Anyone can make real cheese in one hour or even less in their kitchen using these recipes ranked from easy to easier to easiest. Creamy and spreadable cheeses are made with milk, cream, and lemon juice or vinegar, while the firm and chewy, or melty and gooey, require easy-to-obtain vegetarian rennet.
Why I picked it up: I love kitchen projects. Plus I love eating cheese and I'm looking for a new hobby.
Why I finished it: Lucero knows how easy it can be to get discouraged when you're learning something new, so she has pep talks and encouragement throughout the book. I felt better about my missteps in heating the milk for “Fromage Facile.” After making something not only edible but also tasty, I felt confident that I could keep learning (and not worry about wasting milk) as I go through the recipes.
It's perfect for: Part-time farmer Kelsey will like Lucero's section on getting to know your local cows (or goats) and will be inspired by recipes that use the cheeses and fresh herbs and vegetables.
“I’ve adored Sarah Chase’s cookbooks for decades! This is exactly what you want to cook at home—delicious, satisfying, earthy food your friends and family will love.”—Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks and Television
From a born-and-bred New Englander comes a book that sings with all the flavors and textures of the beloved region. Sarah Leah Chase is a caterer, cooking teacher, and prolific writer whose books—including The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (as coauthor) and Nantucket Open-House Cookbook—have over 3.4 million copies in print. For New England Open-House Cookbook, she draws from her memories of growing up in Connecticut and Maine; her experience living and cooking on Cape Cod; and her extensive travels meeting farmers, fishermen, and chefs. The result is a wide-ranging cookbook for everyone who has skied the mountains of Vermont, sailed off the coast of Maine, dug for clams on Cape Cod, or just wishes they had. It reflects the bountiful ingredients and recipes of New England, served up in evocative prose, gorgeous full-color photographs, and 300 delicious recipes.
All of New England’s classic dishes are represented, including a wealth of shellfish soups and stews and a full chapter celebrating lobster. From breakfast (Debbie’s Blue Ribbon Maine Muffins) to delightful appetizers and nibbles (Tiny Tumbled Tomatoes, Oysters “Clark Rockefeller”) to mains for every season and occasion: Baked Bluefish with New Potatoes and Summer Rib Eyes with Rosemary, Lemon, and Garlic. Plus: perfect picnic recipes, farmstand sides, and luscious desserts.
Poetry and art about food and the social experiences surrounding it.
Why I picked it up: I'm an unabashed foodie (and even have my own Foodie Book Group), plus I love poetry and art. It is pretty rare to see these things all folded together in a way that works, but I could tell right away this book was something special. The way the cover uses a cartoon moose to introduce the idea of an amuse-bouche, a tasty little preview I could never before remember how to pronounce, assured me that the author knew how to take pleasure in food without taking it too seriously.
Why I finished it: The poetry is accessible to younger kids, without talking down to them, and will appeal to readers of all ages thanks to its enthusiasm and humor. Combined with the art, the text becomes simply magical. Larkin has taken photographs of real people and food in his community, and embellished them with a combination of digital manipulation and white-out graffiti that is incredibly playful and inviting.
It's perfect for: My book group buddy Katie, who teaches grade school. This book would inspire her to find awesome new ways to connect with her kids’ love of food through art, share cultural traditions, and make snack-sized poems.
For comics fans, home brewers, and beer aficionados comes a full-color, lushly illustrated graphic novel that recounts the many-layered past and present of beer through dynamic pictures and insights into the history of the world's favorite brew. Packed with knowledge, this title covers the art, science, economics, and styles of beer, exploring the most popular modern varieties. It includes expert commentary on color, bitterness, strength, malt character, and hop character.
Michelle Tam is a mom and night shift hospital pharmacist who was determined to keep eating healthy and stay in shape, despite juggling a growing family and a nutty schedule. When she was young and single she ate whatever she liked, and once married she and her husband spent their double incomes on culinary indulgences. But once they had kids, their diet started to catch up with them. She tried counting calories and doing DVD workouts every day. Her husband started weight training and tried a paleo diet. She saw few results and felt miserable, while he felt fantastic and joined a gym. Finally, she made the switch to paleo. She found she had so much energy she was able to make a blog of her food adventures (and eventually a book and an app, too). How successful has this been? The woman has her own action figure!
