

              3. At my husband's request, "Can we PLEASE do Italian this month" ; )


                4 Replies
                1. re: Rubee

                  This too funny - Mr. G. said the very same thing tonight. Actually he said Italian or South American....

                  We are really enjoying the Vietnamese cuisine and I've been cooking Italian all our married life.... Who knows what lurks in the minds of - some - men?

                  1. re: Rubee

                    Yes, please!


                    1. re: Rubee

                      PS - Have cooked from it (just made the caponata this weekend) and have eaten dishes other people have cooked from it ; )

                      All winners!

                    2. I am really enjoying the two book slection we're doing this month. Only that same vein how about...
                      HOT SOUR SALTY SWEET
                      BEYOND THE GREAT WALL
                      by Alford and Duguid
                      How about...
                      MY BOMBAY KITCHEN instead!!! ;)

                      1 Reply
                      1. A list of past COTM:


                        Sept - Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

                        Oct - Molly Stevens, All About Braising

                        Nov - Rick Bayless, One Plate at a Time

                        Dec - Dorie Greenspan, Baking from My Home to Yours


                        Jan - Judy Rodgers, Zuni Cafe Cookbook

                        Feb - Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid, Hot Sour Salty Sweet

                        March - Leite's Culinaria

                        April - Claudia Roden, Arabesque

                        May - Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques

                        June - Edna Lewis, Country Cooking

                        July - Nigella Lawson, Forever Summer

                        August - Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby

                        Sept – Patricia Wells, Vegetable Harvest

                        Oct – Julia Child

                        Nov – Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, The Silver Palate Cookbook

                        Dec. – Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook AND Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook


                        Jan – Paula Wolfert, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

                        Feb – Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

                        Mar - Fuchsia Dunlop, Revolutionary Cinese Cookbook and Land of Plenty

                        Apr – Simon Hopkinson, Roast Chicken and Other Stories

                        May – Peter Berley, The Flexitarian Table

                        June - Penelope Casas

                        July – Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

                        Aug. - Diane Kochilas, The Glorious Foods of Greece

                        September - Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: Rubee

                          Please no back-to-back Asian! I'm enjoying the Vietnamese cooking this month, but want to do something completely different next. MOLTO ITALIANO is a superb book, and I would be happy to cook from it even more than I already do. Also, the seasons are changing, so recipes that focus on fall produce would be welcome.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            I'm kind of feeling the same. I'm LOVING these Vietnamese books so much, but I feel like another Asian book might be overkill (and besides, why not save it for when we've had something that hasn't been such a hit?). We've been doing a lot of european, vegetarian and asian for the last few months. I see that a Bayless book has already been done, but another of those would be a big change from what we've done lately. Or (and I say this totally sight unseen) how about the Samuelson (gosh, I hope that is his name) Africa book? These are not votes right now, just ideas popping into my mind, hence lack of caps.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Some favorite recipes from MI:

                              Cheese Bread from Genoa
                              Pancetta-Wrapped Radicchio
                              Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions, Anchovies, and Toasted Bread Crumbs
                              Tortelloni with Sage Butter
                              Jumbo Shrimp Marsala, House-Wife Style
                              Chicken Stew with Polenta, Celery Root, and Sage
                              Grilled Veal Rolls Sicilian Style
                              Braised Rabbit with Leeks, Turnips, and Vin Santo
                              Orange Tart Capri Style

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                Thanks pikawicca - appreciate your chiming in on this.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  I second the suggestion of MOLTO ITALIANO - I have this book and have cooked quite a bit from it. Would like the boot in the rump to do more.

                                  The antipasti are very interesting. There's a wonderful fennel custard, and one made with cardoons, porcini salad with arugula, and a warm terrine of polenta with sausages and peppers.

                                  Lots of good veg recipes.

                                  This is a really good book...PLUS it has a very simple tomato sauce that has become the base for lots of sauces I make. Shredded carrots are an ingredient.

                                  Soups: onion soup ala Emilia-Romagna, chicory soup with egg, bread dumpling soup, anchovey and almond soup and porcini soup with mascarpone crostini.

                                  There are lots of pasta recipes (green olive sauce, pesto, beans and potatoes, carmalized onion sauce, monkfish, thyme and zucchini and a baked pasta with ricotta and ham (looks fabulous). The pasta section is realllly big.

                                  Fish include grilled mackerel with eggplant and salsa verde, swordfish paillards with leeks and grapefruit, tuna rolls Messina style, bass grilled with chard. Sicilian marinated tuna with scallion fritata.

                                  Meat: Stuffed chicken legs, chicken thighs with saffron, green olives and mint; chicken stew with polenta, celery root and sage, grilled with olive past and broccoli rabe, game hens with pomegranate, braised duck legs with dried oranges and almonds, recipes for quail, turkey.

