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Have you made your list and checked it twice? The holiday season is in full swing, and you know what that means – it’s time to share your love of all things food with lucky friends and relatives!
And who knows, maybe if you’ve been really good, you’ll find a few of these tasty tomes under the tree with your name on them as well this year.
Every chef worth his or her salt has a collection of favorite cookbooks and food reads, and most are hungry for more. Spice up those bookshelves or add a few bits (bytes?) to their Kindle library with these tasty selections.
1. Get to Tasting
Subtitled “The Curious Cook’s Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond – with Recipes,” this little book is a true gem.
Written by private chef, humorist, and cooking instructor Becky Selengut, How to Taste explores the experience of taste, and how to pair ingredients and adjust recipes accordingly for the best possible outcomes.
This book was written for those whose cooking could use a little fine-tuning, or who want to learn more about how to improve the creations coming out of their kitchens. It’s a fun read that will help to take their food from good to great, with a better understanding of how flavor really works.
The importance of color and texture are included as well, along with a recipe fix cheat sheet, and a selection of delicious recipes including “Honey, Rhubarb, and Thyme Jam,” “Coffee and Chocolate-Braised Short Ribs,” and “Cinnamon and Ginger-Scented Lamb Stew with Tamarind Sauce, and Saffron and Turmeric Rice Pilaf.” Yum!
2. Share the Fascinating Flavors of History
Eight Flavors is an enticing read about the history of American cuisine, written by historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman in a conversational style that’s easy to digest.
Though most experts will claim that there’s no one true “cuisine” in the US, Lohman covers eight basic flavors that she believes unite our cookery, and she explains their significance in this deliciously fascinating book.
For anyone who is into the history of food, this is an absolute must-read. Plus, recipes are included in each chapter for the reader’s enjoyment, to bring all of the flavors explored throughout to their own kitchens. The chili-themed “El Diablito” shaved ice dessert with pickled fruit, and homemade pineapple and jalapeno syrups, sounds incredible.
3. Pucker Up
From its bright yellow and orange cover to Mowie Kaye’s colorful photographs which are included throughout, Citrus: Recipes That Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet is a riot of color, just begging whoever sees it sitting on the coffee table to open it up and look inside.
Filled with 170 juicy citrus recipes, food writer and broadcaster Catherine Phipps explores all that citrus fruit can be, featuring irresistible varieties of orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and more in preparations enjoyed throughout the world.
Citrus is featured in everything from soup to nuts – or at least alongside nuts; I have the “Lemon Ice Cream with Almond and Fennel Praline” bookmarked in my copy, and I absolutely cannot wait to try it!
If you know someone who’s lucky enough to have their own citrus trees that they can pick from, buy them this book, pair it with some of the lovely lemon ornaments featured in our gift guide for food lovers, and then beg them to make each and every one of these recipes for you.
4. Bring the Bakery Home
If the pastry lover on your list is not familiar with the famous Tivoli Road Bakery already, it’s time for them to get acquainted with the incredible delicacies coming out of this world-renowned Australian bakery with The Tivoli Road Baker: Recipes and Notes from a Chef Who Chose Baking.
Both sweet and savory baked goods are included, as well as a few sandwiches and salads. Baking newbies will love the rundown on the basics that’s provided, from puff pastry to sable, choux, shortcrust, and more. And Great British Bake Off fans will enjoy the “British Bakes” section, which includes traditional Cornish pasties and Eccles cake.
Pastry fanatics will go crazy for… well, just about everything contained within these pages. What’s not to love about this book? It’s beautifully photographed, detailed, and carefully written, with a wealth of fantastic recipes alongside short features on the local growers and suppliers who provide the basic ingredients to support Michael and Pippa James’ business.
If I ever find myself in South Yarra, or anywhere nearby, this will be my first stop as soon as I get off the plane. Until then, we have this beautiful book. With its gorgeous embossed cover, it’s perfect for coffee table display.
5. Time to Celebrate
Many of us grew up watching the inimitable Lidia Bastianich doing her thing on TV, and I always felt a special sort of connection her show, since it featured Italian home cooking.
Perfect for the holiday season, Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian: 220 Foolproof Recipes That Make Every Meal a Party by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali focuses on taking the opportunity to treat every meal as if it’s a celebration, with everything from cocktails and appetizers to soups and salads, sides and protein or pasta mains, and desserts.
I am not lying when I say I want to try every recipe in this book.
If your favorite foodie is throwing a New Year’s Eve party and you’re invited, give this one to them for the holidays – they’ll get the hint.
As soon as they take a look at the table of contents and the crave-worthy photos, they’re going to scrap whatever party menu they already had going and start planning a fabulous Italian-style cocktail fete instead, with a fantastic New Year’s Day feast soon to follow.
6. Scrumptiously Seasonal
Sure, we know you’re already on board with the whole local and seasonal eating thing, but what about your mom, cousin, or aunt and uncle?
