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Top 15 cookbooks for your Christmas gift list

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Top 15 cookbooks

Looking for that perfect read for the hungry foodies on your Christmas gift list? This delicious collection of cookbooks will help you get a jump on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday Christmas shopping. Ranging from cookbooks ideal for seasoned home cooks and aspiring bakers to green gourmets and health-conscious foodies, there is a cookbook to feed the needs of every one of your food-loving family members and friends.

1. The New Portugese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe's Western Coast

The New Portuguese Table

One of the most delicious cookbooks of the year, David Leite's The New Portugese Table (Clarkson Potter, August 2009) is rich with Portugese recipes ranging from Leite's family classics to more contemporary dishes that define Portugal today. Leite, a three-time James Beard Award–winning writer and the publisher of the popular food website LeitesCulinaria.com, has succeeded in delivering a book that will make you want to learn more about Portugese food and the country from which it hails. More than just a cookbook, The New Portuguese Table is also a handbook for the armchair traveler, as it explores Portugal's 11 surprisingly different historical regions, plus the islands of Madeira and the Azores, as well as their food culture, typical dishes and wines. The book also showcases Portugal's pantry of go-to ingredients, such as smoked sausages, seafood, tomatoes, beans, chile peppers, olive oil, garlic, cilantro and bay leaves—all beloved by Americans and combined here in innovative ways. Some of the flavorful dishes Leite brings to life include Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, Duck Risotto with Ham and Sausage, Braised Beef Shanks with Warm Spices and Madeiran Griddle Bread. Yum!

2. I Know How To Cook

I Know How To Cook

Since the Julie and Julia craze, it seems that the US is rediscovering French food in a big way. Je Sais Cuisiner, Ginette Mathiot's best-selling and exhaustive cookbook on French home cooking is now available in English for the first time. With more than six million copies in print in French since 1932, I Know How To Cook (Phaidon Press, October 2009) is France's answer to America's Joy of Cooking and contains more than 1,400 recipes covering the canon of French cuisine from Lobster Bisque and Coq au Vin to Tarte Tatin and Crepe Suzette. This comprehensive cookbook starts with Mathiot's cooking fundamentals and opens up into sumptuous chapters boasting savory and sweet French recipes ranging from simple dishes, such as Croque Monsieur and Light Chocolate Mousse, to more complex recipes like Bouillabaisse and Palmiers. Although some of the dishes may sound daunting to novice cooks, Mathiot is careful to lead readers through the basics so every recipe is accessible for cooks of all levels.

3. Kitchen Scraps: A Humorous Illustrated Cookbook

Kitchen Scraps: A Humorous Illustrated Cookbook

"Kitchen Scraps will delight, offend, and make you hungry," says the cookbook's author Pierre Lamielle. And he couldn't be more accurate. Kitchen Scraps (Whitecap, September 2009) is a novel cookbook that combines cheeky humorous narration, attention-getting illustrations and inventive recipes that will eccentrically entertain you as much as put a good meal on the table. For example, Lamielle, who completed a graphic design and illustration program before attending the French Culinary Institute in New York City, illustrates three bears curing their hangover fog with his hearty oatmeal variations, and, just as artistically, he depicts mutant beef monsters competing in fiery battles for the ultimate burger in presenting his burger recipe. Chapters are also creatively divided: dishes you eat with a spoon, dishes you eat with a fork, dishes you eat with your hands, and dishes you eat with a forkenknife. Lamielle's very visual recipes offer a delightful array of classic dishes with a twist, including Aphrodite's Hot Greek Goddess Salad, Madonna Ballzini's Risotto and Meatballs, Danga's Curry and Suzette's Massacre.

4. The Berghoff Café Cookbook: Berghoff Family Recipes for Simple, Satisfying Food

The Berghoff Café Cookbook: Berghoff Family Recipes for Simple, Satisfying Food

For the foodie on your gift list that loves restaurant dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation, The Berghoff Café Cookbook (Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2009) is the perfect gift. Carlyn Berghoff, a fourth generation restaurateur, brings together a cherished collection of classic dishes from the Chicago eatery, which was founded by her great-grandfather over 110 years ago. Berghoff puts a contemporary twist on many of the cafe's classic recipes, giving readers a taste of neo-tradition, and demonstrates the cost-effective philosophy of reusing, recycling and reinventing foods, which gives readers delicious ideas to use up their staples and leftovers in creative tasty ways. The Berghoff Café Cookbook represents the full range of Berghoff Café food, including Alsatian Onion Soup, Turkey Reuben, Hamburger with Beer-Braised Onions, and Apple Squares with Cheddar Crust.

5. Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuckwagons, and Ranch Kitchens

Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuckwagons, and Ranch Kitchens

Whether your giftee lives in the sticks or simply has rural roots at heart, Grady Spears' Cooking The Cowboy Way (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2009) brings country into the kitchen. Grady takes readers on a journey across the continent to amazing places boasting down-home food, history, and people who have an appreciation for the land. The Cowboy Way (Grady's term for his frontier lifestyle) embodies cowboy spirit, rustic living, and good ol' hearty recipes. Cooking the Cowboy Way features dishes from cowboy cooks, ranchers and other North American natives, including Wildcatter Creamed Spinach, Lamb Tenderloin with Green Olive Jam, Cheddar Pan de Campo, and Brazos Berry Cream Pie. Grady gives readers a taste of different regions throughout the country as well as cowboy cooking secrets, captivating photos of the food and locals, and stories of the frontier way of life. Grady's cookbook is indispensable for flavorful and satisfying home cooked meals and, fittingly, is the ideal book to take on a campout -- for the recipes and for story telling around the campfire.

6. Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

The second book from Jeff Hertzberg, MD and Zoe Francois, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Thomas Dunne Books, October 2009) follows the authors' first book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes in providing the groundbreaking method of baking amazing professional-quality bread in, literally, minutes. Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day gives the health-conscious foodie on your gift list the secret to wholesome loafs that include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and gluten-free ingredients. The cookbook's 100 recipes range from breads, such as a simple 100% Whole Wheat and a more complex and impressive Black and White Braided Pumpernickel, to delicious sweet treats, like Pumpkin Pie Brioche and Chocolate Tangerine Bars. Those following a gluten-free diet or simply wanting to experiment with gluten-free baking will delight in an entire chapter dedicated to gluten-free breads and pastries, featuring yummy recipes, including Gluten-Free Olive Oil Bread and Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls. Bakery-caliber bread, at home, in minutes? Now, that's a gift we can all use!

7. Food & Wine Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes

Food & Wine Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes

If you love cookbooks but can't make up your mind which one you should share with your loved ones, Food & Wine Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes (American Express Publishing, October 2009) is the book to grab. Featuring recipes from the scrumptious cookbooks penned by super-chefs Mario Batali, Giada de Laurentiis, Bobby Flay and Charlie Trotter as well as 21 other tantalizing cookbook authors, Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes will get your giftees drooling and then having a difficult time deciding which recipes to cook. Hand-picked by Food & Wine editors from over 150 epicurean contenders, this collectible cookbook includes recipes from The Art and Soul of Baking (Cindy Mushet), Big Night In (Domenica Marchetti), Olives and Oranges (Sara Jenkins), Italian Grill (Batali), Giada's Kitchen (de Laurentiis), Grill It! (Flay), Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter (Trotter) and many more. Over 20 of this mouthwatering compendium's dishes are exclusive, never-before-published recipes, and all are easy-to-follow and beautifully illustrated. This is a book that is a must-have in the kitchen and a fun coffee table book to pick up whenever the need for culinary inspiration arises.

8. Food & Wine Quick from Scratch Italian Cookbook

Food & Wine Quick from Scratch Italian Cookbook

Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines at home and on restaurant menus, making this cookbook an ideal addition to your giftee's cookbook collection. Food & Wine Quick from Scratch Italian Cookbook (American Express Publishing, September 2009) is where old country meets modern convenience in presenting traditional Italian recipes with contemporary ease. Combining simple authentic ingredients and accessible techniques, Quick from Scratch Italian Cookbook delivers restaurant-style dishes in a snap. Every one of the book's 150 Italian recipes -- including Grilled Zucchini and Mozzarella, Minestrone, Clam Risotto, and Zabaglione with Strawberries -- boasts a full-page photo, further whetting the appetite for Italian cuisine and the need to get in the kitchen and cook. In typical (and beloved) Food & Wine style, this cookbook is rich with meticulously-tested recipes and easy-to-follow directions to ensure that both the Italian food novice and the seasoned gourmand will enjoy a delicious meal.

9. Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook

Bake Deliciously: Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook

Does the foodie on your gift list love to bake but have to avoid gluten or dairy for her own health or the health of her loved ones? In response to the millions of Americans dealing with gluten and dairy dietary restrictions and the unshakable feeling of daily deprivation, Jean Duane (best known as the Alternative Cook) has given those on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet the chance to sink their teeth -- safely -- into more than 150 triple-tested delicious baked goodies. Bake Deliciously! (Alternative Cook, May 2009) shows home bakers how to make scrumptious cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies, crackers, pies and breakfast treats, each recipe requiring five steps or less. Emphasizing whole grains, innovative substitutions for dairy products, and budget-friendly baking tips for more than 150 allergen-free recipes, including Lemon Chiffon Cake, Berry Cream Tarts, Lady Fingers, Mocha Souffles, Vegan Chocolate Cookies and Cinnamon Raisin Bread.

10. The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts

The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts

A fabulous cookbook that will turn the aspiring baker or pastry maker into a pastry master, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, October 2009) presents a comprehensive how-to based on the internationally-lauded curriculum developed by expert pâtissier Jacques Torres for New York's French Culinary Institute. The pastry book presents chapters on every classic category of confection -- tarts, cream puffs, puff pastry, creams and custards, breads and pastries, cakes, and petits fours -- including safety tips, descriptions of ingredients and their uses, overviews of required techniques and hundreds of color photographs. Each recipe even includes a checklist to help evaluate a recipe's success as compared to professional standards. By the end of this tasty and instructional tome, your giftee will be an expert in making gorgeous pastries, such as Pear Tarts with Chocolate Goat Cheese and Honey, Viennese Vanilla Crescents, Seasonal Fruit Galettes, Quiche Lorraine, and Individual Brioche.

