The guests have started arriving, you’ll pull things out of the oven soon, and then you’ll begin collecting compliments. The holidays are the best time to entertain, so look for these great food books and cookbooks to enhance your splashy party, simple meal, or big feast!
When you’re trying to add zing to a recipe in an easy way, you might reach for a staple in your fridge and start chopping. In The Core of an Onion by Mark Kurlansky (Bloomsbury, $28), you’ll see how that small vegetable went from garden plot to mandatory ingredient in the kitchen — but the onion isn’t just a food, as you’ll read. It’s a tradition, a science, and a secret that many chefs use to create their favorite dishes. Like many of Kurlansky’s other books, this one focuses on one single item on your plate. That, and the accompanying recipes, will make you hungry.
If you always start your guests off with appetizers and you want to keep things simple, look for Madame Fromage’s Adventures in Cheese by Tenaya Darlington (Workman, $30). Here, you’ll become a cheese expert in short order. Learn how cheese is made and why it’s important to know. Move on to a primer on how to tell your cheeses apart, what to include when building the perfect cheese board, what wine goes best with which cheese, and unusual ways to use cheese in your kitchen. This is a fun book to read, and you can put its lessons to work tonight.
For the cook who isn’t into fancy kitchen frou-frou, The Secret of Cooking by Bee Wilson (Norton, $40) is absolutely a book to have on a shelf near your stove. Part cooking lesson, part tips and hints, and part recipes, it’s great for the kitchen newbie as well as for the experienced cook who knows how all the tools work. Wilson writes plainly here, with simple directions and recipes that can be challenging but are mostly uncomplicated (although some of the ingredients may need explaining). A nice bonus is the chapter on cooking for one. This is a pretty book and even if you don’t like to cook, you’ll enjoy reading it. It might even make some converts.
Finally, if you’ve got a kiddo in the kitchen, or if someone you know is totally, 100% all-thumbs around a stove, Look and Cook Snacks: A First Book of Recipes in Pictures by Valorie Fisher (Astra Young Readers, $19.99) may be a book to find. It’s really super-simple with measurement conversions and step-by-step photos of the ingredients as well as the utensils you’d use to make easy dishes like salads, sandwiches, dips, wraps, cookies and other finger foods. Meant for kids ages 5 to 10, check it out for yourself, too, or for your favorite self-avowed non-cook.
And if these books aren’t exactly what your gift recipient needs in the kitchen, head to your favorite bookstore or library and ask the bookseller or librarian about their favorite recipes.
Then, bon appetit!