Cookbooks make great holiday gifts for family and friends. Here are some of my favorites from 2009 that will impress home cooks and aspiring chefs alike.
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"Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book" by Chris Lilly
Clarkson Potter, $24.99
This is a book for both the serious barbecue fanatic as well as the beginning cook. It is based on years of experience from Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Ala., as well as knowledge learned on the competition trail. I met Chris Lilly at the Memphis in May competition years ago and was so impressed that I had him on my show and adapted one of his recipes for my first book. There are a wide range of recipes in here. Meat lovers will rejoice.
"My Bread" by Jim Lahey
W.W. Norton, $29.95
From the man who popularized the no-knead bread-making method made popular by Mark Bittman in an article in The New York Times, comes this very accessible book for the home cook. As advertised, there is no kneading involved. You just mix the ingredients and then let the bread rise slowly. There are many delicious variations to choose from. "My Bread" will get nonbakers baking. After all, what is better than home-baked bread?
"The $5 Dinner Mom" by Erin Chase
St Martin's Griffin, $14.99
Erin shows you how to size up the best supermarket deals, clip coupons that will really save you money and create a weekly dinner menu plan. She lists prices for all the ingredients and offers hundred of appealing recipes based on fresh foods.
"Family Feasts for $75 a Week" by Mary Ostyn
Oxmoor House, $17.95
A pennywise mom shares her recipe for cutting hundreds of dollars from your monthly food bill. Ostyn has 10 children, and so she really has to manage her food dollars. She offers amazing information on navigating the food aisles and tons of general tips. This is a great how-to for cooking healthy affordable meals.
"Kitchen Express" by Mark Bittman
Simon and Schuster, $26
There are two kinds of cooks: Those who like to follow a detailed recipe exactly, and those who like to improvise. This book is for the latter, which includes me. The recipes are written in a casual fashion without exact amounts or times. They are meant to be ideas -- starting off points. It will provide just enough inspiration to help you plan and cook dinner.
"Well Preserved" by Eugenia Bone
Clarkson Potter, $24.95
Given these lean economic times, more and more people are not only growing their own fruits and vegetables, they are also canning, freezing and preserving them. As someone who has always been sure I would kill someone if I tried to "put up" and serve some jam or tomatoes, this book is the perfect no-scary guide with really good-looking homey recipes.
"Gluten Free Italian" by Jacqueline Mallorca
Lifelong Books, $18.95
Many of Italy's best-loved foods contain wheat flour, so they have been off limits for the gluten intolerant. Mallorca has tackled this problem head on and transformed and lightened traditional recipes for fresh pasta, rustic breads and desserts so that they are delicious but also wheat-free.
Best Cookbooks of 2009
"Craft of Baking" by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox
Clarkson Potter, $35
Even though I am a nonbaker, this book made me want to get right in the kitchen and fire up the oven. DeMasco is a professional pasty chef who has worked in some of the best restaurants in New York City. But her approach is simple, building upon traditional recipes and familiar home-baking techniques to create new modern-day treats, all of them within the reach of the novice. DeMasco also gives you the tools to experiment.
"Slow Cooker" by Diane Phillips
Chronicle Books, $24.95
Slow cookers are making a comeback because more people are doing their own cooking. Homemade meals are not only more economical, they're also more healthy. And so easy with the slow cooker -- you just prep and throw all the ingredients in the cooker in the morning and then come home to a comfort meal that night. Diane Phillips really understands how to get the most out of a slow cooker, and she has set you up with so many recipes you won't have to think about dinner for a whole year.
"Thirty Minute Pasta" by Giuliano Hazan
Stewart Tabori and Chang, $27.50
This book includes recipes for every season of the year, including hearty pasta soups, fresh-from-the-green-market-vegetarian dishes and meat and seafood sauce. This is a book for home cooks who are pressed for time yet still want to enjoy tasty, elegant pasta dishes several nights of the week.
"The Silver Spoon" for Children
This nice-looking picture book is especially adapted from "The Silver Spoon," the best-selling bible of Italian cooking. Simple, authentic and delicious recipes for children to cook with charming illustrations.
