Friday, November 24, 2017

Best Cookbooks of 2017

A plethora of outstanding 2017 cookbooks made creating a list of the five best a happy challenge. After all, whittling is half the fun of this exercise. I present, in alphabetical order, my picks for the five best cookbooks of 2017.

Bäco: Vivid recipes from the heart of Los Angeles by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock. Chronicle Books.

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox. Phaidon.

Slow Food Editore – Osteria translated by Natalie Danford. Rizzoli.

State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook by Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski with JJ Goode. Ten Speed Press.

Two Kitchens: Family recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy. Headline Home.

Why these books?

Flip to any recipe in Bäco and find something exciting to make. Centeno’s cooking reflects Los Angeles’s cosmopolitan olio: The flavors of the Far East mingle with those of the Middle East and Spain, Portugal and France. Without talent, melding these cuisines risks making a mess. But Centeno has the skill to marry different food cultures to create New California dishes. If you like Travis Lett’s Gjelina, you’ll love Centeno’s Bäco.

Jeremy Fox’s On Vegetables gets my vote for best cookbook of 2017. Fox’s collection of recipes will help you to prepare sophisticated yet seductively simple food. Fox’s honest account of his journey to overcome self-doubt and destructive behavior makes On Vegetables worth reading apart from the world-class recipes.

In 2011 I traveled to Bologna and lugged back a very weighty tome entitled Le ricette di Osterie d’Italia by Slow Food Editore. Nancy Danford has translated this massive Italian compendium into English. Yes, this new version leaves out many recipes contained in the original edition, but Rizzoli still deserves kudos for making this English-language Osteria available. (Note: Even trimmed, the new version contains 1000 recipes!) Want to make Crostini con gambi di carciofi from Osteria di Montecodruzzo in Emilia-Romagna? Well now you can even if you can’t read Italian.

State Bird Provisions opens with its recipe for Buttermilk Fried Quail. What follows is a collection of recipes divided into four sections: Savory Larder; Savory Recipes; Dessert Larder; and Sweet Recipes. Boasting big, bold flavors, State Bird does its thing in its own way: Kosho made with Meyer lemon instead of yuzu, and dashi spiked with rosemary, ginger and citrus. Like aiolis? Good! You’re in luck: The book includes 11 different recipes. State Bird Provisions sits proudly alongside my well-worn copy of Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes.

Rachel Roddy follows up her award-winning 2015 cookbook, Five Quarters, with Two Kitchens: Family recipes from Sicily and Rome. Like her first work, Roddy fills Two Kitchens with recipes that you will cook again and again and again. Favorites include: A dead simple yet delicious dish of potatoes and greens; a recipe for meatballs dusted with breadcrumbs, fried and then braised in white wine that bubbles down into a bright sauce; and a comforting braise of chicken with potatoes, anchovies and rosemary. In addition to having a knack of cherry-picking the best recipes from friends, family and others, Roddy writes extremely well. I cannot wait to see what she turns out next.

A lot of books vied for a place on my Best Of list: Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura; Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden; Kaukasis by Olia Hercules; Tartine All Day by Elisabeth Prueitt; and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner…Life by Missy Robbins. I really looked forward to Bianco by Chris Bianco, but found it disappointing. Probably my unrealistic expectations. But check it out: Bianco might speak to you.