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Cookbooks we bought in 2012: the great and not so good

Buttertart “What Cookbooks Have You Bought Recently” threads have been super successful, fun, and a wonderful enabling tool to assist us to expand our collections. They certainly helped to expand my collection to a point where cookbooks have outgrown their assigned home and now live on the fringe of the bookcase…

I think it will be super helpful to all of us for many reasons to have a talkback about these purchases. Maybe a list or a summary of what you bought during 2012, an evaluation, a discussion or some other kind of sharing your buying, reading, cooking from, gifting, donating, etc. experience.

I bought at least 60 books in 2012; some new and many used. Eight books were bought for COTM and I cooked from all of them – some a lot and others a bit. Six books were reference – such as Ruhlman’s Twenty and Flavour Bible – and I did not cook from them at all but flipped through some but not all and definitely not enough. I cooked from seven books that were not COTM. Thirty + books were bought and never even opened…. This is very painful to realize but good to know. I will now attempt to “shop” from my own bookcase and borrow books from the library when I have an urge to buy.

Looking forward to hearing about your experiences!

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  1. Hmm, I just went through my Amazon purchase history. Amazon Prime has either been very good or very bad for me. Remember the days when you'd go to your local bookstore (or B. Dalton or Walden Books at the mall) and discover new books on the shelves...? No pre-ordering or internet research about books being published 9 months from now.

    The good (or at least the cookbooks that I feel have potential if I haven't cooked from them):
    **Every Grain of Rice**
    Baked Elements
    Everybody Eats Well in Belgium
    Dahlia Bakery Cookbook
    Vietnamese Home Cooking
    Gran Cocina Latina
    Burma (though the recipe reviews seem mixed)
    Sugar and Spice: Sweets and Treats from Around the World
    Japanese Farm Food
    Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes
    Cracking the Coconut
    Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
    Hawaii's Best Local Desserts
    Norwegian Cakes and Cookies (interesting that I just noticed that this is a Norwegian book, not Swedish, which is what all my other Scandinavian baking books are!)
    Bouchon Bakery
    The Korean Table
    My Japanese Table

    The returnable:
    Jerusalem (wanted to love it, but only flagged 2 recipes)
    Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to SF
    Rose Petal Jam: Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland
    Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack
    Liddabit Sweets Candy Book (I don't care for caramels made with corn syrup because I think they taste muted and there's too much corn syrup in this book)
    Tacos, Tortas and Tamales
    Smitten Kitchen
    Country Cooking of Greece
    Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks

    Have no opinion about:
    Jerk from Jamaica?
    660 Curries?

    Still in my Amazon cart for 2012:
    Key to Chinese Cooking
    Macaron Magic
    From a Polish Country House Kitchen

    Already looking forward to 2013!

    7 Replies
    1. re: emily

      Jerusalem is head and shoulders above every other cookbook I purchased this year, and some of them are great.

      1. re: pikawicca

        This and Gran Cocina Latina are my favourites for 2012. Least favourite? Babycakes (a gluten free baking book).

      2. re: emily

        Can you tell me more about the Smitten Kitchen cookbook? I've been thinking about getting it but for some reason keep putting it off.

        1. re: Njchicaa

          I didn't buy but I am borrowing Smitten K's cookbook. The recipes are nice food for thought approaches to upping your weekday game. I like Deb's approach to recipes; her inspiration to home cooks to experiment and her food ideas.

          I won't buy it but I will make copies from the recipes I like.

          1. re: Njchicaa

            I actually think that, if you like her style, this is a good one to buy because the pics are gorgeous and it is fun to just read.

            1. re: magiesmom

              I have to agree. I think I read every last recipe in her book because of the story she painted. Plus the pictures definitely pass for foodie porn.

          2. re: emily

            The cookbook I've used the most this year is Jerusalem. I've tried around 8 recipes and have another dozen flagged.

            I haven't been good about using the other cookbooks I acquired over 2012, so I can't really say any of them have turned out to be duds for me, yet.

          3. I'm taken to getting cookbooks from the library first, then if they're interesting reads and if there are several recipes that sound like something I would make, I'll buy them. The two I bought last year were The Shapes of Pasta and Ottolenghi's Plenty. The big disappointment was Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain: pretty, but compared to her other books really lightweight.

            4 Replies
            1. re: tardigrade

              With all the history etc., lightweight? That's a heck of a book. I loved what I made from it, too.

              1. re: buttertart

                Well, maybe not in terms of avoirdupois. But compared to her book on Jewish cooking, which is packed with historical information and recipes, it seemed somewhat meager to me. Or it could be the result of getting old - not much is new anymore.

                Pretty pictures, though.

                1. re: tardigrade

                  Different books for different folks...

            2. Primarily baking: the new Nancy Baggett cookie book, "Simply Sensational Cookies"..."The Sunset Essential Western Cookbook" (some dynamite dessert recipes in this, and it makes me homesick for Berkeley)..."Vintage Cakes"... Medrich's "Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts" (GET THIS BOOK, IT'S SUPERB)...Nick Malgieri's "Bread"..."The Italian Baker, revised" (Carol Field) (love it)...rebought Paula Peck's "The Art of Fine Baking", well worth anybody's time -- several techniques thought of as new are in this book, which is from the 1960's.
              Chinese food: Lucky Peach issue 5, the Chinatown issue (must-read for Chinese food fans, including Fuchsia's discussion of the "secret Chinese menu" "problem"..."The Hakka Cookbook", by Linda Lau Anusanasan, ethnography, family history, and recipes, excellent..."Food and Cooking of Shanghai and East China" by Terry Tan, just got it but it looks very good (and is on an underserved topic that deserves MUCH more attention...)...
              Other non-western: Madhur Jaffrey's "Curry Nation", a sort of "Stirfrying to the Sky's Edge" of Indian food...
              Category of beautiful but I haven't cooked from it yet: "Jerusalem", "Burma", very good reading, Charles Phan's "Vietnamese Home Cooking".
              Also loving "The Science of Good Cooking" (Cook's Illustrated), clearly written and very useful, and speaks to my inner Sheldon.
              There are sure to be others that come to mind.

