Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chasing Tomatoes' Best Cookbooks of 2011

One of the most common questions I'm asked is where I find my recipes.  Whether it's from books, the internet, friends, or just from my own head, I'm always on the prowl for something delicious.  Before I began food blogging, I didn't really own that many cookbooks, but now it's become somewhat of an obsession.  When I walk into a book store the first thing I do is head straight to the food section, where I pour over the various titles and run my hands over the ones I want.

What fits my criteria of a great cookbook?  As I have begun to read them a lot more than I ever have in my life, I've noticed a few things; firstly, some books are almost novels, packed full of all sorts of information and few photos of the food.  Others have stunning photos and beautiful art, which make me want to run to my kitchen and immediately begin cooking.  Some have such complicated things I'm not sure I'd ever use it except for special occasions, and others have become my go-to book for every day.  What makes one my favorite? Firstly, I am a sucker for great photos.  If a cookbook doesn't have any pictures, I find myself far less apt to buy it.  Beyond the artwork, I love ones that are a good read-but not too much. There is a fine line between information, tips, tricks, and books that present more like a novel.  I am more interested in the food, so often I admit I'll skip reading and dive straight into cooking.  Thirdly, I love books to have clear, easy to read instructions and last, the food has to be something that my family loves and we will crave again. 

What have been my favorite books this year?  Read on and find out!

Best For Families:

Whining and Dining, Emma Waverman and Eshun Mott

If you are struggling with finding what to feed your kids or are a new parent, this book is for you. Full of all kinds of tips, tricks, and useful information, this book is a really good read for parents just trying to get the little people of the house to eat something besides plain pasta and bread. I also love it because I've had the pleasure of meeting Emma, who I love to spend time with whenever I'm in Toronto.  She knows the BEST places to eat.

Every recipe I have tried has been delicious, and my family has loved them.  Not only would I make them again, I could see the recipes being a solid part of my family repertoire.

Best Local:

Fresh, John Bishop

Last year I had the opportunity to meet John Bishop while he gave a talk to some Vancouver School Board food service staff.  Wow, was he ever inspiring.  I loved his discussion on genetically modified food, and how he showed the staff how easy and delicious meals from scratch could be.  The cookbook as a lot of things that I likely never would have tried on my own, but after meeting John I was intrigued.

What a reward.  Simple, clean flavors, local ingredients, with incredible results.  I love this book so much that I have a goal to try every single recipe in it, because each one that has graced our plates has been delectable.

Best Healthy Eating:

Spilling the Beans, by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan

Close to the newest of my cookbook collection, I am really excited about trying more of the recipes in this book. With stunning photography and easy to read directions, this book is great for when I want to create something on a weeknight for my family.  Beans are not boring in this book, and I love all the twists on recipes that make them so interesting I can't wait to try them.

  • Roasted Tomato Soup (coming soon!)
  • Guinness Baked Beans (coming soon!)

Best Desserts:

The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz

I'm not sure how my obsession with home made ice cream started.  I think it was partly Jamie Oliver's fault for showing me what was IN commercially made ice cream on season two of Food Revolution, and then John Bishop for actually making us some when I met him, and Katie for lending me her machine to experiment with.  At any rate, I found myself scoring an ice cream machine of my own.  While in Portland on my way home from Blogher, I picked up a copy of this book as a souvenier of our travels.

Oh my LORD.  If you buy one book about home made ice cream, this is the one.  I love every single thing I have made and it has given me ammunition to force my teenager to clean his room. (read: yes, I bribe him with home made ice cream).

Best Vegetarian:

Rebar, by Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz

Vegetarian food is the one kind of cuisine that I can make and generally everyone in the house will eat, which is always reassuring.  This book is for the serious cook-few pictures, some recipes are involved and include other recipes from different chapters, but the results have always been amazing.  I love the salads-especially the unique dressings, and all the tips and hints.  I don't always have the time to cook some of the recipes from this book, but I really can't wait to try more-because so far, it's all been good!

Best Baking:

Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

If I were to be completely honest, I'd let you know that I don't actually own this book, but it is on my Christmas wishlist.  Even so, I have friends who own this and I have tasted many of the recipes, which are delicious!  If you are like me and want to try your hand at baking with whole grains, I think this is the book for you.  Now I just need to get my own copy.

Most Martha-Inducing:

Bite by Bite, Peter Callahan

Back in the days when I hand cut dozens of snowflakes to hang from our ceiling for Kevin's fourth birthday, I would've dove right into this book. Stunning photos and ideas for parties that would delight any entertainer, this book has me marveling at the amazing things people can do with food. If I had to choose a book with kick ass appetizers and ideas, this one would be it.

Newest That I'm Aching To Try:

Home Cooking With Jean-Georges,  Jean-Georges Vongerichten

This book is so new to my collection that I haven't even tried a recipe yet, but I can barely make myself to wait until my next shopping trip to pick up ingredients. A gorgeous hard cover, there are drool inducing photos, and enough recipes to challenge a seasoned cook, but some also simple enough for an adventurous beginning cook.  Fresh, healthy ingredients and lots of tips make this a great book to have if you want to play in the kitchen.

What are your favorite cookbooks?  Do you have some tried and true?
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