We look forward to early November all year long, when we have our Holiday Potluck! There is such a wealth of cookbooks that come out in the fall, and we run rampant through the pages looking for the best recipes to share at work. This year our potluck was so bountiful that I've had to cut the On the Table post into two parts: savory and sweet. We'll begin with the savory...
by Yotam Ottolenghi
First off, what a classy-looking book. A touch of gold gilding on the cover and spine, along with glorious fore-edge gilding, makes for a visually spectacular book. You'll find this Ottolenghi cookbook a bit different from his others. The recipes are from his restaurant Nopi. They are simplified for the home kitchen — simplified but not simple. Ottolenghi even refers to the recipes as "epic." Understanding that the home cook may be able to make only one complex dish per meal, he also includes some easier side dishes that aren't served at Nopi.
Okay, now that you've been warned about the challenging recipes, I have to say this is another awesome cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi! I'm always impressed by his masterful recipe development, mixing flavors together in the ways I never would have thought, creating sublime food experiences.
Mark made: Mixed Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Ricotta, and Capers
"What immediately attracted me to this recipe was, one, my love of cauliflower and, two, the combination of ingredients. How could I miss with the accommodating flavors of Romanesco broccoli, golden raisin, capers, pine nuts, and ricotta cheese?" – Mark
by Adam and Jackie Sappington
Heartlandia is the much-awaited cookbook from The Country Cat, a beloved Portland restaurant. Self-described as "glorified gramma cuisine," Heartlandia is comfort food on steroids. Chef/owners Adam and Jackie Sappington put extra pizazz into their middle-American-style farm food. Take the recipe for mashed potatoes. The advice that the Sappingtons give their cooks is "to think of the potatoes as the binder for all the sour cream and butter we whip into them." How can that not be fantastic? And for all of us who go to The Cat especially for their house-cured bacon: you may need to turn directly to the recipe for smoky bacon and get going on that bad boy.
Mary Jo made: Melon Salad
"The secret to this delicious melon medley, wonderful for a brunch or Sunday dinner, is sweet and fruity Moscato vinegar. Made from Moscato/Muscat grapes, which are often used to make dessert wine, this vinegar is well worth tracking down." – Mary Jo
The Chef Next Door
by Amanda Freitag
When we got a copy of The Chef Next Door a few months ago, it kind of knocked our socks off. Sure, we anticipated that TV personality/Chef Freitag would give us a good cookbook — and it is — but it is also a wonderful collection of well-curated and presented recipes. It's a little bit like being in her home kitchen while she makes up a meal and tosses out bits of chef knowledge. Recipes run the gamut from easy to "the scary stuff." She holds your hand the whole way, with tips and easy-to-follow instructions.
Tom and Dev made: Butternut Squash Soup
"Squash is arguably the quintessential autumn vegetable, and soup is the perfect food for dwindling daylight and chillier nights. This butternut squash soup makes for a perfect autumn meal or side dish, and its brilliant color even livens up the chill outside. We're not huge fans of curry and found that it can overwhelm some of the other flavors in the soup, but it tastes great nonetheless. This is a very forgiving recipe and there are numerous ways to change up the spicing to suit varying tastes." – Tom and Dev
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime
by Ree Drummond
I'm pretty certain the entire world universe has heard of Internet and cookbook phenom Ree Drummond. Her Pioneer Woman series has been immensely popular, and her new dinner-oriented cookbook is a welcome entry to her growing collection of cookbooks. Drummond invites us to smear up her cookbook with our own homemade dinners. The recipes are designed to be quick, comforting, and easy, even for a beginner. The entire cookbook is filled with a huge amount of step-by-step photos, so there is no need for the beginner cook to feel intimidated by a new recipe. And as a country girl, Drummond treats us to pictures of horses, cows, kitties, and doggies, but only one of these animals is featured in the recipes. Sorry about that, cows.
