Baked!: Best cookbooks of 2009

Just in time for the holiday season, our annual roundup

Best cookbooks of 2009

1. CLASSIC
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

Published in 2009? More like reprinted for the fifth time, but who’s counting. Like so many others, I fell hard for Julie & Julia and had to have the latest edition of the be all and end all of classic cookbooks. It’s illustrated with sketches rather than photos, devotes four pages to the subject of egg whites, and has a section on sweetbreads. This is a cookbook for the ages.

 

2. ODE TO ITALY
250 True Italian Pasta Dishes

by John Coletta, executive chef of Quartino, with Nancy Ross Ryan

The introductory chapter of a cookbook is too often about what inspired the author—yawn—when you want recipes. Not so fast. John Coletta uses these pages to discuss the virtues of al dente pasta, sauce and pasta pairings, and what equipment you need—and why. I felt ready to tackle Italy’s most famous sauce—bolognese meat ragù. Better find my Dutch oven.

 

3. A NICHE OF ITS OWN
The Berghoff Café Cookbook
by Carlyn Berghoff, CEO of Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group, with Nancy Ross Ryan

I doubt a relish tray is a necessary part of anybody’s recipe repertoire, but for restaurant history buffs and pure kitsch, this book is a treasure. Yes, there’s a nod to modernity with a chapter on pizza, but I say skip it and go straight for the spaetzle and schnitzels. That’s the stuff of Berghoff’s 111-year tradition. Why else would you want this book?

 

4. COFFEE KLATCH
Sweetness

by Sarah Levy, owner of Sarah’s Pastries & Candies

Sarah Levy shares recipes like backyard neighbors share secrets. She tells all. If you know why you shouldn’t stop whipping the egg whites in the middle of the process, you won’t be tempted to take any shortcuts (it’s because the egg whites will deflate and you will have to start over). Bake your way through Sweetness, and by the last page, you will feel as though Sarah is your new best friend.

 

5. BREEZY
Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone

Host of TLC’s Take Home Chef

When I flipped through Relaxed, I used an entire Post-it pad marking recipes to try. Like salted caramel popcorn. Like sticky chicken drumsticks. Like rhubarb ripple ice cream. For those not familiar with Curtis Stone, he trained under Marco Pierre White, makes regular stops on the Today show, and is a People magazine heartthrob. But it was the beautiful but unfussy food that got me. I swear.

 

6. THE CHALLENGE
The ¡Salpicón! Cookbook
by Priscila Satkoff, chef/co-owner of ¡Salpicón! with Vincent Satkoff, wine director/co-owner of ¡Salpicón!

It looks like a coffee-table book, but don’t hold that against this volume of stunning photos and modern Mexican recipes. Granted, langoustines wrapped in sweet-potato shreds looks tricky. But Priscila Satkoff’s glossary is chock-full of tips, and Vincent Satkoff is right there with wine suggestions. A must for all gutsy home cooks.

 

ALTERNATIVE CONTENDER
Vegan Yum Yum
by Lauren Ulm, Boston foodie vegan and founder of veganyumyum.com

If you are a vegan and tired of the same-old same-old, you are going to love this book. If you aren’t a vegan, the same principle applies. Lauren Ulm wrote this little gem to prove that vegans are people too, and she makes her case early in the first chapter. I’m all over her blueberry waffles with lemon icing.

 

Photograph: Michael Boone; styling: Jennifer Moore

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