Today on Food Matters I revealed my suggestions for cookbooks as gifts for the 2011 holiday season. But it’s very important to match the cookbook to the cook. You don’t give a book that has complicated recipes in it to a beginner, and you don’t give someone who already has 300 cookbooks the Dummy’s Guide to Boiling Water.
I started with someone who is known for producing cookbooks that are for the relatively inexperienced home cook. The latest from Chef at Home, Chef at Large, and Food Network star Michael Smith is called Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen, in which he has put together one hundred of his all-time favourite recipes that he makes at home on a regular basis. No fancy ingredients, not too many fancy methods and a photo for every recipe.
If you are looking for a book with just a little more technique, but still fairly easy recipes to make in the Italian fashion, check out Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica. McEwan is the chef behind quite the culinary empire in Toronto, with Fabbrica being his latest restaurant, what he describes as a casual but elegant, authentic Italian eatery. As he built the restaurant he built his collection of Italian recipes, so decided to put all those together in a cookbook. He takes pride in both the restaurant and the cookbook for being authentic Italian, and says you can learn how to do it, too.
The recipes in this next book aren’t necessarily ones that require a lot of skill but it’s the ingredients that are the challenging part. This book is called Odd Bits, How To Cook The Rest of the Animal, by Jennifer McLagan. Jennifer had real hits with her previous books, Fat, and Bones, and since she’s taken care of those underused parts of animals, the Odd Bits was everything else left over. So, liver, tongue, heart, kidney, all the stuff many people shudder at just at the thought of eating it, but she takes it on in an effort to stop us from wasting an animal we’ve raised to eat and to get us new flavour sensations. This book is also full of fascinating facts about offal and if the person who you’re thinking about giving this book to already goes just to butcher shops instead of supermarket meat counters they would probably like to see this under the Christmas tree.
The perfect wine read for this year is Ottawa-based wine writer Natalie McLean’s second book, Unquenchable, A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines. For this book Natalie traveled the world to find bargains, we’re talking well under 20 dollars a bottle for the most part here…because there is a lot of wine out there we can experience at lower prices that is just as good or even better than the higher-priced stuff.
Other books you can consider as great gifts for this year:
Jacques Pepin: The Essential Pepin
Nigel Slater: Tender, Volume II
Jamie Oliver: Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes
Coleman Andrews: The Country Cooking of Italy
Edward Behr: The Art of Eating
Becky Selengut: Good Fish
My Last Supper – The Next Course
While researching this item it was a real pleasure to be able to interview Jennifer McLagan, Natalie MacLean, Michael Smith and Mark McEwan. The entire interviews cover much more detail about their books and other facets of their lives than I had time to mention on the show today, so if you’d like to hear more from them, just click on the files below to listen.