Halloween is just a week away, which means it’s time for winter holiday hosts to start gearing up for parties and testing new recipes before trotting them out for family and guests. Luckily, we have three recently released appetizer books to help you get ready: one that is attuned to the tried and true, Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Appetizers
; one that can work as a springboard for your own recipe development, Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook
; and another for showing off your inner rock star, Chowgirls Killer Party Food
. If baked goods are your thing, there are plenty of baking books, including what could easily be the new cookie bible, Dorie's Cookies
(by the amazing culinary queen Dorie Greenspan). For those of us with little time for getting ready for parties, Thug Kitchen slaps us all upside-the-head with an easier-to-cook-from cookbook: Thug Kitchen 101
Better Baking: Wholesome Ingredients, Delicious Desserts
by Genevieve Ko
Veteran culinary consultant Genevieve Ko brings us the baking book that we want to eat from, and that we NEED to eat from. Does the idea of a “healthy” cookie strike terror in your heart, the way it does mine? Ko transforms her already delicious recipes into safer and saner versions of themselves by using oils, grains, and alternative sweetener sources such as dates, red adzuki beans, and fruits. No need to fear — there is still enough butter and sugar included to get the right flavor. She just takes the refined flour and sugar down a notch. For instance, her Pomegranate-Pistachio Baklava uses oil instead of butter in the filo, and the honey is cut with pomegranate juice; the Raspberry-Sunflower Seed Breakfast Bars have grapeseed oil and use roasted, salted sunflower seeds so that you can eliminate the home roasting time. The photography is by Romulo Yanes and is tempting, inviting, and inspiring.
There is everything to love about this cookbook. Every baker will be happy with Better Baking
. No joke; it’s really great!
The Canon Cocktail Book: Recipes From the Award-Winning Bar
by Jamie Boudreau and James O. Fraioli
Seattle’s Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium is where you want to go for robust and thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Many recipes are new versions of traditional drinks, but where this cookbook really shines is in the richly innovative new cocktails. These are the cocktails that the long lines of people standing outside Canon are waiting for. But why wait in line when you can make their fabulous drinks at home? You might not have their fancy skull mugs, but really, it’s the drink that counts.
Bottom Line: The Canon Cocktail Book
offers award-winning drinks for the cocktail adventurer who loves to craft spirits at home.
Chowgirls Killer Party Food: Righteous Bites and Cocktails for Every Season
by Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown
These recipes are super-fun finger food for people who like to party and eat until the break of dawn, and also for us couch potatoes who are just as happy with good snacks on our TV trays. The Chowgirls, Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown, of the Midwestern catering company walk their righteous walk by using sustainable products and by shopping seasonably. I made the Beets and Burrata small plate. The solid texture of the sweet beets was nicely balanced with the creamy rich burrata. The beets I used came from a friend’s farm, right in keeping with the Chowgirls' commitment to environment and community.
The Chowgirls' mantra is: “It’s just food, not a medical emergency,” so don’t freak out if you have to substitute items. I forgot to get macadamia nuts, so I tossed on some walnuts. I had a little leftover fig jam (also from my friend’s farm), so I added a spot of jam to each small plate.
Are you known for your amazing appetizers? When you go to a party, do people gather round to see what you’ve brought because your dishes are always the best? Then you need Chowgirls Killer Party Food
to keep your rep intact.
All-Time Best Appetizers
by Cook's Illustrated
The always-reliable Cook's Illustrated brings us an appetizer book just when we need it — right before the holiday season kicks in. A little bit modern and a little bit traditional, All-Time Best Appetizers
hits that fine line between comfort food and exciting new creations.
Maybe don’t make Cheddar Cheese Coins when you are in the midst of moving house and have forgotten that your food processor is already packed and hidden among a sea of boxes. By dint of hand mixer and pastry blender, I finally mashed my poor mangled flour mixture into dough, but the point of the recipe’s technique was to limit handling to ensure tenderness. What should have taken less than a minute in a processor took about a half hour by hand. Were my cookies tough? A little bit. Were my cookies delicious? Yes! Who cares about tough when the cheddary, buttery goodness shines through, with just a touch of cayenne heat? If you like heat, I suggest you round up the cayenne measurement to increase the Scoville heat units. This will make the cookies hot enough for pepper lovers, but not so hot as to scare the timid.