                                  Veal rolls, rabbit sausage with vinegar, leg of lamb with green olives, mixed meats in broth with green sauce; venison goulash, stuffed meatloaf, pork sparerids with red wine, pork loin in the style of porchetta, osso buco toasted pine nut gremolata, and on and on.

                                  There are also several dessert recipes that look intriguing, e.g., an Easter tart made with ricotta and faro, an orange and olive oil cake, roasted pears with chocolate, etc.

                                  This is a really good cookbook!

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    [To MMRuth--if this kind of discussion in the "nominations" thread makes your life too difficult in terms of tallying votes, etc., please say so and I'll knock it off!]

                                    That does sound delicious, oakjoan!

                                    For oakjoan and others who have cooked from Molto Italiano, do you have any experience cooking from Hazan's "Essentials," which was a previous COTM?

                                    I'm just curious since I'm starting to get very selective about buying cookbooks lately. I wasn't participating in COTM in the early days when we were cooking from Hazan, but I've since bought a copy of "Essentials". Ever since my disaster of ruining my two Dunlop library books by spilling water on them (and therefore having to buy the soggy pair from the library), I've bought all the COTM books figuring that one way or the other I would end up owning them anyway. So, if a Batali book won, I'd probably want to buy that, too.

                                    Thank you!


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Dear DQ: I don't have experience cooking from Hazan's Essentials, but I have used (over and over) her two volumes...too lazy to go look at the titles but they're something like Classical Italian Cooking, I and II.

                                        I was never a big fan of Hazan. My sister hounded me into buying the 2 I have because she thinks Marcella is a goddess. I did, however, change my pesto-making technique per her instructions, and it was way better than mine ever had been before. So I started to feel I'd not given her a real chance, having been put off by her smoking and imperious manner.

                                        I get the feeling from Batali's book that he's done more experimenting with different combos, while still retaining the basic Italianesqueness of the dish. He also has many classic recipes. The stuffed meatloaf is a recipe I've made over and over for dinner parties.

                                        Hope this helps.

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          Thank you oakjoan, for sharing your thoughts. It's always helpful to hear more perspectives, I think. I understand that Hazan's "Essentials" was the combination and updating of those two "Classics" books I & II you're referring to (though I can't remember the exact names either and too tired to look them up. Probably doesn't matter since they aren't up for COTM).

                                          I don't know know much about Batali except that he sure does seem warm and accessible, so I could see how that would appeal to you, especially if you were turned off by Hazan's manner a bit. I wish, actually, I hadn't read that NYT piece about Hazan's memoir that some one posted over on Food Media & News--I was blissfully ignorant of her stern manner. I really hadn't noticed it in reading Essentials and hope I don't now "read" that into it in the future because of this external stuff I've read." Maybe I'll think of her as an exacting piano teacher!


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            I cooked out Essentials and loved it - one of my favorites. It's a comprehensive lesson in Italian cooking, from simple traditional dishes to company-worthy dishes. Batali's recipes seem to me a bit more sophisticated and modern.

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen


                                              I actually liked the NYT piece on her and her husband. It made her more human to me, even though she seems a bit crazier than I'd previously thought. It's like the 2 of them have their own world and don't trust anybody but each other.

                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                        We've also have had good luck with Molto Italiano. I haven't cooked a lot of dishes from it yet (we have a long todo list), but two of the dishes have already made it into our regular rotation:

                                        The Lobster Risotto - I adapted this to use snow crab legs, which makes it inexpensive, easy, and quite tasty. Simmer the shells for the broth, and add the meat at the end. Serve with garlic bread (a baguette sliced, oiled, toasted, and rubbed with a garlic clove.)

                                        The pork loin in the style of porchetta - (garnished with a fennel frond pangrattato) - this one scales well and the leftovers are very good.

                                        1. re: Steve Dunham

                                          Steve D: I also love that pork loin "Porchetta" recipe in Molto Italiano.

                                    1. re: Rubee

                                      Thanks - I always *mean* to post that!

                                    2. I agree, please no more Asian. I'd be thrilled with Italian or Mexican this month, or maybe one of Bittman's books (I really like Best Recipes in the World), and a Batali book would be great.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                        Are those "all cap" votes for those books? <grin> Just so I know how to count them ....

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          I thought that this was just the suggestions thread, so we weren't voting yet?

                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            Apparently, if a book gets more nominations than any other that's the book which will become COTM for October. No need to vote. That's my understanding, anyway.....

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              It is the suggestion thread, not the voting thread - I always seem to get the "lingo" wrong when I follow up on these threads. Sorry about that!

                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                            MMR: Your instructions said to put them in caps and so I did, oh Glorious Leader!