Cooking: Gourmet gifts galore
If there’s a super-serious cook on your holiday gift list, NOPI: The Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully’s ode to their latest restaurant in London’s West End, should be your pick. Though this is restaurant food—complex dishes designed to be made by a team of pros—the recipes here have been somewhat simplified so that the courageous home cook can take on the challenge and serve up a reasonable facsimile of a NOPI creation. Just make sure your lucky giftee invites you over for Scallops with Corn and Merguez Salsa and Sorrel Sauce or Baked Blue Cheese Cake with Pickled Beets and Honey.
Curious cooks will be thrilled with J. Kenji López-Alt’s The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. An MIT-trained nerd with a passion for food (a ferd?), López-Alt believes that only by understanding the scientific principles that underlie what ingredients do when exposed to different techniques will you become a freer, more fluent cook. This may be serious food science, but with more than 300 recipes and 1,000 step-by-step photos seasoned with the author’s charm, wit and clear, patient explanations, it’s revelatory fun.
For lovers of la cucina Italiana, Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine promises to serve up “everything you need to know to be a great Italian cook.” And matriarch Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, keep their word. With 400 recipes from appetizers to desserts, plus in-depth info on Italian ingredients and cooking techniques, this is her most comprehensive Italian cookbook yet and the book every Lidia fan should have.
Drawn to the more exotic? Yearning for crunchy, fragrant Fried Sesame Pork Tenderloin or lightly sauced Kung Pao Chicken as it’s served in Sichuan? Then Kian Lam Kho’s lusciously illustrated Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees is just right. He has organized the book by cooking methods, rather than by region or ingredient, giving you the gastronomic essentials you need to master these exquisitely varied Chinese dishes—for everyday meals or for more elaborate feasts.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
Hartwood is a trip—a glorious culinary adventure to the edge of the Yucatán jungle and the delicious edge of contemporary cuisine. Eric Werner and Mya Henry left their restaurant jobs in Manhattan to follow a dream that turned into a restaurant open to the tropical night, serving their unique take on dazzling, wood-fueled, Mexican-infused dishes. Beautifully photographed and compellingly written, Hartwood is their celebration of the “love project” they’ve created. You can make and savor these 88 recipes (almost all the ingredients are obtainable in the U.S.) or you can luxuriate in armchair cooking and dream along with Werner and Henry.
This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.