              2 Replies
              1. re: buttertart

                So glad there is another Sheldon lover.

                1. re: angelsmom

                  Edit: I replied to another comment and my reply ended up getting posted here. I hate when that happens.

              2. Great=

                Burma: rivers of flavor
                Every grain of rice
                Vietnamese home cooking
                Elements of Dessert
                Modernist Cuisine at home
                Gran cocina latina


                Bouchon Bakery


                Art of cooking with vegetables
                James beard foundations best of the best

                1. Don't we like Amazon's order histories. If it's not for it, I wouldn't have any idea what I've bought this year!

                  I went back to work full time after my maternity leave this year. So many of the purchases reflects this change.

                  In chronological order, from January, I bought

                  * My Daddy Cooks, by Nick Coffer. I love this video blog and bought this book because of it. It was useful for the period when my daughter 6 months to slightly over a year. I did what they called "baby led weaning" which means she wasn't given any mush but ate only the same food as us. In reality what it means is we all switch to a diet without salt (and soy sauce, fish sauce) and without much chillies. All the foods really need to be pickup-able by little hands, as babies can't really use spoons themselves. Now my daughter is a toddler, I haven't used this book for a while. It does still have good ideas about cooking with a toddler (eg doing paella in an oven), and I would recommend it to someone who isn't an very experienced cook.

                  * Bill's Everyday Asian, by Bill Granger. My first Bill Granger and I love it. It's the food I grew up with and I've cooked many many recipes from it. Most recipes in this book are simple and can be done easily within 30min. Everything I cooked from it is a success.

                  * Mighty Spice Cookbook, by John Gregory-Smith. Another hit. It's simple, no fuss cooking, but they don't taste like we just hurriedly made dinner after a day at work and putting toddler to sleep. I don't think I have a fail with this one either.

                  * Good Food: 101 Barbecues and Grills, by Sarah Cook. I think I bought it because it was a 'Very Good' used copy, and it was very cheap. I have cooked a single recipe from it. I really should take this to the charity shop.

                  * Good Food: 101 Veggie Dishes, by Orlando Murrin. Same as the previous one.

                  * Every Grain of Rice, by Fuchsia Dunlop. I like it, but I don't think it's as good as her other two books. I have a few flops from this. But there are hits too. Like the vegetarian version of ma po tofu, many of the vegetable side dishes and the dumplings.

                  * Bill's Food, by Bill Granger. Bought this because I love Bill's Everyday Asian. I wasn't very inspired by it, but the few things I've cooked from this are good.

                  * Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, by Jamie Oliver. Another big hit. Many of the meals are great. I've also taken ideas from this book and applied it to my normal cooking. For example, using flavoured rice more, and a larger variety of carbs. I now always cook chicken thighs the Jamie 15min meal way. This makes it easier to make a veggie main, and serves a little bit of chicken on the side. (Which is also part of the better multi-tasking I've learned from this book).

                  * Everybody, Everyday, by Alex Mackay. Wasn't inspired to cook anything from it.

                  * Curry Easy, by Madhur Jaffrey. I've cooked one thing from this since I got it in November. There are many things I'd like to try, but I haven't got around to it yet.

                  * Slow Cooking Curry and Spice Dishes, by Carolyn Humphries. It looks ok but I haven't cooked anything from it. I'll need more time on this one.

                  * Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Bought it on xmas day, so definitely need more time.

                  So in summary, this year I got
                  * three big hits: Bill's Everyday Asian, Mighty Spice, Jamie's 15min meals
                  * three ok ones: My Daddy Cooks, Bill's Food, Every grain of rice
                  * three to go into the charity pile: Good Food 101 bbq and vegetarian, Everybody Everyday
                  * three that I need more time to explore : Easy Curry, Slow Cooker Curry and Spice Dishes, Jerusalem

                  PS. It looks like I bought a cookbook a month. I know this is lightweight compared to many on this board. But I have the most cookbook amongst people I know in real life. I still can't believe I got so many this year...

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: lilham

                    Thrilled to read this, especially your three big hits. I'm a huge fan of Mighty Spice and love JO's books (I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to cook from his 15 minutes yet, but now that the holidays and a vacation are out of the way, I hope to do so soon). And Bill's Everyday Asian was under the tree for me this year. Yay!

                    1. re: lilham

                      On average this year five per month made it to my house thanks to Amazon.

                      1. re: lilham

                        Can you tell me what you think of Slow Cooker Curry and Spice?
                        I am a HUGE fan of Bill Granger's. I even like his TV show (when ic an find it).

                        1. re: Westy

                          Where have you found his show Westy? I believe you're in my neck of the woods, and I'd love to watch it too. Thanks very much in advance for any advice on finding it.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            LM: I have seen Bill's show on Cooking Channel. I checked there website and he will be on again on Wed. Jan 2nd at 8am.


                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Yes, I think you are (I am in Morrisville, NC). And the post below is correct - Cooking Channel.

                              Next up for me will likely be Matt Moran's book: When i Get Home.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Thanks to you both for the info. I'll give it a quick guide search this evening if there isn't too much celebrating going on and record it. I'd love to see it.

                                Westy, we're in Chapel Hill, so we're not far at all.

