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Best Cookbooks of 2012 Lists

I thought it would be fun to share and discuss Best Cookbook lists that we come across since 'tis the season for these things being published and, some of us just might have a cookbook or two on our holiday wish lists!!

I'll kick things off with 2 I saw this week:

NPR's Best Cookbooks of 2012:


The Globe & Mail (Canadian National) Newspaper Top Picks for 202:


I was interested to see the Canal House book on both these lists. I haven't seen it but I do have a couple of their smaller books that somehow I haven't been inspired to cook from. I'd be interested to hear others thoughts on this book.

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    1. re: Breadcrumbs

      That Washington Post list is *seriously* skewed toward DC chefs. Hard to take it totally seriously.

      1. re: LulusMom

        But in the paper version, not the slide show, "the list" was really 3 lists: Top 10, Local Authors, and Also Recommended. Obviously, the local authors skew the total picture towards DC.

        1. re: tcamp

          Aha, then that makes it much more reasonable.

    2. First thoughts --
      The Susan Feniger Street Food book is the most tantalizing to me, but unfortunately probably calls for hard-to-procure ingredients.
      The Canal House is gorgeous! I looked at the "inside this book" feature on Amazon.
      The Cook's Illustrated Science is probably a very good book to have, if read and retained and put into practice.
      The Smitten Kitchen author (one of a few books mentioned on more than one list here) must be pleased that her book is respected. Some from-blog books are not.
      Hiroko's American Kitchen might make Mr. blue room look forward to Japanese food?
      The Washington Post lists 30 books! Not fair or helpful ;)
      I just don't feel any need right now to buy more bread/sweet baking books.
      Not interested in modernist, or eat the whole animal books. Just not for me.

      17 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        Speaking of the Canal House books, does anyone have any favorite recipes from their books? Have they ever been a COTM?

        1. re: angelsmom

          Canal House books have been nominated for COTM but none has made it to the voting stage. The last time it came up, if I recall correctly, a number of people said they had one or more of the books, but very few people have cooked from them. Breadcrumbs wasn't the only one.

          I know I've looked at the books a number of times because the photographs are so compelling. But I've never been tempted to buy one because when I look carefully at the recipes, nothing says "Make me. Now." I think the problem is that the books are written by a food photographer and a food stylist. They make the food look great, but the recipes themselves aren't, to my mind at least, interesting or sufficiently special to warrant space on my overflowing shelves.

          1. re: JoanN

            Thanks immensely for your input. I value your input.

            1. re: JoanN

              I am one of the people who has all of the subscription books, and has never cooked anything out of them. Of course, I can say that about many of the 1,000+ cookbooks I own. I enjoyed getting and reading the Canal House books like a magazine, and they are beautifully put together, but the recipes do not call out to me. For one thing, they tend to be more "classic" than "creative" recipes, and I always feel like I have a better version somewhere else in my collection.

              I won't be buying the new book. For one thing, they kind of let the subcription books fall by the wayside, without much in the way of explanation. It did work out that I got the number of books I paid for, but people who subscribed more recently must be disappointed and left hanging. After the first year, I received both an email and a note in my last book prompting me to renew. Nothing like that after the second year, so I can only assume they are abandoning the subscription format. Oddly enough, I might have renewed a subscription, but I don't feel much of an urge to buy a full-format cookbook.

                1. re: MelMM

                  Wow--I wondered what happened. After buying them separately, I decided to subscribe, paid for a year and received one about a year ago (their last before the big one). I've never rec'd any notification, explanation, anything; I guess I half-expect they'll resume the little ones. Don't want to believe they're just ripping off folks like me, who are owed two.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    I certainly hope, and you have a right to expect, that you won't be left hanging. Your case is exactly what I've been wondering about. I bought the first book, then subscribed (three books per year). When the first year was over I got a note reminding me to renew for another year, which I did. After two more issues, they sent out the small "Italian Summer" booklet, and promised a full book later. That eventually materialized, as vol. 7, La Dolce Vita. That last volume fulfilled their obligation as far as my subscription went. But there was no request for a renewal or mention of future volumes, so I have been wondering about people like you that were in the middle of a subscription. Keep us posted as to how that works out.

