Saturday, November 19, 2016

Best Cookbooks of 2016

I offer up my list of the five best cookbooks of 2016. This year chefs penned most of my favorites.  Without further ado (and in alphabetical order), I present my picks.

The Del Posto Cookbook by Mark Ladner with Michael R. Wilson. Grand Central Life & Style.

Everything I Want to Eat by Jessica Koslow. Abrams.

Mozza At Home by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño. Knopf.

Taste & Technique by Naomi Pomeroy with Jamie Feldmar. Ten Speed Press.

Tasting Rome by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Clarkson Potter Publishers.

Why these cookbooks? Read on.

One of the most anticipated cookbooks of 2016, Mark Ladner’s The Del Posto Cookbook shares recipes to make the polished Italian food served at New York’s Del Posto restaurant. The book’s design and photography reflects the elegant, fine dining experience that earned Del Posto and its Cucina New Yorkese a 4-star rating from the New York Times in 2010. In addition to upmarket dishes (Lobster with Artichokes and Standing Rib Roast), Ladner refines beloved Italian classics (e.g., pasta fagioli, lasagne and jota) without killing their ability to comfort.

Jessica Koslow owns Sqirl, a hip restaurant in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood. Everything I Want to Eat features the seasonal, market-driven food served at this uniquely LA spot. You’ll find simple recipes, like burnt brioche with house-made ricotta and seasonal jam (aka Famed ricotta toast), that contain few ingredients and come together quickly especially with store-bought ingredients. But Everything I Want to Eat will also put the confident home cook through his or her paces. Opt to tackle a tartine of smashed beets, smoked whitefish schmear and beet-cured salmon (smartly entitled Beets on Fish on Beets on Fish) and get ready to face two pages of sub-recipes for: Smashed Beets; Smoked Whitefish Schmear; Beet-Cured Salmon; Dehydrated Trout Skin; and Pickled Beet Powder. I’m in! I love looking at the groovy Angelenos in the sharp photographs that grace the pages of Everything I Want to Eat.

Head west on Melrose from Sqirl and in a few miles you’ll arrive at Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza. Silverton with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreño teamed up to pen The Mozza Cookbook (which made my 2011 Best of List). Now Silverton, again with Carreño, offers Mozza at Home, a collection of menus for “relaxed, family-style entertaining”. Like The Mozza Cookbook, Mozza at Home contains precise recipes. An old-school California-esque menu reads: Garlic-Rubbed Skirt Steak with Scallion Vinaigrette; Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Scallion Butter; Chris Feldmeier’s Santa Maria-style Beans; Charred Broccolini with Salami and Burrata; and Corn and Fava Bean Succotash Salad. Great cookbook.

Let’s stay on the West Coast and head north to one of the great restaurant cities in America: Portland, Oregon. Chef Naomi Pomeroy owns a number of restaurants in Stumptown, including the acclaimed Beast. Pomeroy with Jamie Feldmar subtitle their new cookbook: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking. Pomeroy cooked with some of this countries’ great chefs and she shares the considerable knowledge she amassed in her excellent cookbook. Work through Taste & Technique and you will eat well and gain solid cooking skills upon which to build. A number of people have opined that Taste &Technique reminds them of the late, great Judy Rodger’s The Zuni Café Cookbook (2002). Point well made; Both cookbooks contain clear and detailed instructions to make delicious food.

Last, but not in any way least, on my list of the best cookbooks of 2016 comes Tasting Rome by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Both Parla and Gill currently live in Rome, but each hail from the US. This allows them to document the food of their adopted Eternal City with a unique perspective.   Parla and Gill’s book captures the zeitgeist of contemporary Roman cooking. Tasting Rome contains recipes from chefs and home cooks who make classic Roman dishes with slightly different ingredients and techniques. Its collection of recipes raises the question of what exactly is “authentic” regional food? Dishes—even those that make up the Italian food canon—evolve. Tasting Rome provides a fascinating snapshot of what’s currently going on in Roman restaurants and kitchens. I highly recommend this book.

I want to wrap up this post by sharing the titles of some of the other excellent cooking/food books that I purchased this year. Each contended for a spot on my top five list. In no particular order: A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches by Tyler Kord; Something to Food About by Questlove; Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop; and Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid. Excellent books all. If you want to laugh hard and eat well, buy Kord’s book. Questlove’s thoughtful book explores creativity through a collection of interviews with chefs/food experts; it deserves a broad audience.

And is it too early to start thinking about 2017 and forthcoming cookbooks? (Of course not!) Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco fame has a cookbook coming out next year. Joshua McFadden of Portland’s Ava Gene’s has written a vegetable-centric cookbook. Tartine’s Elisabeth Prueitt has a book due out next spring. So does Samin Nosrat. Wow, a lot to look forward to—at least cookbook-wise—in 2017.