                              2. re: Westy

                                The slow cooker curry and spice dishes is by Bill Granger. Or maybe I'm reading in between lines too much?

                                I made my first recipe from the book today, a tandoori chicken. It smells really really good but disappointingly, it is also very bland. It also left really hard to scrub off dried sauce on the ceramic pot. The book looks quite good so I am going to try another couple of recipes before writing it off. I think I should have picked something saucier (more normal stew like slow cooker food). I'm going to try the tikka masala next.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    Yes. And my post is trying to say it's _not_ by Bill Granger!

                              3. re: lilham

                                "Curry Easy" is "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey" in the US and is very good -- I've cooked quite a few things out of it. (Not included in my list because I got it last year.)

                              4. I bought way too many cookbooks this year

                                For my Mexican collection:
                                * Nueva Gran Cocina Mexicana by Martha Chapa (Spanish)
                                * Bocadillos de Fiesta by the editors of Larousse (Spanish)
                                * Mexican Modern by Fiona Dunlop
                                * Latin Evolution by Jose Garces (very upscale)
                                * The Salpicon Cookbook by Priscila Stakoff (love, love love this book, everything works)
                                * Tacos, Tortas and Tamales by Roberto Santibeñez (will be tackling his recipes for teleras and bolillos shortly)
                                * Hugo Ortegas Street Food by Hugo Ortega
                                * Three Cultures, One Cuisine by Marilyn Tausend (very good)
                                * Simple Foods, Big Flavors by Aaron Sanchez (just got this and haven't cooked from it yet, but have examined it pretty extensively can see more than a few recipes I'll make)

                                The Fiona Dunlop book was a dud and may get culled, but the rest were all good purchases and will stay

                                The ones I loved and had good success with the recipes:
                                * Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen
                                * Flour by Joanne Chang
                                * Holiday Dinner w/Bradley Ogden by Brad Ogden (the turkey for Thanksgiving was great)
                                * Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More by Carole Walter

                                The jury is still out on these, but they'll probably stick:
                                * Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla (there is no doubt this is an incredible Master Work on Latin cuisine or that it is thoroughly researched. I just don't know how usable it is given it's tome-like size. I'm hoping it will be a COTM sometime in 2013 so I can work with it some more)
                                * The Smitten Kitten Cookbook by Deb Perelman (like her recipes, just haven't had much opportunity to cook from the cookbook yet)
                                * Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson (have not cooked from it yet, but have marked several cakes I want to try)
                                * Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever (LOVE vanilla, just not sure that I love this book yet)

                                What was I thinking...not for me:
                                * The Oceanwise Cookbook: Seafood Recipes that are Good for the Planet by Jane Mundy (gorgeous book, but it was produced for the Canadian market and most of the seafood the recipes require is not available in SoCal, nor are the suggested substitutes.
                                * Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies bny Mollie Cox Bryan (big disappointment)
                                * The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci (love Stanley, didn't love the book)

                                Just received within the last 2 weeks and haven't had a chance to form an opinion yet:
                                * Susan Feniger's Street Food by Susan Feniger (some great sounding recipes)
                                * Demolition Desserts from Citizen Cake by Elizabeth (trying one for New Years Eve)
                                * Cooking Off the Clock by Elizabeth Falkner (looks promising...hope I'm right)
                                * Shake, Stir & Pour by Katie Leob (farm to bar cocktail book, this one also looks promising)

                                * Jerusalem is in tranist from Amazon. I've been following both the threads on it and am looking forward to getting it and participating in the January COTM with it.

                                * Pati's Mexican Table is on pre-order and due in March.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Fuchsia Dunlop a dud? Them's fightin' words ;-)

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Not Fuchsia...FIONA Dunlop.

                                      I did a double take when I saw the book myself ;-)

                                    2. re: DiningDiva

                                      DD, I finally bought Pure Vanilla and finally made something from it. Panna cotta (from cream, sour cream, and buttermilk.)
                                      Best I've had -- if the rest of the recipes are this balanced I'll be happy! Three naked little panna cottas below -- it didn't occur to me to plan for a topping.

                                        1. re: blue room

                                          BR, thanks for the report. I really do appreciate the feedback. I love vanilla and would really like to be satisfied with this book. You've given me reason to be hopeful :-)

                                          I love panna cotta, maybe I'll give these a try next weekend.

                                          1. re: blue room

                                            Another post about a worthwhile recipe from the cookbook Pure Vanilla here:

                                        2. The Great:

                                          David Thompson - Thai Food
                                          Fuschia Dunlop - Sichuan Cookery, Every Grain of Rice
                                          Claudia Roden - The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
                                          Auguste Escoffier - La Guide Culinaire
                                          Nathan Mhyrvold - Modernist Cuisine
                                          Paula Wolfert - The Food of Morocco, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking
                                          Frederick Bau - Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques
                                          Heston Blumenthal - Heston Blumenthal At Home
                                          Marcella Hazan - The Essentials of Classic Italian Food
                                          Thomas Keller - Ad Hoc At Home
                                          Julia Child - Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1 and 2

                                          The Good:

                                          Sri Owen - Sri Owen's Indonesian Food
                                          Julie Sahni - Classic Indian Cooking 
                                          Sam Clark - The Moro Cookbook
                                          Judy Rodgers - The Zuni Café Cookbook
                                          David Thompson - Thai Street Food
                                          Thomas Keller - The French Laundry
                                          Simon Wright - The French Café Cookbook
                                          Stephanie Alexander - The Cook's Companion
                                          Pierre Hermes - Macarons

                                          The OK:

                                          Andrea Nguyen - Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavours

                                          Unable to call (due to lack of use):

