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'Tis the Season for (more) Cookbooks

Fine Cooking Issue 76
Photo: Scott Phillips
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Just when you thought there wasn’t room in the bookcase for another cookbook, along comes a bumper crop of tempting new titles. What’s a book-crazy cook to do? Write up a wish list and get another bookshelf, we say.

Dig in, deeply

Cooks who want to explore a single topic in depth are in luck this season with three new offerings on very different topics. Whether you’re hankering for ribs and pit beans or just a good read, you’ll come away from Peace, Love, and Barbecue (Rodale, $19.95), by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, satisfied. This book is a wild romp through the fascinating world of American barbecue: pigs, pitmasters, secret sauces, and all. Meet the pros; peek into the best little shrines, shacks, and joints; and listen in on tales as juicy as a hog on a spit.

If you can’t actually sneak into home kitchens across Spain to see what’s on the stove, Teresa Barrenechea’s new cookbook, The Cuisines of Spain (Ten Speed Press, $40), is the next best thing. Barrenechea presents some 250 authentic but approachable recipes for regional specialties, so you can enjoy classics like Tortilla Española (potato and onion omelet) and Sopa de Ajo (bread and garlic soup) at your very own table.

We could go on and on about Barbara Kafka’s magnificent new cookbook, Vegetable Love (Artisan, $35), but let’s cut to the chase: You need this book. It has 750 tempting recipes for everything from Avocado Salad to Zucchini Pickles, plus all the information you could ever want about every vegetable you’re likely to meet.

Cook like a chef

For the serious home cook, there’s nothing like pulling off a restaurant-quality meal at home, and here are two books to get you started. Relaxed fixed-price Sunday suppers are a beloved tradition at Suzanne Goin’s L.A. restaurant Lucques. And Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Knopf, $35) features 32 of Goin’s Sunday menus, organized by season. The recipes require some patience and planning, but they’re easy to follow.

In Chef, Interrupted (Clarkson Potter, $32.50), Melissa Clark takes the signature dishes of the country’s best chefs and translates them into recipes that any dedicated home cook can make. Time and again—in dishes like Tom Colicchio’s Mushroom Tarte Tatin and Michelle Bernstein’s Crispy Soft-Shell Crab with Pickled Watermelon, Arugula & Feta Salad—Clark preserves ingenious elements and jettisons unnecessary flourishes. What you get is food so exquisite you’ll have trouble believing you made it yourself.

Sweet treats

Anyone who’s curious about the science of baking, loves adventure stories, or lives at a high elevation will jump for joy when they get their hands on a copy of Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes (William Morrow, $29.95), by Susan G. Purdy. With intelligence and humor, Purdy debunks high-altitude-baking myths and, instead, delivers precise charts for adjusting ingredients and tasty recipes that work at any altitude.

Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Baking (Simon & Schuster, $26) celebrates Southern home baking with a sprinkling of personal reminiscences, a heaping spoonful of historical perspective, and a charming collection of 150 recipes, from feathery biscuits to a litany of loaves, cobblers, pies, and cakes. 

From the Fine Cooking family

Like the innovative food at his Manhattan restaurants, L’Impero and Alto, the recipes in Scott Conant’s New Italian Cooking (Broadway Books, $35), co-written with former Fine Cooking editor Joanne Smart, are inspired by Italian ingredients and traditions and distinguished by Conant’s beguiling touch. You’ll find plenty of recipes that cook in 45 minutes or less (Pancetta-Wrapped Chicken Legs, for example), but you’ll also find ideas for dinner parties and for when you want to make something different but undeniably delicious.

The lighthearted style of Perfect Recipes for Having People Over (Houghton Mifflin, $35), by Fine Cooking contributing editor Pam Anderson, should put any nervous host at ease. With the queen of perfect recipes walking you through the process, throwing a dinner party is easy and worry-free. And the foolproof recipes are so tasty that people will think you cooked all day—even though you haven’t.

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