Gigi made: Spinach Soup
"As someone who just bought a fixer-upper house with no stove and a dead fridge, I needed to find a simple recipe for the potluck — one I could make without baking or chilling, one that took few enough ingredients that I could make a quick trip to the store, grab what I needed, and whip up my dish over an open flame like a proper pioneer woman. Well, not an open flame, but I did have a couple of working burners on the stove. So, I chose this lovely spinach soup from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime. Wonderfully rich and homey, so simple to make, and what a beautiful green color." – Gigi
by Andrea Slonecker and Christian DeBenedetti
We might be a bit predisposed to like this cookbook because it's by local authors Slonecker and DeBenedetti, but that is okay because Beer Bites turns out to be a delight. Now I can't really comment much to the beer pairings suggested; I'm not a beer drinker, but I will say that the beer descriptions are so eloquent that I am of a mind that I might need to take beer up as a new hobby! The recipes either have beer in them or are good accompaniments. This is a great cookbook for host/hostess food — a bit fancier than your usual appetizer grub yet in a beery, hearty way.
I made: Chimay à la Bière Fondue
I love that fondue is an elegant and fun dish to serve, with the bonus that it is pretty easy to make. After making this recipe, I think I might switch over to using beer instead of kirsch in my future fondues!
The Homemade Kitchen
by Alana Chernila
Such a pretty cookbook. Author Chernila wants us to enjoy our time in the kitchen, making wholesome savories and sweets. Her writing comes across as if she is the most grounded friend you have, the person who can always help guide you in the kitchen. Packed in with the pleasantly comforting recipes are homilies from Chernila's kitchen, including this most profound cooking advice: "Do your best, then let go." How many of us haven't had some sort of freak-out in the kitchen due to cooking failure? Just let it go.
I made: Popovers
Coworker Kim sometimes treats us to popovers and I'm always impressed, but now I've discovered her secret: these puffy muffins are easy to make! They only take a few staple ingredients mixed in the blender, a stay in the oven, and voila! A tasty and a visually interesting treat! Speaking of cooking failures, ahem, my popovers failed in the popping-over department. But it was my fault, not the recipe. (See tip below.)
Pimp My Rice
by Nisha Katona
Rice: an easy dish to make, and easy-peasy to dress up fancy. Author Katona, rice evangelist and British barrister, was in her mid-30s when she discovered her love of rice. Not until she had a family to take care of did she embrace the simple grains. Lucky for us that she did; her recipes are joyful celebrations of all types of rice. An international food, many ethnicities are represented in the food styling. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all detailed and embellished in creative and thoughtful ways.
Shawn made: Black and Red Rice Boudoir Salad
"I'd never thought of using rice before in a salad but loved the way the wild and red varieties gave this dish a great nutty texture. The exotic Middle Eastern look of the Black and Red Rice Boudoir Salad was surprisingly easy to reproduce and would make a nice addition to any Mediterranean main course." – Shawn
The Food Lab
by J. Kenji López-Alt
Yowza! I have so much love for this cookbook. Author López-Alt of SeriousEats.com explains the science behind how our recipes work, and he does so with a sense of humor. He is a proud nerd, has a degree from MIT and over a decade of experience in restaurant kitchens, and he brings all of this together to give us great recipes that teach us science 'n' stuff. Want to know how to make the perfect poached egg? His method is unlike any I've seen before (he learned it from Heston Blumenthal). Do you know how to pick out a good steak? Lopez-Alt does; he gives us a chapter on the ins and outs of understanding meat. Bottom line: these are good recipes and they will make you smarter, plus his sly surprise humor will bring out a snort or two.
Renee made: Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
"The Food Lab is one of those big, beautiful cookbooks that you can't stop reading, so I had trouble directing my attention to just one recipe. Since the focus is on mastering popular American dishes, I finally decided on the Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese, which featured epic amounts of cheese — and then more cheese. My kitchen skills are lacking, but Lopez-Alt's clear directions and photos guided me through it. While the heavenly just-out-of-the-oven aroma made it difficult not to devour ahead of the potluck, the wait was worth it." – Renee
by Gena Hamshaw
If you are a foodie, you probably already know about Food52.com, an Internet food community with almost 37,000 (and counting) recipes. You may already have Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook on your kitchen bookshelf. This fall, they've given us two new cookbooks: Food52 Vegan and Food52 Baking. The Food52 people take a very thoughtful approach to their recipes, and this results in completely reliable and delicious food. The photography is beautiful and rustic. They plan their cover shots with care, making sure they are truly reflective of the recipes inside.