                                          Amanda Hesser - The New York Times Cookbook
                                          Elizabeth David - French Provincial Cooking
                                          Yottam Ottolenghi - Plenty
                                          Nancy Hachisu - Japanese Farm Food
                                          Pushpesh Pant - India Cookbook

                                          The Yet-to-Arrive:

                                          Yottam Ottolenghi - Jerusalem

                                          Some amazingly good books this year for me! I started from scratch (zero cookbooks, no prior cooking experience) at the beginning of the year, and I'm fairly confident (and even a bit competent) at its end. This is largely due to two books - Thai Food, and Modernist Cuisine. Thai Food was the first purchase of the year, and I learnt a great deal from its more challenging dishes (which I, of course, leapt straight in and attempted). It also hasn't hurt that every dish I've cooked from it has been firmly in 'I must make this again, and soon' territory. Modernist Cuisine came in towards the end of the year, and has hugely improved my general technique. I've only just picked up a pressure cooker/sous vide equipment, so we'll see how the recipes themselves stand in the New Year.

                                          On the other hand, 'Into the Vietnamese Kitchen' was something of a let down for me - it's well written, and nicely laid out book, which I want to like, but I've had very few 'I must make this again' moments from this book. Any suggestions for an alternative reference for Viet cuisine?

                                          13 Replies
                                          1. re: LiamF

                                            "Any suggestions for an alternative reference for Viet cuisine?"

                                            Ive been really happy with "vietnamese home cooking" by Charles Phan.

                                            We have very similar taste in books as I have most of the books you have listed (although Ive had many of them for a while). While not vietnamese, you should definitely think about picking up "Burma: rivers of Flavor" that was released this year, and you should also DEFINITELY pick up "hot sour salty sweet" by the same author if you dont already have it. HSSS also has some vietnamese recipes in it.

                                            1. re: twyst

                                              Burma is on my wishlist at the moment, and I'll definitely look into Vietnamese Home Cooking and also Hot Sour Salty Sweet, thanks!

                                              1. re: LiamF

                                                Burma is on sale on bookcloseouts.com for $15

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  Thanks for the tip! Unfortunately, shipping to Australia would set me back more than the cost of the book :(

                                            2. re: LiamF

                                              Don't you find that Fuchsia's recipes are easy to follow and the results are super? You need to get her Hunan book too.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                I've had really good results with her stuff - I find Every Grain of Rice an excellent weeknight book, and Sichuan Cookery to be more of a weekend book, personally.

                                                1. re: LiamF

                                                  The Hunan one is quite simple -- check it out.

                                              2. re: LiamF

                                                "Any suggestions for an alternative reference for Viet cuisine?"
                                                I had a similar inexplicable non-starter experience w Andrea Nguyen's book, although I enjoy her website very much.

                                                I remain loyal to
                                                Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham
                                                the ginger steamed fish and lemongrass grilled shrimp are a great place to start...and do again and again...

                                                Hot Sour Salty Sweet is very pretty, but I never end up choosing those recipes...Still on the fence about getting Charles Phan's book...

                                                1. re: pitu

                                                  +1 for "Pleasures of the Viet Namese Table".

                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                    Another big thumbs up for Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.

                                                  2. re: pitu

                                                    I've also been disappointed in Nguyen's book. It's in my donation pile.

                                                    1. re: emily

                                                      Hmm, maybe that's the reason I've never truly loved Viet cuisine--I just haven't found a good enough book! So far I've only cooked from Nguyen's book and have also been rather uninspired.
                                                      Although would I ever be able to part with it? I think not. Sigh.

                                                      1. re: Allegra_K

                                                        Try the cookbook "Little Saigon." very good.

                                                2. Believe it or not, I only bought two cookbooks in calendar year 2012. (I have major space limitations, so I'm trying for restraint.)

                                                  The two that I bought - Fish Without a Doubt and Jerusalem - will be permanent and much-used volumes in my library. FWAD, I had taken from the library and renewed more than once, and given that the two previous Ottolenghi books are my favorite cookbook purchases of the past several years, both purchases were no-brainers I just had to make room for and I'm very glad I did.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                    Wow Caitlin, only two books - that is an achievement! I am going to use you as my role model for 2013. I think I topped out somewhere around 25 this year. Yikes! Will have to give it some thought before I rate which were the best and worst. Will post that part later.

                                                  2. Best of the four that arrived in 2012 was a re-acquisition:
                                                    The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marion Morash (1982); finally, one showed up at a low price. I'd let it go in a big move decades ago, and regretted it. One of the great ones: packed with information, attractive and easy to use, an invaluable reference.

                                                    In contrast, I have yet to engage much with Plenty, apart from comparing its eggplant approaches with others' at the height of the season. Expect to have much more experience to report by the end of 2013.

                                                    This past year, Sonia Uvezian's Recipes and Remembrances of an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen (1999) was more important to me for cultural and historical background than for cooking, though I did consult it for that some. It was hugely helpful in envisioning the setting of Anthony Shadid's House of Stone, all the more important because the author was no longer available to help his readers do so. Uvezian also imparts enough of a grasp on the region's role in world food history to make the current carnage and destruction in Syria even harder to bear. Had I not read Recipes and Remembrances, the photos this fall of the Aleppo souk in flames probably would not have been as shattering.

                                                    Back to the kitchen, my refuge from painful awareness: Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal was well worth reading, but not something I'll be referring to again. It's most useful to anyone just starting out, though there is something in it for even very skilled cooks (good writing and the chance for reflection). I'm passing it on to the small lending library at a local-foods market.

