Halloween is just a week away, which means it’s time for winter holiday
hosts to start gearing up for parties and testing new recipes before
trotting them out for family and guests. Luckily, we have three recently
released appetizer books to help you get ready: one that is attuned to
the tried and true, Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Appetizers; one that can work as a springboard for your own recipe development, Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook; and another for showing off your inner rock star, Chowgirls Killer Party Food. If baked goods are your thing, there are plenty of baking books, including what could easily be the new cookie bible, Dorie’s Cookies
(by the amazing culinary queen Dorie Greenspan). For those of us with
little time for getting ready for parties, Thug Kitchen slaps us all
upside-the-head with an easier-to-cook-from cookbook: Thug Kitchen 101.
Better Baking: Wholesome Ingredients, Delicious Desserts
by Genevieve Ko
Veteran culinary consultant Genevieve Ko brings us the baking book that
we want to eat from, and that we NEED to eat from. Does the idea of a
“healthy” cookie strike terror in your heart, the way it does mine? Ko
transforms her already delicious recipes into safer and saner versions
of themselves by using oils, grains, and alternative sweetener sources
such as dates, red adzuki beans, and fruits. No need to fear — there is
still enough butter and sugar included to get the right flavor. She just
takes the refined flour and sugar down a notch. For instance, her
Pomegranate-Pistachio Baklava uses oil instead of butter in the filo,
and the honey is cut with pomegranate juice; the Raspberry-Sunflower
Seed Breakfast Bars have grapeseed oil and use roasted, salted sunflower
seeds so that you can eliminate the home roasting time. The photography
is by Romulo Yanes and is tempting, inviting, and inspiring.
Bottom Line: There is everything to love about this cookbook. Every baker will be happy with Better Baking. No joke; it’s really great!
The Canon Cocktail Book: Recipes From the Award-Winning Bar
by Jamie Boudreau and James O. Fraioli
Seattle’s Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium is where you want to go for
robust and thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Many recipes are new
versions of traditional drinks, but where this cookbook really shines is
in the richly innovative new cocktails. These are the cocktails that
the long lines of people standing outside Canon are waiting for. But why
wait in line when you can make their fabulous drinks at home? You might
not have their fancy skull mugs, but really, it’s the drink that
Bottom Line: The Canon Cocktail Book offers award-winning drinks for the cocktail adventurer who loves to craft spirits at home.
Chowgirls Killer Party Food: Righteous Bites and Cocktails for Every Season
by Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown
These recipes are super-fun finger food for people who like to party and
eat until the break of dawn, and also for us couch potatoes who are
just as happy with good snacks on our TV trays. The Chowgirls, Heidi
Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown, of the Midwestern catering company walk
their righteous walk by using sustainable products and by shopping
seasonably. I made the Beets and Burrata small plate. The solid texture
of the sweet beets was nicely balanced with the creamy rich burrata. The
beets I used came from a friend’s farm, right in keeping with the
Chowgirls’ commitment to environment and community.
Insider Tip: The Chowgirls’ mantra is: “It’s just food, not a medical emergency,” so don’t freak out if you have to substitute items. I forgot to get macadamia nuts, so I tossed on some walnuts. I had a little leftover fig jam (also from my friend’s farm), so I added a spot of jam to each small plate.
Bottom Line: Are you known for your amazing appetizers? When you go to a party, do people gather round to see what you’ve brought because your dishes are always the best? Then you need Chowgirls Killer Party Food to keep your rep intact.
All-Time Best Appetizers
by Cook’s Illustrated
The always-reliable Cook’s Illustrated brings us an appetizer book just
when we need it — right before the holiday season kicks in. A little bit
modern and a little bit traditional, All-Time Best Appetizers hits that fine line between comfort food and exciting new creations.
Insider Tip: Maybe don’t make Cheddar Cheese Coins when you are in the midst of moving house and have forgotten that your food processor is already packed and hidden among a sea of boxes. By dint of hand mixer and pastry blender, I finally mashed my poor mangled flour mixture into dough, but the point of the recipe’s technique was to limit handling to ensure tenderness. What should have taken less than a minute in a processor took about a half hour by hand. Were my cookies tough? A little bit. Were my cookies delicious? Yes! Who cares about tough when the cheddary, buttery goodness shines through, with just a touch of cayenne heat? If you like heat, I suggest you round up the cayenne measurement to increase the Scoville heat units. This will make the cookies hot enough for pepper lovers, but not so hot as to scare the timid.