"Baking Kids Love" by Cindy Mushet
Sur La Table, $20
Thirty kid-tested, kid-approved recipes designed for kids 6 and older that are easy to read and understand. Grown-ups will be happy with these treats as well.
"Love Soup" by Anna Thomas
W.W. Norton, $22.95
Thomas is the author of "The Vegetarian Epicure One" and "Two," which were my cooking bibles when I was in college and chose to eat vegetarian simply because I couldn't afford meat. The recipes in "Love Soup," like the recipes in those earlier books, are absolutely delicious. The vegetarian part is secondary. There are tons of soups to choose from in this book, from light and refreshing to thick and hearty.
Web Extra: 15 More Great Cookbooks to Gift This Christmas
"Momofuku" by David Chang, Clarkson Potter, $40
From one of the most exciting new chefs on the New York scene comes this inspirational book with an Asian slant. It is also David's story of becoming a chef. A great read.
"Golden Door Cooks" at Home by Dean Rucker, Clarkson Potter, $40
Unlike many cookbooks put out by spa properties and spa chefs, this is one you could actually learn from and use. The ingredients are all fresh and real (no fake substitutions here).
"My New Orleans" by John Besh, Andrews McMeel, $45
This amazing coffee table book captures the flavor of New Orleans in recipes, stories and photos.
"The Entertaining Encyclopedia" by Denise Vivaldo, Robert Rose, $24.95
All the details you need to know about throwing a party, from menu planning and estimating food quantities to napkin folding.
"Serious Barbecue" by Adam Perry Lang, Hyperion, $35 (Hyperion is owned by the Walt Disney Co., also the parent company of ABC News).
This book is indeed serious. If barbecue is your passion, Adam will take you to the next level. He is an amazing teacher.
"How to Roast a Lamb" by Michael Psilakis, Little Brown, $35
From the chef who has brought some of the best Greek food to New York City comes this wonderful home cooking book with tasty stick to your ribs recipes. The stories that accompany the recipes are wonderful too.
"Baking" by James Peterson, Ten Speed Press, $40
James Peterson is the author of many definitive tomes on the subject of such topics as "fish," "soups" and "sauces." He admits that he is more of a cooker than a baker in the introduction to this book, and as another non-baker he really spoke to me. But this book is for everyone who wants to bake, from the simplest to the most complicated pastry.
"Real Cajun" by Donald Link, Clarkson Potter, $35
Authentic rustic Cajun recipes and stories of growing up in southwest Louisiana from a very talented food chef.
"New American Table" by Marcus Samuelsson, Wiley, $40
With 300 very diverse recipes, this book is a trip around the country, celebrating all of the ethnic cultures that have settled here. If you feel that your cooking has gotten a tad dull, this is the book for you.
"Salt to Taste" by Marco Canora, Rodale, $35
100 very simple, accessible Tuscan home recipes from a renowned chef with useful tips and ideas to make variations of your own. This is soulful comfort food.
"You Don't Have to be Diabetic to Love This Cookbook" by Tom Valenti, Workman, $19.95
How nice to finally have a cookbook addressing this huge American dietary issue from a very knowledgeable talented chef. The title is very apppropriate -- this is a book for everyone.
"Michael Symon's Live to Cook" by Michael Symon, Clarkson Potter, $35
"Stir" by Barbara Lynch, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35
Another inspirational Italian cookbook from a great Boston chef with recipes both for simple home cooking as well as fancy entertaining.
"Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking" by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, Chronicle, $50
From one of my all time favorite cookbook authors comes this series of lessons and recipes which guides the home cook through all the techniques essential to Chinese cuisine. Stunning photography as well.
"Antojitos" by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy, Ten Speed Press, $22.99
As the subtitle says, this book is filled with "festive and flavorful small plates," and small plates with many tastes is my favorite way to eat. If you need to expand your dinner horizons, this is the perfect book both for home cooking and for entertaining.