Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

December 6, 2011

Great cookbooks for holiday gifts Welcome to my virtual holiday potluck. Well, not my virtual holiday potluck, but our virtual potluck—meaning you, me, and a bunch of my cookbook author pals.

The idea is, to help celebrate and promote each others’ books (pictured above), we each write about another’s book, including a recipe and links to all the others’ posts. So you get to virtually experience a potluck of recipes and, perhaps, become inspired to add one (or more) of our books to your holiday gift list.

Cool, eh?

Almost Meatless cover Although all the books are fantastic, natch, I was especially excited to swap books with Tara Mataraza Desmond and explore her and Joy Manning’s brilliant “Almost Meatless.”

I often resolve to eat more vegetables, but I also fully enjoy being a carnivore. And with this book, I don’t have to choose between the two – I can enjoy my meats, but just use less of them, making up the difference with vegetables and other goodies.

In other words, instead of having a whole chicken breast, I could have just a bit of one in a hearty, heart-warming, and wholly satisfying bowl of “Almost Meatless” Tortilla Soup (pictured top left, recipe below). Instead of an entire salmon fillet, I could have the book’s fruity, refreshing Roasted Salmon Citrus Salad. And instead of a hamburger, I could have The B4 (a beef, bulgur, and bean burger).

See? Brilliant.

Many of the recipes in the book are familiar staples of ethnic cuisines, the kind of dishes that are designed to use up leftovers and make a little go a long way—like Asian Lettuce Wraps, African Peanut Stew, and Shepherd’s Pie. Sort of oxymoronically, and probably because I’m so used to a piece of protein in the middle of my plate, the recipes also feel more creative, and like a welcome change.

All the dishes are relatively simple and easy to make, and the book is peppered with information about buying, choosing, and using various proteins.

More brilliance!

The upshot is that, in choosing to use less, “Almost Meatless” ends up celebrating the meat that’s there, combining it with ingredients, textures, and flavors that beautifully make the most of it, and turning it, ultimately, into food that tastes and feels a million times more nourishing and soulful.

Surely there’s someone on your gift list that’d appreciate that. Maybe even you.

As much as I recommend “Almost Meatless,” I also recommend the other books featured in this potluck. Peruse these links to find out more about it and them and to virtually sample their recipes (and be sure to scroll down for the fabulous Tortilla Soup recipe).

Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet
By Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond

Ideal for today’s conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat.  Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood. On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from my cookbook, “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love.”

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens
By Patricia Tanumihardja

Asian grandmothers—whether of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Indian descent— are keepers of the cultural, and culinary, flame. Their mastery of delicious home-cooked dishes and comfort food makes them the ideal source for this cookbook. The 130 tantalizing dishes assembled in this tome comprise hearty food, brightly flavored, and equally good to look at and eat. Plus, all the recipes are translated to work in modern home kitchens.

Pat Tanumihardja is a food and travel writer currently based in the Washington, D.C. metro area and blogs at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. On Pat’s blog: Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog.

Brewed Awakening
By Joshua M. Bernstein

“Brewed Awakening” is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and “Brewed Awakening” gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide. On Josh’s blog: The Jucy Lucy Burger from “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.”

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches
By Susan Russo

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches”—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You’ll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po ‘Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches” will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle. On Susan’s blog: Highlights from “Brewed Awakening.”

The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook
By Andrea Lynn

The ultimate one-stop shopping guide, “The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook” finally offers starving college students a welcome relief from fast food fiascos. Designed to help shoppers recognize the best finds and reap the fruits of Trader Joe’s smart buyers, many recipes utilize TJ’s signature products to create unique meals like olive focaccia, frito pie, pulled-pork sliders, and fish tacos, among other things.

Andrea Lynn is a NYC-based food writer and recipe developer who has tasted almost every product Trader Joe’s has to offer. On Andrea’s blog: Ravioli Lasagna and Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint from “Parents Need to Eat Too.”

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents
By Debbie Koenig

Give a new parent the gift of sanity! “Parents Need to Eat Too” makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they’re caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She’ll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.

Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat By. On Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from “The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook.”

Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea
By Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on a book called “Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea.” On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.”

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup
From “Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet” by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond (Ten Speed Press, 2009)

The recipe variations for Mexico’s renowned sopa de tortilla are as countless as riffs on Grandma’s chicken noodle soup. Its popularity, like Gram’s elixir, stems from a soul-satisfying mix of bold and subtle flavors. Our adaptation calls for a traditional pulpy base of pureed roasted vegetables adorned with bits of poached chicken, studs of creamy avocado, and shards of toasty corn tortillas. Its spicy kick comes from a duo of chiles: the fruity poblano and the fiery chipotle.

6 cups chicken stock
1 bone-in skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 small yellow onion, cut into large dice (about 1 cup)
1 pound plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 poblano chiles, seeded and cut into large strips
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 corn tortillas, brushed with vegetable oil on each side and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 dried chipotle
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 or 2 sprigs fresh oregano leaves, chopped (1 to 2 teaspoons)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, diced
Sour cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

To prepare the chicken, bring the stock to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chicken, reduce to a simmer, cover, and poach for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and reserve the stock. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and set aside.