Armed with All-Time Best Appetizers
, you’ll be ready for all your party and potluck needs.
The Italian Baker: 100 International Baking Recipes With a Modern Twist
by Melissa Forti
Review by Rhianna:
I've never loved Italian desserts, but I was lured to The Italian Baker
by Melissa Forti's personal style (think Betty Page, but more wholesome and in a bakery) and the dark photographs of cakes seductively arranged on silver tea trays. Forti has a warm and enthusiastic voice, urging her readers to eat a slice of cake every day and happily pronouncing any recipe with a fruit or vegetable component a nutritious breakfast. While I disagree with Forti's Cake Diet approach to life, there's no denying how adorable she is or how unbelievably good these recipes are. I baked the humble-sounding Cinnamon Loaf — really a luscious pound cake ribboned with spiced sugar — and the silky Ricotta, Orange and Chocolate Cake, which tastes just like an orange Milano cookie. Both were shockingly delicious and well-received.
Forti omits salt from most of her recipes, which I disagree with. Adding a pinch of salt (¼–½ tsp) prevents baked goods from tasting flat or overly sweet, and helps boost the flavor profiles of other ingredients like citrus zest or vanilla.
Bottom Line: The Italian Baker
has both simple recipes and fancy recipes for those occasions that call for a lovely treat that is a bit more inspired. I can see myself turning to The Italian Baker
any time I want to make something really special for my family and friends.
Milk Made: A Book About Cheese. How to Choose It, Serve It, and Eat It.
by Nick Haddow
is a fancy book about cheese. It's a love song to cheese. It's a celebration of the history of cheese and the eating of cheese. It's also about stuff to eat with cheese. The recipes are well thought out and just a tad different from standard fare. I made a Tartiflette (which is French Alps talk for potato gratin) that was ridiculously rich with bacon and whipped cream.
The prose also makes for enjoyable reading. Here are examples: “Feta is like the crocodile of the cheese world, largely unchanged since its origins” and “Milk is bloody marvelous.”
The Tartiflette was super-duper rich. The required Reblochon cheese is a little expensive, so I used half Trader Joe's Brie instead. The instructions say the dish serves six, but with the out-of-control richness, it could easily serve eight with smaller portions.
Bottom Line: Milk Made
is an Australian cookbook, and while some of the farms and/or cheeses featured are Australian or European, the recipes are universal and don’t require specific brands of cheeses. Recipes are also dual-measurement, so we Yanks will have no problem putting them together.
Readers' Best Recipes: And the Stories Behind Them
by The Old Farmer's Almanac
Sometimes you just want some good old-fashioned, regular, everyday food. Sometimes you want recipes that will not challenge your brain too much and recipes that will make your tummy happy. Just as we’ve relied on The Old Farmer’s Almanac
for homespun and yet strangely on-point information for years, now we can rely on these oft-made recipes culled from OFA
readers. Some of these recipes have been family favorites for years, such as the Waldorf Cake (red velvet cake). Some recipes have been designated as “Almanac Favorites,” such as Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes and the poetically named Ham Yam Ramekins.
These recipes were all approved by somebody's family and friends, so there is every reason that your family and friends will love them too.
Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge
by Trine Hahnemann
"Embracing the art of hygge"? What? Hygge is a rather un-American attitude and I want some. Hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”), to the best of my understanding, is a concept of casual and relaxed entertaining, and a style of life. Hygge is a Danish custom of informal hosting and hanging out, possibly for hours at a time: noshing; chatting, and being comfortable with silence. In author Trine Hahnemann’s world, when her friends drop by, perhaps unannounced yet very welcome, she pulls out these recipes to build a meal that is easy enough to make while chatting with guests and flavorful enough to keep the hygge heartful. Recipes such as Tomatoes With Goat Cheese Dressing, Jerusalem Artichoke and Leek Soup, and the unusual Winter Apple Layer Cake. (Winter Apple Layer Cake is different from the cakes we are used to. The cake layers are wafer thin and wafer crisp. As a bonus point for booklovers, this recipe was inspired by Karen Blixen
and was “part of her dinner party repertoire.”)