                                                    Two cookbooks that were influential this year, though I didn't buy either of them: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, and Love Soup by Anna Thomas.
                                                    NT reinforced my recent creme fraiche making and spurred me to start making vegetable ferments (though by the Pickl-It salt-only recipes rather than NT's whey).

                                                    I'll probably buy Love Soup; it fits right into my kitchen in many ways -- including physically; it's clearly aimed at those of us with tattered volumes of the Vegetarian Epicure, being just the same size and format but, thankfully, with much better paper and binding. (The flaking and darkening pages of the original editions are a blot on the noble Viking escutcheon; hard to believe it's the same house that put out the Victory Garden Cookbook...)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Great thread herby, thanks!

                                                      The thought of looking at all my Abes & Amazon purchases for the year is a little daunting...therein lies the problem!! This year I do have a goal to be more selective about the cookbook purchases I make.

                                                      That said, I'll take a look at my shelves for the 2012 hits & misses. One book that stands out for me as a hit though was THE FARM by Ian Knauer. I don't remember what or who alerted me to the book in the first place but I do recall that, unlike some books, this one drew me in as soon as it arrived. Somehow I felt compelled to look through it and the recipes held immediate appeal. I loved that the recipes were based in seasonal ingredients and, items that I find readily at my own local farmer's market. We thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes I prepared from this book and I have many more recipes flagged "to try". Another positive aspect of this book was that the recipes repeatedly rose above the rest when I searched in EYB by ingredients. Since I have a lot of cookbooks, it's rare that recipes from one book stand out but in this case, I recall being surprised when I'd see that the recipe I found to appeal the most was yet another one from THE FARM.

                                                      Another hit would definitely be FISH WITHOUT A DOUBT which I came to love during the COTM. This book became a fast favourite as a source of inspiration for delicious, healthy meals and, for cooking techniques.

                                                      If I ever had to downsize my cookbook collection to a select few books (perish the thought!!) these two books would most definitely make the cut.

                                                      In the misses department, THE HOMESICK TEXAN was a big disappointment for me. I loved the book when it arrived. I enjoyed the stories, the food photos were incredibly enticing. When I first received this book, I flagged almost every recipe. Everything looked delicious to me!! Unfortunately, after preparing 13 recipes, there simply weren’t enough hits from this book for me to continue cooking from it. I found that because there are some quirks with the recipes (inconsistencies or errors in directions, relentless use of cumin), I lost faith in the author’s recipes. Full summary of my experience here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8519...

                                                      I'll come back to report on any other hits & misses I find.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                        I have to admit to not being quite as excited about "Homesick Texan" after making a few things out of it as I was when I first bought it and read it through. But there's still enough in there that works, even if a little tweaking is required, and that I will make again, that I've decided to keep it.

                                                      2. Am awaiting the arrival of "The Lebanese Kitchen." I own about a dozen Lebanese cookbooks, but came across this one at a bookstore the other day and had to order it. I've lived in the Middle East, and love its food (as does anyone who cooks from Ottolenghi's books). TLK has to be the definitive book on this cuisine, with lovely photographs and tweaks on favorite recipes that I can't wait to try. (With apologies in advance to Breadcrumbs and other addicts:)

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                          :: I own about a dozen Lebanese cookbooks ::

                                                          Do you have the Sonia Uvezian book I mentioned above? The full title is _Recipes and Remembrances of an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen: A Culinary Journey through Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan_.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              What are some of your favorites among the dozen?

                                                              The raves for the Uvezian books* in amazon reviews (and here in some threads) are well deserved, as far as I can see, but many discussions of middle eastern cooking and cookbooks proceed as if they didn't exist. It's a little puzzling.

                                                              *The one that I'd expect to be nearly as good is The Cuisine of Armenia.

                                                              1. re: ellabee

                                                                If I could only keep one, it would be "Arabesque."

                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                  Thanks so much, pikawicca. That's now moving up the wishlist...

                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            Somehow I missed your OP here pika but fate brought me back it seems...funny that! Of course, as you well know, I'll now need to take a good look at TLK. You temptress you!!

                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                              If I weren't planning meals from "Jerusalem" for next week, I'd be neck deep in "TLK." It looks wonderful -- lots of recipes I want to make, very few I don't.

                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                It sounds wonderful pika. I see a bookshop near my office has it in stock so I'll make a trip over at lunch one day and have a look.

                                                                Like you, I'm planning meals from Jerusalem for next week as well. I was very excited to find the Mejadra recipe. I love that stuff and can't wait to try YO's version.

                                                          2. I went through my order history on Amazon and iBooks, and I was somewhat taken aback to discover that I had bought 38 hard copy cookbooks and 47 digital cookbooks, for a total of 85 cookbooks purchased in 2012. I'll spare you all the complete list.

                                                            Books I am particularly happy with/excited about:
                                                            Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, Maricel E. Presilla
                                                            Burma, Naomi Duguid
                                                            The Hakka Cookbook, Linda Lau Anusasananan
                                                            Vietnamese Home Cooking, Charles Phan
                                                            Every Grain of Rice, Fuschsia Dunlop
                                                            Indochine, Luke Nguyen
                                                            Kitchen Diaries II, Nigel Slater
                                                            Roots, Diane Morgan
                                                            The Farm, Ian Knauer
                                                            Japanese Farm Food, Nancy Singleton Hachisu
                                                            Asian Tofu, Andrea Nguyen

                                                            There were quite a few books where I have to wonder what on earth I was thinking, and a couple of books that I accidentally ended up with two copies of (obviously wasn't thinking at all). The vast majority have not been cooked from, and many have not been read or even skimmed. I'm going to resolve to save myself a lot of money and shelf space next year by purchasing more selectively.