                  2. re: MelMM

                    Yes, I thought they handled the subscribers very poorly.

              1. re: blue room

                I can't say enough about the SK cookbook.

                The artichoke stuffed shells were fantastic.

                  1. re: blue room

                    Yes! It was the most delicious pasta recipe I've eaten in while.

                    I used a little less butter in sautéing the onion/ artichokes. Also, I used a combo of low fat and whole milk.

                    1. re: cheesecake17

                      I wonder if adding a pack of chopped frozen spinach would be a good addition?

                      1. re: melpy

                        I was thinking to add spinach next time or sub spinach for artichokes.

                  2. re: cheesecake17

                    My MIL loves artichokes and I was thinking of making this for her, but she doesn't like heavy food. If I replaced the milk sauce with homemade marinara sauce, do you think it would still taste great?

                    1. re: eviemichael

                      I, for one, am not a big fan of tomato sauce with artichokes, although I'll basically eat most things if there are artichokes in it. I'd make it with the bechamel.

                      1. re: roxlet

                        Ok good to know. Could I use low fat milk?

                        EDIT: nevermind, I saw cheesecake17's comment above which answered my question. :)

                        1. re: eviemichael

                          A friend of mine used skim milk and she said it came out "ok"

                          I'd just serve it with a big salad... No other heavy sides

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    I bet I'm the only freak here who returned Jerusalem. I just didn't see myself making any of the recipes.

                  2. I agree with you on Canal House. I want to love them since they are right across the river from me, but I never use the one book I have, perhaps because it is on Kindle. This one, however, is tempting since all the ingredients will be available to me at the exact same time!

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: angelsmom

                      I find my Kindle books difficult to love and cook from. I've vowed never to buy another Kindle cookbook. Unfortunately, I bought Smitten Kitchen on Kindle. I might have to bite the bullet and buy the hard copy, or maybe put it on my Santa list.

                      1. re: pagesinthesun

                        Good to see I'm not alone in this. I've never bought a cookbook for my Kobo as I would not find it enjoyable to cook from. My Kobo is used for travel situations so I do not have to haul around 20 lb of books in my luggage.

                        1. re: pagesinthesun

                          I know and Flour and Jacques Pepin are also on my iPad......grr. I will buy bargain cookbooks, but not a recent publication. I thought it would save space, but the price was too high for that little bit of real estate.

                          1. re: angelsmom

                            I have a ton (well, not a ton, but many) cookbooks on my iPad, and I use them a lot. I find the iPad a lot less cumbersome in the kitchen than a "real" cookbook, and buy most of my cookbooks that way now, if the iPad version is available. I do not, however, use cookbooks on my Kindle. The navigation is just not as easy, and somehow it doesn't work for me. I like the Kindle for novels, but not for reference books.

                            The Essential Pepin for iPad is a nice version. I love the embedded video. Another book that has done a really good job of making the iPad version is recent Vietnamese Home Cooking.

                          2. re: pagesinthesun

                            I bought the COTM How to Eat for my iPad, and I, too, do not like it on the iPad. Even though you look through a book page by page, there is something kind of piecemeal about the book on the iPad. I want to flip through it and to check one recipe against anther, and it is very cumbersome to do that. This will be the first and the last for me.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              I totally agree and unfortunately I have 2 favorites on there.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                I frequently borrow the cookbooks for the Kindle (using my iPad or Kindle Fire) from my library and then if I like the content I'll buy it in paper format.

                                I've starting to collect the digital books though and liking it because I can easily highlight and bookmark pages as well as making notes. It's easy to search for content as well which I like. If I click on a link within a page I can easily just hit back to go back where I was. I think it takes getting used to but the books can be really well done.

                            2. re: angelsmom

                              Here's another vote for "cookbooks don't work for me on Kindle". I think they are exceedingly difficult to use in that format. A friend with a full-size iPad gets all his cookbooks that way and loves it.

