Newsletter: In the Kitchen: Our favorite cookbooks of the year


It's the season for giving — and getting — and cookbooks are probably at the top of the list for most of us. This has been an excellent year for cookbooks, and the Food staff has compiled a list of 27 of our favorites. Whether you're considering gifts for others, or simply want to add to your own collection, there's something for everyone.

We're also in the middle of the Festival of Lights, and even if you don't celebrate Hanukkah, who can turn down a tempting latke? We share 17 of the best latke recipes from our recipe database. Also, Russ Parsons reviews cookbook legend Lydia Bastianich's new cookbook, "Lydia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cusine" and he also caught up with Nigella Lawson, who shares some holiday hosting advice. Finally, if Champagne is priced a bit above your budget this holiday season, S. Irene Virbila shares alternative bubblies.

— Noelle Carter

This year's new cookbooks: 27 of our favorites

This is the time of year when publishers have put out their new and notable cookbooks, kind of like how studios are now releasing their serious films in time for awards season. And while the cookbook awards season comes in the spring, the holidays are maybe a more practical version of it, when we check out our favorites or consider what local or noteworthy chefs have written, and finally go pick up some copies — and cook from them. We have more time to cook over the holidays, and reason to, or we give the books as gifts — to our friends, family or ourselves. Because there's nothing like a new book to inspire dinner, especially when Jacques Pepin or Yotam Ottolenghi is providing the recipe. Here are 27 cookbooks, in alphabetical order by author, to inspire your December cooking or gifting.

Hachette Book Group

17 of our favorite latke recipes for Hanukkah

You can't celebrate Hanukkah without at least one batch of latkes. And there are plenty of variations on the potato pancake. Do I grate by hand or by machine? Add onion? Matzo meal, flour or simply potato starch to bind? Whatever style you choose, nothing beats a latke that's crisp on the outside, perfectly tender inside, light in texture, but rich with flavor. It's something to behold. Try to eat just one.

To help you get your latke fix, we've compiled 17 of our favorite recipes, from traditional potato to beet, apple, zucchini, bulgur and more. Happy Hanukkah!

Classic potato latkes
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Cookbook legend Lidia Bastianich's new book gives us hundreds of her favorite recipes

From the title of Lidia Bastianich's new cookbook, "Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine," you might be expecting an encyclopedic textbook, along the lines of Julia Child's classic masterwork from which it borrows its name. This book, the 14th from the popular restaurateur and public television cooking show star, is not that book — which is not a criticism at all. After all, we already have a good comprehensive guide to the basics of Italian cooking: "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by the late Marcella Hazan.

What Bastianich delivers in this book, written with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali, is something more personal. It's essentially a collection of more than 400 of her favorite recipes, from a wide enough range of categories that you could cook quite happily from it for several years.

Nigella Lawson's holiday hosting advice? Keep things relaxed and informal

The holidays are frantic times, full of hustle and bustle and cocktail parties and big dinners. It's also a time of high anxiety for a lot of people — it's the one time of year when even folks who can't normally find the stove feel obliged to prepare a multicourse menu and invite everyone they know. But our favorite Domestic Goddess says we should stop the madness. Russ Parsons sits down with Nigella Lawson and she shares her holiday hosting tips.

Champagne a little too expensive? 9 alternative bubblies for the holidays

We all love Champagne. That's a given. Especially if it's top-of-the-line grand cru or vintage Champagne. But unless you're related to the Getty family or another of that ilk, you're probably not going to be able to break out the Dom Perignon or the Salon for a crowd. This is where alternate bubblies come in. S. Irene Virbila shares nine Champagne alternatives, ideal for the holidays.

Jonathan Gold's 101

The 101 is here! Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers. Find the list at Official hashtag #JGOLD101.


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Love cooking as much as I do? Follow me on Twitter: @noellecarter