One of the perks of the job of any cookbook-loving food writer is access to review copies of new cookbook titles released every year. But, alas, the personal culinary library can only hold so many volumes before they literally take over the house.
However, cookbooks do make great Christmas gifts – what could be better than putting a carefully selected title into the hands of a cook who will really make use of it? In the spirit of giving, and shelf space, that's just what I'm doing this year.
by Gabrielle Hamilton
Random House, 576 pp, $45
Chef Hamilton shares years worth of recipes from her wildly successful, tiny bistro on New York's Lower East Side. She describes the food at Prune as essentially “home cooking in a restaurant setting,” and the book is produced to resemble a working chef's notebook, complete with fingerprint stains and detailed margin notes to the cooks who produce each dish. My retired chef friend Suzann Dvorken will enjoy a vicarious stage in the Prune kitchen, putting her own stains on these pages.
BLUE CHAIR COOKS WITH JAM AND MARMALADE
by Rachel Saunders
Andrews McMeel, 368 pp, $45
Blue Chair Fruit is an artisan jam company in Oakland, CA, that is highly regarded as one of the best in the country. In her newest book, founder Rachel Saunders offers 150 recipes for using jams and marmalades as key ingredients in every dish. Frequent Austin Chronicle
contributor Kate Thornberry is an avid gardener and home canner with a larder fully stocked with her own jams. This one's for her.
SPECIAL DAY COOKING: A LIFE SKILLS COOKBOOK
by Beverly W. Palomba
Special Day Publishing, 160 pp, $19.95
The author developed this book during her career as an educator working with children with special needs. The recipes are presented simply, in large print, with easy-to-follow instructions that include assembling the necessary ingredients and equipment before beginning each project. While no one would mistake these dishes for haute cuisine, they offer youngsters with special needs the opportunity to feed themselves while developing necessary life skills and a genuine sense of accomplishment. Do you know a parent or teacher who could put this book to good use at home or in the classroom?
THE HOMESICK TEXAN'S FAMILY TABLE: LONE STAR COOKING FROM MY TABLE TO YOURS
by Lisa Fain
Ten Speed Press, 277 pp, $29.95
Texas ex-pat Lisa Fain has built her blogging career sharing recipes for quintessential Texas dishes. Her second cookbook traces the development of her personal culinary aesthetic to her family's cooking for special occasions. While some of the recipes appear to have been retooled from her first book, they are well-tested, accessible, and packed with flavor (most notably, chipotle peppers). My young friend Eric Panter cooks regularly with the church youth group he leads. Knowing how to make some of Fain's recipes will help with homesickness when and if they go away to college.
THE POLLAN FAMILY TABLE: THE BEST RECIPES AND KITCHEN WISDOM FOR DELICIOUS, HEALTHY FAMILY MEALS
by Corky, Lori, Dana, and Tracy Pollan; forward by Michael Pollan
Scribner, 352 pp, $30
Though some of the Pollan family members are celebrities in their own right (magazine and newspaper food writer/ Mom Corky, actress Tracy, and author Michael), this is no celebrity chef tome. This collection of time-tested family recipes, cooking tips, and kitchen wisdom was assembled by a large family for whom healthy cooking and family dining are an important aspect of daily life. It's practical, useful, and approachable. My busy niece and nephew with three kids should enjoy cooking with the Pollan's.