                                                            1. I acquired 5 cookbooks this year. Three were gifts from lovely and kind people and two I bought. All have been wonderful and in fairly frequent use.

                                                              Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
                                                              In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
                                                              The New Spanish Table by Anya Von Bremzen
                                                              Every Grain of Rice by Fuschia Dunlop
                                                              Jerusalem by Yotam Ottlenghi

                                                              I do need to cull some older cookbooks. I have a bunch from when that I've never looked at but keep for sentimental reasons. I think it's time for them to go since they are on the back back part of the bookshelf where it's difficult to access and I never go, hmmm, I wonder what's in there.

                                                              1. I tried hard not to buy many cookbooks in 2012. I did pretty well until the end of the year. I really like previewing books by borrowing them from the library (a trick I discovered this year), and my downfall comes when the book is not available in my library system. I ended up with 8 new books for the year.

                                                                The Great:

                                                                An Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler -- I was in a real cooking rut when I bought this book. It totally saved me. I love it.

                                                                Cook This Now, Melissa Clark -- Bought after the Melissa Clark COTM -- I cooked so many of her recipes scrounged off the internet that I knew I needed to buy it. I have cooked many things from this book, almost all with great success, and continue to return to it bc it really suits my lifestyle.

                                                                Jerusalem, Ottolenghi - I've only made one thing from the book so far, but it was good. Lots I want to try in here, it is an exciting book.

                                                                The Un(der)tested:

                                                                660 Curries - bought when it was COTM after waiting almost the whole month for the interlibrary loan to come through, then i had to return the book two weeks later after barely getting a look at this huge tome. For a variety of reasons, I haven't been able to cook from this book yet, despite the fact that I really enjoy cooking Indian food. I hope to delve into it further in 2013.

                                                                Love Soup, Anna Thomas - bought when it came up in COTM nomination discussions. I love vegetarian soups, and I was really attracted to all the green soup recipes in this book. I have made two soups from the book so far, both pretty good but not mindblowing. I need to use this book more before I can make a final decision about it.

                                                                Plenty, Diana Henry -- Again, bought when it was discussed as a COTM contender. I took a look on Amazon and couldn't resist. Haven't made a thing from it yet, but this book has lots of recipes that sound great.

                                                                Chez Panisse Fruit -- Bought for $3 and haven't used it. Not sure whether it was worth it, hopefully I'll find out in 2013.

                                                                Union Square Cafe -- Bought only because it was a COTM, available cheaply used, and not available through my library. I made one recipe from this book, which turned out well (beans). I have a few more bean-based recipes I'd like to try, and possibly the gruyere salad. Nothing else in the book appeals to me that much and I would not have bought this book if not for COTM.

                                                                1. I don't have nearly the cookbook addiction that some here do - actually, the only book I bought this year that I've really cooked from is 660 Curries, which I love. I did receive Ad Hoc at Home for Christmas last year, though - I haven't cooked much from it, but the brownie recipe is worth the price of the book in my opinion. I received three new books for Christmas this year, and I hope to cook extensively from at least one of them (Fuchsia Dunlop, Land of Plenty).

                                                                  1. I am so proud of all of you who bought only a handful of books. You showed great restraint and I hope to do the same in 2013. As for 2012, what's done is done.

                                                                    Twenty nine books in 12 months - I really DO have a problem. Two of these were gifts (but I did ask for them) and two more were gifts for my husband (to get him more involved in our kitchen experience), so that brings it down to around two a month. That is not too bad, I guess... Six more were COTM during this calendar year so very justifiable purchases. OK, that brings it down to 19 new books I have no justification for buying except that I wanted them.


                                                                    Bistro Cooking at Home
                                                                    Big Small Plates
                                                                    Mighty Spice

                                                                    You all should have these three on your shelves


                                                                    Second Helpings
                                                                    The Big Book of Backyard Cooking
                                                                    Stop and Smell the Rosemary
                                                                    Sacramental Magic
                                                                    Smith and Hawkins

                                                                    I really wouldn't miss any of these if they disappeared from my shelves tomorrow.


                                                                    Second Helpings
                                                                    Lobster at Home
                                                                    Raising the Salad Bar
                                                                    The Homesick Texan

                                                                    The entire list:

                                                                    Market Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season ( a gift for DH)
                                                                    Vietnamese Home Cooking (birthday gift)
                                                                    Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjacks - a great read
                                                                    La Parilla: The Mexican Grill -love
                                                                    Bocaditos -love
                                                                    Bistro Cooking at Home - love, love, love
                                                                    The Tortilla Book - love
                                                                    Mix Shake Stir ( a gift for DH)
                                                                    The Soul of a New Cuisine - fascinating
                                                                    Sacramental Magic In a Small Town Cafe
                                                                    Raising the Salad Bar (COTM - companion thread)
                                                                    Big Small Plates -love, love, love
                                                                    Smith and Hawken: The Gardeners' Community Cookbook
                                                                    Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World
                                                                    Lobster at Home (COTM - companion thread)
                                                                    Fish Without A Doubt (COTM)
                                                                    Moro (COTM) - really enjoyed this COTM
                                                                    Stop and Smell the Rosemary
                                                                    The Big Book of Backyard Cooking
                                                                    Mighty Spice - a worthy addition to my shelves
                                                                    The Japanese Grill - would like to cook from this one more
                                                                    A Twist of the Wrist (library sale) - enjoy
                                                                    The Last Course - had to have it
                                                                    The Elephant Walk Cookbook (birthday gift)
                                                                    Second Helpings (COTM)
                                                                    Gran Cucina Latina - bought b/cuz I think will b future COTM
                                                                    The Homesick Texan (COTM)
                                                                    The Brisket Book

                                                                    1. Mugaritz. So I don't actually have this book myself but I'm going to say that it had us HOWLING with laughter the other night at a friend's house. The recipe that had us in stitches was one where you start with 10 eggplants (10!) which you throw into a pit of hot coals until they are incinerated. The resulting ash is sprinkled onto the plate to accompany some insane dish or other that serves 4 (4!). I'm not saying that these people don't know how to cook but I am saying that this book is hilarious. Sorry if I've offended any believers.

