So I feel the need to share some cookbooks with you guys. A heads-up: I received copies of these books free of charge. However, I'm only writing reviews of them because I actually enjoy them and gleefully stained the heck out of many of their pages.
I'm not being paid to write these. I'm not so base as to do that.
These books rock because the authors put a lot of time and effort into developing quality books with a engaging narratives, capturing photography, and unique recipes. They're worth having for the stories and foods they share.
So let's move on...
My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz
For: The francophile who wants to cook traditional, but unfussy French food.
Description: Admittedly, I'm a bit biased. David is a friend of mine and we go back to when there were about 100 food bloggers in the world. (And, no, I am not exaggerating.) The two of us made up about 15% of all the male food bloggers and so we quickly became close at the various food blogger conferences, often cracking dirty jokes during panels or skipping them altogether to go drinking at the nearest bar. We also spent time in Mexico and I got to see him in his teeny-tiny man-kini.
So what I am saying is I adore David. I also adore David's books because they just embody his voice and oh-so-matter-of-factual ex-pat humor. I can hear his voice and advice in his every word in every recipe. All of which work perfectly by the way.
Recipes are clear, concise, and talk to you plainly. Introductions give a bit of history to the dish, so I always feel like I've learned a little something even if I never make the recipe, which is appreciated. There's no skipping steps or nifty tricks here. Just have confidence in yourself and follow David's plans and your food will turn out gloriously.
Recipe To Try: Apricot Crumble Tart. It's an incredibly easy dessert with a lot of payoff both in presentation and flavor.
Return to the Rivers, by Vikas Khanna
For: The exploratory food lover willing to jump into new cuisines that haven't become mainstream in modern restaurant culture.
Description: Apparently, Khanna is a big name in the food world because of his work on numerous television shows I've never seen. Thing is, I first came across his cookbook when I was doing a cookbook event at the Intel campus in Folsom, California. One of the chefs there had a copy and adored it. I picked it up and saw a book dedicated to the flavors of the Himalayan river valleys. This region includes Tibet, a place I fell in love with years ago when I visited.
The book covers food that sources from China, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Pakistan - though since the rivers and roads all cross one another it's more of a glossary of foods of the region rather than any one country.
Still, the Tibetan dishes I adore are all chronicled here, and while I cannot find fresh yak meat or milk Khanna has made the recipes of his childhood approachable for the Western cook.
Recipe To Try: You can't go wrong with butter tea as a way to clear the body and mind. (I became addicted to the stuff when it helped me overcome my altitude sickness.) However, if you want something with a bit more oomph to it try the Tibetan rice porridge with beef, or the five-chile sea bass.
The Homesick Texan's Family Table, by Lisa Fain
For: City folk who just want some old school comfort food.
Description: Lisa Fain is fucking adorable. She's also sweet as honey. Has an infectious laugh. Pretty as can be. A truly classic, genuinely nice person who asks, "How are you?" and sticks around to hear your reply because she honestly wants to know.
How could this person not develop a perfectly successful comfort food cookbook?
Fain's food is meant to be shared, no question. This is not the loner's cookbook, though that would mean you could just hide in the closet and eat everything yourself. While I've read this book and her previous book cover to cover I haven't cooked from them. Instead, my husband has, and with gusto. Both are stained with hot cream, ochre barbecue sauces, smudgy fingerprints colored with ground cumin seed and chipotle pepper, and more than a few pages are stuck together due to flecks of homemade salsa picante.
I've eaten much of both of her books and the recipes are solid, easy to follow for both beginners and seasoned cooks, and satisfy all palates.
Recipe To Try: Beer-battered catfish tacos. Because the other taco recipe you're making at home is bullshit compared to this.
So you may be wondering, "What? No recipes from the books?"
Instead, go to the Amazon page and check them out yourself. Look inside them and if you like what you see and if you have any faith in my judgement about cookbooks then purchase one.
I'm sure we both can agree that you deserve to treat yourself to a new cookbook, yes?