A delicious dozen of our favorite cookbooks from 2013

There’s a beautifully photographed book documenting the cuisine of one of the cutting-edge chefs in California. And there’s a wonderfully written one about growing up hungry in the Soviet Union.  There are primers on French pastry and on Italian pasta shapes as well as new efforts from some of our old favorite authors. The fall of 2013 saw a very good harvest of cookbooks

Our desks are stacked deep with them at the Times Food section, but we’ve burrowed through and selected a dozen of our favorites.

It’s a very diverse group ranging from coffee table books that will be great to leaf through and dream about and recipe collections that are sure to wind up sauce-stained and smeared within the first couple of months.

Anyone who is interested in food will find something here.


“The A.O.C. Cookbook” is farmers-market-driven in all the right ways -- great ingredients, treated with nuance, and without cant. The stunning photography has a natural kitchen glow. It couldn’t be more specifically L.A. if it came with a lifetime parking pass for the Santa Monica farmers market. This is a book about how we cook right here and right now.

Valerie Gordon launched Valerie Confections several years ago with her partner, Stan Weightman Jr., with a box of chocolate-covered toffees. They have since expanded into a full-fledged bakery. Gordon’s just-published cookbook, “Sweet: Inspired Ingredients, Unforgettable Desserts” (Artisan), chronicles the menu of iconic cakes, petit fours, pies, cookies, chocolates, jams and more.

Hunger, to paraphrase the old line, makes the best sauce. Judging from Anya von Bremzen’s splendid new “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking,” it also makes for a pretty good memoir. Von Bremzen is a widely published food and travel writer and the author of five previous cookbooks -- all pretty much standard recipe collections. With “Mastering,” she digs much deeper.

Why in the world at this point in our culinary evolution would we need another pasta cookbook? Surely, everything that possibly could be said about such a simple subject has been covered to death by now. Well, pick up “Sauces and Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way” by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant and find out just how wrong you are.


Is there anyone who has done more for French cooking in the United States than Daniel Boulud? If you have any doubts, you need only pick up his new cookbook, “Daniel: My French Cuisine.” If it was any more French, it would come with a Chevalier soundtrack.

David Kinch’s cooking looks like it comes from another world, yet it is definitively Californian, rooted in nature, whether it’s the soil of Love Apple Farm or the Pacific Ocean. Leafing through the pages of his new cookbook, “Manresa: An Edible Reflection,” written with Christine Muhlke, that becomes utterly clear.

“In the Charcuterie” is much more than a guide to hams and salumi. In fact, if Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller had wanted to be totally accurate, they would have called it “In the Butchery” (or maybe “In the Boucherie” would sound better?). Because in reality, “In the Charcuterie” is nothing less than a thorough overview of our growing infatuation with good meat.

If you’re ready to plunge into the craft of making pastries, there are few books as thorough as “The Art of French Pastry” (Knopf, $40), by master pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer with local author Martha Rose Shulman. Pfeiffer, who grew up in Alsace learning to bake in his family’s boulangerie and eventually founded the French Pastry School in Chicago, was featured in the documentary “Kings of Pastry.”

Hugh Johnson’s “The World Atlas of Wine” has long been a serious wine-lover’s bible. He’s an erudite and engaging writer, pouring decades of wine knowledge into succinct paragraphs that place each country and region in context. For someone keen to learn about Burgundy or Piedmont or Sonoma County, the brilliantly detailed maps were essential to understanding why certain vineyards and appellations produce the wines that they do.

Amid this season’s flurry of massive cookbooks from important chefs such as David Kinch (Manresa), Daniel Patterson (Coi), Daniel Boulud (Daniel) and more, comes this modest entry from former Chez Panisse chef David Tanis, “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal” (Artisan, $25.95). What he means by one good dish is “tasty, simple and real,” i.e., something a home cook could make without devoting the entire weekend to one recipe.

Jon Bonné's new book, “The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste,” is a wonderful, engaging read with an actual narrative and a cast of characters who think outside the box, care about sustainability and have a strong curiosity and work ethic.


Now that we’ve got a new flour mill in town -- Grist & Toll in Pasadena -- aspiring bread bakers and those who love them will want to invest in this third tome from Tartine master baker Chad Robertson, “Tartine Book No. 3: Modern Ancient Classic Whole”.


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