                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                                        Mugaritz has 3 michelin stars and has been voted one of the top 3 restaurants in the world the last few years. I give them the benefit of the doubt, although I actually find their book quite boring. The "ash" thing was a technique that was all the rage a couple of years ago.

                                                                        I havent tried it, but I will say ash in things like humboldt fog cheese is nice, so I dont think its a totally crazy idea.

                                                                        Regardless of the stance on ash, I agree, this book is a pass. Its nowhere near as good as NOMA or Quay (similar books)

                                                                        1. re: twyst

                                                                          Oh, NOMA. That is one gorgeous book.

                                                                          1. re: chefathome

                                                                            Check out Quay if you get a chance then! It didnt get the press noma did because noma is the #1 restaurant in the world, but the quay book is very similar and is even more beautiful!

                                                                            1. re: twyst

                                                                              I have never seen Quay, actually, and unsure how I missed it. Will look into it. Thanks!

                                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                                I completely and totally missed it when it came out too. I only picked it up about a month ago, but it is the most beautiful cookbook I own (and I have a bit of a cookbook problem so that is saying a lot). Like NOMA and mugaritz, its a lot more about food porn than being a real "cookbook"

                                                                                The restaurant has been on the top 50 restaurants in the world list the last few years, but I think it gets overlooked because its all the way down in AUS.

                                                                          2. re: twyst

                                                                            Look I get it. I just think that it's a ridiculous pretension. Food as theatre, I guess. Just my humble (and I really mean that) opinion. I'm a peasant and if I had 10 eggplants I would not cremate them to decorate a dish.

                                                                            1. re: Nyleve

                                                                              Haha, Im sure id be right there with you if I liked eggplant. But since I hate them I say BURN EM :P

                                                                              1. re: twyst

                                                                                I'll be the one with the fire hose.

                                                                            2. re: twyst

                                                                              Twyst, I have NOMA but have not cooked anything from it. Their techniques are so very different from what I know, I am terrified to even try. Have you cooked from it? Could you suggest a recipe or two to try?

                                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                                Noma is just food porn and a lot of the stuff in the book is totally unapproachable as a complete recipe for a bunch of reasons (availablility of ingredients/epuipment, the fact it would take a full kitchen crew to prep some items etc).

                                                                                The only way I have been able to use the noma book is to take bits and pieces of dishes, whether it be an element from the plate, or an interesting flavor combination or whatever.

                                                                                The thing I use most from the noma book is simply the "soil".
                                                                                Its very versatile and you can riff on it to produce a lot of new textures and platings. Im sure everyone will find their own thing in the book that inspires them to play around with it.

                                                                                If you are looking for a restaurant cookbook that is more approachable, yet still really difficult, Id try to cook through eleven madison park book. Most of those complete recipes can be done at home, although its a lot of work and does require some special equipment.

                                                                                1. re: twyst

                                                                                  Agree that Eleven Madison Park is more approachable than NOMA. I only cook bits and pieces from NOMA but basically I just salivate looking at the photography. I would definitely not place it on my favourite cookbook list because in my mind it is in a different category - my favourites include those books I cook a lot from (i.e. as I mentioned French Laundry, etc.). Alinea is another example. Gorgeous book but I use it very little so agian, not in my favourites category.

                                                                          3. I have bought many cookbooks in the past, so many in fact that I have given away hundreds, and still own perhaps a thousand. I read them, but never use them -- I cook now by instinct. And if I really need to have an inspiration, I go online.

                                                                            That said, I did buy some noteworthy books this year:

                                                                            The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
                                                                            The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant

                                                                            That's all, but I recommend all three highly.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: pitterpatter

                                                                              I have all three on holds at the library - waiting my turn. I am particularly interested in fermentation.

                                                                            2. Recently at a swap meet there was a woman who was selling at least a hundred used cook books. It was her first time selling anything and it seemed she just wanted to 'get rid'. She didn't care what she was offered per book. I was an 'early bird' and got a chance to go through the whole lot. I was in cook book heaven! I ended up with about twenty books for about ten bucks. I took them to the truck and while my wife was still looking around I thought I'd have a better look at what I'd purchased. "This was a mistake and so was this one and this one too". I ended up with two books barely worth keeping. The others I took back into the swap meet and when the woman wasn't looking I put them back in the cardboard boxes.

                                                                              1. I bought at least 60 books in 2012; some new and many used. Eight books were bought for COTM and I cooked from all of them
                                                                                While I continue to marvel at that statement, herby, wow! I must admit I thought that participating in COTM would save the spending money on cookbooks because CH's are sharing individual recipes and highlights within the thread. Does participation wind up becoming a marketing tool (ie:buying tool) to buy rather than borrow or pass.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                  Kind of sad, isn't it? As soon as nominations for the folowing month start, all the talk about various books pulls me in emotionally and I want, want, want... give in and buy. I borrowed from the library too but more often than not I have to wait for the book as our libraries do not have many copies of cookbooks. That has been my excuse and a bargain price for "very good" used book. Sigh....

                                                                                  1. re: herby

                                                                                    kind of remarkable (to me anyway). trust me I have my own weaknesses (cookbooks perhaps not as strong) for collecting and I don't make excuses :)

                                                                                    COTM has become quite the treasure trove all on its own.

