The Holiday Bookworm: by Pete Mulvihill

Don’t forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.

‘Tis the season for giving, right? With a ho-ho-hungry, here’s a round-up of five fresh books for the foodies on your list. And given the economy, none of them are over $35, and all are a good buy. (Don’t forget two recently reviewed options by notable locals, too—Mission Street Food and the Bi-Rite grocer’s guide). Speaking of which, Sam Mogannam is doing a book event here at Green Apple Books on Thursday December 15th at 6pm. Deviled eggs and wine will be in the house, and on the house!

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi and Jonathan Lovekin (Chronicle)

Let’s start with the vegetarian option, shall we? From a mini-chain of “haute-cuisine to-go food shops” comes Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. It’s a hefty, colorful recipe book with a Middle Eastern accent. The 120+ recipes include straightforward dishes like Mushroom Ragout with Poached Duck Egg, and Green Gazpacho. And more unique recipes like Hot Yogurt and Fava Bean Soup, and Avocado, Quinoa, and Fava Bean Salad. The one that made me want to race home and get cooking was the Chickpea, Tomato, and Bread Soup, but ‘tis the season for hearty fare. $35 from (local publisher) Chronicle Books.

Lucky Peach Issue 2: The Sweet Spot

Lucky Peach Issue 2: The Sweet Spot
Edited by David Chang (McSweeney’s)

Another option with a local angle (and a low $12 price that puts it in stocking-stuffer range) is Lucky Peach Issue 2: The Sweet Spot. This is the second issue of a fresh quarterly food journal produced by McSweeney’s and edited by David Chang. In this issue are both the lowbrow and the highbrow. There’s a recipe that involves foams, for example, and one for bologna roll-ups. There’s also a handy guide to miso (“Miso Horny” they call it, which I mention just so you have an idea of the editorial attitude therein). And a sheet of funny stickers you can put on fruit. Puzzled? Just come in and flip through it. Or trust me, it’s great.

The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià

The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià
Ferran Adrià (Phaidon)

Next up, The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià. It’s the first and only book on home cooking from the legendary El Bulli restaurant. It’s also the most pictorial cookbook we’ve ever seen, aside from those made for children. Each meal is three recipes (starter, main, and dessert), and each meal starts with a two-page photo of the mise en place and a timeline, then continues with a photo for each step of the recipe. Take a peek here. Foodwise, the recipes are very do-able for and mostly familiar to the home cook; think pulled pork, burgers, roast chicken, etc. I think this would make a fine primer for a young cook, or a solid basic cookbook of everyday recipes as another arrow in your quiver. And for $29.95, the value is pretty solid.

The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks

The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks
Edited by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Morrow)

Moving from pro to amateur, here’s the first cookbook of value to emerge from the blogosphere: The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks, edited by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Morrow, $35). This book is the result of 52 weeks of online recipe contests, like “your best Brussels sprouts,” “best porridge,” etc. Oh, and there’s booze, too, like “your best holiday punch” (hot spiced drunken apple cider). With a wildcard each week, it adds up to a solid assortment of clearly written and tastefully photographed dishes, all carefully curated by two very respected food writers (we interviewed Hesser last year when her New York Times Cookbook came out). Again, these are well-tested, clear recipes for home cooks, thus a perfect gift for those, like me, who are better at eating out than cooking in.

All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking

All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Molly Stevens (Norton)

And finally, a sequel of sorts. My most-used cookbook for several years was Molly Stevens’ All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking. In fact, my wife and I had sort of a braise-centric supper club going for a while there with friends. That method of cooking results in food that goes well with our climate and is so up my alley gastronomically. Anyway, her new one is just out from Norton, and it’s now all about roasting at my house: with a recipe I heard on NPR and found on Saveur, my turkey came out better than ever (and it was our first time not brining in a decade). All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art is wonderful: a wide variety of roasting recipes (including seafood and vegetables), each with a thoughtful introduction, variations, wine pairing tips, and clear step-by-step instructions. There are also fascinating sidebars on sourcing ingredients, types of roasting pans, the science of roasting, and much more.

Hopefully something here floats your boat. If not, we have a few thousand others at the store, plus a huge selection of used cookbooks, so if you’re after something else, drop by and ask for Pete or Josie—we can help get the right food or booze book into your hands.

Happy cooking, and thanks for reading.