The stories of many different varieties
Home Cookbook Reviews Must-have cookbooks of 2010

Must-have cookbooks of 2010

1 / 10

I read cookbooks – more than 100 a year – looking for tempting, healthy recipes that feature creative plays on New England ingredients.

But for this list, there is one overriding criterion: foods that tastes great, even if they’re only for occasional indulgences.

Still, not all cookbooks will appeal to all palates. The choices are subjective, and the recipes I tested were ones that appealed to me and my family. I’m an omnivore, but I try to avoid gratuitous butter, other fats, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. I like my food to come by its good taste honestly – fresh ingredients, creative use of spices, minimum salt.

That leaves a lot of room for experimenting.

The virtues of stir-frying, Grace Young writes, are many: It makes bounty out of small amounts of meat and oil, it emphasizes healthful vegetables and most important, it creates “alchemic” flavor out of raw ingredients.

Rozanne Gold offers a chapter of elegant 10-minute salads and delectable soups that take less than five minutes to prepare and others with such depth of flavor that they taste like they’ve been simmering all day.

Fany Gerson tells of Mexico’s Coffee-Flavored Corn Cookies and Guava Caramel Pecan Rolls.

I also liked Dorie Greenspan’s visually stunning celebration of French home cooking. A part-time Paris resident, she focuses on what the French really eat at home: easy-to-prepare, yet flavorful dishes such as Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad or (merde!) Veal Chops with Rosemary Butter.

As with Greenspan’s book, great design helps. The sophisticated and clean design, exceptional photos and padded cover give Chad Robertson’s book “Tartine Bread” a luxurious feel.

You can’t tell a book by its cover, but many consider Robertson to be the best bread baker in the United States. He developed his unique sourdough bread over two decades of apprenticeship with the finest artisan bakers in France and the United States, as well as through experimentation in his own San Francisco ovens.

We’re all familiar with Italian cooking, aren’t we? Grandmothers across Italy invited Jessica Theroux into their kitchens, allowing her to record a smart selection of unique and utterly appealing dishes such as Milanese Involtini, thinly sliced steak nestling a stuffing of pork, chicken, beef and cheese slowly braised in the simplest of tomato sauces.

I also like a cookbook that tells a story along with its great recipes. Melissa Clark, a New York Times food columnist, shares the story behind every recipe, including Dahlia’s Fragrant Chicken Fingers, a dish conjured for her chili-and-bratwurst-eating 1-year-old’s advanced palate.

It isn’t a “Top 10” list. I make no claim to have read all 1,185 titles that pop up on the Amazon site when I search for “cookbooks 2010.” Also, not all cookbooks can possibly appeal to all tastes or to all dietary needs.

My list is intended to help avoid culinary overload. These cookbooks, I believe, shouldn’t slip past you without notice.

Notable Cookbooks of 2010:
1. “Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily” by Jessica Theroux (Welcome Books), $40.
2. “Tartin Bread” by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger (Chronicle Books), $40.
3. “Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $40.
4. “Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why” by Darina Allen (Kyle Books), $40.
5. “Plenty” by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley), $29.99.
6. “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories” by Grace Young (Simon & Schuster), $35.
7. “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite” by Melissa Clark (Hyperion), $27.50.
8. “My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats” by Fany Gerson (Ten Speed Press), $30.
9. “The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual” by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo and Peter Meehan (Artisan Books), $24.95.
10. “Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease” by Rozanne Gold (Rodale Books), $35.