                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                      This year will be different; I've found that some books people rave about are not so precious to me; many books have variation of the same recipe; some books are just not possible to cook from; some authors that are super popular do little for me. So, many lessons learnt :)

                                                                                      COTM is great but takes a lot of time to post and i have not been good at it. Will try to make more time for it this year.

                                                                                      And here are my two resolutions :)

                                                                                2. Did not get even one dud in 2012--amazing! Clear top 3 favorites are Thompson's Thai Street Food, Duguid's Burma, and Wolfert's The food of Morocco. And a surprise little treat I dug out bin in one of those "where books are sent to die" closeout stores is a book with tons of small plate recipes. It's from 2003 and published in the UK, it's totally no-name, but it's a great little book.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: alliegator

                                                                                    Sometimes its those no-name books that really charm us and surprise us allegator, I couldn't agree more. I have a small salad book I picked up from a 99¢ bin that I tucked into our travel box (a kitchen box we take w us when we're on a road trip to a vacation rental). I think I've made and loved every salad in that book over the years. The other one I have is a hard cover cookie book that's provided many great successes over the years. Your appetizer book looks lovely...enjoy!!

                                                                                  2. I would like to say, before reading these posts I thought I had a problem with buying cookbooks. It turns out I only have a mild case compared to many so thank you all for boosting my self-esteem.

                                                                                    I check out a lot of books from the library and if I love them end of buying them. Doesn't hurt that I have 2 sisters close buy that also cook and have books I can borrow.

                                                                                    Thanks for the recommendations and warnings.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: DebHo

                                                                                      My name is flourgirl and I have a cookbook problem. In fact, I'm typing this as I take a break from pretending I'm getting my cookbook collection under control when in reality all I did was just move several stacks from one room to another. I dream of owning an ivy-covered home with a huge library, in which there is a big fireplace with a pair of dogs snoozing nearby, a couple of club chairs and endless shelves for all of my books. My humble home has some of those things but not nearly enough shelf space. (I love books in general - my cookbook collection is quite large, but I have a ton of other books on all kinds of subjects.)

                                                                                      I do see some faint light at the end of the tunnel...at this point there are very few holes in my collection that I particularly feel compelled to fill, my urge to acquire new cookbooks FINALLY seems to be dimming and other than a couple of books I have on pre-order on Amazon, there's nothing new on the horizon that I'm aware of that I have any real desire to own. It's a good thing too because i just have NO room to put any more books and I am desperately combing through them looking for anything I can bear to part with and donate to my library's annual book sale. I've only managed one big box so far, and there's not a single cookbook to be found in there.

                                                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                        Flourgirl, I can so relate to your post and have way too many cookbooks and books in general myself. I will say they are very organized, but still, it is a lot and they are in several rooms. In preparing to sell our house, I had to pare down and have gotten rid of several hundred books, including mostly cookbooks. I also packed up numerous boxes and put them in storage. I had a folding wrought iron bookshelf in the kitchen full of cookbooks that had to be put away. Additionally, I have two boxes of books, again mostly cookbooks, that are ready to take to Half Price Books.
                                                                                        I, of course, acquire new ones here and there, and make myself get rid of at least one for every new one I bring in the door. I find it much easier to give away fiction books than my cookbooks. Parting with any at this point is hard because I have culled so many already and what is left, I think are the keepers. However, I know for certain, there are more that I can live without. My favs are the baking ones, but in truth, I love them all.
                                                                                        I have a full wall of cookbooks in my dining room(my "library") and I wonder what people who are looking at our house, think about that.
                                                                                        My plan for today, is to look through and pull several more off the shelf to get rid of. If and when, we really need to downsize in a big way, I will be in trouble! Luckily, I have a very understanding husband who appreciates my passion.

                                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                          Have you cooked out of all of them and love them? I find the ones I have had and never cooked out of mean nothing really sounded great to me.

                                                                                          1. re: DebHo

                                                                                            No, I haven't cooked out of all of them, but I don't buy them all with the intention of cooking out of all of them either. I use them for learning new techniques, for reference, for inspiration, I reread many of them, (it's like visiting old friends.) I have a lot of books, but I'm actually quite choosy about the ones I buy and I really love them all.

                                                                                      2. Just going through my amazon (and other) accounts and pretty much all books were good this year (even though I hadn't much time last year to cook and many books have to be more intensly tested this year) and it really helps to check them in bookstores before buying them:
                                                                                        - Modernist Cuisine at Home
                                                                                        - Plenty
                                                                                        - Bouchon Bakery
                                                                                        - Gran Cocina Latina
                                                                                        - Ludobites
                                                                                        - Burma
                                                                                        - Vietnamese Home Cooking
                                                                                        - PDT Cocktail Book
                                                                                        - Ancient Grains
                                                                                        - Twist
                                                                                        - Humphry Slocombe
                                                                                        - Flavors of Greece
                                                                                        - Beach Bum Berry
                                                                                        - Garde Manger
                                                                                        - Mourad: New Moroccan
                                                                                        - Asian Dumplings
                                                                                        - The Food of Morocco
                                                                                        - Hot and Cheesey
                                                                                        - Takashi's Noodles
                                                                                        - Wagamama Cookbook

                                                                                        1. Kaleo recommended James Peterson's "Sauces" a while back, when I asked about making a demi-glace. Best book I have ever bought, in ways. It's really gotten me to a much higher level, and quickly. I think I just got it at the perfect time in my cooking 'career'. Thanks Kaleo, if you're reading. I love, love, love that book - it's with me everywhere.

                                                                                          The least successful book for me was 660 Curries, unfortunately.