Harvest: 180 Recipes Through the Seasons by Emilie Guelpa takes recipes from the Hardie Grant Books archives and presents them as a curated collection of seasonal eats to get hungry home cooks excited about fresh, locally sourced ingredients with an international flavor.
Featuring Guelpa’s lovely photographs and watercolor illustrations, this book emphasizes enjoying the best of what’s available when it’s truly at its best, and reveals to skeptics that they don’t in fact have to live in the Golden State to enjoy delicious seasonal foods through the cold winter.
Barbecued quail with baby carrot salad and black quinoa, anyone? Be right back, I have to go do some grocery shopping real quick… that should give you enough time to add this one to your holiday shopping cart!
7. Say “Mele Kalikimaka” with the Gift of Pokē
In the middle of winter, who wouldn’t love escaping to Hawaii for a relaxing vacation?
Pokē: Hawaiian-Inspired Sushi Bowls by Celia Ferrar and Guy Jackson is the next best thing, and it makes the perfect gift to remind your loved ones who love to cook that they can escape the dark days of winter in their very own kitchen.
Pokē is all the rage these days, but have you ever tried making it at home? For those not in the know, this Hawaiian raw fish dish is pronounced “poh-kay” – helpfully pointed out on the book’s cover – and it’s a delicious spin on sushi, no restaurant required.
Fans of grain bowls and the like will love the level of customization that’s possible here, and vegetarian options are included as well.
Plus, plenty of recipes are provided so they can make their own delicious pickles and ferments (umeboshi pickled rhubarb? Yes, please!), marinades and toppings, as well as sides and snacks, alongside instructions for building their pokē pantry, selecting and cooking fish and rice, and building bowls. Oh, and don’t forget the drinks, and desserts too!
8. Funky Fresh
With a blurb on the front cover by modern-day fermentation god Sandor Ellix Katz, you know that what’s contained within these pages has got to be good.
And whether your giftee is a newbie to the fermentation game or a seasoned expert, these healthy probiotic-rich recipes and the skills that are explained to make them mean Ferment for Good: Ancient Foods for the Modern Gut, The Slowest Kind of Fast Food by Sharon Flynn is a good fit for lovers of funky ferments at any skill level.
One of my favorite things about this book is that it also features recipes and tips that show you how to use your ferments once you’ve made them.
Rather than languishing in their jars in the back of the fridge, the funkmaster in your life is going to be excited to make a batch of kimchi pancakes, scrambled eggs with sauerkraut, or preserved lemon marinated olives. And the attached ribbon bookmark is a nice added touch.
9. Must Love Dumplings
I’ve long been a fan of Chinese-food writer and chef Fuchsia Dunlop, at least since the early Lucky Peach days (RIP), and this book is such a treat.
Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China begins with the author taking us on a journey to the Lower Yangtze region of China, and she sets the scene so enticingly, with beautifully crafted descriptions of the area and the flavors that are to be found there.
This is followed by an incredible selection of recipes for appetizers, protein dishes, vegetables, soups, rice dishes, noodles, sweets, and drinks, plus my favorite section – dumplings and snacks!
A nominee for the 2017 James Beard Cookbook Award and the 2017 IACP Cookbook Award in the international category, it’s beautiful to read and to look at. The gold-embossed cover and ribbon bookmark make it an alluring option for gifting.
Once they open it up and take a look at the mouth-wateringly delicious photos contained within, interspersed throughout over 300 pages of deliciousness, they won’t be able to put it down.
A Foodie Bookworm’s Paradise
Armed with this list of favorites, you’re all set to fill up those shopping carts and give the gift of reading this holiday season in a form that all of the culinary enthusiasts on your list are sure to eat right up.
Clear the way from the tree to the kitchen, because they’ll be strapping on those aprons, setting up their cookbook stands, or brewing a hot cup of their favorite seasonal beverage in preparation to curl up on the couch and settle in for a long, cozy read before you know it.
Which of our top picks will you choose, and what are some of your favorite food-themed books for gift giving? Please share with us in the comments below.
And be sure to check out our full archive of holiday baking ideas here – because nothing goes better with a good book or a fun frolic in the kitchen than a delicious homemade cookie!
Product photos via Sasquatch Books, Simon & Schuster, Quadrille Publishing, Knopf, Hardie Grant, and W. W. Norton & Company. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. Review copies provided by the publisher.
About Allison Sidhu
Allison M. Sidhu is a foodie from Philly who is based in Los Angeles, where she loves exploring the local restaurant scene with her husband. She holds a master's degree in gastronomy from Boston University. When she’s not in the kitchen whipping up something tasty (or listening to the latest food podcasts while she does the dishes!) you’ll probably find Allison tapping away at her keyboard, curled up with a good book (or ready to dominate with controller in hand in front of the latest video game) on the couch, or devouring a food-filled magazine at the beach.