Fall's Best Local Cookbooks: Make Room on the Shelf
It's official. Print is not dead. The 2011 fall cookbooks have been landing on my desk as swiftly as leaves from an autumnal tree—with a bit more of a thud. Here are my picks.
DO-THE-RIGHT THING BOOKS
Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough (Ten Speed Press) not only provides recipes for the kind of comfort food you'll find behind their glass case (grilled pimenton leg of lamb, butternut squash and potato gratin), but more importantly, the book functions as a guide to intelligent grocery shopping from the man who's spent years learning the art of buying. There's also a serious chapter on cheese for all of you who worship at the altar of the Bi-Rite cheese aisle.
The perfect gift for foodie fans of quirky artist Maira Kalman is the re-release of Michael Pollan's Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (Penguin Press). Pollan's book, which is a kind of 101 distillation of all the lectures he's been giving us for years, is suddenly charming with Kalman's illustrations. I like rule #52: Drink lots of wine with dinner.
Oh, wait it says, "Have a glass of wine with dinner."
Aziza chef Mourad Lahlou, the author of Mourad: New Moroccan (Artisan), has published a hefty book with 400 pages of recipes—some are traditional (yogurt-herb spread) and some are Mourad's liberated take on his native cuisine (beef cheeks with carrot jam and harissa emulsion). I'm thrilled because now I have his recipe for grilled kefta with cilantro dressing and grapes, a classic from his early days at Aziza and one that I've tried to recreate more than once. This is a book for Aziza lovers and adventurous cooks.
Full of the hearty food that Town Hall, Anchor & Hope, and Salt House are known for is Cooking My Way Back Home by chef Mitchell Rosenthal with Jon Pult (Ten Speed). Angels on Horseback, their famous bacon-wrapped fried oysters with rémoulade, is here. So is Faith's warm ham and cheese toast. You only live once if you eat like this too often. Maybe twice if you follow Food Rules.
Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors (Chronicle Books) is delivered to us by Erik Cosselmon, one of the city's most under-the-radar chefs, and famed cookbook author Janet Fletcher. The cookbook is made up of Cosselmon's take on moussaka, braised pork with celery and avgolemono, and grilled lamb riblets with lemon and oregano. Do not pass go until you try making the baklava ice cream, which deserves cult status.
THE JACQUES BOOK
Vying to dethrone last year's essential heavy-weight champion—the 1,000-plus recipe-filled, 4.6-pound Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser—Jacques Pepin has released Essential Pepin (HMH). Though it only weighs in at 3.4 pounds and has a mere 700-plus recipes—from fish soup with rouille and garlic croutons to veal scaloppini with cream, calvados and apples—Pepin is on the cover holding a tart like a French grandma and looking so damn lovable. (And though Pepin isn't technically from SF, I give him local credit because he's long filmed his PBS cooking shows here and well, who doesn't have a platonic crush on Mr. Pepin?)
Made in America: Our Best Chefs Reinvent Comfort Food (Welcome Books) by Lucy Lean includes plenty of Bay Area chefs (Michael Mina, Charles Phan, Craig Stoll, David Kinch), but I was particularly excited to see Elisabeth Prueitt of Tartine bakery's recipe for Chocolat-Oatmeal-Walnut freezer cookies. I think they're the same ones that are for sale at the bakery which means they're my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie.
Another compilation book, The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook (Voyageur Press), includings a smattering of SF chefs—the ones that you want a recipe from: Alexander Ong of Betelnut gives away his five-spice-salt-roasted chicken salad recipe, Amaryll Schwertner of Boulettes Larder provides her lettuce soup recipe, and Laurence Jossel of Nopa publishes his corn soup with walnut pesto, something that I wouldn't mind eating right this minute considering we're at the tail-tail end of corn season.
These cookbooks all have a fall release. If they're not out yet, they will be very very soon. Consider your holiday shopping done.