Why I picked it up: I consider myself a total foodie, and one of the problems I have with trying to eat better is that healthy food often looks simply unappetizing. I started looking into the paleo diet because so many of my really fit friends dig it, and I came across Michelle's blog. I love the idea of food that is healthy but also nom-worthy. (Michelle defines Nom Nom as "the noise you make when you're eating something incredibly mind-blowing, and you're just scarfing it down.")
Why I finished it: The book is packed with luscious food photography and adorable comics, two of my favorite things! The recipe that really got me hooked was “Asian Cauliflower Fried ‘Rice’.” Fried rice is one of my favorite foods, and I recently discovered the joy of roasting cauliflower, so this was a perfect stepping stone into the paleo world. But what really made me fall in love with this book is the layout. Michelle's passion for tasty food is totally supported by a great mix of informative photos that illustrate the crucial steps and also make it clear what the end result should be. Plus, the ingredients are broken out from the action in a way that makes things less daunting and more doable.
It's perfect for: My friend Chantrelle, who has been moving frequently the last few years as her husband has been in medical school. Now they are in a home with a nice big kitchen. She will love how the paleo recipes complement her bad-ass CrossFit and bicycle everywhere ways, but even more how much of this cookbook is full of recipes with tons of kid appeal. And with all the great photos, maybe her boy Wilder will be inspired to learn to feed himself more than just cereal, and perhaps start making meals the whole family will adore.
Seattle’s Skillet food trucks go beyond what most people think of street food. From the first truck to the openings of several restaurants, Henderson gives us recipes of the American comfort food he serves and the stories and photos to go with them.
Why I picked it up: I once won an essay contest, and the prize was having the Skillet truck cater my neighborhood party for National Night Out. I'd eaten at the truck before, but I became a bigger fan after the night the Airstream trailer parked in front of my house and fed my neighbors the most amazing rosemary fries and vegetarian sliders. I was delighted to learn that a cookbook had been published.
Why I finished it: Even though I'm a vegetarian and will never partake in the famed bacon jam, there are plenty of things I can eat. The book is divided into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert items with an index to recipes in the back. Since I'm a firm believer that pancakes and eggs should be eaten anytime, I spent most of my time in the breakfast section. The lemon-zested butter is a great topping for biscuits or pancakes, and the cauliflower scramble, a concoction of potatoes, cauliflower, and eggs served up on a thick slice of toasted bread, has become a favorite in my kitchen.
It's perfect for: Emily. She has a personal rule about desserts: fruit doesn’t qualify. She'll go nuts over the rhubarb-apple crisp (especially with ice cream) because it's loaded with butter. And she'll love the novelty of the “Pie in a Bowl,” where the pie crust and filling are made separately then crunched up together.
This barbecue cookbook by the co-owner of Smokin' Pete’s BBQ covers techniques, tools of the trade, and includes a glossary of terms.
Why I picked it up: I live by Smokin' Pete's and wanted to see what kinds of side dish recipes were included.
Why I finished it: I admit that it's odd that a vegetarian would want to review a book on barbecue, but I'm always fascinated by cookbooks because I love to learn about new techniques and then use them on things like tofu and portobello mushrooms. (I never realized there were differences between barbecuing and grilling. Barbecuing is a slow process with indirect heat, whereas grilling is a faster method that uses direct heat to lock the flavor in to the meat.) The book has a chapter devoted to side dishes, which I always bring to barbecues because when I bring a great side to a party full of carnivores, nobody harasses me about not eating meat. “Jamaican Black Beans with Sweet Potato,” a spicy bean dish with both habanero and poblano peppers, is going to be my next go-to recipe.