Bottom Line: Armed with All-Time Best Appetizers, you’ll be ready for all your party and potluck needs.
Review by Rhianna: I’ve never loved Italian desserts, but I was lured to The Italian Baker
by Melissa Forti’s personal style (think Betty Page, but more wholesome
and in a bakery) and the dark photographs of cakes seductively arranged
on silver tea trays. Forti has a warm and enthusiastic voice, urging
her readers to eat a slice of cake every day and happily pronouncing any
recipe with a fruit or vegetable component a nutritious breakfast.
While I disagree with Forti’s Cake Diet approach to life, there’s no
denying how adorable she is or how unbelievably good these recipes are. I
baked the humble-sounding Cinnamon Loaf — really a luscious pound cake
ribboned with spiced sugar — and the silky Ricotta, Orange and Chocolate
Cake, which tastes just like an orange Milano cookie. Both were
shockingly delicious and well-received.
Insider Tip: Forti omits salt from most of her recipes, which I disagree with. Adding a pinch of salt (¼–½ tsp) prevents baked goods from tasting flat or overly sweet, and helps boost the flavor profiles of other ingredients like citrus zest or vanilla.
Bottom Line: The Italian Baker has both simple recipes and fancy recipes for those occasions that call for a lovely treat that is a bit more inspired. I can see myself turning to The Italian Baker any time I want to make something really special for my family and friends.
Milk Made is a fancy book about cheese. It’s a love song to
cheese. It’s a celebration of the history of cheese and the eating of
cheese. It’s also about stuff to eat with cheese. The recipes are well
thought out and just a tad different from standard fare. I made a
Tartiflette (which is French Alps talk for potato gratin) that was
ridiculously rich with bacon and whipped cream.
The prose also makes for enjoyable reading. Here are examples: “Feta is like the crocodile of the cheese world, largely unchanged since its origins” and “Milk is bloody marvelous.”
Insider Tip: The Tartiflette was super-duper rich. The required Reblochon cheese is a little expensive, so I used half Trader Joe’s Brie instead. The instructions say the dish serves six, but with the out-of-control richness, it could easily serve eight with smaller portions.
Bottom Line: Milk Made is an Australian cookbook, and while some of the farms and/or cheeses featured are Australian or European, the recipes are universal and don’t require specific brands of cheeses. Recipes are also dual-measurement, so we Yanks will have no problem putting them together.
Readers’ Best Recipes: And the Stories Behind Them
by The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Sometimes you just want some good old-fashioned, regular, everyday food.
Sometimes you want recipes that will not challenge your brain too much
and recipes that will make your tummy happy. Just as we’ve relied on The Old Farmer’s Almanac for homespun and yet strangely on-point information for years, now we can rely on these oft-made recipes culled from OFA readers.
Some of these recipes have been family favorites for years, such as the
Waldorf Cake (red velvet cake). Some recipes have been designated as
“Almanac Favorites,” such as Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes and the
poetically named Ham Yam Ramekins.
Bottom Line: These recipes were all approved by somebody’s family and friends, so there is every reason that your family and friends will love them too.
Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge
by Trine Hahnemann
“Embracing the art of hygge”? What? Hygge is a rather un-American
attitude and I want some. Hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”), to the best of
my understanding, is a concept of casual and relaxed entertaining, and a
style of life. Hygge is a Danish custom of informal hosting and hanging
out, possibly for hours at a time: noshing; chatting, and being
comfortable with silence. In author Trine Hahnemann’s world, when her
friends drop by, perhaps unannounced yet very welcome, she pulls out
these recipes to build a meal that is easy enough to make while chatting
with guests and flavorful enough to keep the hygge heartful. Recipes
such as Tomatoes With Goat Cheese Dressing, Jerusalem Artichoke and Leek
Soup, and the unusual Winter Apple Layer Cake. (Winter Apple Layer Cake
is different from the cakes we are used to. The cake layers are wafer
thin and wafer crisp. As a bonus point for booklovers, this recipe was
inspired by Karen Blixen and was “part of her dinner party repertoire.”)
