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Mostly, my work for NPR can be found in the mouthwatering weekly Kitchen Window series.  But yesterday, after collaborating with the terrific NPR books team, I released a story for another NPR series I love, ” Three Books”.  It’s not my first; I did one some years ago on “stone soup” books – books on cooking with bare-bones ingredients during lean times.

This one is kind of the opposite.  They’re “let them eat cake”  books that are so frivolous that I’ve always felt actually making something out of them is strictly optional – cakes like Colette Peters’ magnificent  trompe l’oeil stack of cushions, pictured at right.

It’s not that lean times have deserted us – far from it.  But even in lean times, you still have to feed your imagination, too, don’t you?

Click here to read Feast for the Eyes: 3 Cookbooks Just for Looking, from NPR’s 3 Books series.

Well, the list has gone live! After about 4 weeks of reading, browsing, asking the 7 questions, and recipe-testing (ask my family), my top 10 choices for summer cookbooks are now public.  Read the story on the NPR website.

Following the top 10 is my own shortlist, which includes all the outstanding cookbooks that didn’t make it into the NPR article–lots of terrific choices for newlyweds, new college graduates, parents, and, well, everybody.

The NPR Summer 2012  Top 10:

  1. The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook
  2. The Fresh & Green Table, by Susie Middleton
  3. Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin
  4. Asian Tofu, by Andrea Nguyen
  5. Pasta Italiana, by Gino d’Acampo
  6. The Fresh Egg, by Jennifer Trainer Thompson
  7. Ripe, by Nigel Slater
  8. Ripe, by Cheryl Sternman Rule & Paulette Philpot
  9. United States of Pie, by Adrienne Kane
  10. Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, Frankie Frankeny and Paolo Lucchesi

The Shortlist:

Outstanding Book for Slow Foodistas
A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, by April Bloomfield with J.J. Goode

Outstanding Seasonal-Eating Cookbook 
The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food, by Ian Knauer

Best Kitchen Gardener’s Book:
Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips, by Willi Galloway

Best Reboot-Your-Salad Book:
Salad for Dinner: Complete Meals for All Seasons, by Jeanne Kelley

Exquisite Gluten-Free Book
La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life, by Béatrice Peltre

Ingredient-Focused Book from a Hunky Newcomer
Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, by Seamus Mullen

How-to-Cookbook with an Emphasis on Lots of Recipes
How to Cook Everything the Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food, by Mark Bittman

How-to-Cook Book with an Emphasis on Helpful Process Photographs
What to Cook and How to Cook It: Fresh and Easy, by Jane Hornby

Food of Many Nations Primer
Cindy’s Supper Club: Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends, by Cindy Pawlcyn

Buzz-Free Liquid Refreshment Book
Sip and Savor: Drinks for Party and Porch, by James T. Farmer III

Mouthwatering Ice Cream Book
Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery, by Kris Hoogehyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough

Multiethnic Comfort Food from a Talented Newcomer
Comfort and Spice, by Niamh Shields

Fun Trend Cookbook for Bedside Reading
The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America’s Best Restaurants on Wheels, by John T. Edge

Giftworthy-Design DIY Book
A Country Cook’s Kitchen: Simple Recipes for Making Breads, Cheese, Jams, Preserves, Cured Meats, and More, by Alison Walker

Make-Your-Own-Snacks Book:
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You can stop Buying and Start Making, by Alana Chernila

French Country Fantasy Book:
Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good, by Alain Ducasse

Seasonal Cookbook Best Suited for an Art Gallery
The Perfect Ingredient: 5 Fantastic Ways to Cook Apples, Beets, Pork, Scallops, and More, by Bryn Williams

Even-in-the-Summer Baking Book
CakeLove in the Morning: Recipes for Muffins, Scones, Panckaes, Waffles, Biscuits, Frittatas, and Other Breakfast Treats, by Warren Brown

Attractive Glossary for a Dwindling Food Supply
Fish: Recipes from the Sea, by C.J. Jackson and Barton Seaver

Perfect Gift in Lieu of a Bouquet
Edible Flowers: 25 Recipes and an A-Z Pictorial Directory of Culinary Flora, by Kathy Brown

Good New Idea for a Regional Cookbook
The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes from Veggiestan, by Sally Butcher

Just-For-Fun, Not-a-Book Cocktail Guide
Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

And don’t forget, summer is the season for narrative! now that you have time to read, take a moment to savor tales of food forays, quests, and misadventures.  You can find them in my own book, A Spoonful of Promises: Recipes and Stories from a Well-Tempered Table.

Happy New Year, cookbook lovers!  I’m still coming up to speed, very slowly, after a week of festivities and sleeping-off-of-festivities.

I tested this book quite a while ago, in the fall.  But as is so often the case, the review got pushed down the queue because other cookbooks of more immediate interest kept arriving, and then there was the holiday roundup season, etc. etc.

There isn’t a seafood cookbook published today that doesn’t have the word “sustainable” right up front…I guess the message is that if you’re going to make a withdrawal from the world’s dwindling supply of fish, you ought to do it as  responsibly–and deliciously–as you can.

Read the full review here.

Although there are many cookbooks and many cookbook authors I admire, not all of them fit equally easily with my family-of-four dinner routine.  Melissa Clark’s books are the exception.  Reviewing Cook This Now was a boon for the household–a week of exceptional-tasting but easy-to-cook weeknight dinners I’d be making again and again, if I weren’t forever moving on to the next cookbook…

Read the review here.

In a word, swoon-worthy.

These are the books I live for, the ones where every recipe opens up a whole new horizon of deliciousness.  I also love having an answer when people ask me “What’s your favorite cookbook this year?”

Review of Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain in today’s Boston Globe.

It doesn’t happen all that often, but every once in a while a review comes out brutally honest.  This book has some of the most inspired summer recipes I’ve seen, but–sad to say–they are not as well executed as they could have been.

Review of The Kitchen Garden Cookbook in Wednesday’s Boston Globe.

Cookbook review hot from the oven in this morning’s Boston Globe–Emily Luchetti’s Fearless Baker.

If you don’t know Luchetti–pastry chef, author, and born teacher–this book is a great way to make her acquaintance.  Every one of the recipes I tried worked without a hitch, which is saying a lot for any cookbook, but especially a baking one.

In this week’s Boston Globe, I have a review of Marie Simmons’ Fresh and Fast Vegetarian.  I was happy to have the chance to test the book more thoroughly after it caught my eye at the beginning of the summer.  If nothing else, the book has introduced tamari-glazed walnuts into my repertoire–they’ve become a personal favorite.

Today, a new Boston Globe review of Martha Hall Foose’s relaxed and colorful new book, A Southerly Course.

Foose is as much a painter of word-pictures as she is a cook, so this one’s one for the beach, the bedside table, and the armchair just as much as the kitchen counter.

They’re here! they’re here!  the best of a sizzling, sun-kissed, sea-splashed swarm of summer cookbooks.  Get them for yourself or for your friends or your recent graduates or anyone else you think needs more great food in their life during the season when they actually have time to enjoy it.  Congratulations, best-of winners.  Well-deserved, and mouth-watering.

Click here–or on the lobster–for the official NPR summer cookbooks roundup. If you missed the accompanying interview on Weekend Edition Sunday and would like to hear it, click on the audio link at the top of the story.


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