Jeremy made: Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
"With lively autumn colors and aromatic spices, this vegan Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili provides considerable warmth to any chilly day. Easy-to-make, nutritious, and full of complementary flavors, this may quickly become your go-to dish for the cold months and beyond." – Jeremy
5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook
by Stephanie O'Dea
When I pull out my slow cooker, it's because I want to spend zero time fussing about in the kitchen. I don't want to braise any meat ahead of time, and I don't want to mix various potions in extra bowls to add into the slow cooker. I just want to dump it all in and walk away. So thank you, Stephanie O'Dea, for making the perfect slow cooker cookbook for me. These easy recipes are wonderful for the beginner cook. For the more proficient in the kitchen, you'll probably use her five-ingredient recipes as a jumping off point and add your own touches to the simple recipes.
Doug made: Savory Sweet Potato Bake
"Through the slow-cooking process, the layers of sweet potatoes, Gruyere cheese, and heavy cream become one soft, savory delight. Salt and chile pepper are added along the way to liven it up. So easy to make, this is the kind of dish that is delicious right after it's done cooking, and maybe even more delicious when it sits around for a few hours." – Doug
by Holly Riccardi
Magpie Artisan Pie Boutique in Philadelphia gives a great selection of sweet and savory pie recipes. I grew up next to an orchard of apple trees and have baked/eaten more than my share of apple pies. In a genius move, Riccardi suggests forming the apple pie filling level, not mounded. This eliminates that peaked bubble that raises the top crust above the fruit. Genius! Next up: hummingbird pie, a pie version of the Southern classic hummingbird cake — more genius! The sweet recipes in Magpie are rounded out with quiches, pot pies, and other hearty non-desserts.
Ashleigh made: Smoked Gouda Butternut Squash Pie
"This is a fantastic recipe to impress all of your holiday guests. The butternut squash is a fall classic, and the apples stay just a little bit crispy to keep things interesting." – Ashleigh
by Elias Cairo and Meredith Erickson
Olympia Provisions is Portland's go-to house of charcuterie. Their amazing sausages can be found at most farmers markets, upscale grocers, and most important: at their local restaurants where you can not only enjoy their seasoned meats but also their substantially flavorful other dishes. Veggies, soups, salads, and flapjacks. Olympia Provisions is a beautiful book, fully reflective of salumist Cairo's personality and love for heart-warming food.
Kathi made: Pork Pistachio Pâté
"For several years I've enjoyed wonderful lunches at Olympia Provisions and always bring home some of their fabulous sausages. This great book lets you re-create their dishes, and it's not just meat. The recipes cover a full spectrum from brunch to fish entrees to dessert. Plus, the stories behind Olympia are fascinating and inspirational. Recently returned from a trip to France, I just had to try one of the pâté recipes and made the pork and pistachio pâté. It was a huge hit and, to my mind, as good as the offerings in Burgundy. The pâté was rustic, very porky, but with the spice blend, wonderfully aromatic. It will stay on top of my entertainment roster." – Kathi
Made in India
by Meera Sodha
Nigella Lawson's blurb on the back cover of Made in India says it best: "I want to cook everything in the book." Many of these are family recipes, which is a tried-and-true cooking art that I appreciate. This is one of those cookbooks where you can open the book at random and find a good recipe every time. I was sorry I didn't notice the "100 Garlic Clove Curry" entry before our potluck. I could have made our entire warehouse smell delicious! Made in India is a worthwhile addition to your cookbook library, even if you already have a half dozen Indian cookbooks.
I made: Perfect Masala Chai
I drink chai every day — it can be an expensive habit. Somehow I never thought to make my own. It's nice to have complete control over which spices are used. Also worth knowing: you can use this chai mixture in Sodha's recipe for Chai Flavored Chocolate Pudding, which I'll bet is fabulous.