Bottom Line: Scandinavian Comfort Food is as much an introduction to Danish relaxed living as it is a cookbook. It’s best read by people who already have a trip to Denmark planned, because this will certainly inspire a visit. Denmark is often described as the happiest country on our planet. Maybe it’s the hygge.
Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook: 225 Simple, All-Occasion Recipes
by Kiera and Cole Stipovich
Small sized but built like a brick, Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook packs in a lot of simple and tasty recipes. Hosting your own gathering? UAI
is a good choice as there are a lot of recipes to serve straight from
the oven. There are also a number of dips and appetizers to serve
chilled or at room temperature. There are helpful photos for every
Insider Tip: While baking the Bite Sized Grilled Cheese Sandwiches on a sheet pan, melted cheese escaped the sandwiches and baked into a bubbly, crunchy moat around each tiny cocktail bread sandwich. At the party, we all agreed that this baking accident was the best! Next time I’ll double the cheese so as to have both cheesy filling and a crunchy moat. To add a touch of color and surprise flavor, I added a small dollop of tomato confit in the center of each tiny sammie.
Bottom Line: As an ideabook, these simple recipes are fine just as they are written, and they are also good jumping off points to add your own touches to recipes.
Scotch Whisky Treasures: A Journey of Discovery Into the World’s Noblest Spirit
by Tom Bruce-Gardyne
Scotch Whisky Treasures is a box filled with tchotchkes about
whisky. Scotch whisky only — the Americas need not apply. The book
portion of this treasure box presents the history of various Scottish
distilleries, with tasting notes of representative whiskies. Most
chapters have an attached “memorabilia bag” holding paper ephemera such
as: architectural plans, maps, telegrams, and other oddities. Tucked
into the box are also a couple of whisky-oriented posters.
Bottom Line: Scotch Whisky Treasures is a love affair with whisky and a fun read for whisky lovers. Best enjoyed with a neat glass of Glenlivet at your elbow. Or Glen Grant, or Glenfiddich, or Glenmorangie. Or, bucking the Glen trend, Cardhu or Old Pulteney.
MORE NEW COOKBOOKS
There are too many recent cookbook releases to review. So here are some mini-reviews.
by Dorie Greenspan
Oh boy! It doesn’t get much better than this. Dorie Greenspan is one of America’s most respected bakers and most appreciated cookbook authors. Greenspan’s recipes for what she describes as “little lumps of dough” are a reason to celebrate. Dorie’s Cookies is destined to become a cookie bible, and you’ll be seeing it for years on kitchen bookshelves everywhere, including my own kitchen shelf.
Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life
by Kate McDermott
Kate McDermott teaches Art of the Pie workshops all over America. Now she can teach you in the privacy of your home. Both traditional and gluten-free crusts are included. It’s pie season — get crackin’!
Sheet Pan Desserts: Delicious Treats You Can Make With a Sheet Pan
by Betty Crocker
Some recipes start with a mix; some are from scratch. Cakes, candies, and bars, all easy to plonk together. While simple, many have a knock-out presentation.
For the Love of Licorice: 60 Licorice Inspired Candies, Desserts, Meals, and More
by Elisabeth Johansson
A cookbook completely devoted to licorice?! Now this is a rare bird. For the Love of Licorice runs the gamut of recipes, from ice cream and candies to breads and real meal dinners. There’s even a little information on growing your own licorice plants.
Les Petits Sweets: Two-Bite Desserts From the French Patisserie
by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride
Adorable tiny desserts, some easy, some complex. A fun cookbook for the cook who likes to share desserts that are a little bit fancy.
Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck
What the (bleep) do I even need to say here? It’s the (%&*!). It’s from the folks of Thug Kitchen, so you know it’s both rude and rad. “101” is in the title, so you know the recipes will be (censored) easy and simple enough for even (XXXX) beginners.