You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘best cookbooks’ tag.

Since 2013, NPR has been offering its holiday book coverage in the form of the Book Concierge, an interactive tool that lets you filter your selections (want a geeky book that’s also funny?  A comic book about music?  A cookbook for kids? It’s all there, and tag-searchable).  I do a big chunk of the cookbook coverage on the Concierge, and I generally try to find quirky, gifty, interesting books that may not have made their way onto others’ lists.  I think I chose 15 of them this year, and I’d be happy to receive any one of them if I didn’t already have them all.

This is not the same list, however, as NPR’s 10 Best Cookbooks of 2015, which I’m still pulling out my hair over (the deadline’s tomorrow!  plenty of time!)  That will go live next Monday, Dec. 14th, so stay tuned.

NPR Book Concierge shot


TSC top 10 image

The time has come!  My top 10 picks for the best cookbooks of2013 have been released, on CookShelf, the cookbook-ratings app!  on sale for one week starting today for just 99¢!

If you’re starting your holiday shopping this week – and who isn’t? –   CookShelf, will guide to not only my top 10 picks for 2013, but over 250+ other great cookbooks worth getting or giving, along with analysis that looks at skill requirements, recipe listings, and design.   And in-app purchase links make it easy to do all your cookbook shopping with one click.

Who needs CookShelf?  You do!

I need CookShelf for iPhone/iPad!

I need CookShelf for Android!

Next week here on the blog: the honorable mentions list – a long one! Click here for last year’s honorable mentions shortlist.



A happy Thanksgiving to all!  and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow on the CookShelf app to find out – at last – the BEST COOKBOOKS OF 2013!

Get CookShelf for iPhone/iPad!
Get CookShelf for Android!


Only 2 days left till the 2013 Best Cookbooks roundup releases!  Have you got your CookShelf on?

I need CookShelf for iPhone/iPad!

I need CookShelf for Android!


Exciting news! This year, I will be releasing my choices for the top 10 cookbooks of 2013 on my app, CookShelf! It’s happening this Friday, Nov. 29th – the day after Thanksgiving.  

You know you don’t want to get squashed in the Black Friday crowds.  You know you want to rest your poor, turkey-stuffed self in the comfiest chair in the house and start ordering gifts  for your cookbook-loving friends and family online.

On CookShelf, you’ll find not only my top 10 picks for 2013, but over 250+ other great cookbooks worth getting or giving, along with analysis that looks at skill requirements, recipe listings, and design – everything you need to decide that all-important question: which cookbook to buy.  And in-app purchase links make it easy to do all your cookbook shopping with one click.

Who needs CookShelf?  You do!

I need CookShelf for iPhone/iPad!

I need CookShelf for Android!



It’s a slightly different format this year:  a one-book report on a selection from the list.  I had a terrific time recording this piece at our local NPR affiliate (New England Public Radio) on the campus of U. Mass., and I got to put the phrase “bone-suckingly good” on the radio for possibly the first time ever.

You can hear the commentary and read the original story here.

You can also read my extended post with the complete 2012 cookbook shortlist  here.

The Boston Globe 2012 cookbook roundup is now live! just in time for  last-minute, down-to-the-wire holiday shopping. This year’s picks, many of which were favorites on other lists as well:

If some of these titles seem familiar, it’s no coincidence!  Of the maybe 400  books submitted for consideration in 2012, I found myself returning over and over to a group of perhaps two dozen really important contributions, and I felt compelled to draw attention to them on a number of occasions over the course of the year.  If you’re wondering what distinguishes the NPR list from the Globe list (I write both lists), it’s mostly a matter of audience; so there is a little bit of overlap. Also recommended but previously reviewed in the Globe: The Fresh and Green Table,  The Fresh EggSusan Feniger’s Street FoodAsian Tofu, Modern Sauces.

Here’s a book that may have passed you by this year. Lyons Press launched a series of small cookbooks from up-and-coming chefs.  The books aren’t flashy, but there are some real treasures in them – like this one.

We’ll be taking a break for Thanksgiving after this post–Happy Turkey Day, everybody!  And stay tuned for more Best Recipes after the holiday.