To prepare the vegetables and the tortilla strips, combine the corn, onion, tomatoes, garlic, poblano chiles, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the oil in a large bowl, tossing to coat the vegetables with the oil and seasonings. Spread the vegetables on the prepared sheet.

Spread the tortilla strips on a separate baking sheet. Transfer both pans to the oven. Toast the strips for about 10 to 12 minutes, until they are golden brown. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, just until they begin to brown at the edges.

While the vegetables are roasting, rehydrate the chipotle chile. Remove its stem, slice it in half, and discard the seeds. Soak the pepper in a small bowl of very hot water for 10 minutes.

To finish the soup, return the stock to a simmer and transfer the vegetables from the oven to the pot. Crumble half of the toasted tortilla strips into the stock and add the rehydrated chipotle, discarding the soaking water. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add the cilantro and oregano. With a handheld blender, puree the vegetables, tortillas, and herbs into the stock (the chipotle will add significant heat to the soup, so for a milder batch, remove it before blending). (Note from Jill—I left the whole chile in and thought the heat was just perfect, warming but not necessarily spicy.) If you are using a regular blender, puree the soup in batches and take care to avoid hot splatters. Stir in the chicken and lime zest and juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the remaining tortilla strips, avocado, and sour cream.

100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love

By Jill Silverman Hough

Chock-full of delicious, creative, and easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooks, 100 Perfect Pairings makes food and wine pairing easy and approachable. With recipes organized into twelve chapters by wine variety, simply turn to the chapter for the wine you want to serve, make any of the entrees you find there, and enjoy it with your wine. It’s that easy. Be it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, a big dinner party or a simple meal with friends, “100 Perfect Pairings” promises wonderful recipes that make every pairing, well, perfect!

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor whose forte is making food and cooking simple yet special.

On Jill’s blog: Tortilla Soup from Almost Meatless

Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet

By Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond

Ideal for today’s conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat.  Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood.

On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from 100 Perfect Pairings

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens

By Patricia Tanumihardja

Asian grandmothers—whether of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Indian descent— are keepers of the cultural, and culinary, flame. Their mastery of delicious home-cooked dishes and comfort food makes them the ideal source for this cookbook. The 130 tantalizing dishes assembled in this tome comprise hearty food, brightly flavored, and equally good to look at and eat. Plus, all the recipes are translated to work in modern home kitchens.

Pat Tanumihardja is a food and travel writer currently based in the Washington, D.C. metro area and blogs at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

On Pat’s blog: Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog

Brewed Awakening

By Joshua M. Bernstein

Brewed Awakening is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and Brewed Awakening gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide.

On Josh’s blog: The Juicy Lucy Burger from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

By Susan Russo

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You’ll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po ‘Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle.

On Susan’s blog: Highlights from Brewed Awakening

The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook

By Andrea Lynn

The ultimate one-stop shopping guide, The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook finally offers starving college students a welcome relief from fast food fiascos. Designed to help shoppers recognize the best finds and reap the fruits of Trader Joe’s smart buyers, many recipes utilize TJ’s signature products to create unique meals like olive focaccia, frito pie, pulled-pork sliders, and fish tacos, among other things.

Andrea Lynn is a NYC-based food writer and recipe developer who has tasted almost every product Trader Joe’s has to offer.

On Andrea’s blog: Ravioli Lasagna and Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint from Parents Need to Eat Too

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents

By Debbie Koenig

Give a new parent the gift of sanity! Parents Need to Eat Too makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they’re caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She’ll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.

Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat By.

On Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook

Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea

By Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on a book called Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea.

On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

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11 thoughts on “Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

  1. Pingback: Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts « The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

  2. Pingback: Crumbs On My Keyboard » Blog Archive » Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

  3. Pingback: Andrea Lynn – Food Writer, Personal Chef, Recipe Developer : Andrea Lynn

  4. Jill Post author

    Susan – I don’t remember wanting to switch – ? – but I AM glad to have gotten to write about Tara’s book. As I just posted on her blog, it was a revelation to cook someone else’s recipes for a change – which, guiltily, I hardly ever do – although I’m sure that would’ve been the experience no matter which of our awesome books I got to explore. :)

    Andrea – Tara’s recipe is EASY, too. You can do several steps at once and it’s all finished in, like, an hour. Next time, I might even make a double batch, so there’s plenty leftover for the freezer!

  5. Pat Tanumihardja

    Gorgeous photos, Jill! I’ve only had tortilla soup once or twice (seriously!) but Tara’s recipe and your post are calling out to me. I’m definitely going to give it a try!

  6. Jill Post author

    Thanks, Pat – it’s really worth making. Thanks, too, for the compliment on the photo – especially since a certain #@$%$ food photo web site turned it down. ;)

  7. Pingback: Cooking the books: Choosing Sides » Jill Silverman Hough

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