It's perfect for: My mom, who has really done a marvelous job in making sure I don't starve at family get-togethers. I never understood why barbecuing was considered a "man thing" to do -- my mom was the one in charge of the grill when we were kids. As we'd scurry back and forth bringing condiments and side dishes to the patio, she'd stand in the smoke hefting bloody steaks onto the grill.
Most people who have visited New Orleans agree it is one of the most unique cities in the world, and that much of that stems from its famous cuisine. Eat Dat is a comprehensive compilation of the culinary history of the city. The Creole cuisine was created by the French who came to New Orleans and attempted to recreate Parisian recipes replacing original ingredients with what they found in the local swamps and bayous. The resulting culinary delights defined the city. Organized by district, it has descriptions of eateries, their history, cuisine, location, pricing, and provides a “Reason to Go” and a recommendation of “What to Get.” There are historical anecdotes, biographies of famous contributors to the food culture, a “Best of” list, and finally an appendix listing all the restaurants by cuisine and style. This is a fascinating guide to some of world’s best dining experiences.
Why I picked it up: Gene gave me a stack of cookbooks, and this was among them. I was immediately taken by the information about a city I hope to visit again.
Why I finished it: This book will guide my next trip to New Orleans. The background for each restaurant, the description of its menu, and what is special there made me hungry. There are insights that will make me seem like a local, like pronunciation guides -- praline is (prah-leen) not (pray-leen). The origins of the restaurant names were also entertaining; Cooter Brown’s was named for a man who tried to stay drunk for the entire Civil War to avoid serving. When I visit I know I’m having the oysters with a Santa’s Butt beer.
It's perfect for: My daughter, who visited New Orleans as a performer just after Katrina. She missed a lot of the culture because the city was nearly shut down. When she returns she will want to meet Mr. Okra, both for his food mural and his personality, as he drives around in his battered, old, beautifully painted Ford pickup broadcasting that he “got orrrr-angess” and much more.
Modern Europeans and Americans are some of the few people left on this planet who don’t eat insects as a regular part of their diet. This book shows why insects are good for you and for the planet (high nutritional values with a minuscule carbon footprint), and also dozens of ways to cook specific species.
Why I picked it up: I used to show Peter Menzel’s book Man Eating Bugs to my middle school classes to get their attention and talk about different cultures. This book doesn’t have as many photographs, but it more than makes up for the lack with over forty recipes including “Chirpy Chex Party Mix” (crickets), “Oaxacan Whoppers” (grasshoppers), “Cockroach à la King,” and “Wasabi Wax Worms.”
Why I finished it: It is loaded with terrible recipe-related puns (“Pest-o,” anyone?). And Gordon knows his insects; his many award-winning recipes are tried and true. The back of the book includes a list of companies that sell fresh and prepared insects if you want to try one yourself.
It's perfect for: My dad, who taught insect identification for forty years, and who ate a few fried cicadas in his time. He’d appreciate how the author recommends catching or harvesting some household insects en masse (like carpenter ants or termites, if you have them), and buying others outright (scorpions and tarantulas are much easier to work with when frozen).
Over seventy tea and bakery establishments are highlighted in this colorful guide to Britain's favorite pastime. Gorgeous photographs accompany the descriptions which include contact information and suggestions on when and what to nibble and sip.
Why I picked it up: This little gem has been sitting in my regular coffee shop for a couple of months now, and the floral cow creamer on the cover keeps catching my eye.
Why I finished it: I read it bit by bit as I waited for my coffee in the mornings, and I think it is directly to blame for my ordering as many desserts as I have in the afternoons. I personally would love to visit the Primrose Bakery for its 1950s U.S. style, and Konditor & Cook to try the Curly Whirly cake.
It's perfect for: My mom, who is more of an armchair traveler but will one day make it to England for high tea. I can imagine her taking notes as she reads, figuring out which tearooms and patisseries to visit. I bet she’ll want to visit High Tea of Highgate because she’s got a thing for cow creamers, too, and she’ll want to admire theirs. (It must be genetic.)