Holiday Gift Guide: For the Foodie Bookworm

December 6, 2016 2:28 pm Last Updated: December 9, 2016 4:22 pm

So, 2016 was a crop year for good cookbooks. When it came to putting together a list for the best ones to gift friends and family, I picked books that succeeded in taking readers along for a delicious journey, whether from the armchair or the kitchen, and that stand out with personality.

Cookbooks for Holiday Gift Guide 2016. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Cookbooks (and one non-cookbook) to make a foodie’s day. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Comfort Food All the Way

Aside from her fame as a supermodel and the other half of singer John Legend, Chrissy Teigen is laugh-out-loud funny. That comes through in her cookbook “Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat,” where she straightens out expectations from the get-go: her cookbook isn’t about diet recipes. “Look, I don’t want to be one of those dead-inside, laughing-with-a-salad chicks,” she writes. The recipes are indeed crave-worthy recipes; think lemony arugula cacio e pepe, creamy Parmesan skillet eggs, and Thai basil chicken. (Random House, $29.99)

If breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, John Currence has plenty to keep cooks busy with in “Big Bad Breakfast.” It’s lively and very entertaining, though watch out: with indulgent recipes like Louisiana Crab Cake Benedict and “Double Oyster” Hangtown Fry, it may have you crawling right back to bed. But hey, what are weekends for, anyway? (Ten Speed Press, $30)

For Bakers

Dorie Greenspan’s “Dorie’s Cookies” is for cookie monsters, a collection of her very favorite recipes—some 170 of them. A whole universe of cookies awaits, from her famous World Peace Cookies to Jammers to Snowy-Topped Brownie Drops. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35)

“Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life” is a collection of Kate McDermott’s lessons in all matters pie and life. “Rule #1: Keep Everything Chilled, Especially Yourself,” she writes. McDermott, who has trained thousands in pie-making workshops, has that teacher’s flair; her explanations strike the imagination and are memorable. Thanks to her Quintessential Apple Pie recipe, I made the best apple pie of my life. There are recipes for sweet pies, savory pies, and sweet-savory pies (such as the Sausage and Apple Pie). (The Countryman Press, $35)

For Paleo and Gluten-Free Diets

In “Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion,” Walker experiments with holiday family favorites to create paleo, gluten-free, grain-free versions that passed muster with flying colors among her family and friends. She takes on the challenge of baked goods to develop recipes for cinnamon rolls, panettone, and biscotti, for example. (Ten Speed Press, $35)

Demystifying Wines

Mark Oldman, who is known for giving entertaining wine seminars on the food and wine festival circuit, offers useful tips in his latest book, “How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre.” Equally comfortable with references to the philosopher Seneca and to James Bond movies, Oldman lets readers know how to drink wine with confidence and style, in a very funny and digestible manner. The chapters in which he offers recommendations for different types of wine are especially valuable (for example, alternatives to big brand Champagne or Cabernet Sauvignon). (Regan Arts, $28.95)

Slices of America

“A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail” by Kent and Shannon Rollins details life on the road cooking for cowboys with a 385-pound cast iron stove named Bertha. It’s as far away from the precious veggie-forward trend of the moment as you can get—Rollins has to make do with more shelf-stable provisions, all while dust is kicking up around him. And yet the recipes are delicious (try the Green Pepper Frito Pie). But the best part is his words of wisdom, straight from a time and place where you’re only as good as your word and your work. (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard spent two years crisscrossing America’s Koreatowns. For sure there’s a recipe for bibimbap—that all-comforting rice dish mixed with grilled meats, veggies, and pickles, and topped with a fried egg—but there’s so much more. Korean food lovers weigh in, from chef David Chang to Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold to Linkin Park DJ Joe Hahn. The book is called “Koreatown: A Cookbook,” but subtitle it “Adventures in Spicy, Funky, and Delicious.” (Clarkson Potter, $30)

In “Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes From My Corner of the South,” Vivian Howard shines the light on her corner of eastern North Carolina. Childhood stories, and tales from her experience running a restaurant (like the time half a ton of blueberries showed up at her door) make for colorful anecdotes as she highlights the area’s ingredients, from oysters to ground corn to watermelon to peaches. (Little Brown, $40)

Spanish Food, Made in North Carolina

Katie Button, who runs Cúrate in Asheville, N.C., released a cookbook this year named after her family restaurant. “Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food From an American Kitchen” offers recipes for classics like paella and gambas al ajillo (shrimp sautéed in garlic) with her own touch, influenced by the bounty at her doorstep. Button has a background in chemical and biochemical engineering, and you can bet she was assiduous about getting the details just right. (Flatiron Books, $35)

For the Cook in Training

With “It’s All in the Timing: Plan, Cook, and Serve Great Meals with Confidence,” Gail Monahan, a longtime culinary teacher, outlines different menus for different occasions, much like roadmaps on when to execute each step. It’s a boon to cooks who might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of multicourse meals. (Agate Surrey, $29.95)

“Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking” by Naomi Pomeroy is like several mini cooking courses in one book. The James Beard Award-winning chef uses dishes to teach techniques and has sections devoted to everything from sauces to soufflés. This is suitable for more experienced cooks. (Ten Speed Press, $40)

Food Travels

Fans of the Eternal City will find much to love in “Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City,” by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Gill’s photos capture the timeless beauty of the city. Dishes include cacio e pepe, potato gnocchi, and Roman pizza, as well as lesser-known cuisines such as “la cucina tripolina” (the cuisine of Tripoli) by Libyan Jews. It’ll have you soon scanning online for flights to Rome. (Clarkson Potter, $30)

For author Naomi Duguid, researching Persian food meant journeying through several countries. Documenting travels and recipes in “Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travel’s Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan,” she finds common elements such as bean dishes, flatbreads, herbs and greens, yogurts and cheeses, soups and stews, and above all, a culture of hospitality that welcomes strangers and friends alike. (Artisan, $35)

Real Food

Will the real Parmigiano-Reggiano please stand up? An American-produced Parmesan made the news earlier this year, when it was found to contain cellulose (wood pulp), added to prevent caking. “Real Food, Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating & What You Can Do About It” by Larry Olmsted goes behind the scenes of foods such as Kobe beef, truffles, Champagne, and fish. It’s enlightening; at the end of each chapter, readers will find practical tips on buying the real thing. (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $27.95)