10 Great Cookbooks for Your Holiday Wishlist

10 Great Cookbooks for Your Holiday Wishlist

I own hundreds of cookbooks.  However, they’re not all created equal.  These are ten of my favorites. I believe every cook deserves to own some (or, better yet, all) of these special books.  For me, these books represent a culinary master class.  They present accessible recipes, techniques, and information that are bound make you a better cook. So, whether you’re looking for a last minute gift for yourself or your favorite cook, you’re bound to find something on this list that will expand your horizons and improve your food!

Joy of Cooking:  This cookbook deserves its reputation as a classic.  It’s been lovingly updated, edited, and improved by the Rombauer-Becker family for four generations.  This one book is my first point of reference for just about any kitchen question — from basic cooking methods and techniques to stain removal or a formula for terrific sorbet.  The helpful explanations, illustrations, and variations are invaluable.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking  This is my Italian cooking bible.  While there are plenty of good books out there on Italian cuisine, this epic work holds its own.  Marcella Hazan was an english speaking expert on Italian gastronomy, which is part of what makes this book so unique.  It covers the breadth of Italian regional cuisines with wisdom and precision.  A bit like cooking with your Italian grandmother holding your hand.  A treasure.
1,000 Indian Recipes (1,000 Recipes) Neelam Batra does for Indian cuisine what Marcella Hazan did for Italian and Julia Child did for French.  She covers all of the major cuisines of this vast, colourful and complex nation.  I have tried recipes that span the length and breadth of India with equal success.  Batra’s recipes are precise, clearly explained and a treasure trove of wisdom in English on this sophisticated and complex cuisine.  Any time I have an Indian cooking question, this thorough book is my reference of choice.
The Heritage of Southern Cooking  is my all-time favorite Southern cookbook.  That’s saying something when you realise just how many cookbooks there are covering the many regional cuisines of the Southern United States.  I’m partial to Camille Glenn’s work in part because she grew up about a mile from where my granddad grew up in Kentucky.  However, I really love this book because it includes foolproof recipes for the dishes I grew up on.  There are solid recipes in this book for everything from mile high pancakes that are soft as pillows, to heritage pies you forgot existed, and Maryland crab cakes.  A treasure trove of classic Southern recipes and Grandma’s kitchen wisdom.  The photos of historical Southern restaurants, kitchens and cooking classes are an added bonus that makes this book fun to read as well.
Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories is the seminal work on stir frying.  I love Chinese food to the point of obsession.  So, I have a lot of Chinese cookbooks.  However, as far as I am concerned, this one is the best.  In this masterful work, Grace Young  explores the range of Chinese food and its history — from China to the diaspora.  She also gives the reader a crash course on the equipment and techniques required to stir fry like a pro.
The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados is a book I’ve owned since I was 12 year old, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.  Diana Kennedy deserves credit for being the first cookbook author to write an encyclopaedic work on authentic Mexican cooking in English.  Her recipe for refried beans has been prepared so many times in my house that it feels like my own.  Yes.  It takes a bit of time, but the results are a world apart from the leaden mush sold in cans.  Diana Kennedy is so thorough in her explanations that you feel like you’ve traveled Mexico with her, learning at the elbow of some of the nation’s greatest cooks.
The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a book everyone should own — vegetarian or not.  I bought this book the year it was released and I’ve never looked back.  If a cookbook alone could motivate you to prepare healthier meals, this is it.  Deborah Madison changed my relationship with vegetables permanently.  Her recipes are masterful.  I would say this cookbook is not so much a vegetarian cookbook as it is a master course in cooking delicious vegetables your family will calmer to eat.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science is a book every cook NEEDS.  In this seminal work, Kenji López-Alt presents a series of master recipes for treasured classics.  However, this cookbook is much more than a recipe collection.  It is also a science lesson, in which López-Alt applies science to cooking, de-bunks kitchen myths and teaches us everything — from the best way to achieve perfect hard-boiled eggs to how to make the most of ground meat.
The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean: 215 Healthy, Vibrant, and Inspired Recipes  Paula Wolfert is one of my favorite cookbook authors.  She invests tireless research in her books, which wind up being great travelogues, as well as thorough introductions to a new cuisine and gastronomic culture.   This book no exception and considering recent events in Syria, it’s an invaluable time capsule of culinary tradition.
Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan  This is the only new book on my list of top 10 books.  It was voted best new cookbook of 2017 by a number of prestigious publications, and for good reason! This stunning book is a fascinating read, filled with beautiful photos and accessible recipes.  Its fresh, tart, spicy flavours have introduced (and addicted) me to a cuisine I never thought I would be able to understand or appreciate.  Even if you don’t cook much, this book is a beautiful coffee table book and you will have trouble putting it down.

2 thoughts on “10 Great Cookbooks for Your Holiday Wishlist”

  • Jeanette Marie, so interesting selection of books! Thank you for sharing! I have myself a lot of cooking books too but from your list only “Joy of cooking” (love this book) , it was interesting for me to read your reviews. This days we can buy great cookbooks online for a few dollars because libraries selling them. I am going shop for some books from your list, I feel after your review I have to have it! Thank you again!

    • Thanks so much Gala for taking the time to let me know how much you enjoyed that post, and please do let me know what you think of the books I’ve recommended — or other favorites you think I should try. Like you, I love ebooks! In fact, one of my favorite new ebooks is Andrea Nguyen’s Pho Cookbook. It was very inexpensive online for the value in the recipes and the explanations. I recommend it highly.

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