With holiday feasting full steam ahead, perusing some new food books is always part of the preparation. If you are like me, a good gastronomical read is a treat in itself, but there is the added fun of glancing through recipes to add a few new twists to traditional holiday menus. While we might not be able to jettison Grandpa’s jellied cranberry sauce from the Thanksgiving table or that weird dip Uncle Elroy always lugs over for Christmas or Chanukah, the following ten titles might offer up some new favorites:
Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes From the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant
|The Art of Making Real Soups
By Marian Tracy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1967)
Forget congealed cream of whatever soup concoctions; this cookbook will bring you back to your stock pot with its collection of homemade soup recipes from around the world. From Arturo Toscanini’s simple and comforting Rice and Celery Soup to West African Ground Nut Stew to decadent Florida Key Conch Chowder, this cookbook offers uncomplicated examples of comfort food for colder weather.
|Fog City Diner Cookbook
By Cindy Pawlcyn (Berkley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1993)
Fun, homey food from this San Francisco institution is outlined in this graphically-interesting cookbook. You can savor chef Pawlcyn’s remakes of old standbys like coleslaw with a boiled dressing or gussy up your mom’s chicken pot pie recipe with curry, peas and shiitake mushroom. A dreamy cookbook that will find you dog-earing many pages.
|Splendid Fare: The Albert Stockli Cookbook (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970)
Numerous uncomplicated, yet elegant recipes from Cordon Bleu Chef Albert Stockli. I make Stockli’s Stuffed Baked Potatoes recipe each Thanksgiving under direct orders from my family. There is also an old-fashioned Continental approach to meat cookery, with many pages devoted to game and other cuts of meat one must procure from a real butcher shop.
|Cooking from the Garden
by Rosalind Creasy (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988)
This is a gorgeous, photograph-packed book for home gardeners and cooks to drool over. Creasy thoroughly details theme gardens: Heirloom, Native American, Baked Beans, Cajun, Asian, French, Mexican, German, etc. and offers planting advice, recipes, interviews with gardeners, and a wealth of new ways to enjoy vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.
|Vie de France
by James Haller (NY: Berkley Books, 2003)
More of a food journal than a cookbook, this title relates the charmed month that chef Haller and friends spent in a 17th-century Loire Valley chateau, eating, cooking, thinking about food, driving to purchase food and daydreaming about food. A seductive book dripping with garlic-infused recipes that could easily send you into the same food-obsessed state.
|Debbi Fields’ Great American Desserts
by Debbi Fields (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1996)
What holiday spread would be complete without a couple of indulgent desserts? Debbi Fields of cookie fame, expands her repertoire with 100 fairly easy recipes for cakes, tortes, pies, cheesecakes, and other sweet treats. Lots of color photos to guide the novice baker and a clean, well-spaced layout for easy reading. I can vouch for the decadence of her Flourless Fudge Brownies.
|The Leftover Gourmet
by Patricia Rosier and Jessica L. Weiss (Avenel, NJ: Wings Books, 1993)
A good all-purpose cookbook for those piles of post-holiday turkey meat, snippets of smoked salmon, leftover mashed potatoes and remnants of cold cut platters.
| Ken Hom’s East Meets West Cuisine: An American Chef Redefines the Food Styles of Two Cultures
by Ken Homs (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1987)
A nice counterpoint to the richness of holiday food are the clean, fresh tastes of Asian cuisine. Hom’s cookbook has a wealth of information about shopping for ingredients, preparation techniques and presentation of these sumptuous recipes. Try Steamed Fish with Scallions and Young Garlic Shoots, Cold Zucchini-Ginger Soup, or Tangerine Sorbet for something refreshing.
|Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier
by Andrea Immer (NY: Broadway Books, 2000)
A festive meal always benefits from a little bubbly and in this book Immer takes you by the hand to provide as much or as little information you might need to choose the right wines for your holiday table.
Rachel Jagareski is co-owner of Old Saratoga Books, an open shop in upstate New York which has been in business since 1996 and online since 1998. They have over 50,000 titles in stock, with fresh arrivals nearly every day.