Lately, it seems as if every day brings a new gift guide or best cookbooks of the year list from some corner of the internet. I briefly considered putting one or another of my own together, but I did a gift guide last year (and things haven’t changed much in the world of canning since then) and truly, I am not perfectly acquainted with all the new cookbooks that came out this year.
Instead, I thought I show you the stack of cookbooks that I’ve been flipping through and using the most lately. Some of these came out this year, but a handful of them are classic books that I’ve loved for years.
How to Feed Your Friends with Relish came out several years ago. However, I only discovered it recently, so it’s happily new to me. It’s just the kind of cookbook I like best, lots of good food and plenty of narrative that allows you to read as if it were a novel. Plus, knowing that it was written by a British author means that when I read it, I can use an English accent in my head, which is a whole other kind of satisfying entertainment.
D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington is a book that falls firmly in my wheelhouse and so will certainly appeal to many, many readers of this site. Essentially, she set out to learn how to make a whole world of things we’ve taken to buying at the grocery store. She takes the homemade assignment far further than I do here and shows how to make lovely things like tortillas, worlds of vinaigrettes and sour dough starter.
The Way We Cook is a book I first discovered when it first came out in 2003 (in fact, Amazon tells me that I bought it almost exactly seven years ago today) and I love it as much today as I did when it first arrived. In the beginning, it was an aspirational cookbook for me, full of things like seared scallops and many-ingredient stews.
As I became a more confident cook, I grew into it and my copy is now wrinkled and stained. I’ve got good news for you all too. I recently spotted copies at Borders for $4.99, so if it sounds interesting to you, head to your local outpost and see if you can’t score a bargain copy.
Written by fellow food blogger Rachel Rappaport, The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook is a fantastic book for those of us who love our slow cookers. The thing I like most about this book is that it has helped me expand my understand of what a slow cooker can do (in the past, I’ve use mine primarily for fruit butters, chicken stock and cooking beans). There are a number of recipes I’ve marked that I hope to try soon. After all, what better time of year for a slow cooker than chilly winter?
In recent years, I’ve been working hard to buy better meat. For me, this means that it was locally raised and grass-fed. Of course, that choice comes with a heftier price tag and means that the end result is that we end up eating less meat.
Happily, Almost Meatless has been on my shelf since the spring of 2009, helping me make that good meat taste wonderful and stretch further than I ever thought possible. It’s a really great book that also happens to have been I written by two women I know and adore. However, I’d love it even if they were perfect strangers.
Written by salt expert Mark Bitterman, Salted, is a glorious book. Admittedly, I was a natural audience for it, as I’ve been obsessed with salt for years now (truly, I have more than eight varieties in my kitchen right now). But even if I was a complete salt novice, I would have been quickly converted by its lovely pictures and pure passion. If you get a book store gift card for the holidays this year and find single subject books fascinating, you should consider splurging on this one.
Not to be totally redundant, but I do truly love soup. Be it bean, chicken, beef or vegetable, I welcome it in my kitchen. I first heard about Love Soup when it came out last fall. I spent a year resisting buying it (when I buy a new cookbook, my husband raises an eyebrow and says, “really? Another one?”) before finally succumbing back in October. Since then, it has served as inspiration for many a warming bowl of soup. When my sister gets married someday, I want to give her a copy of this book paired with a sturdy soup pot.
You’ve probably heard about In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite already. It’s been something of a food blog darling since it came out this fall. I tend to be a little skeptical of books that get so much attention (I can’t help but root for the underdog), but in this case, the people were right. It’s wonderful. I particularly love the fact that there’s a chapter called ‘Things With Cheese.’ There is no way not to love this book.
I like yogurt. I like it plain, with granola or with a few spoonfuls of jam stirred in. I also like to cook with it (example: this quick bread recipe). I’m loving The Yogurt Bible because it has opened up a wider world of yogurt appreciation than I ever knew possible. Mmm, yogurt.
I have a well-documented weakness for community cookbooks and have at least 25 in my apartment (a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to adopt a number from a collection that had belonged to the mother of a friend of a friend). However, The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook is really a whole different animal from those simple spiral-bound community collections. It’s an expertly curated assortment of classic southern recipes and I love it.
I love salads nearly as much as I love soups. In fact, just this evening, we had a chopped salad of crunchy veg, grilled chicken and garbanzo beans, bound together with a pesto-mayonnaise dressing. It was a new salad for me and came to be because I’ve had my copy of Mixt Salads out on the dining room table for the last week, radiating fresh ideas. This is wonderfully helpful since I often find myself treading the same well-traveled path between butter lettuce, arguula and baby spinach. It’s nice to eat something new.
As you may have figured out, I’m a sucker for edible gifts. Gifts Cooks Love takes my simple canning and baking and reminds me that it can be elevated it into something special. I realize it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good for this holiday season, but this is the kind of volume that will become a classic that you’ll turn to year after year.
Yikes, writing this post has been something of a marathon. I hope you made it this far! If you did, you’re in luck. I have copies of two of the books on this list to give away. Leave a comment sharing your favorite cookbook to give as a gift by Thursday, December 23 at 11:59 p.m. to enter for a chance to win a copy of either The Yogurt Bible or Gifts Cook Love.