11. Frommer's 500 Places for Food and Wine Lovers

Frommer's 500 Places for Food and Wine Lovers

The culinary adventurer's must-have book to find the best food and wine, this gourmet guidebook will take your foodie friends on a tempting worldwide tour of epicurean hot spots. From the flagship restaurants of celebrity chefs (Ferran Adrià in Spain, Mario Batali in New York City) to regional specialties served on location (kaiseki in Kyoto, skyr in Iceland), international culinary schools (Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, Thailand) and vineyards in regions on five continents (France, Italy, Napa Valley, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and more), you'll find 500 must-visit places. A delicious addition to Frommer's 500 Places series, Frommer's 500 Places for Food and Wine Lovers (Wiley Publishing, May 2009) includes trip-planning tips, contact info and websites for open-air markets, farms, food festivals, street food, cookbook and kitchenware shops, specialty food stores, culinary vacation destinations, cooking schools, vineyards, breweries and restaurants throughout the world. The gourmets on your gift list will seriously go to bed at night with this book and dream about their next epicurean journey.

12. Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion

Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion

For the wine lover who really enjoys the bubbly, The Bubbly Bar (Clarkson Potter, August 2009) presents a yummy collection of creative mixed drinks featuring effervescent libations. Mixologist Maria Hunt shares more than 57 fizzy recipes and mixed drink tips to make the best Champagne and sparkling wine cocktails for the beginning bar tender to the seasoned mixed drink maker. Gleaning trends from cutting edge bars around the world, Hunt's recipes range from classics like a proper Kir Royale and French 75 to modern sparkling concoctions crafted from new liqueurs, seasonal fruits and herbs. Themed chapters include: Bubbletinis, Mixed and Muddled, Floral-Flavored, Rose-Colored Glasses, Fruitful Fizz, Latin Libations, Bubbles in Bloom and Happy Endings (mmmm, dessert drinks!). Along the way, Hunt guides readers on a journey through international sparkling wines such as prosecco, cava, cremant and sparkling sake, and provides a useful primer on everything bubbly, including a list of the best Champagnes and sparkling wines from the US and worldwide and a buying guide for every price range – even bottles under $10. The Bubbly Bar recipes offer inspiration for drinks to serve at casual gatherings such as the weekday meal to formal affairs, like weddings and caterered events, giving your giftees the excuse to always have a great Champagne or sparkling wine on hand.

13. Wine Secrets: Advice from Winemakers, Sommeliers & Connoisseurs

Wine Secrets: Advice from Winemakers, Sommeliers & Connoisseurs

Both the wine novice and wine connoisseur on your gift list will sip and savor sommelier Marnie Old's Wine Secrets (Quirk Books, September 2009). Presenting the greatest wine secrets from 40 of the world's top wine experts, Old shares how to choose wine for a large party, the best way to open a bottle of champers and how to properly pair wine with holiday food along with many other vino tips that will give your giftees the confidence to buy, order, taste, store, serve and pair wine for all wine and food occasions. Each technique in Wine Secrets is described in the wine expert's own words paired with a profile and commentary from Old. A great book to have behind the wine bar as well as to keep handy when venturing out to restock the wine bar.

14. Clean Food

Clean Food

If a giftee on your list is following the staying trend towards eco-friendly and healthy (but great tasting) food, Clean Food (Sterling Epicure, September 2009) is a must-read. Author Terry Walters shows readers how to nourish the body, mind and soul while taking care of the planet. With more than 230 seasonal vegan-based recipes, including Seitan Bourguignon, Spicy Coconut Soup, and Chocolate Pecan Pie, Clean Food makes sustainable cooking accessible, exciting and delicious. Using locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, with a few short-cut convenience foods thrown in, Walters' recipes will quickly become weeknight family favorites for your green foodies and further the concept that eating green can be just as mouthwatering as meat-based, less eco-friendly meals.

15. The Weeknight Cook: Fresh & Simple Recipes for Good Food Everyday

The Weeknight Cook: Fresh & Simple Recipes for Good Food Everyday The Weeknight Cook (Oxmoor House, October 2009) is a trusty Williams-Sonoma tome of grocery shopping strategies, time-saving cooking tips, meal plans and scrumptious recipes that are ready in 30 minutes or less. Your busy gourmet will learn how to streamline family-friendly recipes and become a smarter cook so home-cooked meals are a fuss-free weeknight reality. More than 250 inspired recipes are organized by 10 basic categories in a user-friendly ring binder that can be kept on the counter to quickly plan meals and shopping lists. Even better, each section suggests "In Minutes" meals for when time is especially short, and "Fit for Company" menus (complete with wine pairings) for stress-free get-togethers. Accompanied by tempting full-color photography, recipes include Caprese Skewers, Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff, Spring Vegetable Tart, Classic Roast Chicken, Steaks with Herb Butter, and Ice Cream Sandwiches. This is a cookbook you'll find hard to give as a gift…unless you buy one for yourself, too!

10 more cookbooks for your Christmas gift list

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