Don’t forget: the book mentioned below is 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 (if ordering online, just write “tablehopper” in the order comment field—when they process the order, you’ll get your discount).
It’s the time of year when publishers produce their biggest and best cookbooks, hoping to capture a big slice of the gift-giving pie. So it’s tough to feature just one, but I can’t possibly live in “the West” and not review The Sunset Cookbook.
First off, the heft: over 800 pages, 1,000 recipes, scads of photos. It weighs five pounds. Seriously.
But it’s not just a generic, everything-and-a-roast-chicken cookbook. The best descriptors of the food herein are: fresh, creative, simple, and healthy(ish).
Sunset’s test kitchen is the real deal: precise and creative. In producing an eye-and-mouth-watering monthly magazine for, oh, 110 years, Sunset has long focused on accuracy and quality in their recipes. (Sidebar: my wife used to work there. She’d get emails like this in the middle of the day: “Stop by the test kitchen: we’re pairing nine wines with the Salsa Verde Braised Pork and need more opinions.” It crushed me with jealousy when she’d forward those to me, tauntingly. But I digress.)
Sunset recipes, whether solicited from professional chefs, submitted by readers, or created in the Sunset kitchen, are tested ruthlessly. For example, when Sunset first got its own laying hens, they still bought store-bought eggs for their recipes, as hyper-fresh eggs work differently, especially in baking (ever tried to peel a truly fresh hard-boiled egg? It’s a pain).
As for the food, there’s a Western flavor throughout: Mexican spices, lots of seafood, Asian influences. Even the classics get a Western spin: you won’t find plain old pot roast, you’ll find Slow-Cooker Merlot Pot Roast. Lasagna becomes Whole-wheat Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale. And pasta, the workhorse of the pantry, is reborn as Penne with Walnuts, Caramelized Onions, and Ricotta Salata or Spicy Minty Eggplant Fusilli.
The book also includes brief introductions to each recipe, so you know where it came from; informative sidebars (like Dungeness 101); wine pairings; high-altitude adjustments for our highland friends; nutritional information; variations for the creative home cook; make-ahead advice where appropriate to save time; etc.
It’s a great generalist cookbook—it will go very nicely with The Gourmet Cookbook—for the home cook looking to jazz things up a bit. But what really makes it great is the way it is infused with that golden, wine sipping, dinner on the patio feel. Just flipping through it makes you feel like you’re living the good life.
Bon appétit, and thanks for reading!