Best Cookbooks 2012

My favorite cookbooks and food books of the year

Here are my absolute favorite cookbooks of 2012…

1. Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perlman
Everything…just everything in this cookbook from blogger Deb Perlman screams “Cook Me!” The combination of creative recipes, lush photography and chatty “you can do this” writing make it a must-have for the holidays.

2. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
As much a social commentary on life in this melting pot of a metropolis as cookbook, Jerusalem dives into the homey, rich heritage of Jewish and Palestinian cooking. Even if you didn’t think you like Middle Eastern food,  you’re likely to change your mind perusing the pictures and reading the stories of this insightful cookbook.

3. Canal House Cooks Everyday by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton
Seasonal cooking is great, but Canal House cookbooks take it to an extreme — creating recipes for each day of the year. Beautifully illustrated with photos from the pair’s New Jersey kitchen and workshop.

4. Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drummond
Every food writer has a food blogger they love to hate. Ree is mine. Mostly because I’m so jealous. She’s a great mom, has her own show, makes delicious food and creates recipes that just work out perfectly. I frequently consult her website for weeknight meal ideas, and I haven’t been let down yet.

5. Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz
Fermenting is brilliant. Especially for your gut. Learn how to get fizzy, bubbly and fermented with the king of fermentation.

 A few others I loved earlier in the year…

Japanese Farm Food, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35
The most beautiful book released this fall is this love letter to the simple, pure foods of the Japanese countryside. American-born, Nancy is married to a Japanese egg farmer, over the years adopting the community, culture and cuisine of an ancient, rural Japan as her own. Written as both memoir and cookbook, Hachisu describes the book as, “…just our Hachisu family food. It is a compilation of traditional dishes that my husband grew up with and new ones that he or I created. I had never seen a cookbook that approached Japanese food in the way my husband did–main ingredient and field or fish market driven so I never felt compelled to cook the recipes I saw in other books.” And while many of the pickled, preserved flavors and ingredients may seem foreign to American palates, but Hachisu bridges the gap with simple, homey preparations.

Bouchon Bakery, Thomas Keller, Artisan, $50
It’s so cute that any of us think we could actually make croissants like the famed Yountville bakery run by culinary rockstar Thomas Keller. Oh, we can certainly try, and this new book written in a breezy, sweet style does actually lull you into thinking this recipe blueberry muffins with almond streusel might turn you into a morning hero. But it takes years to become as deft with butter and flour as Keller and co-author/executive pastry chef Sebastein Rouxel . So buy the book, set it in your kitchen and dunk your Oreos in milk while dreaming of buttercream and the perfect French macaron.

101 Classic Cookbooks: 501 Classic Recipes, edited by Fales Library, Rizzoli, $50
Like a mix-tape of just the good songs, this cookbook assembles the best of the best recipes as chosen by the likes of Jonathan Gold, Michael Pollan and Ruth Reichl from the 55,000 cookbooks of the Fales Library at New York University. That means tried-and-true classics such as Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, Elizabeth David’s Bouillabaisse, Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Ragu, Jacques Pepin’s Brioche, James Beard’s Pig Hamburgers, and Irma Rombauer’s Devil’s Food Cake Cockaigne. As if that wasn’t enough star power, Judith Jones, Florence Fabricant and Alice Waters are contributors and Marion Nestle has written the forward. Required reading.

“The Great Meat Cookbook”, Bruce Aidells, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40
There aren’t many chefs who could get away with an entire chapter on veal. Even fewer who would devote nearly a hundred pages to lamb and goat. But Bruce Aidells is the undisputed heavy-weight champion of animal protein, and his new book is his ring. In exhaustive detail, he discusses everything from how to perfectly sear a cut of bison to the differences between grass-fed, grain-finished and organically-raised meats. A meaty-read for sure.

“Modernist Cuisine at Home”, by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet, The Cooking Lab, $140
So you couldn’t justify the $625 for Modernist Cuisine, the five-volume Bible of modern cooking and drool-worthy photos. Using the same cross-sectioned photo techniques and detailed explanations, the home version does for pot roast what Modernist Cuisine did for restaurant menus.

Here’s a list of the Top 25 Books of 2012 (mostly related to food politics) from
1. Turn Here Sweet Corn by Atina Diffley
2. The $64 Tomato by William Alexander
3. The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball
4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
5. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
6. The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
7. Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook
8. The Secret Life of Food by Clare Crespo
9. This Life Is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman
10. Plenty (Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet) by Alisa Smith, J.B. Mackinnon
11. Urban Homesteading-Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume
12. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
13. The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien and Rachel Kranz
14. Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva
15. Wheat Belly by William Davis
16. Slaughterhouse by Gail A. Eisnitz
17. Righteous Porkchop by Nicolette Hahn Niman
18. Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin
19. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
20. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz
21. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
22. Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis
23. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz and Sally Fallon
24. The Viking in The Wheat Field by Susan Dworkin
25. The Phytozyme Cure: Treat or Reverse More Than 30 Serious Health Conditions with Powerful Plant Nutrients by Michelle Cook