2007 Holiday Gift Guide: Kiss The Cook

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It’s undeniably the best time of the year for cakes and cookies and breads and soups and all other manner of deliciousness. Here are some of the cookbooks that have found their way to us. Recipes were tried and snacks were enjoyed as we watched DVDs and played with Legos. Repeat if necessary.

Cooking: 600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education
by James Patterson
Ten Speed Press / $40 / Hardback

The publisher on this one has promised us an all-inclusive culinary education. Chef (not the novelist), James Patterson – who lives in Brooklyn btw, so we like him already – has put together a very useful and very heavy volume. Instead of fancy-pants photos of the finished dishes (“Ummm, why doesn’t mine look like that? I followed all the instructions!” Cue tears) there are how-to pics throughout. Aside from the section on ducks and small birds (yuck!), it’s got all the featherless bases covered. A great addition to any pantry.

TRY: French-Style Potato Salad
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Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook
By Jamie Oliver
Hyperion / $37.50 / Hardback

In order to direct a little cash to the kids of his Fifteen restaurants, Jamie Oliver has churned out a new volume with tons of recipes and some of the basic how-to’s of cooking. Though Oliver has been at this for a while, this can be the go-to guide for novice cooks. There is even a (slightly disturbing) diagram on cuts of lamb if your familiarity with such things needs a primer course. The recipes in this volume cover many tastes of the world and some additional “bits and bobs” on cooking techniques and practices.

TRY: Ravioli of pecorino, potato and mint

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Country Cooking of France
By Anne Willan
Chronicle Books / $50 / Hardback

JP almost passed out when he saw this one. Not only is it a thoroughly extensive cookbook on (you guessed it) French country cooking, but the publication itself is gorgeous. You will find more than 200 recipes and fantastic photos in here. Lots of hearty potato, cheese, meats (including frogs and snails!) and the like fill the pages on this amazing volume. It’s one of our picks for the best gifts of the year. And remember, just because you can’t pronounce it, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious!

TRY: La Truffade
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Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen
By Gina DePalma, Foreword by Mario Batali
W.W. Norton / $35 / Hardback

Yes, it’s a complete pain in the ass to get a reservation at Babbo. That’s part of the charm, right? But Mario Batali’s restaurants offer up the best of honest-to-goodness Italy, not like the Italy we find in a jar down aisle four of the grocery. DePalma opens this book with a brief tutorial on all the Italian ingredients you should know about before tying on the apron. Most of them should be pronounced with wild gesticulations and fierce commitment (MASCARPONE!!! RICOTTA!!!) This book is a bit skimpy on the pictures so you should get it for someone who actually bakes. Good news for novices though, Italian desserts are easier than French ones, so start here.

TRY: Cappucino with foam art and (more importantly) Florentine Doughnuts

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I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas
By Marcel Desaulniers
Wiley / $29.95 / Hardback

Another chocolate book is really the last thing anyone needs, but since you offered… This little volume from the executive chef and c-owner of Colonial Williamsburg’s Trellis Restaurant knows his sweets. Pawing through the pages, you’ll see more than one of the many classic American combinations – chocolate and peanut butter among them. Check out the ebony and ivory cookies, Golly Polly’s Doodles, and all the rest with some very Willy Wonka-esque names. You can never have too many sweets at the holidays. Unless of course, you’re diabetic, and then you’re just screwed.

TRY: Eggnog Chocolate Fudge Swirl Ice Cream

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The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family
By Laura Schenone
W.W. Norton / $26.95 / Hardback

Who knew that the hunt for decent ravioli could unearth so much? One woman’s search for a recipe takes her from the Jersey shore all the way back to the old country. “The Lost Ravioli…” is a family history as told through food (“Secret’s in the sauce!”). The journey is filled with family photos, and yes, recipes. Buy it for a family history, keep it for the pasta tips.

TRY: Uh, the ravioli. Obvi.

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Neiman Marcus Taste: Timeless American Recipes
By Kevin Garvin with John Harrison
Clarkson Potter / $45 / Hardback

Talk about gorgeous! This is one of those books that you are drawn to in the shops and can’t help but run your fingers over the smooth, glossy pages and start dreaming about things to try when you get home. Garvin is the executive chef and VP of Neiman Marcus restaurants, and in his introduction, he writes about growing up when “mealtime was the center of family life.” Not to get all whatever, but if that were still the case, the world wouldn’t be as un-cute as it is today. Just sayin’. But we can still have Norman Rockwell for the holidays, right? These recipes are timeless and American – hearty stuff like Caramelized Onion Soup and BBG-Glazed Pork Tenderloin. Nice.

TRY: Granny Smith Apple Pie (just look at the photo and you’ll understand)

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Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast
by Nigella Lawson
Hyperion / $35 / Hardback

The saucy British sensation has returned with a smart new book for the culture of busy busy busy. Every chapter is geared towards saving time without sacrificing the yum-yum factor. Towards the back you’ll find Holiday Snaps with sweets and cocktails to enjoy by the fire on a cold winter’s night. We got distracted around page 344 where we discovered Holiday Hot Cake with Eggnog Cream. I mean really. Why didn’t we think of that before now! Can’t wait…

TRY: Pear and Ginger Muffins. JP’s came out great, if he does say so himself.

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Think Like a Chef
By Tom Colicchio
Clarkson Potter / $22.50/ Softcover

Originally published as a hardback in 2000, Colichio’s “Think Like a Chef” is now out in the more durable format for all our post-‘Top Chef’ cooking needs. As head judge of the Bravo show, we have seen a lot of him over the past few years (and even more when we get sucked into those marathons sessions of the show as it comes to a close…Damn you, Bravo!), so let’s see what he’s offering up. With a good and lengthy introduction, he gives readers a few words about conjuring up new dishes, cooking methods, and then his own recipes on which to practice said methods. Until the next Top Chef, take some time with Tom.

TRY: Corn and potato pancakes