The book:  Comfort and Spice, by Niamh Shields (Lyons Press, $19.95)

The recipe:  Crispy Pomegranate Molasses Chicken Wings with Tahini Sauce

Why I tried itI think the name says it all.  Like most people, I dislike and avoid deep-frying.  But there are some times when there’s just no other choice, so a few times a year I just go for it.  Also, I have a real weakness for both pomegranate molasses and tahini.  I’d never seen them paired before.  Could it be as good as it sounded?

Why I loved it:  Because it’s wings we’re talking about and not breast, the spices and molasses really penetrated the meat overnight.  The seasoned flour coat doubles down on the cumin anyway, and then you crisp it up in the fryer. Do not Skip the Dip.  When the crisp, sweet, spiced wing meets the cool, tart, creamy dip, sparks fly.

Estimated preparation time: 20 day-before minutesovernight marinade + 30 day-of, messy minutes.

Crispy Pomegranate Molasses Chicken Wings with Tahini Sauce

Recipe excerpted from Comfort & Spice by Niamh Shields, Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press.

Seives 6—8 as a snack
For the marinade
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt

For the chicken
2¾ pounds chicken wings, cut in half at the joint
2 whole eggs, or 3 egg whites, beaten
light oil, to deep-fry (peanut or sunflower)

For the seasoned flour
2 heaping cups all-purpose flour
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon chili powder

1.  Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and massage into the wings.
Cover and leave in the refrigerator for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
2. The next day, pour all the ingredients for the seasoned flour into a large plastic storage bag. Add the chicken, close the bag, and toss.
3. Place the eggs or egg whites in a large shallow dish. Transfer the chicken to the egg, coat thoroughly, then repeat with the flour.

4. Heat 2 inches of oil in a very large pan, or a deep fat fryer, until it reaches 35o°F on an oil thermometer or a cube of bread froths the oil immediately. Fry the chicken in batches, ensuring the pan is not crowded. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

For the tahini dip:  chop 3 garlic cloves and crush in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of toasted cumin seeds. Add ¾ cup tahini, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, and 5 tablespoons of water. Add the juice of a lemon until the taste and consistency suits you.  Stir in chopped cilantro and serve.

Eggs?  you’re saying.  You picked eggs for one of your best recipes of the year?  Sure did.  This recipe revolutionized my breakfast routine.  No more boring-scrambled-eggs-you-eat-because-you-need-the-protein!  I made it 6 days out of 7 all through tomato season.

The book:  The Fresh Egg, by Jennifer Trainer Thompson (Storey, $14.95 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Scrambled Eggs, Indian-Style

Why I tried it: My Aunty Sen makes a delicious scrambled egg with tomato.  “It looks kind of terrible,” she told me, “but it tastes really good.”  I loved her tomato egg, but it was a little scary-looking, and I ended up not making it at home.  So when I saw this egg recipe with tomato, I thought it was a good chance to get over my own qualms about tomato eggs.  Also, it had onion.  Who can be afraid of a recipe that starts with onion?

Why I loved it:  You know how when you eat scrambled eggs, they’re great for the first bite, OK for the second, and after that you’re just eating them because you have to?  Yeah, that’s what this recipe isn’t like.  It’s full of interesting, complementary flavors that keep bouncing off each other from the first bite to the last.  In fact, the whole experience is over all too soon.  I made this recipe first in the spring, and I didn’t think it could get better.  Then I tried it with the fresh tomatoes in August.  Then I tried it with our chickens’ first eggs, in October.  Oh my!!!

Estimated preparation time: < 15 minutes*.
*once you’re familiar with the recipe.  Less if you keep ginger-garlic paste around (a terrific staple that keeps forever in the fridge, by the way, and available at most Asian markets).  You can use it instead of mincing the garlic and ginger.