                            3. I've got to say that, for all the cookbooks I buy, I haven't bought many listed on those NPR lists from the past 4 years.

                              1. The Montreal Gazette posted cookbooks favoured by book store owners:

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                  Thanks for posting. Comparing their list to my local paper, there are several similarities. I've got a couple on my wish list. The one book I haven't see to date but mentioned on multiple lists is Vegetarian by Alice Hart. I'm curious about that one.

                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                    Nice to see Every Grain of Rice on that list. My favorite book of 2012.

                                    1. re: emily

                                      Absent from all the U.S.A. lists, as the book is still awaiting release here. But as someone who sprang for the UK version, I agree it is a worthy inclusion.

                                  2. Thanks so much for these lists! First thing I've seen that made me question wanting the Susan Feninger (sp?) book and made me interested in The Smitten Kitchen.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      The recipes on the Smitten Kitchen blog are amazing, her book must be a reflection of her blog for sure I am interested in it.

                                    2. Has anyone looked at Bouchon Bakery?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        I saw it in Costco and Barnes and noble, but the book was shrink wrapped. BN had it for half price

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          Bouchon Bakery is a gorgeous book for all you bakers and would be pastry chefs out there(like me!) I got it recently and have not had much time to peruse but first glance hooked me. It is large like his other books with gorgeous photography and lots of instruction. Simple to complicated pastries and baked goods. As we are moving to northern CA, as soon as we sell our house, a trip to his bakery is on my short list of places to visit when I get there. Meanwhile, the book will tide me over until then.

                                        2. I saw the Globe one, and used one of my precious free articles to check it out. I haven't cooked from SK yet but saw quite a few recipes that looked good. Vintage cakes was also in the NPR "shortlist".. as was Baked Elements. I hope to see both of those under the Christmas tree this year.
                                          The kitchn had a list as well called "15 Cookbooks from 2012 that made me love cooking more".. a great title! It included a lot of the cookbooks mentioned by NPR, the Gazette and the Globe.. including the Canal House again!

                                          I want to check out the Epicurious book now..

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: rstuart

                                            So weird about the Canal House books. I've never seen one, only heard people talk about them on this board, but the consensus seems to be that they're pretty but don't inspire people to cook.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              I caved in and bought it. As I said previously, I live only 5minutes from them and I like the fact that all the recipes month by month coincide with my time...DUH. It is a gorgeous book and I actually found several recipes I want to make. I have only had about 15 minutes with it, but I will report back.

                                              1. re: angelsmom

                                                I hope you end up loving it, and please tell us how things work out.

                                          2. Happy to say I couldn't resist The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (Sweetness in Seattle)
                                            which is on NPR list

                                            I saw it at Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago,
                                            leafed though it but didn't pick it up,
                                            then thought about it all that evening and the next day and then
                                            went back and bought it. Sooo happy with it !!!!

                                            This transplanted and occasionally homesick Seattle-ite
                                            LOVE LOVE LOVES IT !!!!
                                            Love the pictures, the prose, EVERYTHING !!
                                            Thus far I have made the Cranberry Apricot Oatmeal Cookies and
                                            they are wonderfully delicious !!!! (although could use a touch more salt for me next time... )

                                            Looking forward to baking a couple more cookie recipes this weekend,
                                            and maybe a pie !!!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: oooYUM

                                              I had to LOL when I read your name oY because when I read "Cranberry Apricot Oatmeal Cookies" I immediately said "oooh, yum!!" Does The Dahlia Bakery book have a lot of pictures? I've learned that I'm far more likely to make a recipe if I see a photo.

                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                Ha, Thanks !!
                                                That particular cookie recipe stays VERY MOIST and deliciously chewy as well !!

                                                Dahlia Bakery Cookbook has lots of photos, but not of every single recipe
                                                like many newer cookbooks have.....
                                                I agree, I like to see photos, too ~ much more tempting to try those recipes :-)

                                                In the end, I am satisfied with the photos the book has...

                                                it has some savory recipes as well !!!
                                                There is an absolutely DELICIOUS looking photo of
                                                "Tom's Tasty Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Croutons"
                                                Oh, I would love to taste that one !!!
                                                Have to put it on my short list !!!!!

                                                1. re: oooYUM

                                                  Ok, that soup did it...I've added this book to my Amazon wishlist!! ; - )

                                            2. Look at this tempting temptation:
                                              I really have to stop collecting cookbooks and start collecting *recipes*.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: blue room

                                                Sheesh blue room, why'd you go and post this!!! Of course now I absolutely "must have" this book!!!

                                                jic you missed it, I was excited to read "A DVD of his Global History of Food class will be available from The Great Courses company this spring".

                                                Now you're going to have to collect dvds as well!! ; - )

                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                  I Love The Great Courses - a food one?! Swoon.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    I know, how much fun will that be???

                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                      Almost too much! Thanks so much for telling me. I'm just about to start Shakespeare's tragedies, but I think this one will go into my cart.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        Pity we're not neighbours...I'd enjoy both!! (and you could charge admission to offset your investment!!) LOL!! Enjoy LlM.

                                              2. Jeez, nothing much Canadian on the Glum and Pale's list.
                                                I'm happy that the Baggett cookie book was mentioned, it really is EXCELLENT.

                                                1. I'm putting my two cents worth on this. In my very humble opinion, one of the best cookbooks of the year is actually a baking book. The Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. I've never had the orgasmic reactions that I have had with any other dessert cookbook. Every. Single. Dessert. I. Have. Made. From. This. Book. Has. Been. INCREDIBLE! Hats of to Christina Tosi!

                                                  1. Another 'best of 2012' list, from Lucinda Scala Quinn at the Martha Stewart site: http://www.marthastewart.com/950336/l...

                                                    1. And another from Serious Eats..
                                                      SK gets a mention again, as do Burma and Jerusalem...
                                                      The Homemade Pantry looks good!

                                                      1. Just found another list, this one from a good food blog (Leite's Culinaria)


                                                        Some interesting ones that I'd like to check out.. some that I already have (the new Alice Medrich).. oh.. and Canal House Cooks Everyday!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: rstuart

                                                          Never even HEARD of "Cooking My Way Back Home." Sounds very appealing.

                                                          ETA: And now that I'm looking, it seems as though it was on quite a few "Best of" Lists for 2011. Not quite as new a book as the Leite list would imply.

                                                          1. http://eater.com/archives/2012/12/12/...

                                                            Oh hell, I guess I'll cave on the Hermé.
                                                            Maybe not...the reviews on Amazon...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              Out of all those books, there are only two that I don't already own or have no intentions of purchasing. One is "Texas Eats" - it's been sitting in my cart, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet. The other one is the Thanksgiving book. Believe it or not, but I have reached my middle ages without ever really having cooked a Thanksgiving meal and if the duty should ever fall upon me I want to be prepared. :)

                                                              The Herme book was apparently originally issued with a whole lot of mistakes in it. It was reprinted in November 2012 (hence the "revised" in the title) and supposedly all the mistakes were corrected. I'm going to wait a bit to see some more reviews of the new edition but I think I'm going to buy the reprint.

                                                            2. I ran across another list from the Charleston, SC, paper. Some repeats from the other lists but a couple of new ones that sound interesting. Roots and Cook Fight appeal. Hate the nonlist format of the piece, however:


                                                              1. Here's another one from the Observer (in the UK)..
                                                                Although it's called "best food books"..

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: rstuart

                                                                  Interesting list, especially for the ones not available here yet (or possibly ever). I'm not taken with Faviken or Mugarritz and their ilk, personally.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    Ditto. The books look beautiful.. but I'm not interested in spending 2 days to make a pine-bark cake! I have, however, put Laurie Colwin's "home cooking" on hold because it looks great. I noticed the newer version when I was at Good Egg today, but the version at the Toronto Public Library is from 1988? I have no idea if the versions are different?