Though cookbooks come and go, there are always at least a couple of standouts being published every year. Here are a handful of essential kitchen additions (all published in 2010), along with my two cents on what sets these apart from all the rest. With Christmas looming, consider sharing the gift of good food.
Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine: This year, René Redzepi's Noma, in Copenhagen, Denmark, was called the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine, ending ElBulli's reign on top of that list. Noma is the end-all, be-all of locavorism; Redzepi doesn't use any ingredients he cannot acquire within a certain distance of the restaurant, meaning that cooking wine goes out the door in favor of beer, musk ox replaces other animals in the handful of meat dishes present, and typical staples such as foie gras and olive oil aren't to be found.
The book includes several gorgeous maps explaining where his ingredients come from and the recipes—while on the higher end of the culinary spectrum—are beautifully photographed. "The Snowman from Jukkasjärvi" and "Blueberries in their Natural Environment," among others, are unforgettable.
Now Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories: Rocco DiSpirito's goal in Now Eat This! is to explain where the calories come from in traditional comfort food dishes; Think penne alla vodka, onion rings, and seared tuna, and cut them down while adding nutrients where there once weren't any. For example, in the penne alla vodka recipe, DiSpirito replaces heavy cream with Greek yogurt, which retains the same essential thickness without compromising the flavor.
The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century : This cookbook is a classic compilation of the Times' recipes from 1850 onward. Amanda Hesser (the editor) contributes notes and commentary throughout the book, documenting her experiences culling through a century and a half's worth of archived recipes. The book is very much a tour of American culinary history; you get recipes such as Dwight Eisenhower's steak, early sour cream coffee cakes, and many others.
Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes : Harold McGee's newest book is aimed less at the food professional than the inexperienced amateur, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is a companion guide to be used alongside other cookbooks to help aspiring chefs discover basic tips and techniques in the kitchen, the rules of food handling, and guides to certain kinds of food, which he did so well in On Food and Cooking. Seasoned chefs have expressed disappointment with this text but do contend that a novice cooks will be overjoyed with the detailed explanations.
Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours : The featured recipe from this cookbook is called "Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good." How can someone turn down something stuffed with everything good? This cookbook is a personal reflection of Greenspan's cuisine more than it is a summary of French cuisine, emphasizing braises, stews, roasted meats, tagines, tarts, and quiches, among other things. This isn't crazy-sophisticated food, and it doesn't try to be, but it is modern Parisian cooking and it's surprisingly accessible.
All the recipes here have either been sent to me, adapted by me or found on the web. If I know the source I always give credit to the author/website. If you know of a source I may have missed please let me know.