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Books for Cooks

Give the gift of a good read

Fine Cooking Issue 96
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient
with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan (Ten Speed Press, $32.50)

One of the season’s more unusual titles, Fat isn’t simply a cookbook; it’s a celebration of the ingredient that makes everything we eat taste better. Chapters explore butter, pork, poultry, beef, and lamb fat, offering history, lore, and more than 100 sweet and savory recipes that range from the expected (Sweet Butter Pastry and Braised Pork Belly) to the surprising (Brown Butter Ice Cream and Bacon Baklava).

A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes
by David Tanis (Artisan, $35)

In this collection of 24 seasonal menus, chef David Tanis (of Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse) celebrates the simple grace of family-style eating. If many of the menus seem suited for special occasions—take, for example, the wonderfully wintry Slow Beef menu, which includes Watercress, Beet, and Egg Salad; Braised Beef with Celery Root Mashed Potatoes; and Roasted Apples—that’s because Tanis thinks everyday eating is a special occasion. With a disarming blend of seriousness and whimsy, Tanis nudges the reader toward spending and enjoying more time, not less, in the kitchen.

Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life
by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, $37.50)

For this cookbook, his eighth, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver found all the inspiration he needed right in his own back yard (where he happens to have an amazing vegetable garden), and his jovial zeal for seasonal cooking just might inspire you to cook your way through the entire book. Look to the fall chapter for game, mushroom, orchard fruit, and pickle recipes and to the winter chapter for winter salad, pastry, leek, and squash recipes. Oliver’s instructions are always generously detailed, and his chummy prose makes him as good a kitchen companion as one might hope to find in a book.

A16: Food + Wine
by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren (Ten Speed Press, $35)

A16 is the acclaimed San Francisco restaurant devoted to the foods and wines of southern Italy, but this is not just a feast-for-the-eyes restaurant cookbook. It’s a book you really can cook and learn from. Written by the restaurant’s chef and its wine director, the book is part cookbook and part wine guide, with comprehensive profiles of regional grapes (Fiano, Trebbiano, Aglianico, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and Primitivo, to name a few) and plenty of rustic, approachable recipes for antipasti, pizza, soup, pasta, seafood, meat, and vegetables.

Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate
by Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris (Gotham Books, $27.50)

In the 1950s and ’60s, jet-setting Clementine Paddleford was the country’s best-known food editor, a tireless roving reporter who wrote with style and wit about America’s regional foodways. So why is it that her name and her work have been all but forgotten? This engrossing biography, sprinkled with recipes throughout, answers that question and in doing so returns Paddleford to her rightful place among the culinary elite.

Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond
by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox (Houghton Miffl in, $35)

There’s no shortage of Mediterranean-inspired cookbooks out there, so kudos to chef Sara Jenkins and food writer Mindy Fox for delivering one that’s full of surprises. It’s a delight to discover that there are plenty of new dishes and cooking techniques to try, such as a surprisingly delicious Strawberry Risotto that’s deeply flavored and not at all sweet, and a multigrain tabbouleh in which the bulgur is softened in lemon juice rather than cooked. These recipes, like all the others in this appealing book, are guided by simplicity—further proof that humble ingredients produce the most amazing fare.

BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking
by Shirley O. Corriher (Scribner, $40)

Here it is—the long-awaited follow-up to Corriher’s award-winning book, Cookwise. And once again, Corriher, a food scientist and gifted teacher, walks you through each of her no-fail recipes, explaining all the hows and whys of cakes, pies, cookies, meringues, soufflés, and much more. Packed with more than 200 tempting recipes, this book will satisfy your curiosity as much as your sweet tooth—and make you a better baker to boot.

Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin
by Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreño (Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95)

Kenny Shopsin is the eccentric chef-owner of a legendary Greenwich Village diner, Shopsin’s General Store. His mind-boggling book, like Shopsin himself, may not be to everyone’s taste (profanity alert!), but it’s a definitely a gem. In it, you’ll find some 100 recipes as well as insightful advice on griddling pancakes, blending milk shakes, making burgers, and roasting turkey. And if you read Shopsin’s rants closely, you might even discover the secrets to happiness.

The Paris Neighborhood Cookbook: Danyel Couet’s Guide to the City’s Ethnic Cuisines
by Danyel Couet (Interlink Books, $35)

Most of us will never have the opportunity to explore the City of Lights as widely or know it as intimately as does award-winning restaurateur Danyel Couet, but losing yourself in this enchanting book is the next best thing. Here, Couet reveals the gastronomic secrets of Paris’s ethnic neighborhoods through a tantalizing collection of recipes and photographs. The recipes are invitingly brief, and many of them—for example, the fragrant Punjabi Lentil Curry and the paprika and cumin-tinged Quick Couscous—are wonderfully simple. But the truth is, this is one of those books you needn’t even cook from to thoroughly enjoy.


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