With “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” (Knopf, $35), Deb Perelman has hit the bull’s-eye.
Her collection has a distinctive, funny voice, luscious photos she took herself, recipes that really work -- and a fantastic binding that lets the book lie flat on the counter.
Working from a tiny New York City kitchen, Perelman has been cooking and blogging for years, creating food you’ll want to eat, like harvest roast chicken with grapes, olives and rosemary. Her linguine with no-cook cauliflower pesto was a lifesaver on hot days last summer.
And she’s one of the few cooks out there I trust equally on baking. I can’t wait to try her fig, olive oil and sea salt challah and marbled pumpkin gingersnap tart.
“Dinner: A Love Story” (Ecco, $27.99) is another blog-turned-book from a home cook. It’s the only cookbook I’ve ever read cover to cover, like a memoir. Author Jenny Rosenstrach’s goal is to get people cooking and eating together with their families, and recipes like “back-pocket” chicken tacos and salmon with yogurt-mustard-dill sauce take the stress out of putting a healthy, delicious meal on the table.
“Modernist Cuisine at Home” (The Cooking Lab, $140) may have the word “home” in the title, but it’s not a book that will help you make dinner on a Wednesday night.
Written by former Microsoft Corp. chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold along with the team that helped him put together the six-volume “Modernist Cuisine,” this is for scientifically minded cooks who want to make scrambled eggs using the sous vide method, like Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal. (Myhrvold also is a columnist for Bloomberg View.)
To prepare hamburgers, start by grinding your own meat, then add salt precisely one hour before cooking.
Braised short ribs cook in a 144 degree Fahrenheit water bath for 72 hours.
The photos are breathtaking and the book comes with four framable prints. And in case you actually want to use it in the kitchen and not just leave this 11-pound behemoth on the coffee table, the package includes a separate spiral-bound book of recipes with waterproof pages.
“Bouchon Bakery” (Artisan, $50) is big and beautifully designed, like all of chef Thomas Keller’s books. The recipes aren’t as intimidating as Myhrvold’s, though I doubt many people will go to Keller for a bran muffin recipe. With Keller’s trademark precision and clear, simple photographs, you’ll learn to roll out tart dough, create cream puffs of uniform size and make several different fillings for eclairs.
“Jerusalem” (Ten Speed, $35) is travel guide, culinary history and cookbook rolled into one. There are full-page photos of the city’s rooftops and food markets alongside recipes like lamb meatballs with barberries, yogurt and herbs, and braised eggs with lamb, tahini and sumac.
The authors -- Yotam Ottolenghi, who’s Jewish, and Sami Tamimi, who’s Muslim -- grew up on opposite sides of Jerusalem and now work together in London. Their book gathers the many strands of cooking that make up the tapestry of tastes in their home city.
(Laurie Muchnick is an editor for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Patrick Cole on philanthropy, Catherine Hickley on art.