Bottom Line: Scandinavian Comfort Food
is as much an introduction to Danish relaxed living as it is a cookbook. It's best read by people who already have a trip to Denmark planned, because this will certainly inspire a visit. Denmark is often described as the happiest country on our planet. Maybe it’s the hygge.
Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook: 225 Simple, All-Occasion Recipes
by Kiera and Cole Stipovich
Small sized but built like a brick, Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook
packs in a lot of simple and tasty recipes. Hosting your own gathering? UAI
is a good choice as there are a lot of recipes to serve straight from the oven. There are also a number of dips and appetizers to serve chilled or at room temperature. There are helpful photos for every recipe.
While baking the Bite-Sized Grilled Cheese Sandwiches on a sheet pan, melted cheese escaped the sandwiches and baked into a bubbly, crunchy moat around each tiny cocktail bread sandwich. At the party, we all agreed that this baking accident was the best! Next time I’ll double the cheese so as to have both cheesy filling and a crunchy moat. To add a touch of color and surprise flavor, I added a small dollop of tomato confit in the center of each tiny sammie.
As an ideabook, these simple recipes are fine just as they are written, and they are also good jumping off points to add your own touches to recipes.
Scotch Whisky Treasures: A Journey of Discovery Into the World's Noblest Spirit
by Tom Bruce-Gardyne
Scotch Whisky Treasures
is a box filled with tchotchkes about whisky. Scotch whisky only — the Americas need not apply. The book portion of this treasure box presents the history of various Scottish distilleries, with tasting notes of representative whiskies. Most chapters have an attached “memorabilia bag” holding paper ephemera such as: architectural plans, maps, telegrams, and other oddities. Tucked into the box are also a couple of whisky-oriented posters.
Bottom Line: Scotch Whisky Treasures
is a love affair with whisky and a fun read for whisky lovers. Best enjoyed with a neat glass of Glenlivet at your elbow. Or Glen Grant, or Glenfiddich, or Glenmorangie. Or, bucking the Glen trend, Cardhu or Old Pulteney.
MORE NEW COOKBOOKS
There are too many recent cookbook releases to review. So here are some mini-reviews.
by Dorie Greenspan
Oh boy! It doesn’t get much better than this. Dorie Greenspan is one of America’s most respected bakers and most appreciated cookbook authors. Greenspan’s recipes for what she describes as “little lumps of dough” are a reason to celebrate. Dorie’s Cookies is destined to become a cookie bible, and you’ll be seeing it for years on kitchen bookshelves everywhere, including my own kitchen shelf.
Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life
by Kate McDermott
Kate McDermott teaches Art of the Pie workshops all over America. Now she can teach you in the privacy of your home. Both traditional and gluten-free crusts are included. It’s pie season — get crackin’!
Sheet Pan Desserts: Delicious Treats You Can Make With a Sheet Pan
by Betty Crocker
Some recipes start with a mix; some are from scratch. Cakes, candies, and bars, all easy to plonk together. While simple, many have a knock-out presentation.
For the Love of Licorice: 60 Licorice Inspired Candies, Desserts, Meals, and More
by Elisabeth Johansson
A cookbook completely devoted to licorice?! Now this is a rare bird. For the Love of Licorice runs the gamut of recipes, from ice cream and candies to breads and real meal dinners. There's even a little information on growing your own licorice plants.
Les Petits Sweets: Two-Bite Desserts From the French Patisserie
by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride
Adorable tiny desserts, some easy, some complex. A fun cookbook for the cook who likes to share desserts that are a little bit fancy.
Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck
What the (bleep) do I even need to say here? It’s the (%&*!). It's from the folks of Thug Kitchen, so you know it’s both rude and rad. "101" is in the title, so you know the recipes will be (censored) easy and simple enough for even (XXXX) beginners.