Scrambled Eggs, Indian-Style
Haven’t got a fresh tomato? That’s OK. Even a mediocre winter tomato turns into a rock star with this treatment. And if you haven’t even got one of those, you can use a scant tablespoon of tomato paste and loosen it up with a little water in the pan as you sweat the aromatics. I just did, and it was great.
Serves 2

4 eggs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 small tomato, chopped
1 green chile, seeded and slivered (or substitute 1 teaspoon chili powder)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon toasted cumin seed
Pinch of ground turmeric

1.  Beat the eggs and set aside.

2.  Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomato, chile, cilantro, garlic, and ginger and cook until the tomato is soft (so you can mash it). Season with salt and pepper, the cumin seed, and the turmeric.

3.  Pour in the eggs and scramble until they reach the desired consistency. Serve immediately.

Recipe excerpted from The Fresh Egg Cookbook © by Jennifer Trainer Thompson, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Hooray!  It’s time to kick off the 2012 Best Recipes series: drool-worthy, conversation-stopping, routine-altering recipes published in the last year. We’re going in order of publication – so we’ll begin with Andrea Nguyen’s magnificent tofu book, published in February.

The book:  Asian Tofu, by Andrea Nguyen (10 Speed, $30)

The recipe:  Pan-fried Tofu with Mushroom and Spicy Sesame Sauce

Why I tried it:  It was initially  one more excuse to pull out the shiitakes, which I adore.    Also, it’s not always easy to achieve a crisp exterior when frying tofu, though it’s irresistible when you get it right.  So it was a good litmus test for the book – was Nguyen really going to lead us to crisp-tofu nirvana? Or would we be left fumbling cluelessly on our own (which is what usually happens)?

Why I loved it:  Crisp exterior achieved! by thoughtful slicing, draining, blotting–and a nonstick pan (who knew?)  But the real payoff came when the fried mushrooms met the sesame sauce.  I don’t know how it is that those predictable ingredients – soy, sesame, garlic, scallions – can constantly offer flavorful surprises.  Yet they do. The thinly sliced mushroom caps attain a slight golden crust of crispness, yet remain porous enough to absorb sauce like nobody’s business.

The recipe may seem long on first read, but it’s one of those cases where Nguyen is just being careful so things are crystal-clear.  The whole thing doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, even when you include making the sauce. (I usually hate turning to another page in a book to make a sauce, but it was totally worth it this time.)

Estimated preparation time: 30 minutes*.
*once you’re familiar with the recipe, and if you don’t mess around.

Panfried Tofu with Mushroom and Spicy Sesame Sauce

Serves 4 with 2 or 3 other dishes

1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu
8 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms, such as enoki, shimeji, oyster, and shiitake
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 big pinches salt
2 big pinches black pepper
1/3 cup Korean Seasoned Soy Sauce (recipe below)

1.  Cut the tofu into chunky matchboxes, each about 1 1/2 inches by 2 inches by 1/2 inch. Line a plate with a non-terry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels. Place the tofu on top to drain for about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, give each type of mushroom a very quick rinse under water to knock off any debris. Hold enoki and shimeji by the cluster. If you are using enoki or shimeji, trim and discard the sandy material that the mushroom grew in. The cluster should naturally fall apart. Trim oyster mushrooms at the ends and separate into individual ones. Tear large ones lengthwise into bite-size pieces. Trim and discard shiitake stems, then slice the caps a good 1/8 inch thick. Set the mushrooms aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Blot the tofu pieces before pan-frying them until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm.
4. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the mushroom are soft, fragrant, and about half of their original volume.
5 Arrange the tofu on one large plate or individual plates. Top with the mushrooms and sauce. Serve hot or warm.

Korean Seasoned Soy Sauce
makes about 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons Korean or Japanese soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu) or other red pepper
2 tablespoons lightly packed finely chopped green onion, white and green parts
2 to 3 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

1. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, and sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion, and sesame seeds. Set aside for about 15 minutes for the flavors to develop. The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to a week.
2. This sauce can dramatically change its characteristics as it sits. Right before using, taste the sauce again and make any last-minute tweaks. You want a strong savory-spicy-slightly-sweet finish because the tofu that will be served with this is not highly seasoned.

Reprinted with permission from Asian Tofu © 2012 by Andrea Nguyen, 10 Speed Press.

Now cooking

order my book!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


%d bloggers like this: