Holiday Books for Cooks

Gourmet Girl - December 18, 2013

Great books for the cooks on your holiday list.

Books are one of the best presents you can give a serious foodie—books about cooking, books about food and books about buying a house in Burgundy and planting a vineyard. If you've got a food lover in your life, I've got some recommendations by some of our wonderful local authors (as well as a few others) for great books to give food-lovers this year for Christmas. Remember to shop your local, independent bookstores for these suggestions, to help support these great institutions!

Let's start with a few new books, including a novel by Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet and author of several acclaimed memoirs, including "Tender at the Bone." Her first novel, “Delicious!”, which is set at a famous New York food magazine that folds (just as Gourmet did when Reichl was editor), follows the story of cakemaker extraordinaire Billie Breslin, struggling with a mysterious crisis in her past and trying to recreate a better life in New York. As the novel opens, Billie has just taken a job as n assistant to the magazine's editor and her ability to make the perfect gingerbread (with cardamom and pepper as well as ginger and clove) and identify the most remote ingredient in a dish got her the job.

Reichl has a great story to tell, and she does so with finesse. Her descriptions of food—in the test kitchens of Delicious!, in a fabulous Italian food shop, and in the crop of letters Billie discovers in the magazine's long-neglected library written by a young girl during World War II to the famous James Beard, who then worked at Delicious!—will have your mouth watering and your mind planning to recreate some of the delectable dishes she describes.

Another new novel about food, “Bliss,” is set in Santa Fe and written by Hilary Fields, a Santa Fe author. This, too follows the story of a woman struggling to overcome the moment when her life fell apart. Serafina Wilde is a pastry who comes to Santa Fe to heed her eccentric aunt's call for help with the family business “Pauline's House of Passion.” Serafina turns the business into a bakery, but her aunt wants to keep the back room for sex toys. While this novel is wacky, it's also fun and funny as it explores life, love, food and family.

Deborah Madison's latest cookbook, “Vegetable Literacy,” is a must-have for any cook who loves to work with fresh veggies, edible flowers and herbs.  The book chronicles 12 plant families, from beet greens and chard to rhubarb, sorrel and buckwheat, and includes their histories, quirks and relationships to one another. Some 300 recipes show you how to use the vegetables in simple and intuitive ways.

Madison's “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” is another beautiful book that would thrill cook who finds it wrapped beneath the tree on Christmas morning. From country pies and tarts to pudding and gelees, cheese and dairy desserts,  roasted and sauteed fruit and more the simple recipes in this book will have readers wanting to hit the kitchen as soon as they open the pages.  It includes a history of unique American fruit,s their characteristics, when they're in season and where they might be found. Learn about tree crops like Medjool dates and shagbark hickory nuts, as well as American's new farmstead cheeses.

“Tasting New Mexico: Recipes Celebrating One Hundred Years of Distinctive Home Cooking” is another must-have for cooks interested in New Mexico' culinary history. Written by Santa Fe's own Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who have won more James Beard awards for their books than any other cookbook author, it pays tribute to the traditional foods of New Mexico, with more than 100 recipes for beloved  local dishes.  The book also covers the agricultural and ranching heritage of New Mexico, with stories about acclaimed cooks, restaurants, food products and more. This is the perfect gift for anyone who loves New Mexico food, whether they live here or just love to visit and dine out in our unique restaurants.

Sharon Niederman's “New Mexico Tasty Traditions: recipes, recollections and photos” is also a wonderful book that explores the food legacies, traditions, histories and recipes of New Mexico with culinary anecdotes, experiences, and traditions Niederman gathered inher research throughout New Mexico. Niederman, an author, journalist, and photographer, takes readers on an armchair tour of festivals, home kitchens, farmers markets, ranches, cafes and other places, celebrating the cornucopia of New Mexico food. She also provides a great schedule of state fairs, festivals and other food events held annually throughout New Mexico. And her photographs capture the vibrancy and essence of the people who grow and prepare food around the state.

And finally, James Campbell Caruso's “España” is a gorgeous book filled with mouth-watering photographs of the fabulous food he's been serving at La Boca and La Taberna. The cookbook includes his guide to authentic Spanish ingredients as well as recipes for tapas, meats, seafood, vegetables, soups, desserts and more—all incorporating fresh produce, fine cheese and meats and traditional spices. Anyone who's eaten at Caruso's restaurants knows how delicious his food is, and they'll be excited to recreate them at home. if you give this as a gift to someone who loves Spanish food but has never visited Caruso's restaurants, this book will have them there, probably before New Year's.

There are many more wonderful cookbooks by New Mexico authors , but I can't list them all here. Visit your local bookstore and peruse the cookbook section, and you will be amazed by how many ways authors have celebrated the cuisine of New Mexico.