Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


I get sent a lot of cookbooks throughout the year, some from publishers looking for blurbs, others just wanting me to know a book has been published. Recently I reviewed some select books out this season for the Wall Street Journal (it will be online for everyone here after a couple weeks). One of those books, which I highly recommend for baking, is Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi. But it is not featured above because I am giving it to someone who can actually bake.

What is the story about the five books above? As I said, I get a lot of books throughout the year, more than I actually have room for in the downstairs of our house. Cookbook space is now severely rationed. After much difficult thought, the above books are the ones I didn’t feel I could relegate to upstairs storage. These are books I want to have on hand and easily accessed. Two of them are from earlier in the year, so I thought it appropriate to mention them if you’re still hunting for gifts for people who love to cook or people who want to cook more often.

From this past spring, and I’ve written about them before, are Michelle Tam’s Nom Nom Paleo and Joshua Weissman’s Slim Palate Paleo Cookbook. I do not recommend them for being paleo. I’m not a believer in any diet (though paleo seems to be among the most useful with its avoidance of refined flour products and refined sugar). What I love is their exuberance on the page and the ease and deliciousness of the food, such as Weissman’s coffee and ancho braised lamb shanks and Tam’s crispy chicken gizzards on sautéed spinach. Joshua’s story is particularly inspiring.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, about year-round preserving, is a superb reference and cookbook on preserving, from high-acid canning to low-acid (high-pressure) canning, that then moves on to meat and fish and then oddly (and wonderfully eccentrically) cheese making (preserving dairy).

Interestingly, the three books above began because their authors became committed and successful bloggers.

Then there’s Bitter by Jennifer McLagan, about the “the world’s most dangerous flavor.” This may be my favorite of all her books; I love and have written about many of the same things she has but never isolated this flavor sense as something to explore. She does it well. Check out her other books if you don’t know them, especially Odd Bits and Fat (but they’re all good).

Finally, the lovely Mollie Katzen. Last spring when we were both flogging other books in NYC (she the excellent The Heart of the Plate and I my beloved Egg), we met for the first time in the green room before going on Leonard TK. What a delightful woman she is. So gracious. This the woman who wrote the seminal Moosewood Cookbook, among the first books to celebrate seasonal local cooking with vegetables and legumes. It’s now out in a 40th anniversary edition. This is a great book to give to the 20-something cooks who have never heard of this great cookbook.

For more suggestions, my able assistant Emilia Juocys, who trained under Brian Polcyn, offers her favorites, all excellent as well:

Heritage by Sean Brock.

Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail by Dave Arnold.

Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling.

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

Happy cooking all!


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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.