The book opens with a two-week journal that chef René Redzepi kept during a tour of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland that he took when he was 25 years old. It was a trip that would inform his cuisine, a progressive tribute to Noma's particular niche in the Nordic world, expressed with an earnest, enthusiastic and hyper-careful attention to local, seasonal ingredients such as wood sorrel foraged from South Zealand, beets grown in Lammefjorden, or sea urchins from Bodo, north of the Arctic Circle.
skin and caramelized garlic; sole with green strawberries and beach cabbage; pickled vegetables with smoked bone marrow. The photos refer to the pages for each recipe collected at the back of the book, which are more inspirational than practical for anyone with limited access to elderflower blossoms, sea buckthorn and goosefoot leaves.
— Betty Hallock
"Southern Pies" by Nancie McDermott, Chronicle, 168 pages, $22.95
When Nancie McDermott came out with her recipe collection "Southern Cakes" a few years ago, I probably gained 10 pounds the first week I had the book. I wanted to make each and every recipe as I read the book cover to cover, each was so engaging. So when I heard she'd come out with "Southern Pies," I was excited. Nervously excited.
If you love pie, this book is a winner. Like "Southern Cakes" before it, this broad collection celebrates a wonderful culinary tradition of the American South, with recipes that include both family heirlooms and modern variations on classics. McDermott introduces each recipe with a story — the history of the pie itself, or perhaps the background of its author, personalizing each recipe for the reader and bookmarking its place in the South's rich tradition.
I loved her double-crust apple pie, the lightly sweetened apples cooked in two layers and separated in the middle with an extra layer of flaky crust. I tried my first bean pie, supposedly developed in the 1930s, the mashed navy beans mixed into a custard filling and spiced like a pumpkin pie. And I was fascinated by her sliced sweet potato pie, from a recipe developed by George Washington Carver, the sweet potatoes sliced and layered, rather than mashed.
— Noelle Carter
"The Lost Art of Real Cooking" by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger, Perigee Books, 233 pages, $18.95
No matter how many cookbooks you have on your shelf, you probably don't have one like this. First off, there are no recipes. At least not in the traditional sense. The preparation for each dish is delivered as a narrative. At first glance, the blocks of text might seem overwhelming and a little dulling to the senses. (There are line drawings, but no pictures.) Give it a chance, though, and you'll find that the effect is as if a gentle teacher — a grandmother, perhaps — is standing at your shoulder guiding you through each step.
You'll also find all the added bits of knowledge that the beginning cook needs, but that today's in-a-hurry recipes don't bother to impart. The student is encouraged to experiment at every turn. But there is plenty to challenge the experienced cook as well. Here's how to make pasta: "To start, pour some flour in a bowl. ... Next, break an egg in, or two. Or none. Or two yolks. It all depends on how eggy you like your pasta." Few of the recipes offer a yield. That's because you are really the only person who knows how much you'll eat.
Its selection is eclectic, with recipes for making butter, wine, miso soup and sauerkraut, as well as "American pizza," marmalade, tortillas and fruit pies. A gem of a book, the title says it all. Even the casual user will walk away with a deeper understanding of the kitchen, and a new appreciation for the difference between recipe cooking and "real cooking."
— Rene Lynch
"Primal Cuts" by Marissa Guggiana, Welcome Books, 288 pages, $37.50
Marissa Guggiana's "Primal Cuts" is a celebration of the art of the butcher. The book profiles some of the best butchers and meat-oriented chefs in the United States, letting them introduce themselves and their love of craft in their own words and share some favorite recipes.
The book is also a primer of sorts. There are chapters on dry-curing meats and raising your own chickens, how to make sausage and homemade stock, even how to break down a cow to share with seven of your closest friends. Guggiana also touches on such issues as how to find a local farmer, and factory versus sustainable options.
While the book covers many common cuts and options, it also explores — and gives recipes for — some lesser-known cuts and under-used animals. You'll learn the primal cuts for lamb, goat and venison in addition to understanding the different "personalities" of steaks (what distinguishes a filet from a strip steak, a rib-eye from flank). The recipes are both informative, and fun. I loved the chorizo "doughnuts" — savory little dumplings reminiscent of hush puppies but with a kick. The duck breast and beer sandwich immediately caught my eye, the breast slow-simmered in a sweet beer reduction, then sliced thin and piled into a rustic sandwich. The pork belly confit is so deliciously rich you almost feel sinful eating it, but you can't stop.
— Noelle Carter
"Tartine Bread," by Chad Robertson, Chronicle Books, 304 pages, $40